31 Days of Halloween Activities, DIYs, Decor, and More to Help You Celebrate All Month Long

published Oct 1, 2021
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The month of October tends to have more fans than foes. It’s the time of year when the weather changes for the better, bringing about the feeling that perhaps you can, too. And let’s be honest, it’s also the only month on the calendar where it’s totally OK to dress up in something unusual and carry on in public, and that’s the real magic. 

Traditionally, October is full of opportunities to lean into its specific hallmarks. There’s the chance at lots of candy eating, of course, as well as a bevy of scary movies to watch. There’s the opportunity to decorate with eye-raising objects, or surround yourself with true-life stories of things gone awry. And for those who’d rather not rattle their nerves, October promises low-key activities like apple picking and corn mazes, too. Perhaps the only problem with all of these events is that it can be tough to keep them all straight. That’s why Apartment Therapy has compiled 31 things to do this month to celebrate fall and all the best parts of Halloween. See how many you can accomplish, and by November, you’ll be glad you made the most of the season.

October 1: Make a Halloween playlist.

It goes without saying that music sets the mood. And when you’re ready to get into the groove of the year’s spookiest holiday, it’s only natural to create a playlist. While “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” are obvious additions, don’t be afraid — pun intended — to veer off the beaten path. “Paint it Black” is unnerving in its own right, and “Goodbye Earl” has all the energy of “murder, but make it fun.” Or, go back to basics with eerie soundscapes, like wind whistling through the trees or spooky steps in a haunted house.

October 2: Create mood lighting.

And speaking of “setting a mood,” you can also accomplish this task with proper lighting. Switch out your standard brights for purple or black-colored bulbs, add candle-shaped ones to chandeliers, or simply keep your dimmers set on low. The more shadows you can cast into creepy corners — where no one’s at risk of tripping and falling — the better. 

October 3: Go apple picking.

While some of the more ghoulish people in your orbit may quip that apple picking can just be done at your nearest grocery store, there is something invigorating about yanking this fruit directly from the vine. Escape your neighborhood for a few hours of wandering in an orchard, and then take your loot home to see how many different caramel-and-candy toppings you can put together. (My vote: Snickers and sprinkles.)

October 4: Watch your favorite Halloween TV episodes.

If there’s one good thing about classic television programming, it’s that most shows will have Halloween themed episodes — in fact, “The Simpsons” made a famous tradition out of it. Write down a list of your all-time favorites to binge with friends, and then hold an unofficial vote of the best one. Winner gets another handful of popcorn. 

October 5: Fill mini cauldrons with air plants.

Halloween decorations tend to lean into the boo-or-be-gone theme, but for those who like them to fit in with their usual style, here’s an option: Fill mini cauldrons with air plants. Not only can this Halloween-themed design detail mesh with the rest of your home’s accessories, but you’ll have the added benefit of being able to incorporate these plants into your decor long after spooky season is over, too.

October 6: Practice the dance moves to “Thriller.”

Once upon a time, in an era called “pre-Internet,” the youth entertained themselves by learning the dance moves of popular music videos — and no song was as popular as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (ask anyone around you who remembers using disposable cameras unironically). While I can’t promise Mark Ruffalo will be there to do it all with you, I can promise that learning (or relearning) the steps to “Thriller” will be fun. There’s also a “Making of Thriller” documentary you can watch if you’re a method mover. 

October 7: Use fishing line to make magic “floating” decor.

No matter how old you get, an object that’s somehow floating in midair will always be a little magical. Be the person who makes pals “ooh” and “ahh” by suspending LED candles and witches’ hats above your living space. No, it’s not sorcery, or even one too many CBD gummies — it’s a fishing line and invisible tape, my friend. 

October 8: Research the oldest structure in your city.

Like the start of many teenage horror movies, there always seems to be an old building nearby that has a spooky feel to it. You probably have one in mind right now, don’t you? Step into the role of a lead character and decide that all those years of looking at this structure and wondering about it are over—you have to see what’s inside. Or, because its ground floor is either a Gap or Spirit Halloween, you can just stay home and do some research on it. Maybe you’ll find something to share at happy hour. 

October 9: Do a corn maze with friends… with a creepy twist.

Navigating a corn maze is fun already, but if you want to amp up your experience, try this: Organize a group to go together, and choose one person to be the “monster.” Give everyone else a head start, then let the monster loose — every time they find a friend, that person joins the monster’s crew to start looking for the other victims before they make it out of the maze. The winner gets a cider donut (and so does everyone else, of course).

October 10: Decorate with a bag of bones.

