By now, it seems as if the Halloween candy and costumes have been on store shelves since July. Well, the holiday is finally within view, and since All Hallow's Eve falls on a Friday this year, the events below offer a good excuse for a day trip or weekend built around spooky fun. Or maybe you've had your fill of tricks and treats, and you'd prefer a star-studded culinary event, an Irish festival or an exhibit of powerful, historic murals.
Adults only Who says Halloween is just for kids? Mermaid Winery in Norfolk, Va., is hosting an adult Halloween party Oct. 31 at its winery, bar and restaurant, with free entry for people in costumes and a $75 bottle of wine to the winner of its costume contest. The wine and costume party runs from 8 p.m.-11 p.m.. If you arrive without a costume, you have to pay $10 to get in, but why would anyone do that? Info: mermaidwinery.com
Spirit of Annapolis Through Nov. 1, ghost tours in Annapolis will include eerie evening visits to the possibly haunted William Paca House. You'll roam the candlelit halls where Declaration of Independence signer and Maryland governor lived, led by a costumed guide who will tell the stories of the ghosts who just might live there. The ghost tours, operated by Annapolis Tours by Watermark, leave at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from the Historic Annapolis Museum. If ghost stories leave you cold, check out the new smartphone app from the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau. AnnaplisNOW quickly connects users to restaurants, events and other attractions. The app can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google Play. Info: annapolistours.com and visitannapolis.org
Hershey haunts Halloween is a favorite time of year for candy king Hershey, which promises "all treats, no tricks" to people who visit Pennsylvania's Hersheypark weekends in October, including Oct. 31-Nov. 2. The park is open to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 9 p.m. on Sundays, giving visitors rare chances to ride roller coasters in the dark and trick-or-treat for sweets. The Halloween in Hershey package, valid Friday and Saturday nights through Nov. 2, includes admission to the park and pumpkin-strewn Hershey Gardens, plus a night at the Hershey Lodge and breakfast with product characters. Info: hersheypark.com
Boo at the zoo The annual Boo at the Zoo event at the Bronx Zoo features demonstrations of some of the most awesome pumpkin carving you've ever seen. The New York City landmark, which opened in 1899, goes all out for the season, with hay mazes, treat stations for young trick-or-treaters and special talks on the zoo's most Halloween-like creatures, including rats, snakes, bats and spiders. Also look for puppet shows, parades, and performances of music and madness. Boo at the Zoo takes place on weekends now through Nov. 2. Info: bronxzoo.com.
And now, some non-Halloween ideas.
Treasures and Tales Visit the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del., to see mosaics, ceramics and statues, some nearly 3,000 years old, and learn the riveting tales of how Italy recovered the items from "tomb raiders." It's all very cinematic, with plenty of wiretaps and intrigue. The show runs through Dec. 21 at the opera house. Tickets are $15. Info: treasuresandtales.com
Fire, Flour & Fork delivers four days of themed meals, food talks, cooking demos and tastings from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 in Richmond, Va. Local and nationally known chefs will prepare six lunches and 13 dinners, all with a culinary point of view, such as the "Soulful Saturday" lunch of crab bisque, smothered chicken and sides of greens, corn muffins and mac and cheese. Prices vary, and proceeds benefit local charities. Info: fireflourandfork.com
'Rising Up' The powerful murals that Hale Woodruff painted in Alabama's Talladega College in 1938 are on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture Nov. 7 through March 1. "Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College" will showcase the six murals and other works by the African-American artist (1900-1980), who was commissioned by the Alabama college in 1938 to paint scenes from African-American history, including the opening of Talladega College, founded in 1867 by and for former slaves. The exhibit marks the first time the murals will be seen in the Washington area. Info: http://nmaahc.si.edu
Irish celebration The 41st Annual Maryland Irish Festival brings step-dancing, live Irish music and food from the Emerald Isle to the Timonium Fairgrounds Nov. 7-9. The family-friendly event, organized by the Irish Charities of Maryland, has four performance stages, plus vendors selling Irish crafts, a speaker series, and workshops. General admission is $20. Info: http://irishfestival.com.s141542.gridserver.com