Halloween is haunted houses. Pumpkins galore. Harvest fests. And trick-or-treating. But in Chicago, Halloween also inspires a host of awesomely one-of-a-kind activities, from a spectacular downtown parade to a spooky nighttime adventure at the Shedd Aquarium to fireworks set to a ghostly soundtrack. If you're looking for a few chills and thrills with an emphasis on treats and fun, check out our picks for six family-friendly Halloween events in Chicago.
Celebrate Halloween with the Animals at the Spooky Zoo Spectacular FREE
Saturday, October 29, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Celebrate the season with all your animal friends at the Lincoln Park Zoo's Spooky Zoo Spectacular. Trick-or-treat at stations scattered throughout the zoo, make some colorful crafts and enjoy fun musical entertainment as well as a not-so-haunted house. Be sure to check in with the zoo's creepiest animals: the bats, demon monkeys and naked mole rats relish this time of year!
Explore the Shedd Aquarium after Dark
Friday, October 28, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Get into the Halloween spirit by joining Shedd's Spooky Seas at night! Guests are invited to explore the aquarium after hours, set off on a pumpkin scavenger hunt, take in an aquatic show and check out the new Amphibians exhibit. Tickets are sold out for the overnight adventure, but evening-only spaces are still available ($40/person). Costumes are encouraged, but not required, and activities are geared toward 5- to 12-year-olds. Purchase your evening-only tickets now!
Gather Treats Galore and Watch the Fireworks Spooktacular at Navy Pier FREE
Trick-or-treating: Saturday, October 23; Sunday, October 30; and Monday, October 31. Fireworks on Saturday, October 29 at 9:30 p.m.
Dress in your best Halloween costume and head over to Halloween at Navy Pier for a trick-or-treating extravaganza. Fill up your candy bag with treats from participating businesses around the pier, take part in the costume contest and enjoy live entertainment—plus tons more at Navy Pier. Don't miss the spooktacular fireworks, blasting off to a scary soundtrack on Saturday night, October 29.
Marvel at the Pageantry and Costumes of the Spectacle Parade FREE
Saturday, October 23. Daytime festival runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Spectacle Parade kicks off at 6 p.m.
The Halloween Gathering Festival and Parade brings together Chicago's creative communities, museums and cultural institutions for a day packed with seasonal fun. The daytime festival features everything from mask-making workshops to pop-up, Halloween-themed installations and games. At night, a magical parade highlights extravagant costumes. The daytime festival takes place in Millennium Park and Sir Georg Solti Garden, and the grand Spectacle Parade runs along Columbus Drive, from Balbo Street to Monroe Street.
Trick-or-Treat and Shop 'til You Drop on Southport Avenue FREE
Monday, October 31, 4–8 p.m.
Trick or Treat on Southport, which runs along Southport Avenue, from Belmont Avenue to Irving Park Road, is a great way to take in the picturesque Lakeview neighborhood. The street is packed with fun boutiques (check out our guide here!) On Halloween Day, merchants will be handing out candy to mini costumed customers, making for a great excuse to window shop while you trick or treat.
Indulge in Brunch with Your 'Boos'
Saturday, October 29, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Grab your little ghosts and goblins, don your Halloween costumes and make a beeline to Shaw's Crabhouse for a special, truly indulgent Halloween brunch. The delicious brunch buffet will feature everything from seafood to traditional breakfast items to amazing mini desserts—and of course, plenty of Halloween candy! All attendees in costume will also receive a special treat of $25 towards their next visit at Shaw's. The brunch costs $55 per person ($10 for children ages 7–12; free for children 6 and under). To make reservations, call the restaurant at 312-527-2722.
Find more Halloween events and parties with the complete 2016 guide at choosechicago.com/halloween.
Brunch photo courtesy Shaw's Crab House Chicago.