Halloween in Estes Park is a unique event - from haunted hotels to masquerade balls, costume parties to bluegrass concerts, it's easy to find things to do as adults. But, this holiday is traditionally for the little ones who want to dress up, get a little scared and get a lot of candy. So here are my family's top 5 things to do (ranked for emphasis, of course) during this fun fall celebration.

5. Stock up on Classic Treats

You may want to wait until you're on your way home for this. You know, to avoid excessive begging during your mountain getaway. And, if you've been to Estes before, it may seem like an obvious thing to go to the sweet shops. But a reminder never hurts and those less familiar may not know that we have some of THE BEST caramel apples in the world  (though I may be a bit biased). The taffy is also worth writing home about. Personally, I always tack a few salted caramels on to the order and hide them in my purse for a solo indulgence after bedtime.

4. Take Advantage of Cool Temps and Clear Skies

Autumn is perfect for exploring the trails! Break out the family fleece and head out for some nature time. If you haven't already, grab your little ones a Junior Ranger book  - for the NPS Centennial they even have a special birthday booklet -  so they can learn something along the way. Stash a few of those taffys in the backpack for incentive when they start whining that they can't go on. 

3. Explore Autumn Events

Fall Fest (Oct. 22) & Halloween Spooktacular (Oct. 29): If you stay at the YMCA of the Rockies in one of their cabins (a great option if you've got more than one family or the grandparent generation along) or lodge rooms, check out their fun fall events. This weekend is Fall Fest with pumpkin carving, s'mores, square dancing (yes, you read that right) and more. Then, on the 29th, they have their annual Halloween Spooktacular where the kids can get another night out of their costumes, go trick-or-treating and get spooked on a hay ride or in the haunted house.

Family Fall Festival (Oct. 29): Get in the spirit and don your costumes for the midday Family Fall Festival at Trout Haven Resorts. Kids will have fun with a bounce houses, face painting, trout fishing and more. Parents can get competitive with the silent auction. And we can all feel good knowing that we are supporting the local preschool! All are welcome and admission is only $10. 

Kid-Friendly Haunted House (Oct. 30): Held each year at the American Legion to raise funds for their good deeds, the normally very scary haunted house chills things out a bit for the little ones for one day from 1 to 3 PM. They'll get just the right amount of freaked out and have plenty of time to recover before bedtime. Take a gift of toiletries, gloves or socks for homeless veterans and you'll receive $2 off the $5 admission. (The full-strength version happens Fridays & Saturdays from 7 to 10 PM.)

2. Go All Out with Pro Make-Up

To be completely honest, I haven't done this yet, but I do have friends that did and they had a blast. Riverspointe Spa offers professional Halloween make-up application for all ages at only $1 per minute. You just make an appointment and bring in a photo. If you aren't sure how long to make the appointment for, they can help figure it out when you call. I know my niece and my younger son would LOVE to impress their friends with a super-freaky face. (Remember to bring along any appliances or prosthetics you need applied.) 

1. The Grand Finale: Downtown Halloween Kids Fest

This is the main event! Get your costumes ready for trick-or-treating Estes Park style! We close down Elkhorn Ave. (main street) at 5:30 PM on Halloween and the entire community comes out for a hauntingly good time! Characters go door-to-door among the shops to get their bags filled with candy. There's a haunted ambulance, unique Halloween window displays, a Thriller zombie dance (a la Michael Jackson) in the main intersection and tons of fun is had by all! As an annual tradition, our family heads to one of the great downtown pizza places for dinner afterward. You don't want to miss this frighteningly good time for all ages. Oh - and don't be the only parents without costumes - this event is for the WHOLE family!

There you have it - Halloween events in Estes Park for the whole family! It truly is one of the most fun times to be in the mountains, so pack up those costumes, pull out the jackets and head for our hills over the coming weeks!