If you watched Disney Channel in the late 90s, you may remember the cult movie Halloweentown. It starred Debbie Reynolds and spawned three, just as cheesy, sequels (Halloweentown II, Return to Halloweentown and Halloweentown High). It's recently come to my attention that this was filmed in a real town, one that isn't too far from where I live. St. Helens, Oregon is a little town about 45 minutes away and each October they go all out to decorate the town like the movie. What?? How did I not know about this before? I'm still not sure how this passed me by the entire time I've lived here, but I was determined to see this awesome display of Halloween.
So, a few weeks ago, we got in the car and made our way to "Halloweentown" to check it out and get in on some of the activities they have to do. While it was not as amazing as it sounds, it was still worth the drive out. It could also be that we went in the evening, when they had different events happening in the afternoon.
Visitors are encouraged to dress in costume, either from the movies or your own choosing. The goal is to make the town as much like the monster-packed other dimensional town as possible. I didn't realize this until we got there, because they don't really have a website and their Facebook page is lacking. On the list of things to do was taking a pontoon boat ride to the nearby island. Unfortunately, there was no place to sign up and no info on where to do so and once we got there, I found a flyer that said one had to have made reservations online. I eventually found this website, which is less informative, that has a phone number to call.
Anyway, let's talk about what we did do and see on our visit:
The town square, which is right in front of the old City Hall building (now a museum) has a ton of decor and photo ops to help you commemorate and share your visit with your social networks. There are signs everywhere with the hashtag to use. Obviously, the giant jack-o-lantern in the square is the biggest draw, but we enjoyed everything on display. And check out City Hall! That's an eyeball keeping watch on the town.
All of the town's merchants get in on the fun by creating their own scarecrow which is displayed out front, so visitors can vote on which they think is the best. Many shop fronts also go a little further by making their windows Halloweeny. You'll see decor, props and even ghouls hanging out.
There are a ton of houses that go all out with their decorations. I was driving when we passed all of them, though, so I didn't get any pics. One house had a wraparound porch that was covered in life-size statues of horror icons, like Freddy, Beetlejuice and Michael Myers.
We wandered the waterfront, where a lot of people were gathered to purchase a hot dog and cuddle up by the bonfire that was put on by the Fire Department. Halloween music was being piped into the area and it was a perfect way to check out the creative costumes on display.
After we had warmed up, we headed to The Klondike for dinner. When St. Helens was a port city on par with Portland, the Klondike was a hotel, with several floors full of awesome rooms, but as Portland began to take more and more of the business and fewer people stopped at St. Helens, the Klondike closed down rooms and eventually closed. After some time, a local decided this historic building was being wasted by sitting empty and they reopened it, using the old dining room as a new restaurant.
The decor is warm and lovely, incorporating some of the old hotel doors. The building is said to be haunted, with employees seeing things move and hearing voices, which makes it the perfect Halloween dinner destination. Throughout October, you can book a reservation for a seance or a tarot reading to heighten the spooks.
Though we weren't there to see it, on weekend days, you may see things like a haunted car parade, a parade where the littles can show off their costumes, a fair, ghost stories, boat tours, haunted tours and pumpkin painting.
Now, I wouldn't make a special trip across the country to check out Halloweentown, but if you're in Portland in October, the drive isn't that bad and it's fun to dress up, see where the movie was filmed and get a ton of pictures in the meantime. Everything takes place in the historic downtown area, which is very walkable. Pretty much parking is your only challenge.
Does your town do anything awesome for Halloween?