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Chicago goes all out for Halloween season with these must-do events

Whether you want festive fun at the pumpkin patch or a fear-inducing fright night, here are some ways to make the most of the Halloween season.

Courtney Abbott and Heather Chrisler star in First Folio Theatre’s production of “The Jigsaw Bride.”
Courtney Abbott and Heather Chrisler star in First Folio Theatre’s production of “The Jigsaw Bride.”
Tom McGrath

Halloween is back on in 2021 as Chicago’s bars, music clubs, movie theaters and even the zoo get in on the spooky season with a range of events that offer tricks and treats. Whether you want festive fun at the pumpkin patch or a fear-inducing fright night, here are some ways to make the most of Halloween weekend (and the weeks ahead of the big day). Most events do have COVID protocols in place — check websites for the latest details.

Music Box of Horrors (through Oct. 31)

Horror’s new home is at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In in Pilsen where Music Box Theatre again hosts their 31-day film series. Having moved the event last year as a pandemic measure, the setting clearly works to invoke that nostalgic spooky vibe. On Halloween weekend (Oct. 29-31) choose between the Friday Night Double Feature of 1993’s “Fire In The Sky” and 1989’s “The McPherson Tape,” a Rip-Off Saturday 2-for-1 with 1987’s “Evil Dead II” and 2008 thriller “Bach Ke Zaraa” or a single feature of 2007’s “Trick ‘R Treat” on Halloween night. Chi-Town Movies Drive-In, 2343 S. Throop St. Movies start at 9:30 p.m., $20-30 per car; musicboxtheatre.com

Sweet Dreams: The Halloween Pop-up Where Dreams Go to Die and Nightmares Come to Life (through Nov. 1)

The loaded name of this pop-up event matches the chaos you’ll find inside the new 20,000-square-foot nightmare land. The scene is a mashup of 20 horror films, where you’ll find the company of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and probably even Pennywise creeping around underground. In addition to plenty of killer photo ops, tickets also provide a complimentary beverage and there is a specialty drink menu for purchase. Rizzo’s Bar, 3658 N. Clark St., 5-11 p.m. Fri; 1 -11 p.m. Sat.-Sun., through Nov. 1, , $10-15 in advance; youcantdrinkallday.com

Costumed guides will lead you on a unique tour of Chicago aboard a Seadog’s Haunted River Tour.
Costumed guides will lead you on a unique tour of Chicago aboard a Seadog’s Haunted River Tour.
Courtesy Seadog

Chicago Seadog Haunted River Tour (through Oct. 31)

Chicago is one of the most haunted cities in America, and while there’s plenty of walking ghost tours where you can learn about all the torrid tales, Chicago’s speedboat Seadog provides a unique way to enjoy storytime. Hop aboard for a 75-minute nighttime ride, hosted by a costumed guide who will share all the supernatural secrets of the city’s past while taking in the scenery. Meet at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. Board at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat; board at 5 p.m. Sun. $49.95-62; cityexperiences.com/chicago

Halloween is in full swing at the Lincoln Park Fall Fest.
Halloween is in full swing at the Lincoln Park Fall Fest.
Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo Fall Fest (through Oct. 31)

If you’re looking for something a little less frightful and more festive, head to the annual Fall Fest at the zoo. Enjoy a winding trail of carved pumpkins and watch live as master gourd cutters create new masterpieces, plus take a few home at the pumpkin patch. There’s also a caramel apple and s’mores station, and of course, all the animals to visit. Bring the whole family with or without costumes (face painters will be onsite to help provide a good look, too). Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St. 10 am-5 pm, admission is free, but some attractions require $3 fee per person; lpzoo.org. (NOTE: Grown-ups are invited to Adults Night Out: The Pumpkin Glow, featuring animal chats, live DJs, multiple bars throughout the zoo. $20-$30, 18+.)

