Sanderson Sisters at Pumpkin People in the Park in Chatham

Grocery store aisles are overflowing with Halloween candy, and everywhere I turn lately, someone wants to give my kids a treat. Don’t they realize my six and 4-year-olds are active enough without all the added sugar?! Where is the Halloween fun without the candy?

We all know the treats are a fun part of Halloween, but as a mom of two high-energy kids, my goal this time of year is to keep our celebrations focused on fun instead of candy. Our family has a few candy-free traditions that help keep the season fun and festive while keeping the sugar-induced meltdowns to a minimum.

The Kids Lead the Way Decorating

We decorate unapologetically, and my kids really get into the process. This year, as they decorated on yet another rainy Saturday, they told me they were “spreading Halloween cheer!” We focus our decorating on the mantle, make sure it is extra spooky, and add small touches around the house.

My one rule is that we wait until after October 1st to pull out our orange and black storage container. By then, it is starting to feel a little like Fall around here, which adds to the anticipation, meaning my kids are begging to decorate.

Many of our decorations are dollar store finds, artwork the kids have made in previous years, and things I’ve picked up on sale at the end of the season the year before. The box also includes our favorite Halloween and fall picture books, which we read over and over again all month long before putting them away for next year.

Bonus! Some of our decorations are dual-purpose, so a few days after Halloween, I remove the spooky elements, weave in a few Thanksgiving touches, and I’m ready for the next holiday without much effort.

A Trip to See Pumpkin People in the Park

Little girl in blue dress looking at pumpkin train Each October, Kate Gould Park in Chatham is home to Pumpkin People in the Park, hosted by the Chatham Merchant’s Association. Local businesses get creative and set up displays featuring pumpkin people doing various activities.

Some of my favorites in the past have been the Sanderson Sisters and little mini pumpkins doing yoga. My kids are always delighted when we visit. We love to wander around the park looking at everything, play at the bandstand, and revisit our favorites before heading home. The free event went up last week and will run through the end of the month, making it easy to squeeze in a visit around school (and nap!) schedules.

New this year are Pumpkin People displays throughout the Harwich Cultural District, making it an easy add-on to your visit to Chatham.

Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

Our family loves attending the Sandwich Halloween Festival at the Heritage Gardens & Museum. This event sells out every year, so while you most likely won’t be able to participate this year, it is one of those things you need to put on your calendar and plan to attend in the future because it is that great.

Other events around the Cape that take the focus off of candy include:

A Halloween-themed Breakfast at the Batwood is happening on Saturday at the Atwood House in Chatham.

Mass Audobon’s Haunted Forest is happening in Wellfleet on Friday night. If it is anything like the Audubon event I attended in New Hampshire as a child, it will provide lots of Halloween fun.

On Saturday, Halloween at the Farm at Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth promises many fun activities, including a scavenger hunt, bouncy house, mazes, bouncy houses, and more.

Don’t forget to check out your local library; several have Halloween parades, story times, and other events this weekend and early next week.

Spooky Dinner

Ghost pizza Witches' Broomstick Candy

We cap off our Halloween traditions with a spooky dinner on Halloween Eve instead of going trick-or-treating. The kid’s anticipation is at an all-time high this year, so I’ve been Googling and searching Pinterest for weeks while developing the menu!

At previous Spooky Dinners, we’ve feasted on mummy dogs, ghost pizzas, and witches’ broomsticks for dessert (a mini peanut butter up with a pretzel stick pushed into the middle). We use fun Halloween-theme plates, light candles, and set the scene with a kid-friendly Halloween playlist.

My kids always have a blast; it is an easy and fun way to celebrate as a family and focus on Halloween fun without the candy. Our sister site,, has great recipes, activities, and playlist suggestions for creating your spooky celebration.

Ally Piper
Ally is a summer visitor turned year-round resident celebrating her 10th anniversary of calling Cape Cod home. She is a writer and artist squeezing her creativity into the cracks while raising two energetic curly-haired kiddos (currently 6 & 4). Her children’s book GOLDEN HOUR: A CAPE COD STORY tells the story of a typical summer day for her family while visiting her grandparents in Orleans. Now, Ally counts herself incredibly lucky to be able to share all the beauty and magic of Cape Cod with her husband and children. From hiking to boating, you’ll often find them exploring and taking advantage of everything the Cape offers families.


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