Spending Halloween in or near the city of brotherly love? Here are a handful of Halloween happenings, suited to a variety of different ages and tastes.
1. Laurel Hill Cemetery, the sprawling, 32-acre garden graveyard located by the eastern banks of the Schuylkill River, has been a popular tourist destination for over 150 years. Interred there are 40 Civil War Generals, among them George Gordon Meade, the hero of Gettysburg, as well as numerous other dignitaries. Every October, Laurel Hill features guided tours by actors dressed as famous decedents. This year, the event runs on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at a cost of $20 per person. Tours are also available on Sunday, October 29th for $15, but without costumed actors. Laurel Hill Cemetery is located at 3822 Ridge Avenue, and can be reached at 215-228-8200.
2. For years, Eastern State Penitentiary held some of society’s most depraved criminals. Now, according to some, it holds much worse. Tours are offered of the allegedly-haunted, 188 year-old building, which officially closed as a prison in 1970. But more interesting by far than the daylight tours is the annual Terror Behind the Walls, which this years runs from September 21 through November 3. Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 2124 Fairmount Avenue. For tour times and prices, call 215-236-5111. Lines are generally shorter earlier in the evening.
3. One of the oldest, most historic cities in the nation is possibly one of the most haunted, and the Ghost Tour of Philadelphia is perennially popular, but even more so around Halloween. Sites of interest on this 90-minute stroll include Saint Peter’s Cemetery at Pine and 3rd streets, and historic structures such as Independence Hall. Held 7:30 p.m. every evening in October, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween on 9:30 p.m, the tour begins at 5th and Chestnut streets in Old City. Tickets, which run $15 for adults and $8 for children, can be purchased at the gift shop adjacent to the Omni Hotel on 4th and Chestnut streets, or at the Independence Hall Visitors Center at 6th and Market Streets. Call 215-413-1997 for more information.
4. The Stagecrafters is a lively little theater company in the Germantown section of the city. For the fifth year in a row, they are holding their Halloween Scary Stories, where actors give dramatic readings of eerie tales and poems. In addition, there will be a magic show and prizes awarded for the best costumes. This event runs on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 28 at 2:00 p.m. Finding parking might be difficult, however, so coming a little early is a good idea. At $5 per ticket, the seats go fast, so best to make reservations by calling 215-247-8881. Admission for children is free.
5. A new restaurant, Downstairs at Tony Clark’s, is timing their grand opening with Halloween night. Aiming perhaps for a classier crowd, they will be serving champagne and caviar. Admission is free, and the festivities begin at 8:00 p.m. Come in costume for a chance to win dinner for two. The new eatery is located at 121 South Broad Street, between Sansom and Chestnut streets. Their telephone number is 215-772-9238.
6. Philadelphians who are too young to drink but too old for traditional trick-or-treating might enjoy an all-night bowling party at Thunderbird Lanes in the Northeast. $25 per kid (ages 13 to 17) includes food, and unlimited bowling from midnight until 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Breakfast will even be served. This venue also features a costume contest. Parents need not worry about lack of supervision, as the event will be chaperoned. Advance registration is mandatory; full payment and a parental permission letter must be submitted by Sunday, October 21. Kids attending will be required to show a valid high school ID. The bowling alley is at 3081 Holme Avenue, near the intersection with Willits Road. Call 215-464-7171 for more details.
7. The country’s first zoo, comprising 42 acres along the west bank of the Schuylkill River, opened its door to the public in 1874, and has hosted millions of visitors and thousands of diverse creatures since then. Boo at the Zoo provides a safe, daylight trick-or-treating experience for children, and adults are bound to enjoy this 133 year-old cultural landmark as well. Kids who need a quick costume can visit one of the face-painting stations that will be set up, and everyone can hob-nob with costumed actors and local celebrities. The fun starts at 10:00 a.m. and wraps up at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 27. Standard zoo admission charges of $16.95 for adults and $13.95 for kids apply, and infants get in free. The Philadelphia Zoo is at 400 West Girard Avenue. Take exit 342 for Girard Avenue from the Schuylkill Expressway, I-76. The telephone number is 215-243-1100.