Halloween season is here, and Dakota County offers lots of fun ways to celebrate the spooky season. Here's a closer look at a handful of the options.


This year marks the second annual "Halloween at the Art Park" for Caponi Art Park in Eagan on Oct. 27 (1 to 4 p.m.) Communications coordinator Jenna Strank said they wanted to offer a final chance to visit before the end of their season.

"Fall is particularly spectacular with the birch and oak leaves changing color," she said.

Visitors can take a trick-or-treat tour of the park's sculptures with a costumed guide. Some of the park's sculptures "lend themselves well to the Halloween theme," Strank said. One, she said, "depicts skeletons, and a small sculpture on the tour is a nest of mice made from bronze. The kids' favorite sculpture, 'Snake,' is also a bit creepy."

Kids can decorate pumpkins and gourds, jump in a leaf pile, and enjoy treats by the outdoor fireplace. Admission is a $5 suggested donation.

Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul hosts its Halloween Extravaganza on Oct. 26, with a trick-or-treat trail, nature programs, face painting, storytelling, music, wagon rides and a costume contest (5:30 to 9:30 p.m.). Brave visitors can walk the "Scary Trail" along the "ghostly pond" and "haunted prairie" (7 to 10 p.m.). Admission: general $9, members $6, children 2 and under free.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan holds its "Creatures of the Night" program Oct. 25 (6:30 to 8 p.m.) with night hike and spooky games and activities for kids 5 and older. Admission: $8.


Dakota Village holds its Harvest Moon Festival on Friday and Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and "Not-too-Spooky" hayrides start at dusk. Admission: ages 4-12 $3, ages 13 and up $5, ages 3 and under free.

On Oct. 27, the LeDuc Historic Estate's "Harvest Haunting" in Hastings (5 to 9 p.m.) features snacks around a bonfire, hot beverages, and walks in the woods, which "will be kind of spooky, kind of ghostly," said marketing manager Margaret Goderstad. Volunteers will feature scary videos and storytelling in the LeDuc parlor and take visitors on the popular candlelight cellar tours. Admission: $7, free for historical society members. (Call 651-437-7055 to make reservations for haunted cellar tours.)


Many Dakota County communities have a list of events planned, such as Inver Grove Heights with its haunted bonfire (Oct. 25), popular Boo Bash (Oct. 26), scary skate (Oct. 27) and a house decorating contest.

"People really go crazy with Halloween decorating now," said Al Vandehoef, Inver Grove Heights recreation coordinator. "It's kind of cool."

Apple Valley jumpstarts its events with a costume exchange. Parents drop off costumes Monday through Friday this week at the community center, and kids can pick out new costumes on Saturday (10 to 11:30 a.m.). Those who don't find a costume take home a bag of Halloween treats instead. (Also on the 20th, the community center hosts a Halloween cookie take-and-bake, with sessions starting every half hour from 9:30 to noon.)

Communities including Hastings and Eagan scare up plenty of donations with their Halloween bashes. The event at Hastings High School (5:30 to 8 p.m.) on Oct. 28 raises money for Hastings Family Service and Youth First Planning Council Scholarship Fund. Eagan's Halloween Hodgepodge on Oct. 28 (3 to 7 p.m. -- with games, crafts, face painting, trick or treating, "monster mash" family dance and puppet show -- costs $3 and a food donation item per child, and adults get in free with a food donation.

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.