If you’re a murder mystery fan, then this one’s for you. Use a multi-piece “bag of bones” — available at stores like Target or Home Depot — to place a skull on a mantel or a hand on a coffee table. A scattering of femurs can enliven a bookshelf or could even peek through plants — as long as no one gets the wrong idea. 

October 11: Host a blacklight night.

It goes without saying that weekends in October are traditionally for costume parties. But if you want to host something different this year, try a blacklight night. Cover surfaces with black canvas and screw in blacklight bulbs overhead. Then, line walkways and a “dance floor” (read: your living room) with blacklight-reactive tape or neon light strips, and ask guests to wear white or neon colors make sure their outfits will similarly pop.

October 12: Dress up as your favorite food, then eat it.

One of the best parts about brainstorming costumes for Halloween is that you’re free to follow your heart. So while it’s totally fine to dress up as a witch or a ghost — especially on short notice — I suggest that you use this opportunity to resemble something you love. And to help limit that list to one category, here’s an idea: Dress up as your favorite food. Pizza! Ramen! Chips and Salsa! The list is endless. Once you’re dressed, whip up a matching meal to enjoy in costume.

October 13: Make a creepy jewelry sculpture.

Placing your jewelry inside a dish is so September. Instead, consider making this palmistry sculpture dreamed up by Cat Meschia of Ctrl + Curate for your October morning-and-night routines. A heavy-duty rubber glove is used as the mold, and with a little help from Plaster of Paris, you too can have a palm reaching out to grasp your rings and necklaces. You might even be tempted to let this piece stick around for the long haul.

October 14: Listen to audio versions of classic scary books.

For those of us who get the jitters at the mere thought of watching a scary movie, perhaps a worthwhile alternative is listening to classic scary tales from the comfort of your couch. Cue up “Dracula,” try out “Frankenstein,” or go the (much) shorter route of “The Raven.” While those jittery feelings may still arise, at least this option will cut down on your screen time.

October 15: Make candy trades with your friends.

When you’re a kid, there are two really fun parts about Halloween: Getting free candy, and then trading that candy. Even though you’re an adult who can probably afford to buy your own dang sweets, I recommend keeping this childhood game alive. Invite some friends over to share their loot — pillow cases full of sweets are preferred — and score a few more of your go-to picks. Remember, no take-backs. 

October 16: Write your own scary story.

Have you ever watched a horror movie and thought, “I could do better than that!” First of all, Stephen King is offended. And secondly, if it’s so easy, why don’t you try it, hot shot? Light a candle, sit down at a desk, and set out to write your own scary story. Maybe it doesn’t have to be 1,000 pages, but it should come with a few twists. Who knows, it could become a best-selling novel with a film adaptation one day. 

October 17: Have a “buy nothing” costume challenge.

You don’t need to hit the local costume shop to make something truly delightful. Instead, raid your closet to pull together something creative without spending a dime. Cut some holes in an old IKEA bag and become an IKEA haul, or tie a scarf around your head and put on some sunglasses to become an old Hollywood star. Your creativity (not budget!) is your only limitation. Host friends to determine the winner in person, or send selfies to each other and vote on the best from afar.

October 18: Turn a thrifted portrait from sweet to scary.

By now, you probably know that thrift stores can be an excellent place for affordable art. And if you’re looking for a project that combines that fact with Halloween, why not use said art as a jumping off point for spookier details? A mountain landscape can be enhanced by a haunted house in the distance, just as the image of a 19th-century person can be layered with some fangs and a few drops of “blood.” Be sure to drape fake spider webs off the frame as a finishing touch, and your thrift store find will be picture perfect. 

October 19: Paint mini pumpkins in new bright shades.

Orange is a tough color to decorate with, even though it might be a prominent shade this season. Take matters into your own hands and paint a bunch of mini pumpkins in colors that will likely better complement your home. Use tape to create patterns, incorporate stamps for added layers, and consider hot-gluing pom poms and pipe cleaners on, too.

October 20: Make a batch of Halloween-themed cocktails.

Put away your spiked seltzer! Shelf your wine! Spooky season calls for a toast with themed cocktails, which can include everything from margaritas made with blood-like pomegranate juice or an apple martini topped with a twist (of black licorice). For those who don’t drink, apple cider in a rimmed sugar glass will be just as festive — a cinnamon stick to twirl won’t hurt, either. 

October 21: Throw a murder mystery party.

