Halloween is a great time for kids of all ages and we have four great Halloween party ideas that your guests will be raving about long after the candy has been eaten. Each party idea can be customized for any age group and any budget. All party ideas have a contest suggestion as well as a craft suggestion for kids. If you plan on having a ghoulish good time, these party ideas can raise any spirit.

Masquerade Ball

Just because its Halloween doesn’t mean you need to throw a costume party. A masquerade ball is an elegant alternative to gory or inappropriate costumes. All attendees wear a decorated face mask that can be adorned with feathers or colorful beads or as plain as a monochrome eye piece. Guests will be comforted by the fact that they do not need to spend money on a costume and will be more inclined to arrive and participate with a great mask. You also can expand your musical options from spooky sounds and ‘Monster Mash’ to classical fair and ‘Phantom of the Opera.’

Contest Idea: Who’s mask is the most decorated of them all? The most mysterious? The most elegant? Your party guests can vote on the craftiest, funniest, and best overall.

Kids craft: Eye masks in party stores are only a dollar and craft supplies are also inexpensive. Let your kids’ creativity run wild as they paint, color, and glue to their hearts’ content. You can let them know that there will be a contest later in the night and you will be surprised at how excited they become and how much effort they put into their craft.

Pumpkin Carving

Nothing says Halloween like a carved or painted pumpkin. Why not a party that revolves around the act of making a jack-o-lantern? The activity takes a few hours and will be a great conversation starter for adults while being a creative experience for kids.

Contest Idea: Have kids and parents vote for whose jack-o-lantern is the scariest, the funniest, the weirdest, or whatever categories you decide upon. And make cleanup easier by toasting some of those leftover pumpkin seeds (in a 350 degree oven until golden brown) for homemade snacks.

Craft Idea: Great jack-o-lanterns come from great pumpkins. To select the perfect pumpkin, pick one with a sturdy stem. Strong stems mean healthy pumpkins. Or keep your costs down by asking guests to bring their own pumpkins — you supply the paints and markers (for young kids) and carving tools (for the older kids and parents). Also consider having some stencils on hand for anyone who may need a little inspiration.

Haunted House

Begin by setting the mood outside your abode. Plant a few gravestones in your yard for ambiance, and switch outdoor light bulbs with colored bulbs to create a glowing red or blue effect. Add to the dramatic effects by having guests enter through a side door or through the garage rather than the front door.

Some of the best haunted houses are confined to a few rooms or a basement — decorate with skeletons, cobwebs, mirrors and fog. It’s a quality, not quantity scare. Keep lighting dim (an eerie glow is creepier than pitch blackness). Play scary sounds or music in the background — a well-placed scream can make the night.

Remember to keep in mind the ages of your partygoers when you design your haunted house. Go all out with gore and ghouls for teens and adults but keep things lighter for kids — you’re aiming for spooky, not nightmares.

Craft Idea: Let kids and adults create a spooky ghost to hang in the haunted house. Purchase Styrofoam balls and white napkins from a craft store. Drape the napkin over the balls to create the ghosts head. Let the participants paint or color eyes and mouths on their ghost. Hang the ghosts from fishing wire in the haunted house to make them appear as if they are floating.

Contest Idea: Choose the best decorated, scariest, or funniest ghost. Make up your own theme or contest rules based on your guests age group.

Murder Mystery or Scavenger Hunt

To throw a truly killer party this Halloween, plan on throwing a who-done-it murder mystery. Crunched for time? Buy a boxed version of the game. Feeling creative? You and your family or friends can write your own story. Pick your setting: a library, a castle, a family reunion — and assign each guest a character. Sleuthing ensues but mum’s the word on the murderer — even the murderer doesn’t know who did it until the very end.

Craft Idea: Let guests know ahead of time who they will be in the mystery and let them create a costume of their own. The craft can relate to the theme of the mystery. Having a hula party mystery? Why not make decorative grass skirts. Having a Louisiana themed mystery? Why not have your guests decorate beads.

Contest Idea: This contest is simple, give first, second, and third places to guests who guess the criminal correctly. Let guests write their answers on paper and read them off rather than people guessing out loud. This will make it easier to determine who is the winner.

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