Austin Does Trick-Or-Treating Best

This Texas-sized Halloween is like a junior Mardi Gras.

Let me get this out of the way: I'm not advocating drinking with your children. But at kiddie events, beer for adults is a common reality. Be responsible, don't drink and drive (we live in the Uber/Lyft era, after all), and consume all things in moderation and all that. Okay, now that that's off my chest, let me tell you about my first Halloween in Austin.

In 2015, my little family of three moved to Austin from our longtime home city of Los Angeles. Our new neighborhood was situated just north of Hyde Park, an area that screams "these homes were featured on Friday Night Lights." (We were renters, for what it's worth.) On our first Halloween in Texas, a neighboring family with like-minded parents suggested we all go trick-or-treating together. We had devised a strategy: Head south past 45th Street toward where the houses get bigger.

We all met up at my house and, yes, had a beer or two. They were craft beers, so you can do the IPA math for yourself.

As we started to make our way south, we were immediately bombarded with an energy I had never experienced as a parent on Halloween. In Los Angeles, we had lived downtown, where few families dwelled. As in, we had to go to a sanctioned communal trick-or-treating event in a city park in the middle of the day just to get some candy. Austin was different. It was alive, friendly, and—wait a minute, is that a dad hauling a roadie?

Sending the vibe, I ran home to grab a small cooler, and soon we were strolling around with beers while walking our kids door to door. We were far from the only ones—Halloween hadn't been this cool since before we had kids. That year, wandering around with trick-or-treaters on the streets of Austin took me straight back to Halloween in Santa Barbara during my college heyday. Isla Vista was a scene for Halloween party shenanigans. (I didn't even go to UCSB, I went to USC. But for a good party, who wouldn't drive 100 miles?)

We made it south of 45th Street, and man, did the scene grow wilder. These houses were fully decked out in Halloween gear: bounce houses, smoke machines, music pumping, and, perhaps best of all, complimentary beverages. It turns out we didn't even need to bring the cooler I went back to the house for. Still, it's nice to politely decline the free offerings from a frozen margarita machine set up in someone's front yard, for appearances' sake.

Even as far back as 2015, there were plenty of transplants all sharing a communal wonder: Is Austin really this cool? If this is how the city handles Halloween, what does this mean for Thanksgiving and Christmas? (Not much, it turns out, but we leave town for the holidays anyway.)

But Halloween in Austin is mainly awesome for reasons that have nothing to do with the drinks. It's about the fact that so many people open their doors to neighbors, go bananas with the decor, and seem to keep pushing the envelope to outdo each other year after year in ways that entertain and benefit the whole community. COVID was a buzzkill, of course, and last year we went out a little late and missed the rush. Some years I was traveling for work, since TV production has a habit of eating into family time. That first Texas Halloween will always be a special one.

I'm grateful that my kid still likes to dress up, and I'll be back out there this year, chasing the dragon for my Halloween fix. The spirit of Halloween is going to shine bright this season. With everyone feeling a little more comfortable socializing, I expect a return to full-blown Austin Halloween glory. One year I saw a tree house set up for kids to grab candy from. If I see it again I might test the waters and climb up to the tree house myself. Or in true dad fashion, maybe I'll just watch proudly from the sidewalk, road beer in hand. Happy Halloween, and stay safe out there!