Unique Halloween activities in & around Fairfax

dracula photoDracula and His Victim (Photo: Little Theatre of Alexandria)

There are many unique activities on offer in the Fairfax County area as we approach All Hallows’ Eve on 31 October.  These doings range from pure fun to the highly cultural and encompass all ages. There are even autumnal ventures out for those who are not particularly enthused by the haunts and goblins of Halloween.

We begin with Burke Nursery and Garden Centre at 9401 Burke Road in Burke, where the 24th Annual Fall Festival with Pumpkin Playground is in full swing daily through October 31 for a $10. admission price weekdays and $14. on Sunday. Visitors enjoy a hayride (with no hay!) on a clean tractor-drawn wagon through the woods with scattered skeletons sporting in a spooky playground, on tractors, and others engaging in other activities from the world of the living.

This may be intense for very young children, who might enjoy instead the Western frontier vicariously in an Old West “ghost town” and American Indian teepee. Perhaps the most popular features of the Burke fair for children are the large slides and playground equipment. For adults, produce from the Shenandoah Valley is available for purchase (apples and various kinds of squash), and one can choose a small pumpkin to take away from the Fall Festival as a souvenir.  This is a wonderful event for those who enjoy autumn more than Halloween: except for the tractor-led hay ride through “skeleton country,” it is a festival evocative of the scenery and scents of the fall season.

Monster Mini Golf

Returning to a spookier mood, we ride the ghost wind from Burke over to Chantilly in order to enjoy a round of Monster Mini Golf at 14130 Sullyfield Circle.  A full eighteen-hole golf course awaits amid glow-in-the-dark cartoons and automatons of ghouls and ghosts – as well as glow-in-the-dark golf balls!  Yet all is as tongue-in-cheek as it is spooky. A faux recording booth, for instance, shows supposed “gold records” of the past, such as “Skella” (i.e., skeleton) Fitzgerald and her record “Scream a Little Scream of Me,” a take-off on  Ella’s actual recording of “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

mini golf monster

Photo by Mark Dreisonstok

After a game of golf, one may take pleasure in the same dark ambience while playing pinball as well as taking on the Laser Beam Challenge and Atomic Rush for the dexterous.  The over-thirty set may recognize some games of youth from decades past – “duck-pin” bowling (smaller balls and pins than “ten pins”) as well as “Skee-Ball” bowling, here called “ Ice-Ball,” as the small balls (rolled into targeted holes of different points) are white as snow.  For the small kiddies, there is the descending claw crane “Plucky Ducky” game – a prize always guaranteed, invariably a toy with a duck theme! Monster Mini Golf is available all year round, but it is an ideal venue now in order to wallow in the spooky carnival atmosphere leading up to Halloween.

Springing a short distance out of Fairfax County into Alexandria, we leave the spooky behind and enter the realm of downright fear, all in a  highly literary vein: An excellent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula recommends itself in its current production at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (600 Wolfe Street)  though November 3 . The fabled vampire-count of Victorian literature, his victims, and his pursuers come to life in this staging directed by Jennifer Lyman.

As one enters, an atmosphere of dread permeates the theatre as fog fills the stage and dimly lit chandeliers (permanent fixtures of the theatre ceiling) seem more like glowing candles from a long-dead past.  Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor” on a pipe organ (via piped-in music) adds to a feeling of foreboding. Strange things begin to occur as solicitor Jonathan Harker, played believably by Brendan Quinn, finds himself locked in a decaying castle in Transylvania;  as young brides Lucy and Mina (actresses Lynley Peoples and Heather Benjamin, channeling the 1800’s in dress and manner) mysteriously lose blood and grow weaker by the day; as finally Count Dracula appears, exuding charm, charisma, and Bela Lagosi accent in a tour de force performance by Chris Andersen.  There is an infectious campiness to this production, such as Dracula’s lines to the hapless naïf Jonathan Harker like “I’ll eat later.” The audience, of course, laughs, knowing full well what is meant by this utterance from the world’s most famous blood-thirsty vampire!

For those who eschew vampires and other such macabre staples of Halloween described above but are still seasonally oriented, we might suggest the Fall Concert of the Washington Sängerbund.  This one-time performance will take place on November 3 at 7 p.m. in the Elks Lodge Ballroom (8421 Arlington Boulevard, Fairfax). In this venue, Washington’s premier German-language choir, founded back in 1851, will offer songs celebrating not just autumn but all of the seasons.

halloween party photo

Photo by Mark Dreisonstok

Works to be sung in a foreign tongue but recognizable to an American audience include “Muss I denn” (covered once in a famous version by Elvis Presley), “The Happy Wanderer,” and “Gaudeamus Igitur,” a melody associated with university life and immortalized in Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture.”  After the Sängerbund concert, bandleader Mike Surratt and the Continentals will round out the evening with a program of dance music. Those who prefer traditional national costumes to zombie and vampire costumes can come out and dance in traditional Bavarian Lederhosen (for men) or Dirndl (for ladies).

The autumn season is now fully upon us!  Pumpkins, hayrides, games amid spooks, Dracula, and a Fall Concert and dance:  Whatever your taste and response to the autumnal equinox, there is likely an activity for you in Fairfax County and environs which will appeal to your fall fancy!

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About the Author

Mark Dreisonstok
Mark Dreisonstok is a professor, editor, writer, and translator in the Washington, D.C., area. He holds a PhD from Georgetown University and an M.A. from the University of Freiburg, Germany.