I guess I’ve always been the Halloween equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge. I dread the annual onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everything. Fallen leaves make me sneeze. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so the promise of chocolate has never been much of a draw. But I suppose the thing that has stood in my way of really enjoying the holiday is my woeful lack of creativity. I promised the kids some really elaborate, creepy decorations this year, but our current display consists of some sad, sodden cobwebs on the bushes.
Both kids went to Halloween parties this year and came back pop-eyed with excitement, bearing cute pumpkin crafts and goody-bags filled with homemade mummy-shaped treats. We went to a potluck kids’ Halloween party at my husband’s squadron a couple of years ago, and the best I could come up with, to my kids’ everlasting disappointment, was a frozen pizza. (“But look, kids! It’s a Tombstone pizza!”)
I’m not a big believer in the supernatural, but I do love a good scare. I love scary movies, and I have hours of My Ghost Stories and Haunted History shows waited for late-night viewing on my DVR. When my husband and I were able to scare up (heh) a babysitter this past weekend, we decided to take in the “Ghost & Graveyard Tour” of Old Town in Alexandria.
I’d read a little about the tour, and reviewers’ main complaint seemed to be that the tour group consisted mainly of tourists. I don’t know why someone would be surprised that an historical tour near the nation’s capitol would be full of tourists, but nevertheless, we braced ourselves for throngs of overly-aggressive Nebraskans and headed out for the walk.
The tour, lead by guides in colonial garb, leaves from the corner of Fairfax and King Streets on Friday and Saturday nights now through Thanksgiving and costs $12 adult/$6 kids with discounts for active duty and senior citizens. It was dark but unseasonably warm when we headed out with our guide, who lead the way with lamplight past Gadsby’s Tavern, Washington’s town house, and Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home. The tales were sprinkled with bad puns, historical trivia, and only mild scares. Though our tour group was made up mostly of older teens and adults, I think the walk is appropriate for all but the youngest of children.
After the hour-long walk, we continued the evening with a stroll up and down King Street as music poured out of the bars that line the street. It was still almost 70 degrees at 9PM, and the stores and restaurants were hopping. The neighborhood vibe is a little younger and a little trendier than this resolutely middle-aged, middle-class couple, but we enjoyed window shopping at the trendy boutiques and antique stores.
We settled on Las Tapas for our post-walk bite, a restaurant we had visited earlier this summer, which was, not coincidentally, the last time we managed to find a babysitter. I love tapas. There is something comforting and self-deluding about convincing yourself that it’s OK to have four little plates instead of one big entrée. The prices were reasonable, and we enjoyed some delicious Spanish specialities. Manchego cheese, Serrano ham, and shrimp swimming in a white wine-butter sauce. (But it was OK, because they were just appetizers.)
It was an enjoyable rare night-out for me and my husband, if not a terribly scary one. We try and take in a ghost tour in every city we visit. Most of them are pretty tame, but the scariest thing about this one was trying to find a parking spot in Old Town on a Saturday night. But it was interesting and informative, and I learned some things about a part of our area I didn’t know. I felt suitably in a Halloween mood when the evening was over.
I had big plans of coming home and making pumpkin shaped cupcakes or trick-or-treat bags out of old pillow cases and ric-rac, but there’s nothing quite like spending Halloween mopping up the remnants of Hurricane Sandy from your basement to dampen one’s enthusiasm for scary fun.
But while we mop, we can at least dream of our next outing to King Street to take in a new restaurant or bar. If we can find a babysitter.
Now, that’s scary.