Every year my museum hosts a Halloween Party for kids and families. It is one of our most popular events, and a fun night for everyone!
Holiday programming fits into almost any museum’s mission, because people in the past celebrated these holidays too. Halloween was extremely popular in the Victorian era, for example. To make it tie into your mission more specifically, you could create an exhibition of vintage Halloween costumes or cards to coincide with your Halloween Party.
We have a large building, which allows us to hold quite a few people. A few years ago attendance topped 900 people!
Here’s what we do:
1. We have one of our volunteers paint faces on 8 or 10 pumpkins which we use as prizes for a costume contest. The pumpkins are displayed in our lobby for a few weeks prior to Halloween. A few people – usually staff and volunteers – are chosen to give away certificates on lanyards to the best costumes they see that night. (Be sure the number of certificates is equal to the number of prizes!) At the end of the evening the kids can turn in their certificate for a painted pumpkin.
2. We have an operational fireplace inside our Cabin in the Street of Shops. Our Director of Education is proficient in open hearth cooking. He cook hot dogs over the fire which we sell as a meal: hot dog, chips and a drink.
3. Kids can trick-or-treat at stations throughout our building. Volunteers are posted at various locations with a basket of candy to hand out. Each station has a different type of candy, so there is a wide variety for the trick-or-treaters who stop at every station. We provide a trick-or-treat bag for each child.
4. Our museum is located next to a cemetery. Weather-permitting, we have free hayrides for our guests through the cemetery at night. You can imagine how popular that is!
5. One of our volunteers has an apple press. He brings it in and does demonstrations complete with free apple cider samples.
6. We have simple games kids can play for free to win small trinkets as prizes. We color the end of some lollipop black and shove them into a pumpkin, surrounded by lollipops that have not been colored. Kids choose a lollipop – which they can keep – and if the stick is black, they win a prize. Another simple game is a memory quiz. Take a tray and place 8 or 10 items on it. Allow the “contestant” to study the tray and memorize what is on it. Take the tray away and see how many items they can guess. You can also make a simple ring toss out of 2 liter bottles and embroidery hoops. The games don’t have to be fancy, just fun!
7. Admission is $5 for everyone, including museum members. Regular admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children 3-18, so the admission to the party is $1-$2 off per adult. We have a separate line for people who have made reservations and paid ahead of time to cut down on the wait.
We call our event a Halloween Party at the “Boo-seum.” We have been doing it for over 10 years now, so we have built up a following for the event. We market the party through our newsletter, e-newsletter, press releases to local media, my blog Curator’s Corner, our website and flyers around town.
We have had some success distributing flyers to local schools, but recently rules have become more strict and it has been increasingly difficult to get our flyers into the classrooms. We distribute flyers to all the teachers who bring field trips to the museum in the month of October.
Consider planning a Halloween Party at your museum. It’s a lot of fun!