When we think of the word “Halloween” the first thought that usually pops into mind is pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons, costumes and horror movies. In fact, this is what our modern world has come to know. But in truth, the origins of Halloween can be traced back centuries ago to Celtic, Christian and ancient Roman times, and took on a very different meaning than what we know today. The word Halloween itself dates back to the 18th century, and means “hallowed (or holy) evening.”

Global Halloween Origins at a Glance:

  1. All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day: Theories differ as to what historians say led to the modern day tradition of Halloween, and one thought is that it began as a religious observance in the 4th century that gave worshippers the opportunity to remember martyrs and saints, although the date was not moved to 1 November until 837AD.
  2. The Celtic tradition called Samhain (pronounced SAH-win): A pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition. In modern times, Samhain is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest season and usher in “the dark half of the year.” Celebrants of this period of time believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down, allowing interaction between humans and “beings of the Otherworld”.
  3. Feralia,” the Roman festival of the dead: The ancient Romans celebrated a festival honoring the dead in late October, and began to implement some of Samhain’s Celtic traditions into Feralia. Various Roman traditions developed around the holiday, such as lighting candles, attending services and offering prayers to the dead.

So, how did pumpkins and cats become a symbol of Halloween?
The tradition of carving pumpkins became extremely popular in 19th-century America and its believed that at this time in history the world was more vulnerable (and fearful) to spirits and demonic possession. These spirits and demons were believed to cause the deaths of both people and livestock during the long, cold winters, which led to potential starvation. This widespread fear led to pioneers in America developing all types of customs and ceremonies to keep the spirits at bay, such as lighting huge bon fires, and making sacrificial offerings to appease the Gods in return for heavenly rewards. These ‘treats’ to the Gods included black cats and even sacrificing the lives of human beings, who were imprisoned in wicker cages and sacrificed in fires in the public square.

Pumpkin carving was also seen even earlier than in America (in the Scotland and Ireland) where it was a tradition to grotesquely carve a turnip jack-o-lantern. However, over the course of centuries, Halloween has morphed into predominantly a secular, multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise, with many of the customs we now know today. Like many of the modern holiday’s secular features, their prevalence snowballed in the U.S, in the 1930’s where mass-produced costumes first appeared in stores and Halloween parties surged in popularity. Each year, kids enthusiastically look forward to buying elaborate costumes that range from ghouls and ghosts – to cowboys, Indians and Marvel comic characters. Costumes, it seems, have always been a key feature of Halloween, as historians say primitive evidence dates back to Celts adorning themselves in animal skins during Samhain, and the tradition continued by Christians dressing as saints, angels and devils.

Finally, the idea of “trick-or-treating” has its origins in early Christian practices which involved heading from door to door for donations of food or money.

Fast forward to 2022, and we set our attention to Sarasota, with Halloween in four days.  Plans are in full swing that offer something for the young – and young at heart. Events range from family-friendly ongoing Halloween-themed events this weekend (and into November) – to adult-only events for those who love to don creative costumes or just show up to marvel at all the wild and crazy costume shows! Below you’ll find several family events as well as a medley of lively, decorated restaurants and bars, including buying tickets on a spooky booze cruise.

To help you plan your spooky season, Sarasota Events Calendar compiled some of the best picks in the area.

Lights at Spooky Point

Now through Oct. 31, 2022

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point

401 N Tamiami Trail

Osprey, FL 34229

Sarasota’s Selby Gardens is more than botanical presentations.  For the first time this Halloween, “Lights at Spooky Point,” runs nightly from October 14 to 31, and features an array of fabulous creatures and cute creations designed with lights along an eerily lit path through the woods at the preserve and outdoor museum. Visitors also will see familiar historic sites like Mary’s Chapel and the Pioneer Graveyard in a mysterious new light during this event for all ages. Tickets for Lights at Spooky Point are now on sale through the Selby Gardens website and at the Historic Spanish Point and Downtown Sarasota campuses. Lights at Spooky Point will offer visitors a one-way path from the Welcome Center Gazebo through several popular areas on the Historic Spanish Point campus bathed in the glow of orange, purple, and red lights. Along the way, guests will encounter flying “ghost orchids,” webs with “spider orchids,” giant “bat orchids,” vine-twisted skeletons, plenty of pumpkins, and other surprises. This nighttime walk through the woods will finish at a hay maze before guests return to the gazebo to exit.

