Every Halloween, seasonal celebrations rise again like zombies from the grave. Some annual parades and costume contests are worth looking forward to year after year; other bar crawls are as welcome as a rock in a pillowcase full of candy. These are our five favorites, ranked.
Saturday at 9 p.m., beginning at Georgia and Sligo avenues, Silver Spring. Free.
On the Saturday before Halloween, downtown Silver Spring transforms into an eerie scene that’s one part “Shaun of the Dead,” one part “Thriller” and a pinch of “Night of the Living Dead,” with participants shuffling and lurching down Georgia Avenue toward the AFI Silver Theatre. The annual Zombie Walk, which began as a neighborhood meetup at the Quarry House Tavern in 2008, has grown to include thousands of zombies dressed up in costumes ranging from comical and topical to truly frightening, and everyone is invited to participate, no matter how elaborate (or not) their costume.
The action kicks off with happy hour at Denizens Brewing at 6 p.m., and the actual “walk” starts three hours later a few blocks north. The goal: To reach AFI, where the midnight screening is a restored print of the 1979 Italian cult classic “Zombie.” (Advance tickets are $13 and strongly recommended.)
Oct. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. 17th Street NW between R and P streets. Free.
The course for the High Heel Race is 0.1 mile long, and it usually takes less than a minute for the winning drag queen’s size 14EEE pumps to cross the finish line. But sprinting is only one piece of this 32-year-old Dupont Circle tradition: Spectators line the sidewalks and beer gardens along 17th Street NW hours before the race, marveling at the elaborate costumes worn by the race participants, who turn the closed-off street into a runway, strutting up and down in their towering heels, before heading to the starting line at 9 p.m. The mayor’s office has taken over the race, which has some longtime LGBTQ advocates worried about the event being politicized (longtime organizer Dave Perruzza is still involved this year). For now, though, it’s an event that few would dream of missing.
Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern Market, 225 Seventh St. NW. Free.
There are events for children all over the Washington area as Halloween approaches, and it’s tough to pick a favorite. But Hilloween gets our vote — it’s been a staple of the Eastern Market community for more than two decades, and this year’s celebration includes ponies for petting, a bouncy castle inside the market’s North Hall, face painters, arts-and-crafts stations and, of course, trick-or-treating.
Friday at 6 p.m. Clarendon Ballroom, 3185 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $10 before 9 p.m., $15 after.
With $3,000 in cash up for grabs in the over-the-top costume contest, it’s easy to see why this DC101-sponsored party attracts some of the most creative Halloween outfits in the area. Take the time to put together something funny, creative or scary — the ensemble you grabbed at Target at the last minute won’t impress anyone — and head to Clarendon Ballroom to check out what everyone else is wearing. Virginia-based rock band Junk Food provides the tunes, beginning at 8 p.m., while judges roam the venue looking for the best-dressed attendees. (Reminder: No costume weapons or stilts allowed inside.)
5. Trick-or-treating on Embassy Row
Oct. 31 during business hours along Massachusetts Avenue NW between Dupont Circle and Observatory Circle.
To outsiders, embassies along Massachusetts Avenue NW might look unfriendly with their guards and heavy iron gates, but newcomers to Washington are often told that on Halloween night, these buildings open their doors to groups of trick-or-treaters and lavish them with foreign candy and gifts. The truth is kind of a mixed bag: The Korean Embassy’s Cultural Center, for example, rolls out the red carpet with Korean candies, cultural activities and access to its exhibits for a crowd of “mostly college students” until 4 or 5 p.m., while other embassies stay locked. It’s a roll of the dice, but it might pay off.