Let’s face it: nightclubs suck. And they suck extra on holidays and quasi-holidays like Halloween, when you have to pay three times your hourly wage just to get into the damn establishment.
Inside the sticky, vodka-stained premises, you’ll likely spend the next three hours flagging down incompetent bartenders, getting stabbed in the foot with a few dozen stiletto heels, and using your elbows to fend off that uncomfortably sweaty couple on the dancefloor that’s more interested in swapping spit than respecting others’ personal space. You’ll be lucky if you make it to midnight.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Halloween shindigs happening outside Vancouver’s usual bar, pub, and nightclub circuits this year. From Bob’s Burger’s–themed funtions and family-friendly train rides to R-rated puppet shows and adult-only dives into the terrifying depths of the deep, dark ocean, here are a whopping 20 places in Vancouver where you can celebrate Halloween without the absurd cover fees.
Ghost Train at Stanley Park
Daily until October 31 at Stanley Park (on Pipeline Road via the West Georgia Street park entrance)
Stanley Park’s railway tracks are being kept busy as they have recently reopened for its annual Ghost Train schedule. Riders are taken through a spooky journey, and this year’s theme is “Alien Invasion”. The family-friendly event features ghosts, ghouls, and possibly extraterrestrial beings. Parents who bring their children to this attraction can expect lights, sounds, and live performers (no live performers during matinee train rides). The plaza will have activities such as the haunted maze, arts and crafts, a pumpkin patch, and exhibits by the Stanley Park Ecology Society.
Tickets start at $6 and are available online. Parental discretion is advised for children under six years of age.
Fright Nights at Playland
Select dates until October 31 at Playland (entrance at East Hastings and Windermere streets)
It’s probably the most anticipated attraction to return every Halloween season and with good reason. Fright Nights at Playland—otherwise known as Western Canada’s scariest haunt—features nine haunted houses this year, including the new “Bloodshed”. Besides finding your way through dark rooms filled with coffins, creepy dolls, scary clowns, and deranged doctors (which may or may not cause you to lose your voice from screaming), attendees can also enjoy a physical-stunts show, embark on rides, and become petrified by “freaks” that roam through the park.
Tickets start at $32 online. Guests should be at least 12 years of age; no guest costumes or face make-up is allowed.
Haunted Trolley Tour
Select dates until October 31, departing at the Irish Heather Gastropub (210 Carrall Street)
Those with a love for urban myths, ghouls, and creepy manors will jump at the chance to take the Vancouver Trolley Company’s annual Haunted Trolley Tour. The Halloween-themed jaunt takes guests through Gastown, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, and Shaughnessy, where they’ll be regaled with tales of death and murder that allegedly took place at each scene. (You may be familiar with the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s Lady in Red…) After a trip to the city’s first morgue, the outing wraps with a spooky virtual-reality experience at the Shebeen Whiskey House, where attendees will be immersed in a chilling universe of blood, clowns, and illegal organ harvesting.
Tickets are $55 and available online. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
Potter’s House of Horrors
Select dates until October 31 at Potter’s Farm & Nursery (12530 72 Avenue, Surrey)
For those who feel adventurous enough to venture to other Metro Vancouver municipalities, we suggest heading over to Potter’s House of Horrors in Surrey. The team behind this popular Halloween attraction has been doing it for 15 years, so you can bet that they know how to give a good scare. They offer two ultra-scary haunted houses, including the “Monstrosity” and the new “Devil’s Descent”—both feature high-tech scare tactics and trained actors. There’s also a Li’L Haunters zone that features two kid-friendly mini haunted houses and fun sports games. Coffin rides, a haunted photo booth, and an extreme paintball shootout is also on offer, which will keep you entertained the entire night.
Tickets start at $15.99 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under on regular nights, and are available online. Guests who are 12 and under should be accompanied by an adult.
Haunted Corn Maze
Select dates until October 31 at Maan Farms Country Experience (790 McKenzie Road, Abbotsford)
From The Children of the Corn to Jeepers Creepers, seemingly deserted corn mazes feature prominently in a number of horror flicks, so it was only natural that someone recreate the experience here in B.C., right? Enter the Haunted Corn Maze, the only labyrinth of its kind in the Lower Mainland that features creepy clowns, chainsaw- and scythe-wielding freaks, “different scenes of violence and carnage” (yikes), and probably a lot of panicked breathing as you attempt to get the fuck out of there. The folks at Maan Farms have also crafted a Flashlight Corn Maze, which we’re assuming is similarly terrifying, but with a little more light.
Tickets start at $20 onsite. Guests should be at least 10 years of age and minors must be accompanied by an adult.
Halloween Mystery Nights
Daily, from 7 to 9 p.m., until October 31, departing at Waterfront Station
Ever wanted to immerse yourself in a real-life version of Clue? Round up the squad and sign up for Vancouver Mysteries’ Halloween Mystery Night, where you’re be tasked with solving a gruesome (though fictional) murder case involving a fellow who was strangled, poisoned, and stabbed in downtown Vancouver. (Suspects include a renowned psychiatrist, a casino boss, and a Paris Hilton–lite heiress.) The two-hour game is played in teams of two to five, with the winning crew taking home a sweet prize.
