Small-Town Halloween: Solvang Haunted House

Longing for a lower-key (but still spooky) way to Halloween? It's in wine country.

City of Solvang Parks and Recreation

A CHARMER, WITH CHILLS: No needs to see the graphs or pie charts to know that, as a popular holiday, Halloween has been on the rise and rise in recent years. Whole sectors of the celebration, from adult-themed beverages to pet-specific costumes, have blossomed, where before candy and kid costumes pretty much ruled. Thus it isn't too difficult for someone in a sizable city to take the October festivity in just about any flavor they like it -- a huge parade, a huge, maze-filled extravaganza, a thumping party full of eerie electronic beats. But finding a smaller situation, that isn't small of heart or intention, can be a little trickier, especially if you want to make the whole shebang a road trip, given that Oct. 31 is a Saturday in 2015. Look to towns like Nevada City, in the northern part of the state, and Solvang, in wine country, to deliver on that fun, walkable, not-too-crowd-swelling celebration. Solvang, in fact, has hosted a Halloween-y haunted house for over two decades now, one that takes on a new macabre mien every year. And it is back, on Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31, to spook locals and wine- and windmill-loving locals alike. It's "The Doll House" and it brings the shudders to the Solvang Festival Theater on Halloween weekend. There's also the...

HALLOWEEN STREETFEST... which unfolds on Halloween evening, so you'll get an eyeful of costumes and that walk-around, small-town vibe you might recall from back when you were a tot. If you want to do the haunted house, a ticket is eleven bucks. And, if you want to stay the next day and do a wine tour, well, by jumping jack o'lanterns, Solvang has those, too, as well as caboodle of tasting rooms. It's the perfect combo of old-school Halloween, grown-up wine interests, a fall weekend near a bevy of vineyards, and a picturesque town that could star in its own ghost story. Nothing wrong with big-city-ing it for Oct. 31, if that's your jam, but retreating to a snugger spot for a lower-key, still creepy version of the holiday has its quaint appeal. That there's vino and pastries about, too, ups the draw for adults. Who says Halloween eats can only be the plastic buckets of candy?

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