Someone was just found dead at the bottom of the stairs! Did they slip, or were they pushed? Murder mystery parties have long been a fun way to gather with friends for a night of cheesy costumes and bad accents, and they can be an on-brand alternative for friends who would otherwise be home watching another episode of “Dateline.” There are plenty of murder mystery plots to choose from online, or you can go the ol’ board game route. Just be sure there are enough guests to play all of the characters. Not up for hosting at home? You can even throw a party virtually.

October 22: Go on a night hike.

Rustling trees in the dark have set the scene for plenty of scary movies, so if you’re feeling especially confident that you could outwit whatever is in the shadows — if there really is anything there at all — then invite a group to go on a night hike just as the sun dips below the horizon. Bring necessary equipment like flashlights, water, and reflective clothing — and stick to stick to easy trails for safety, even if it’s just in the woods behind your house. The first person to get freaked out has to lead the way!

October 23: Build a haunted gingerbread house.

There’s a good chance you’ve built a gingerbread house as part of your holiday festivities, but those same skills can also be applied to Halloween in the form of an edible haunted house. Use food coloring to make orange and black frosting to hold the structure together, and then decorate it with ghosts in the windows, spider webs in corners, and maybe even a flying witch. Unlike the holidays, you’re fully allowed to go more sinister than sweet. 

October 24: Have a non-Spooky fall activity day.

The overall vibe of October can be pretty intimidating to those who don’t particularly like the thought of things that go bump in the night. Thankfully, this month can offer plenty of low-stakes fun that won’t get your adrenaline pumping, and you should take advantage of it. Check out an Oktoberfest celebration, go on a hayride, peruse a pumpkin patch, peep some leaves, or sip on hot cider. There won’t be anything to fear!

October 25: Sign up for a ghost tour.

Those who truly cannot get enough of the more hair-raising aspects of the season should consider signing up for a local ghost tour, particularly if it’s offered at night. As you listen to the tales of misdoings and unfortunate circumstances around every corner, try not to let your thoughts wander, too. After all, that was probably just the wind brushing up against your back. Probably. 

October 26: Gather ‘round a bonfire.

Fall is the ideal season for cozy bonfires, and they can be made infinitely more intimate if you ask guests to share the scariest stories they’ve ever heard. Better yet, make them do it while holding a flashlight beneath their chins, a la “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. The most successful storyteller gets a prize, like a pretend trophy with a plastic ghost on top, or maybe a bag of Halloween treats, plus bragging rights. And those who’d rather not tell a tale can always munch on snacks by the firelight while they listen.

October 27: Watch a foreign horror film.

There are some classic American horror films that usually get rewatched this time of year — you know, “The Shining,” “Scream,” “Exorcist.” But if you’re looking to switch up your screening routine, there are plenty of must-see foreign films that are just as terrifying. Try the Japanese originals of early aughts classics like “Ring” (which inspired “The Ring”) and “Ju-On: The Grudge” (which inspired “The Grudge”). Or, check out the modern Korean zombie classic, “Train to Busan.” These may just become part of your regular Halloween movie rotation in the future. 

October 28: Listen to a story about your hometown.

It’s funny, you can live somewhere for years and not know it has a creepy story to tell. Maybe there’s a house with an unthinkable past, a park that hides something beneath its green expanses, or even a certain resident that might’ve rubbed past neighbors the wrong way. Whatever it may be, do a search for potential podcast episodes that have uncovered the spooky underbelly of your hometown or a town nearby. As you listen, you’ll be reminded that things are not always as they seem. 

October 29: Dress your pet up and have a Halloween photoshoot.

End-of-year photoshoots get all the love, since those are the pics that get slipped into cards. But there’s no need to wait until winter to take some high-quality photos of the ones you love (i.e., your pets). Create an autumnal background with colorful fallen leaves, pumpkins, or even spooky Halloween decor, then grab some treats to help get their attention while you snap seasonal pics. Better still? Dress them up in costume for the occasion.

October 30: Master the rules of giving out treats.

Sometimes there’s so much going on before Halloween that it’s understandable if you just want to buy the first bag of candy you see on an errand run and call it a day. But this year, give yourself time to learn about the best ways to hand out treats that are as inclusive as possible. Perhaps your city has certain recommendations to follow, or you want to read up on best practices for disabled kids or kids with allergies. Your consideration might make a big difference to whoever visits your door. 

October 31: Throw a neighborhood decor competition.

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to really make you go all-out on your Halloween decor, so ask your neighbors if they’d like to participate in outfitting their front doors for the occasion. Set some guidelines — like a budget, some must-haves, and a few disqualifiers — and see if kids would like to judge the results. It’s a fun way to get the community together on the big night, even if festivities might look a little different than normal this year.