Spooky Reads for Halloween Weekend

The meme I keep seeing on Facebook says, “Why do we need Halloween this year when we’ve been wearing masks and eating candy since March?”

I can’t say I totally disagree. The thought of large costume parties, hayrides and haunted houses — many of the customs we usually associate with the Halloween season — just hasn’t excited me this year. We aren’t totally ditching Halloween traditions though. Our neighborhood seems to still be on board with trick-or-treating, albeit at a safe distance with some extra precautions in place. I don’t want to rob my kids of this experience if it can be done safely. How are you approaching Halloween this year?

Because Halloween is on Saturday, there is also college football to contend with. Don’t ring our doorbell when Alabama has the ball, you little goblins! Yes, I’ll be tuning into see Alabama take on Mississippi State. Trick-or-treat and Roll Tide!

Whether you are football-inclined or not, there are many good spooky entertainment options if you are staying in. My recommendations are of the literary variety…except for Haunted Mansion, now available on Disney+.

Haunted Mansion (2003)

If you love the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World — my personal favorite — you might like this fun comedy adaptation starring Eddie Murphy. I watched it with one of my daughters this week and I have to give it a quick plug. It will entertain the whole family.

Now back to the boos…I mean the books.

Books have been my favorite escape this year, and rightly so since we have been home more than ever before with ample time to read. A silver lining of the pandemic, I guess. Two of my recent reads are perfect for the Halloween weekend.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

All roadside motels are a little creepy, right? At least anyone who has ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 movie Psycho might think so. There is no Norman Bates in The Sun Down Motel but there are plenty of haunting spirits encountered by the two main characters, Carly Kirk and her aunt, Viv Delaney, who — 35 years apart — each moved to a small town in New York and took a job at the same motel. Will their curiosity about the motel guests get the best of them? Read my full review on Goodreads.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

I generally shy away from horror stories, so this was an unusual pick for me. But anything having to do with book clubs interests me, and the setting of 1990s Charleston, South Carolina, helped to draw me in, too. I managed to read through the handful of gory scenes without slamming the book shut and never looking back. It is a wildly entertaining vampire story that ultimately celebrates strong women. I actually look forward to reading this one again some day. Here is my full review on Goodreads.

Whether you are going out or staying in, I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!

Spooktacular Science in Navarre Beach

octobusWe had a fabulous evening at the annual Spooktacular Science by the Sea at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station last night. Putting an educational twist on traditional Halloween activities, the Spooktacular event includes a sea creature costume contest for kids and a variety of stations set up to teach children about marine science.

Organized by local teachers and high school students who volunteer their time and talent, it’s an opportunity for kids to learn about native sea life and participate in hands-on science experiments. A haunted beach walk tops off the night with a stroll along the edge of the Santa Rosa Sound, where you’re sure to find a few surprises. Spooktacular Science by the Sea continues tonight from 5-9 p.m. CDT. Admission is $5 per person. Children ages 2 and under get in free.

If you’re going to be there after dark, it doesn’t hurt to bring a flash light along to make it easier to find your car in the parking lot when you leave. The Marine Park area surrounding the Science Station is not well lit.

It’s spooky good fun!


A Not-So-Scary Boo at the Gulf Breeze Zoo

As a freelance writer, it is always exciting when I see my work in print. These days it’s often online only, but this weekend my byline appeared in real, hard copy newsprint. Serious, investigative reporting, you may ask? Well, not exactly, but it was fun to show the kids.

I originally wrote the article about Boo at the Zoo that appeared in the Pensacola News Journal for a Santa Rosa County, Florida tourism program, The Beaches to Woodlands Tour. Beaches to Woodlands includes dozens of events showcasing the diverse natural beauty and culture of the county throughout the month of October. Most (if not all) of the activities are family friendly, including Boo at the Zoo. So yesterday, we decided to check it out. We made our way to the Gulf Breeze Zoo, where we spent about two hours or so seeing the animals and taking part in Halloween-themed activities.


Part of the fun of Boo at the Zoo is the Trick-or-Treat Trail, which invites kids to wear costumes and visit stations set up throughout the zoo to collect candy. Our three – dressed as Doc McStuffins, a peacock and a mermaid – enjoyed the chance to don their costumes early and mingle with the likes of Elsa, Jake and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was definitely a unique way to experience the Zoo, which spans 50 acres and includes a petting zoo, train rides and a chance to feed many of the animals.



A budgie aviary was new since I last visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo. It was like stepping into a giant bird cage, surrounded by a few hundred of your closest feathered friends. The kids loved it. So did the birds that we fed, and the makers of hand sanitizer.


Some of the extra activities available during Boo at the Zoo include face painting, bounce houses and balloon-making clowns. At $12 per ticket (not including train rides), Boo at the Zoo is a little pricey for a family of five, but comparatively speaking fairly reasonable versus other zoos we’ve visited in the Southeast.


Look closely: The last line of this sign made me laugh.

Boo at the Zoo continues next Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CDT if you want to go. For information on other Beaches to Woodlands Tour events, visit the official Tour website.

Beaches to Woodlands Tour “Tees Off” Bubba-Style

Fall has always been my favorite time of year on the Gulf Coast. For starters, the weather is pleasant – still warm enough to enjoy the beaches and outdoor activities, but not so hot you have sweat running down your neck the minute you step outside. Also, the beaches tend to be less crowded, which makes for a peaceful day in the sun, and you spend less time waiting at restaurants and popular attractions. For those who travel to the Coast, better rates are typically available at hotels and rental properties after Labor Day.

What’s not to love, right?

Well, this year, I’m even more excited about fall. Why? Because of the 11th Annual Beaches to Woodlands Tour, a month-long collection of events in Santa Rosa County, Florida. Santa Rosa County includes Milton and Navarre Beach, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Pensacola and Destin. I have had the opportunity to cover some of the events as a freelance writer helping to promote the Tour. Although I am compensated for articles I’ve written, I am not asked or paid to blog about these events. I am telling you about them because I am truly excited about Beaches to Woodlands this year. It may be because my kids are now old enough to get out and enjoy some of the family-friendly activities going on throughout the month of October.


One of the first events on the Beaches to Woodlands Tour is actually open this weekend through November 2, with the exception of Halloween. It’s the Sweet Seasons Farms Corn Maze. It’s been generating a lot of buzz because the corn maze, viewed from above, depicts two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson swinging a golf club. Watson is from Santa Rosa County – a little town called Bagdad, to be exact. So the corn maze is a nice tribute to him. He’s tweeted about the event a few times already. Pensacola News Journal shared this video on pnj.com that tells a little bit about the making of the maze and what you can expect if you visit this year.

If getting lost in a corn maze is not your thing, there are other Beaches to Woodlands Tour events to suit a multitude of interests, including art, history, running, biking, and marine science. Take a look at thebeachestowoodlandstour.com for more information. It’s worth checking out if you are going to be in Northwest Florida this fall. Hopefully I can share some real, live photos and updates when we head out to experience some of the fun.