With its origins dating back to the early 1600s, the Williamsburg, Va., region has a long and haunted history, adding a sense of Old-World scares and superstition to the area’s annual Halloween happenings. This October, both kids and adults alike will find something to scream about when visiting this historic place and its outlying environs.
Much of the activity this year focuses on Colonial Williamsburg, but the depth and breadth of the living-history museum’s offerings for the season is beyond diverse enough. Nearby museums and theme parks, including the historic Jamestown Settlement, also get in on the spectral fun.
Starting on Sept. 23, the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park transforms into a ghoulish landscape for Howl-O-Scream, which runs through Oct. 29. After 6 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night the park takes its spooky turn, serving up a horrifying assortment of haunted houses, live shows and immersive themed Terror-Tories like Axe Alley, Demon Street, Ripper Row, Sideshow Square and Vampire Point. The park will extend its hours to midnight on Saturday nights in October, just to allow more time for scares. (Busch Gardens Williamsburg, 1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA 23185; https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg)
No proper Halloween is complete without a spooky soundtrack, and in Colonial Williamsburg, the sounds of haunting take on an appropriately historical twist. The Governor’s Musick—Colonial Williamsburg’s resident baroque ensemble—will present several concerts highlighting the darker side of baroque music in Monsters, Mayhem and Musick, presented on the Tuesday evenings of Oct. 17, 24 and 31, at the Governor’s Palace. The event isn’t appropriate for children 6 and under, but older concertgoers are sure to find the concert absolutely spellbinding. (Two performances nightly. Governor’s Palace, 300 Palace Green St., Williamsburg, VA 23185; https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/plan/calendar/monsters-mayhem-and-musick)
In Williamsburg, even the museums get involved in the ghostly fun. Returning for its 18th year is Night of the Living Museum, a family-friendly Halloween event held at the Virginia Living Museum, featuring themed galleries filled with characters and Halloween decorations. Highlights include demonstrations of pumpkin-carving secrets, live animal shows, presentations on spiders and other creepy crawlies, Halloween crafts and games, trick-or-treating, nighttime hikes along the boardwalk, and “Fright Light,” a special Halloween laser light show at the Abbitt Planetarium. Costumes are encouraged. (Oct. 20 & 21, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Virginia Living Museum, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601; https://thevlm.org)
Another terrifying Halloween transformation happens at the historic Jamestown Settlement, which presents Family Frights at Jamestown Settlement on Oct. 20 & 21, complete with smoke, lanterns and eerie sound effects throughout the recreated 1600s fort. Families with elementary school-aged children can spend the evening from 6:30 to 9 p.m. listening to ghostly tales, exploring haunted houses and ships, and tempting fate with a series of grisly games. (Jamestown Settlement, 2110 Jamestown Rd., Williamsburg, VA 23185; http://www.historyisfun.org/jamestown-settlement/fright-nights-at-jamestown-settlement)
In the 18th century, the tale of Jack of the Lanterns gave rise to our modern-day jack-o-lantern tradition. So, it only seems fitting that this Halloween in Williamsburg, you can take in a mesmerizing display of pumpkin-carving prowess at Jack of the Lanterns, featuring more than 250 jack-o-lanterns placed on Historic Area porches and steps along Duke of Gloucester Street. Each night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 27 to Oct. 31 jack-o-lanterns will light your path. (Colonial Williamsburg, Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg, VA 23185; https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/plan/calendar/jack-of-the-lanterns)
Let’s not forget, Colonial Williamsburg also has a history of being fairly spooky all year round. Each night from 7 to 8 p.m., and 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Ghosts Among Us walking tour takes visitors through the district’s reportedly haunted homes and buildings, accompanied by an ever-changing cast of characters and guides. A similar nightly event, the Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk, focuses on treading lightly through the Historic Area’s streets and gardens, where your guide will give you chills by spinning yarns of ghostly hauntings and encounters. (Colonial Williamsburg, 101 Visitor Center Dr., Williamsburg, VA 23185; https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com)
And in perhaps the most unique offering at Colonial Williamsburg this year, immerse yourself in The ‘Mad’ Revenge of King George III, where you’ll traverse the halls and grounds of the Capitol in an alternate version of reality in the mad king’s mind; a reality in which the American Revolution ended in a British victory and the patriots faced a gruesome end for their revolt. Fortunately, this version of history is purely a work of frightful fiction. (Oct. 28, 7 to 9 p.m.; Capitol, 500 East Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg, VA 23185; https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/plan/calendar/the-mad-revenge-of-king-george-iii)