Food, snacks, and beverages will be available for purchase near the Cottage, about the halfway point of the light-show path. In addition to grilled burgers, hot dogs, and other hearty fare from the Michael’s on East food truck, there will be fall favorites like candy apples, fresh popcorn, and hot chocolate for sale. Selby Gardens will offer two entry times each evening for Lights at Spooky Point: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and 7:45 to 8:45 p.m.


Frightfully Fun Trick-or-Treat Event at UTC Mall


5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Here’s another opportunity at UTC mall Oct. 29 (Halloween) for the entire family. Dress in your favorite costume* and follow the Trick-or-Treat Trail throughout the mall, scaring up goodies from your favorite stores along the way. The wicked good-time will also include:

Website for more info: https://mallatutc.com/events/the-mall-at-university-town-center-frightfully-fun-trick-or-treat-event


November 15, 2022, 7:15pm

The Players Club

Studio 1130 – 3501 S. Tamiami Trail

Feed the need for musical hilarity with this fabulous sci-fi smash about a man who seeks fame at the cost of his morals with the help of a man-eating plant. This Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical has devoured the hearts of theatregoers for over decades. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin) are the creative geniuses behind what has become one of the most popular shows in the world.

$13 Student

Fruitville Grove Annual Pumpkin Festival

Every weekend in October!

7410 Fruitville Road, Sarasota

Sarasota’s Fruitville Grove will celebrate its 34th Annual Pumpkin Festival every weekend in October from 10 a.m.-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission includes access to the playground and petting zoo, live music, the Torres Family Circus show, photo ops and costume contests. Visitors can also partake in a variety of rides and activities like zip lining, pumpkin painting, and shopping at vendor booths. Both the farmers market and the Pumpkin Palace will be open, too. Admission is free; parking is $5.

Haunted Sarasota “Mummies, Murder, and Mayhem” Trolley Tour

Now through November 4

8pm (90 minute tour)

1826 Fourth St., Sarasota

Discover Sarasota Tours invites the bravest souls ages 12 and older on its “Haunted Sarasota Mummies, Murder, and Mayhem” trolley tour. The tour takes guests on a 90-minute nighttime journey through the city’s spookiest corners. Guided by the Ghost Hostess, guests will even meet some figures of local lore along the way. Dress up for the costume contest to win exciting prizes. Complimentary liquid courage (beer and wine) is available for guests ages 21-plus from the Trolley Cottage Tiki Bar. Tickets are $49.99; parking is free.

Discover Sarasota’s “BooMobile” Tour

6:30 pm – 7:15pm

Now through Oct. 30th

For family and children. Tickets needed and go quickly!

1826 4th Street – FREE parking!

Please note: “Dolly The Trolley” is enclosed & air-conditioned!

Discover Sarasota’s newest spooky offering is the family-friendly “BooMobile” tour. This 45-minute musical adventure runs from 6:30 p.m.-7:15 p.m. and begins with free apple cider and cookies from the Trolley Cottage. On board, join Miss Witchy Poo on a search around Sarasota for her missing magic pumpkin. If you’re in the mood, don a costume—the best one wins a special prize in the costume contest. Tickets for kids ages 3-11 are $19.99; tickets for those 12-plus are $24.99. Parking is free.

Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival

Saturday-Sunday, Oct.29-30


5500 C.R. 675, Bradenton, (941) 322-2168


Hunsader Farms will hold its 31st annual Pumpkin Festival from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays during last three weekends in October. Admission includes hay rides, the petting zoo, live music and more. Visitors can also enjoy a corn maze, train rides and a “butterfly experience.” Admission is $15; children 10 and under are free. Parking is $5.

Trick-or-Treat on the Lake at Nathan Benderson Park

Oct. 25


Regatta Island, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota, (941) 358-7275, nathanbendersonpark.org

Trick-or-treating is fun, but trick-or-treating by the lake? Spooktacular! Come in your best costume and trick-or-treat on the lake . Perfect for families, this free event will offer candy booths, live music, a play area and storytelling area, and a special screening of Hotel Transylvania. Admission is free; parking is $10.

Boo! At the Bazaar

Saturday, Oct. 29


821 Apricot Ave., Sarasota, (941) 445-1938


Trick-or-treaters are invited to dress up and attend this family-friendly event at The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime. The event will take place inside the bazaar. Collect candy from each vendor booth, receive a free book and enjoy live music from Sean Adam Walsh. Admission is free.

