The best door to trick-or-treat at isn’t on a house. It’s the entrance of the Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder.
Thousands of goblins, superheroes and animals flock to the pedestrian mall every Halloween for the biggest family-friendly Halloween event of the year: Downtown Boulder’s Munchkin Masquerade.
It’s not a parade, although it feels like an unofficial one, as the nearby streets shut down and people march along the mall, stopping at the decorated doors of more than 100 local businesses that participate. Workers in costume stand in the doorways passing out candy. Some offer free activities like face painting, coloring or haunted houses.
Last year, the Munchkin Masquerade featured three different haunted houses, including the annual one at the nearby Hotel Boulderado, a historic hotel that is always decorated to the extreme.
The event runs 3-6 p.m. on Halloween day (this year, that’s Tuesday, Oct. 31). It’s centered around the Pearl Street Mall, but close outlying businesses also participate. See the full list and map of involved businesses about a week before the masquerade at munchkinmasquerade.com.
Businesses can go through upwards of 3,000 pieces of candy in a single afternoon.
The event, which has been around for at least 16 years, is designed for younger kids, which is why it ends before dinnertime (so you can get the candy before dark, grab dinner on the mall and have time to wind down — and wash faces — before too late on a school night). But anyone is welcome, and people of all ages dress up.
“It’s people-watching to the max,” says Anna Salim, the vice president of events and membership for the Downtown Boulder Parnership. “So many people come out costumed and not just the kids. The whole family and people across Boulder love to dress up.”
Boulder High School students usually bring a mobile haunted house to the mall. Word is, this year the robotics club will be on hand with some special spooky gadgets.
Salim says the Munchkin Masquerade typically draws about 3,000 people to the mall.
“I’ve often joked this is what the mall crawl has become. Nobody comes out that night anymore because we are all too old and we have kids now. Instead, we bring our kids out,” she says. “It’s much bigger than anything the college kids can cook up on the mall on Halloween.”
While the Munchkin Masquerade is pretty straightforward (dress up, get candy), here are a few tips to help you get the most out of it.
- Make sure you trick-or-treat at the West End Tavern, 926 Pearl St. This bar has been known to give free shots to the parents, in addition to candy to the kids. With this many monsters and fairies, you may very well need that grown-up treat.
- The east and west ends of the mall aren’t as busy as the four pedestrian blocks. If you want to be in the heart of the action, stay on the walking mall. If you have smaller kids, don’t want to get as much candy or want a quicker and less stimulating experience, stay on the edges. You also have a better chance of getting a table for dinner on the far ends of the mall.
- Visit the website beforehand and pick your pathway. While it’s pretty obvious which businesses are participating (many will hang a special sign out front), it can streamline the experience to have a plan of attack.
- Not all participating businesses will be listed online. Some decide to participate at the last minute.
- The event falls during the traditional happy hour, so check our happy hour guide for some of the best deals and take advantage of them.
- Look for a few booths set up on the mall for free samples of Justin’s nut butter and Made in Nature snacks.
- Parking is going to be rough with this many people. The St. Julien parking garage and the one at 15th and Pearl are the biggest in downtown and therefore you have the best chance of finding an open space. If you don’t want to pay for parking, you can find free parking on the far west end (after Eighth Street) and far east end (around 21st Street). Or head north and south and try to find free, three-hour parking zones. Prepare to hunt and then walk.