Tickets are $25 per player online and the event is open to all ages.
Halloween at FlyOver Canada
Daily from October 12 to 31 at FlyOver Canada (201–999 Canada Place)
The coast-to-coast discovery ride FlyOver Canada gets a spooky makeover this month, with the ride adding a new narrative to the main event. Broomelda the witch has transformed the event into a Haunted Witches Academy, with aspiring witches and wizards being invited to join the hallowed school before taking off on their journey. With a themed pre-show, a Witch Academy Diploma to take home, and spooky Halloween decorations, the ride’s eight-minute flight experience has all the makings of a Quidditch match. If only they tuned the ride’s seats into brooms…
Tickets are $22.95 in advance and $27 at the gate for adults, and $14.75 in advance and $17 at the gate for children.
Vancouver Aquarium After Hours
October 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Vancouver Aquarium (845 Avision Way)
There’s a reason that Jaws is rated one of the best horror movies of all time—because the ocean is, frankly, terrifying. Given that Amity Island is likely still at the bottom of any tourist’s wishlist, the Vancouver Aquarium offers the chance to explore the dark side of the sea from a safer vantage point at its After Hours event. An adult-only affair, the evening invites guests to witness the night-time habits of more than 50,000 creatures while supping on beer and wine, and eating copious amounts of snacks. As well as watching deadly predators rippling through their tanks, attendees can put their aquatic knowledge to the test during the Kraken Trivia Show, learn more about the secret lives of sharks, and get hands-on experience touching marine animals like blood stars and spiny sea urchins. Spooky.
Tickets are $27 for members and $35 for non-members (prices include tax), and are available online only. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
VanDusen Glow in the Garden
Daily from October 24 to 31 at VanDusen Botanical Garden (5151 Oak Street)
Besides its annual Festival of Lights crowd-pleaser (because who doesn’t enjoy Christmas lights accompanied by snow and a cup of hot chocolate?), VanDusen will be bringing back its Halloween attraction, Glow in the Garden, later this month. The garden will be transformed into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland this season, complete with a white rabbit, wacky lights and sounds, and illuminated pumpkin caricatures. Visitors will also be able to enjoy treats, crafts, and more. Costumes are encouraged—you’ll probably see more than a few Alices or Madhatters.
Tickets start at $12.50 for adults and $8.50 for children ages three to 12, and are available online. Guests are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets beforehand (they will only be sold at the gate if online capacity isn’t reached).
October 26, from 8:30 to 11 p.m., at LanaLou’s (362 Powell Street)
Break out your beret, your blackest black turtleneck, and your most sophisticate pair of tinted spectacles for this themed shindig hosted by local creative producer Crowhead. Expect laughs from an all-women lineup of comics, including Jackie Hoffart and Rachel Schaefer; musical comedy from Colin Lamb, Dotty Davis, and Musica Wilderness; and spoken word performances, short-film screenings, and a wee bit of burlesque.
Tickets are $10 at the door. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
Bad Decisions 10 at Vancouver Art and Leisure
October 27, from 9.30 p.m. until late, at VAL Villa (494 Railway Street)
Despite its title, Bad Decisions might be the best choice you make all Halloween weekend. Worthy of a place on the list because warehouse raves are definitely not nightclubs—not least because you’ll find no aggressive grinding or unwanted groping at a Vancouver Art and Leisure event—Bad Decisions offers the chance to dance in the newly-opened VAL Villa with a strict no douchebag policy. Art instillations are slated to line the cavernous space with its wrap-around balcony and huge courtyard, with performances from The Bass Angels, GREAZUS, and a mystery guest headliner among the entertainment. Costumes are of course welcome, with a $150 top prize for the best dressed.
Tickets are $20 in advance online. They are $20 on the door before midnight or $30 after midnight.
Talk Felty to Me: The Halloween Special
October 27, from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m., at Havana (1212 Commercial Drive)
Get into the Halloween spirit with a night of good ol’, R-rated puppet comedy at Havana Restaurant Gallery. Presented by Vancouver’s Instant Theatre Company, the show is a racy, hilarious, and outrageously inappropriate take on the puppet games you used to play as a kid. (“You definitely want to be in the splash zone for this one,” writes the organizers. We’re not sure we want to find out what this means.) Featured characters include The Bush, Monster with No Chest Fur, and Stick o’ Butter.
Tickets are $10 online. Guests must be at least 18 years of age.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
From October 27 to 29 and on October 31 at the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway)
Grab your sexy garter belts and stockings, one and all—the Rocky Horror Picture Show is returning to the Rio. As in prior years at the Halloween staple, costumes and viewer participation are pretty much mandatory (you still remember the lyrics to the Time Warp, right?), as the offbeat classic plays out on the big screen. Both virgins and veterans are welcome, with the theatre opening its showings to kids and families as well as raucous adults looking to unleash their inner Frank-N-Furter. The evening will be hosted by members of Vancouver’s Geekenders, who mash up burlesque and nerd culture, and will helpfully school newbies in all the do’s-and-don’ts of watching the cult phenomenon collectively.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 on the door. Minors are permitted only in balcony seating (no alcohol allowed) for all screenings. Main floor seating requires 19+ ID.
