You don’t hve to dress up to join the crown watching the 17th Street High Heel Race, but drag queens will be decked out in their elaborate and competitive finest. (Photo by Whitney Shefte)

Celebrating Halloween used to be so easy: You’d come up with a clever costume and wear it to a party on Oct. 31. Or, if the holiday fell early in the week, you’d go out in your getup on the Saturday before.

But Halloween, like Oktoberfest before it, is suffering from seasonal creep: One night is no longer enough to show off a sinister Walter White outfit or ironically twerk while dressed like Miley at the VMAs. Instead of going to one party on the 31st, you have a 16-day window — that includes the weekend after Halloween — to show off as many ensembles as you can dream up.

The upside of all this silliness is the sheer number of options. Want to dance to cover bands and enter a high-stakes $3,000 costume contest? Think you’d have fun hopping from bar to bar in costume, chasing down cheap drinks? What about competing in a jack-o’-lantern contest while drinking pumpkin beer? This year, you don’t have to choose; you can do all three and still have a couple of nights free.

Here’s a sampling of the choices you have this Halloween season. Find even more at

Thursday, Oct. 24

The annual Half-Assed Halloween party at Union Pub has a unique challenge: Hosts ask that partygoers spend no money on a costume, using things they already have at home, and “spend 30 minutes on it, tops.” Even so, you’ll see some pretty creative and punny getups at this fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Tickets include food and drink specials throughout the night.

8 p.m. Union Pub, 201 Massachusetts Ave. NE. 202-296-5363.
$15 in advance, $20 at the door.

Friday, Oct. 25

If you’re especially proud of your costume, make tracks to the Elliot in the Morning Halloween Bash at Clarendon Ballroom. The DC101 radio host offers a $3,000 cash prize to the top outfit, as voted by the crowd. (Fine print: You must be in the club by 10:30 p.m. No costume weapons allowed.) Local party band JunkFood performs.

8 p.m. Clarendon Ballroom, 3185 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $15 before 10 p.m., more after.

Saturday, Oct. 26

With more than 30 bars participating, the 14th annual Nightmare on M Street bar crawl promises to be bigger than ever. Revelers hit nightspots around Dupont Circle for $2 Coors Lights, $4 Bacardi drinks and other deals from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., with a perennially packed midnight costume contest at McFadden’s.

5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Various bars between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square. Full list of locations at $20 in advance, with prices increasing closer to the event.

The Brightest Young Things crew is hosting its Twerk or Treat costume party at the Sphinx Club on Franklin Square, which means “Sexy Anubis” is on the list of suggested costumes, along with zombie teen idols or childhood toys. No matter what you’re wearing, there’s music from Avan Lava and DJ Rex Riot, as well as karaoke, silly games, candy and the inevitable photo booth.

8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The Sphinx Club, 1315 K St. NW. www.twerkortreat.event $20 in advance, $25 the day of the event.

Freddie’s Beach Bar kicks off its evening with the Nightmare on 23rd Street drag show from 8 to 10 p.m., followed by costumed “Skaryoke” for the rest of the night. The best costume, judged at 11 p.m., wins $100.

8 p.m. Freddie’s Beach Bar, 555 S. 23rd St., Arlington. 703-685-0555.
. Free.

Tuesday, Oct. 29

What’s the District’s favorite Halloween tradition? The 17th Street High Heel Race. Thousands line the route between P and S streets NW to watch drag queens totter down the street as fast as possible. While the runners take off at 9 p.m., the real action begins at 7, when the outrageously costumed participants turn 17th Street into their personal runway, sashaying down the asphalt and posing for photos. Arrive early if you want to catch a glimpse.

7 p.m. The race begins outside JR’s, 1519 17th St NW. 202-328-0090. Free.

Wednesday, Oct. 30

The jack-o’-lantern you carve at Helix Lounge’s contest might be the easiest you ever create: The pumpkins are pre-scooped, and every team receives idiot-proof safety tools. Prizes include a weekend night at the Helix Hotel for the best overall design and a $50 gift certificate to the lounge for the top “locally themed” pumpkin featuring a Washington landmark or politician. The contest, now in its ninth year, is free to enter, but get there early: Thirty pumpkins will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Pumpkin beers and pumpkin-spiced cocktails are served at happy hour prices until 9 p.m.

6 p.m. Helix Lounge, 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW. 202-462-9001.
www.helix Free.

Thursday, Oct. 31

Beyond a great lineup of moombahton and club DJs, headlined by Gent and Jawns, the 18-and-older U Hell party at U Street Music Hall offers as a grand prize in its costume contest a year of free admission to every single event at the club. It’s also serving as the official release party for the return of DC Brau’s Ghoul’s Night Out, a limited-release Belgian-style quad.

9 p.m. U Street Music Hall.
1115 U St. NW. 202-588-1880.
. $10.

The Black Cat has three parties in one on Halloween. In the Red Room, bartenders from TNT and Rappahannock Oyster Bar whip up ghoulish cocktails while DJs spin nonstop heavy metal. The backstage features a Misfits tribute called Evil Live with members of Rattler and Warchild. Upstairs, the Halloween Circus mixes rockabilly tunes from Johnny Grave and the Tombstones, burlesque dancers and sideshow acts, hosted by comic Brandon Wetherbee.

8 p.m. The Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-4490. Downstairs tickets $5; upstairs $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show.

Friday, Nov. 1

American Werewolves in Paris” is kind of a tortured name for a Halloween party, even if it’s at the French Embassy. But this masquerade, from veteran embassy event planners Things to Do, features more than the usual open bar-buffet-DJ combination. The centerpiece of the evening is performances of songs from “Phantom of the Opera.” The costume contest will have a category for “Best French Themed” outfit. (If you’re considering wearing a beret and carrying a baguette, note that black tie and “elegant” costumes are preferred; no togas or political masks.)

8:15 to 11:45 p.m. Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW. 301-519-8030. $84.

Saturday, Nov. 2

The Park’s A Nightmare on 14th Street costume party is one of the few nights of the year you can get past the black-suited bouncers without being dressed to the nines. RSVP online for free tickets or you’ll get hit with a $20 charge at the door.

10 p.m. The Park at 14th, 920 14th St. NW. 202-737-7275. Free with RSVP.