If you know anything about Santa Cruz County’s reputation, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Halloween is a big deal here. Every Halloween evening in downtown Santa Cruz, there’s a massive street party attended by many thousands of people in costume. The police are out in force to make sure everyone stays safe amid the chaos. While some children do go downtown for the festivities, many parents are wary of bringing their kids, especially those of single-digit ages, into that madhouse.
So what is a fun-loving family to do in Santa Cruz county for Halloween? It turns out, there’s a raging party down by the southern end of the county at the Santa Cruz Monterey KOA.
KOAs are known as squeaky-clean family campgrounds, a Disney-fied camping experience that’s cleaner, better-run and with much superior amenities compared to anything you’d find in a public campground. So imagine my surprise when I learned that at our amazing KOA they host a Halloween party that is absolutely off the hook.
Each year, for the last three weekends of October, the Santa Cruz Monterey KOA hosts what they call the “Halloween Spooktacular.” For 2018, the weekends are October 12-14, October 19-21, and October 26-28. Of course, you’re probably already too late to get a spot for any of these weekends; I understand that they are generally booked up a year in advance – but they could have a cancelation, so it’s worth your time to inquire.
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So what’s this “Spooktacular” all about? They have a bunch of activities during the day, like a pumpkin carving contest, the spooky train, site decorating contest, Halloween ceramic painting, the KOA Ice Cream Bike, and new this year, the “Haunted Trail” in the evening. So there’s plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied until the witching hour, which starts at 6:30 PM.
That’s when the real fun begins. The whole campground turns into a massive trick-or-treat extravaganza, with most cabin and RV sites hosting visitors, sharing candy for the kids and cocktails for the adults. Many of the sites are decorated very creatively in splendid Halloween adornments, which make great conversation starters with the site tenants and fellow revelers.
Later in the night, a roving dance party makes its way through the campground, with sound, lights, and dozens (hundreds?) of people bouncing around, with every color and configuration of lights flashing and swaying to the beat.
It’s an amazing thing to experience – a great time for children of all ages (even those who’ve been in their double digits for decades). If you’re able to grab a spot and you’re looking to have fun this Halloween, you need to look into spending one of the last three weekends in October at the Santa Cruz / Monterey KOA.