Rick Ortega, Espíritu de Cihuateteo, 2018, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
Rick Ortega, “Espíritu de Cihuateteo,” 2018, oil on canvas, at the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Courtesy of the artist

Dia De Muertos (through Oct. 31)

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen celebrates the annual Mexican holiday Day of the Dead with a months-long exhibition showcasing a range of detailed ofrendas, or an altar built to honor loved ones who have passed, as well as lavish artistic installations. This year’s event, the museum’s 35th, honors those who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free; nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org

Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade (Oct. 31)

It’s baaaaack! Finally after a year without parades, one of the best returns to Northalsted. Voted one of the top 10 Halloween events by Fodor’s Travel Guide, Haunted Halsted is a parade of some of the most creative costumes you’ll see all weekend with $6,000 in prize money up for grabs in various contest categories. There will also be a performance from cover band Catfight (and real pets are welcome to join in too). 3300-3700 N. Halsted, starts at 6 p.m., free to attend; northalsted.com

‘The Jigsaw Bride’ (through Nov. 14)

Perhaps a night at the theater is more to your liking. First Folio Theatre is serving up a wicked brew, with the world premiere of “The Jigsaw Bride.” The gothic horror/suspense tale transports you to the castle of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” 100 years after the iconic monster lived and died. Or did he? Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83, $49-$98; firstfolio.org

Statesville Haunted Prison returns for its final incarnation at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm this year.
Statesville Haunted Prison returns for its final incarnation at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm this year.
Zombie Army Productions

Statesville Haunted Prison (through Oct. 31)

There are not many haunted houses in the city proper, but this one may be worth the trek as it’s the final year ever for the top-rated attraction that’s been going strong since 1996. In a fictitious prison, you’ll traverse through 23 jail cells and come face-to-face with more than 100 evil characters in the midst of a riot, so put on your brave face. 17250 S. Weber Road, Lockport. Fri-Sa 7-11 pm, Sun 7-10 pm. $30-50; statesvillehauntedprison.com

Nocturna: All Hallows’ Eve Ball (Oct. 30)

DJ Scary Lady Sarah brings an air of the spooky season all year with her bi-monthly Nocturna event where she regularly spins the best gothic rock, industrial, new wave, post-punk and more of music’s dark core. Expect that aura to be taken up a notch on this All Hallows’ Eve spectacular. Costumes are encouraged and there will be a contest for best dressed. There will also be a photo booth, various vendors and even more treats throughout the night. Metro, 3730 N. Clark. 10:30 p.m., $15 in advance; metrochicago.com

As Above, So Below (Oct. 30)

Ace Hotel’s new year-round rooftop lounge, Little Wild, goes all out for its first Halloween bash, describing it as a “metaphysical circus.” Before you go seven floors up, find an aerial ribbon dance in the lobby and then be greeted by drag performer bellhops. At the main event, there will be a bit of vaudeville magic, tarot readings, crystal bowl healings and DJs providing a bewitching soundtrack. Costumes are required. Ace Hotel Chicago, 311 N. Morgan St. Starts at 9 p.m. $25; acehotel.com

Totally ‘80s Halloween Party (Oct. 30)

The ‘80s were a great time for all things Halloween, when we first got MJ’s “Thriller,” witnessed the birth of Freddy Krueger and enjoyed a Stephen King regime. So it’s no wonder Time Out Market Chicago in the West Loop celebrates the devilish decade in their Halloween eve party. In addition to late-night grub from 12 food vendors, you can enjoy cocktails in Pop Rocks-rimmed glasses, photo ops with an oversized Lite Brite, a pop-up arcade with Pac-Mac and Super Mario Bros. and a DJ spinning the best of the era’s tunes. Come dressed for the occasion. Time Out Market Chicago, 916 W. Fulton Market. 9 p.m., free to attend; timeoutmarket.com/chicago

The Melvins
The Melvins
Chris Casella

HallowWolfbat at House Of Vans

House of Vans makes its post-pandemic return just in time for Halloween with an all-out musical-visual spectacle at the unique concert setting in the West Loop. This year’s lineup features zany rockers The Melvins alongside Chicago’s own occult rockers Coven and psych trio Heavy Temple. But beware if you zone out in the hypnotic sounds — there will also be giant puppetry roaming the venue as well as large-scale art created by visionary Dennis McNett, the man behind Wolfbat Studios. It’s currently sold out but you can always watch it livestreamed at vans.com/channel66, 113 N. Elizabeth St, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31. vans.com/house-of-vans