October Guide to Gourds, Ghouls and Good Fun in the South Sound

tacoma pumpkin patch
Visit a local pumpkin patch to handpick your family's favorite gourd this year at one of more than a dozen area farms and pumpkin patches. Photo courtesy of Maris Farms.


By Mariah Beckman

pumpkin patch tacoma
Coral your kiddos or stroll with your sweetie through a picturesque pumpkin patch in Pierce or King County. Photo courtesy of Maris Farms.

As summer draws to a close in the Pacific Northwest, blue skies and crisp autumn breezes beckon. October is a magical time in the South Sound: a confetti of leaves line our streets, fog lingers over the hills before the sun rises, and this month marks the last bid for beautiful weather before the winter drizzle sets in. It might be too nippy now for kayaking and early snow could make hiking a challenge, but there is no shortage of fun in store for the young and the young-at-heart.

Pumpkin-carving is quintessentially synonymous with Halloween, the focal festivity of autumn at large. This can be a great place to start. Before you even think about choosing a pumpkin, however, feel free to check out the Tragically Ever After Art Show for a little seasonal inspiration. The theme of this free all-ages art show, held at Destiny City Comics in Tacoma, is the celebration of the dark side of classic fairy and folk tales. Two- and three-dimensional pieces will be on display from through October, courtesy of the Tacomapocalypse Alliance, a local collection of graphic artists.

“I’m very pleased to be hosting this awesome art show all through October,” says co-sponsor and owner of Destiny City Comics, Michael Fitzpatrick. “Artists have been dropping off their pieces for the showing and it looks like it’ll be something people all over the South Sound should get excited about. The artist reception on October 15 will be an event not to miss with DJs, food and drink.”

Join Tacoma Ghost Tours to hear accounts of machines that start up on their own, shadowy figures that disappear without a trace and memorabilia that mediums insist is haunted by spirits who have long-since passed.
Join Tacoma Ghost Tours to hear accounts of machines that start up on their own, shadowy figures that disappear without a trace and memorabilia that mediums insist is haunted by spirits who have long-since passed.

Once you’ve feasted your eyes on a few frightful masterpieces, you can start exploring the more tactile side of October. You can pick a pumpkin to carve (or paint or bake) at nearly any grocery store or farmers market, but if you’re looking to make a day of it, there are a handful of local farms that offer more than just a patch of plump pumpkins. Nearby Maris and Spooner Farms are just a handful that offer a litany of wholesome family-friendly activities that extend beyond the time-honored tradition of u-pick gourds.

Pile into a wagon for a tractor or horse-drawn hayride to get a lay of the land and try your hand at navigating an ornate and manicured corn maze. At Maris Farms, little ones will delight in spectating a high-octane pig or duck race, and grown-ups can scare up a little fright at night in the Haunted Woods. Local pumpkins are worth their weight in gold not only for seasonal memories and fresh gourds, but also in photo ops that are priceless for couples, families and kiddos.

Leaves ought to be blanketing the ground by the time you’ve stopped off at a farm near you and had a chance to choose an exceptional gourd. By now, the itch to decorate and carve must be scratched. Arm yourself to the teeth with carving knives, glitter, lace and paint and have at it.

For little ones who find their creative juices are still flowing after the dirty work is done, South Sound families won’t want to skip out on Tinkertopia’s annual Wake & Make costume-creation workshop. Either of the two events—held on October 10 and October 24 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.—inspire kids and adults to use uncommon materials to craft a one-of-a-kind and earth-wise costumes.

corn maze tacoma
Maris Farms always goes all-out for with their ornate five-acre corn maze. The farm is abuzz this year over its bee-themed labyrinth. Photo courtesy of Maris Farms.

If trick-or-treating is on the docket, there is no shortage of commercially- and community-sponsored events in and around the South Sound. Many businesses in the South Hill Mall in Puyallup participate in the festivities on Halloween by handing out goodies, and the quaint small town of Sumner will also host a Street of Treats events for the kiddos on Main Street. Uptown, Downtown and the Pier at Gig Harbor will also accommodate candy curmudgeons, too, among nearly a dozen others all around Pierce County.

If what you need after all of this autumn excitement is a crisp, refreshing drink, don’t forget to stop by Oktoberfest at the Washington State Fairgrounds. Held this year from October 9-10, this weekend-long event will be serving up beer, brats and traditional regional entertainment to delight your wordly sensibilities. Keep the good times rolling at the historic Meeker Mansion in Puyallup. This landmark institution will be hosting their annual Cider Squeeze on Saturday, October 11 for a chance to explore a perfectly preserve pioneer homestead and hand-press your own fresh cider.

street of treats sumner
Streets shut down in Sumner during Street of Treats on October 31. Dancing scarecrows dance on the main stage every half hour.

Need another terrifying tradition to round out the South Sound’s calendar of spooky special events? Haunted houses! There are several to choose from, but a local favorite, Hell’s Gateway, is located in the heart of Tacoma. Here, thrill-seekers can revel in one of three ghastly episodes: a 90-minute Real Fear fright fest interactive enough to require a change of clothes; a traditional haunted house experience outfitted with computer-controlled effects; or a pitch-black scavenger hunt that can only be completed using the dim light of an eerie glow stick.

Finally, for those who love a good, old-fashioned ghost story, father-and-son team Andrew and Charlie Hansen have just the thing. Tacoma Ghost Tours offers locals and tourists a chance to explore little-known history of the Gritty City. Meet up at Brandy’s Attic in Tacoma’s Antique Row to begin a 60- or 90-minute walking tour of the town’s supernatural past. Visitors will learn about tawdry tales, chilling murders and bizarre events that some say still haunt Tacoma today. Whether paranormal activity makes you roll your eyes or lean in with rapt attention, visitors agree that the historical significance of this walkabout make it well worth the trip.

Check out the map below for an extensive list of local events near you. From crafty to creepy, there’s something for everyone in the South Sound to enjoy.