The Great Halloween To-Do List

Halloween is finally upon us. When this time of year rolls around—and in that brief window between seeing leaves at peak season and seeing Christmas decorations in CVS—I recommend accomplishing these four things:

1. See the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

Once you see the thousands of pumpkins aflame on the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, your neighbor’s best Halloween display—no matter how many cans of spray-on spider-webs are used—will seem like child’s play. Expert carvers transform pumpkins into aliens, pirates, witches, fairies, bumblebees, and—my personal favorite—dinosaur skeletons.

If you don’t have a chance to see it in person, check out the videos taken by visitors at the Historic Hudson Valley blog, where there’s also some good behind-the-scenes info. You don’t get to taste their hot cider or sweet pumpkin pie afterwards, though.

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If pumpkins aren’t your thing but you still want to get out, you can check out the other silly, spooky, and sexy Halloween events in our “Halloween Happenings” article, or in our online Calendar of Events.

2. Eat Something Pumpkin-Flavored

Looking at carved pumpkins is not enough. You have to consume them. Pumpkins are so rich in antioxidants that nutritionists advise eating the canned version year-round. There’s pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, and pumpkin pie—oh my! If you’re in a pinch and can’t make the from-scratch pumpkin pie that Grandma used to make, there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a package of pumpkin whoopee pies from Trader Joe’s.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always try to make the pumpkin crème brûlée recipe that Red Hat bistro cooked up for us last year. (I…am not that adventurous, though I do make a mean pumpkin soup.) Pumpkins have even moved out of the kitchen and into the spa, where some new pumpkin pampering rituals have sprung up.

3. Dress Up in a Costume

Putting together a costume—finding the exact color blue for Coraline’s hair, figuring out how to turn that wooly blanket into a Wild Thing, etc.—shows off just how creative you are. But, really, who has time to do that? For my money, I’d just go to Beyond Costumes in Yonkers. They have almost any costume you can think of—owner Yon Zweibon told me she made an entire cast of Super Mario Brothers costumes, complete with eight decoy princesses, for a summer-camp production—and, even if you’re not heading out to a fancy-dress party, it’s fun just to browse at the professional-level theatrical ensembles available for rental.

You can read more about Beyond Costumes here, and, for good measure, take a look at our list of the most popular/least popular costumes for 2009 here.

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4. Watch a Scary Movie

I’ve already mentioned how Paranormal Activity has this year’s horror-movie crown. In my mind, movies like Paranormal Activity are scariest because they don’t show you too much. What you imagine is always more frightening than anything a movie can show you, and bumps in the night are more terrifying than vampires and slashers, because I already have them in my house.

Looking for other movies in the Paranormal Activity mode? Check out Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “20 Scariest Movies of All Time.” Or, if you need a wider net, the American Film Institute composed a list of 100 Thrilling Films.

What are your Halloween rituals? Let me know in the comments.

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