Halloween Gone to the Dogs? Dog-a-Ween Costume Contest

Saturday, Oct. 29, Lemon Avenue and Main Street, downtown Sarasota,

Showcase your pooch or feline in Halloween attire at the 14th annual Dog-A-Ween Costume Contest is for you. Beginning at 9 a.m., parade your costumed dog through the Sarasota Farmers Market. All participants will receive a goodie bag from Wet Noses Sarasota, and winners will receive prizes from downtown Sarasota businesses. Registration is $15, and all of the proceeds go to Donte’s Den Foundation. Parking is available at the Whole Foods Market garage.

Boo Run!

Saturday, Oct. 29


6300 University Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 893-7589

The 19th annual Boo Run, hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Running Club. The in-person morning event takes place on Oct. 29 at a new 5k course in Lakewood Ranch. Three options are available, including a kids’ race, adult race and a race with dogs. The event begins at 7:30 a.m., with start times for each race listed here. There will also be a virtual option from Oct. 25-31 in which runners can submit their times. Runners are encouraged to dress up for the event’s costume contest. All proceeds will be split 50/50 between Another Day for Gray and the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch. For pricing info and registration, visit: www.raceroster.com/events/2022/62435/2022-boo-run

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Thursday, Oct. 27


The Players Centre for Performing Arts is proud to present the 6th annual “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” outdoors at The Sarasota Polo Club. This family-friendly, spooky, festive play about Ichabod Crane, the object of his affection Katrina, his rival Brom Bones, and of course, one of the most famous ghosts in America, the Headless Horseman has become a Halloween Favorite in Sarasota.

*Please bring your own chairs or blankets for seating. This is an outdoor event so please dress appropriately/protect yourself from the sun.

Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Ln.

Dog-o-Ween Costume Contest



Outdoors at Wet Noses (pre-registration required)

Goblins and ghoulies, candy corn and cornstalks, doggie costume contests and parades: It’s time for dogs to get a scary groove on and don the Halloween garb. The Annual Dog-A-Ween costume contest returns Saturday, October 29th to the Sarasota Farmers Market Halloween Festival. All proceeds benefit the Donte’s Den Foundation. Guest moderator: Tyler Butler with Out & About. After the event dogs in costume can go to Wet Noses with their human to pick out a free toy donated by Wet Noses.

Preregister on Saturday, October 22nd outside Wet Noses between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Note: Preregistration ends Oct. 27

9:00 – 9:45 AM CHECK-IN and get your entry number at Lemon Ave. & 1st Street Downtown Sarasota.

Parking is available in Whole Foods Parking Plaza. Registration Address: 1451 1st Street Sarasota FL 34236

Monsters Booze Cruise

Saturday, Oct. 29


LeBarge, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota

Adults-only: The Monsters Booze Cruise, presented by Sarasota OUT. The cruise will sail from 9 p.m.-11 p.m., and guests are encouraged to wear their Halloween best for the costume contest. Dancing and drag performances will be accompanied by a DJ. Have no fear: snacks and a bar will also be available. Attendees must be 21 years of age are older. Tickets are $45, with an optional add on to the Oasis afterparty.

Gator’s Club Annual Halloween Block Party

Saturday, Oct. 29


1490 Main St., Sarasota

www. thegatorclub.com

In the heart of downtown in thriving Sarasota, the Gator Club will feature a huge Halloween block party that will feature a DJ indoors and live music both indoors and outside. There will also be food trucks and vendors. This event is for those 21-plus years of age. Outdoor admission is free; indoor admission is $20.

Selby’s Spooktacular for All!

Sunday, Oct. 30,


1534 Mound St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5731


The Halloween spirit is blossoming at Selby Gardens for families and friends! Dress up for trick-or-treating, arts and crafts, and fun educational activities, then dare yourself to brave the inflatable corn maze. Admission is free for Selby Gardens’ members. General admission is $21 for adults, $11 for ages 5-17, and free for 4 and under.

“Fright Night” at St. Armands Circle

Monday, Oct. 31, 431


St. Armand’s Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-1554


St. Armands Circle Friday night “Fright Night” will be held Monday, Oct. 31, from 6 pm.-8:30 pm. The businesses and restaurants of St. Armand’s will be spiffed up with spooky decor, promotions and more. Trick-or-treat through the circle, and don’t forget to say “boo” to the costumed statues you meet along the way. Admission is free.

Festival of the Skeletons

Event Name: Festival of the Skeletons
Event Date: November 4, 2022 5:00pm – November 5, 2022

The 18th Annual Festival of the Skeletons returns to the Village of the Arts on the first Friday and Saturday of November. VOTA’s most popular annual event is a celebration of life to remember our departed loved ones in the tradition of Dia de Los Muertos.

Celebrating with music, food, drinks, and Art.

Village of the Arts, 1227 12th St. W