Bob’s Burger Takeover
From October 28 to 31, from 11 a.m. to late, at What’s Up? Hot Dog! (2481 East Hastings Street)
East Van’s most colourful hot-dog joint is turning into Bob’s Burgers from the hit animated show of the same name, where you’ll find that unsettling “Food May Contain Human Flesh” sign posted outside, episodes of Bob’s Burgers being screened behind the bar, and the entirety of What’s Up’s staff dressed as the Belcher family member of their choice. A vegan- and gluten-friendly menu of puntastic burgers will also be served and a costume-contest will award one lucky party-goer with a Bob’s Burgers Music Album vinyl box. Dressing up as a character from the show is encouraged.
Admission is free and the event is open to all ages.
Halloween Monster Match
October 28, form 7:30 p.m. to late, at the Improv Centre (1502 Duranleau Street)
Kickstart Halloween weekend with a little improv by the hilarious folks at the Vancouver TheatreSports League. For one evening only, the Granville Island’s Improv Centre will be transformed into a creepy haunt complete with jack-o-lanterns, a vampire’s tomb, and probably a few dozen icky cobwebs. Madame Improvo will offer onsite palm readings, ominous poetry will be read, and roving performers will keep guests entertained throughout the site. A DJ, Halloween-themed libations, and of course, two improv shows help complete the night.
Tickets are $37 and available online.
Halloween Costume Ball
October 28, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., at Science World (1445 Quebec Street)
If you want the feeling of being in a giant, pulsing club without actually going to one, Science World may be your best bet. Typically a site of scientific exploration, the museum is taking five from teaching grade-schoolers about atoms and gravity to host one of the city’s biggest Halloween parties at the end of the month. The event will span the venue’s two floors with multiple rooms of music and half a dozen DJs on deck. Five bars will ensure there’s always a li’l bit of liquid courage on hand to serve the 1,000-plus party-goers expected.
Tickets start at $60 online. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
The Beaumont Studios Presents Party Like a Rockstar
October 28, from 9:30 p.m to 3 a.m., at Beaumont Studios (316 West 5th Avenue)
Roam the halls at one of Vancouver’s most eccentric creative communities, where art installations and eerie visuals will be showcased alongside sets by local DJs Kit Kat, Vinyl Ritchie, and more in two separate rooms. The part-gallery, part-artist’s residences—which is home to a number of painters, metalsmiths, ceramists, and others—will also be dressed up in ghoulish fashion and equipped with an onsite bar. Face paint, wigs, and outlandish costumes are a must.
Tickets are $50 online. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
A Rockin’ Halloween Howl
October 30, from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Wise Hall & Lounge (1882 Adanac Street)
Howl and harmonize your way through Halloween at the Wise Hall, where Vancouver’s Impromptu Rock Choir will guide you through chilling renditions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” and AC/DC’s classic “Highway to Hell”. Air guitars are welcome as you tune up your vocal chords and a costume contest will reward those with the best getups. Alcoholic beverages and snacks will be available onsite.
Admission is $12 for those dressed in costume (and $15 for those who are not) at the door. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
Halloween 2017 on Commercial Drive
October 31, from 12 to 8 p.m., at Grandview Park (1657 Charles Street) and the surrounding area
Grab the tots and head to one of East Van’s most beloved neighbourhoods this Halloween for a day of family-friendly fun. Hosted by the Commercial Drive Business Society, the event kicks off at noon with free magherita pizzettas at Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria for the under-12 set and trick-or-treating at the Drive’s many businesses and surrounding area from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Kids can then enjoy face-painting, caricatures, and balloon-animal-making a fireworks finale lights up the sky above Grandview Park.
Admission is free and the event is open to all ages.
Damn Scary! Halloween Party
October 31, from 7 to 10:45 p.m., at the Cinematheque (200–1131 Howe Street)
Cinephiles and ’80s kids, mark your iCals: the Cinematheque is celebrating Halloween with a major throwback to the era of punk, prep, and mullets. The evening kicks off with a goth, industrial, and cult dance party—complete with a cash bar—to tunes spun by local DJ Daniel R, who is a regular at the Astoria’s Dark Eighties nights. A 35-mm screening of David Lynch’s cult classic Lost Highway will follow shortly after. “Torn fishnets, caked faces, and blackest black apparel encouraged!” writes the Cinematheque.
Tickets are $15 in advance online and $20 at the door. Guests must be at least 19 years of age.
Looking for more spooky flicks to check out? The Cinematheque is showing Hour of the Wolf, Carnival of Souls, and additional screenings of Lost Highway from October 27 to 30. Click here for showtimes.
The Vancouver International Film Festival will also present screenings of The Halloween Movie Show, Suspiria, The Nutty Professor, and Lucifer Rising on select dates from October 22 to 31. Click here for showtimes.