Washingtonians, prepare yourself for Scream City. (Steelhead Events)

If you spook easily, you might want to stop reading. Halloween is a little over three weeks away, and Washington is full of seasonal attractions — some intense, some pee-in-your-pants terrifying — that will get you into the spooky spirit. Which one should you explore? Use your braaaaaaaains. Or, consult our guide, which offers six ways to get your freak-out on in the D.C. area.

Six Flags Fright Fest

Six Flags America, 13710 Central Ave., Upper Marlboro, Md.; Fri.-Sun. through Nov. 1, $14-$63.
OK for all ages during the day; 13 and up after 6 p.m.

What is it? By day, Six Flags offers a festive autumn look and assorted inoffensive Halloween stock characters. Once night falls, the park turns into a symphony of creepy, with haunted houses and trails, multiple “scare zones” and lights-out rides.

As scary as … That time you watched “The Ring” and, when you were done, the phone rang.

Sample fright: One of the haunted houses is called “Spider Outbreak.” OH NO WHAT IS THAT ON YOUR LEG?!

Will there be touching? “Our ghouls will not touch our guests,” says Debbie Evans, director of marketing for Six Flags America. “We ask that the guests not touch the ghouls as well.”

Presence of clowns: Yes, lots.

Production value: Each of the scarers goes through “ghoul school,” part of which is dedicated to teaching them how to scare guests, and the makeup artists are all pros. Prepare to suspend disbelief.

Stay home if you … Prefer to eat funnel cake without an ax murderer coming for you.

Open Halloween? Yes.


In ‘DC Dead: Mutation,’ participants must search through a zombie-infested building to save humanity. (Wilder Photography)

‘DC Dead: Mutation’

Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE; Thu.-Sun. through Nov. 1, plus Oct. 27-28, 7 p.m.-11 p.m., $35-$40. Appropriate for ages 14 and up.

What is it? In this immersive, 45-minute performance, you’re part of a six-person team charged with finding a chemical weapon that will destroy every zombie in the world, thus saving humanity. Armed with Nerf guns and foam darts, you’ll search a zombie-infested building for clues, solve puzzles and make the occasional tough moral decision.

As scary as … Contemplating the genocide of a hostile alien species.

Sample fright: In some areas, you have to carefully tiptoe around so as not to rouse “nesters,” dormant zombies that fill rooms with sinister fog.

Will there be touching? Yes. You’ll wear a white shirt to record the number of zombies who have touched you with their “blood”-smeared hands. Three smears, and you’re a zombie.

Presence of clowns: No.

Production value: Pretty realistic. To travel to the final location, you’ll ride in an anti-zombie SWAT team van. “We didn’t want to go outside and have people calling the police on our actors,” “DC Dead” founder Vaughn Irving says.

Stay home if you … Hate metaphors. Last year’s show was a commentary on gentrification. This year is about “chemical weapons and the morality of war,” Irving says.

Open Halloween? Yes.


Scream City is the stuff nightmares are made of. (Steelhead Events)

Scream City

RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol St. SE; Fri.-Sat. and select Thu. and Sun. through Nov. 1, gates open 7 p.m., $30-$40. OK for ages 13 and up.

What is it? No nightmare is overlooked in this high-octane haunt that includes two separate houses: a slaughterhouse, and a Victorian mansion where an exorcism is taking place. There are more than 20,000 square feet to wander, unguided, and it takes about 40 minutes.

As scary as … Let’s put it this way: It makes “Saw” look like an episode of “Bob the Builder.”

Sample fright: Scream City plants actors in the houses who pretend to be guests. At any time, one of them may be snatched by a meat-cleaver-wielding man covered in blood.

Will there be touching? Not intentionally. “Things do happen,” Scream City head of production Mike Lado says. “Even without it, you feel like it’s going to happen. It freaks people out.”

Presence of clowns: You better believe it.

Production value: Lado and his team spent months planning and building the Hollywood-caliber set. Actors undergo “science of scare” training, wherein they learn the psychology of fear and how to apply it.

Stay home if you … Feel faint when you nick yourself shaving. Scream City is as gory as it gets, with pools of blood all over the floor and nearly every actor drenched in it.

Open Halloween? Yes.

Escape Room Live

2300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite G-102 & 814 King St., second floor, Alexandria; $28 per person. Appropriate for ages 8 and up.

What is it? Four to 12 people are locked in one of six themed rooms. To find the key that allows them to escape, they have to crack codes, answer riddles and solve puzzles. And they have to do it within an hour.

As scary as … Having to work with your friends to solve a mystery.

Sample fright: You may have to do some math. The horror!

Will there be touching? Depends on how huggy your friends are. There are no Escape Room employees with you.

Presence of clowns: No.

Production value: The rooms are probably nicer than your actual house.

Stay home if you … Hated group projects in high school. And college. And in your current job.

Open Halloween? Yes, but make a reservation.


You’re probably going to run into these guys if you go to Markoff’s Haunted Forest. (Sam Chaplin)

Markoff’s Haunted Forest

19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson, Md.; Fri. & Sat. through Oct. 31, $30-$35; Thu., Oct. 15-29, $25-$30. Appropriate for ages 12 and up.

What is it? Located on an isolated farm outside of Poolesville, Md., outdoor-education nonprofit Calleva’s annual fund-raiser features three trails — “The Woods,” “The Hollow” and “The Town” — that wind through the grounds. This year’s theme is biohazard outbreak. “Some virus has been released, mutating everyone,” Calleva marketing director Tom Doi says.

As scary as … That recurring nightmare where you’re giving a speech naked. To zombies.

Sample fright: A maniac in a clown mask suddenly appears and chases you with a chainsaw. “We really want to work on hitting that inner terror factor,” Doi says.

Will there be touching? Yes, and all participants must sign a waiver saying they understand that.

Presence of clowns: You bet.

Production value: Impressive. Even if you know that you’re never truly in danger, the moment a fanged creature jumps out from around the corner and grabs you on the shoulder, you’ll panic.

Stay home if you … Have ever been lost in the woods, or ever want to spend time in a forest at night again.

Open Halloween? Yes.


(U.S. Navy)

The Haunted Navy Museum

National Museum of the U.S. Navy, 736 Sicard St. SE; Oct. 30, 4-10 p.m., free. Appropriate for ages 5-13 from 4-7 p.m.; 13 and up from 7:30-10 p.m.

What is it? Volunteers and museum staff dim the lights, put on creepy costumes and festoon the museum’s Cold War Gallery with cobwebs, severed limbs and other spooky props. For the first three hours, the scare factor is toned down for young children, who get to make crafts. But after 7:30 p.m., “all bets are off,” museum spokeswoman Shejal Pulivarti says.

As scary as … The Cuban missile crisis.

Sample fright: A blood-covered doctor sawing through a leg, which turns out to belong to a zombie who then chases you through the halls.

Will there be touching? Yes, but only in the later part of the evening.

Presence of clowns: Maybe.

Production value: Surprisingly good. The autopsy station “had adults screaming last year,” Pulivarti says.

Stay home if you … Have outstanding warrants. To get into the Navy Yard, you’ll need to go to the security gate at 11th and O streets SE with your driver’s license or passport, and the guards there will run a quick background check.

Open Halloween? No.