Above: For clever costumes and extremely impressive pumpkin carvings, head to Los Alamos. Photograph by Tira Howard.

Come late October in Los Alamos, you can hardly swing a plastic skeleton without hitting a candy-coated event. Five days before a certain spooky holiday even arrives, I follow a woman carting a cow skull in a bucket. At least I think it’s a cow’s skull. We head to the downtown core. There, streets are roped off, and every merchant has a trick-or-treat stand mobbed by line after line of fairies, wolf boys, grim reapers, one Einstein, and quite a few Harry Potters—from children to people who might otherwise be categorized as adults.

The middle school jazz band swings. Gymnasts tumble. Firefighters grill burgers. Hands-on tech skills bust out at the Bradbury Science Museum, and the wait to get into the haunted house requires a quantum of patience. “This is my favorite of all holidays. If I wasn’t wearing heels, I’d be skipping down the street,” says Amy Bjarke, an asparagus stalk who’s standing outside the Fuller Lodge Art Center. (She and her artistic co-workers—the pumpkin, pepper, and eggplant—came as an “Avant-Garden.”)

Trick-or-Treat on MainStreet is but day one of Halloweekend, and proof that Los Alamos is the place to be for Halloween. Star Wars storm-trooper helmets even bedeck the statues of Robert Oppenheimer and Leslie Groves, founders of the Manhattan Project. Up the street, near Ashley Pond, proud dog parents prep their charges for a pet parade. (The Toto-like critter dressed as a flying monkey? Utter brilliance.) 

The next day, many come back to snag pumpkins donated by the local Smith’s grocery store, where volunteers teach carving skills for the evening’s Pumpkin Glow, outside Fuller Lodge. Of the 250 or so finished products, some stack into totem poles. Others feature old-school gap-toothed grins. The carvings of Oppie and Groves draw raves. People wait in line 30 minutes to wander through the array while, inside the lodge, piano teachers hold a Masquerade Recital with charmers like a three-foot-tall Batman plinking his way through a two-finger “Für Elise.”

“It’s Mayberry on the Mesa,” says Ryn Herrmann, of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation.

On October 31, one particular street has become so popular that police block it off and sometimes a marching band shows up, all thanks to a resident who hands out generous fistfuls of high-end chocolates. The trick to the treat is to find out who he is. To do that, you need to head to Los Alamos and start making friends with the right kinds of guys and ghouls.

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Trick-or-Treat on MainStreet, sponsored by the Los Alamos MainStreet program, will take place Friday, October 26, 4–6 p.m. Tackle the wall at the YMCA Costume Climb, 5–7 p.m., and scare the Skittles out of yourself at the Knights of Columbus haunted house, 6–10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

On October 27, take in the Masquerade Recital at Fuller Lodge, 5–6 p.m., followed by the Pumpkin Glow on the lawn, 6–9 p.m. Shake your bones at a dance with live music, 6:30–9 p.m. All events are free.