Downtown Chapel Hill

Downtown Blog

What Will You Be for Halloween?

Tip #1: Wear a Costume

You are not too cool to be a part of this crowd. This is Halloween and you are coming to Franklin Street; there is an expectation that you will dress up and play along nicely with others. It doesn't have to be elaborate but you will have to put some thought into it. Or you can just be the guy that grabs the Bud Light box out of the recycling container on the way to Franklin Street, slaps it on his head and calls it a night!

Tip #2:  Halloween Begins and Ends on Franklin Street

If you don’t have a costume yet then start shopping!  Time After Time Vintage Thrift  and the Clothing Warehouse  are great stops for those that are still undecided - store staff will help you pull together a winning costume. Don't forget the UNC fan gear shops-- even if you aren't going dressed as Rameses or a zombie Tar Heel fan -- these shops have tons of unique accessories that can go with any costume.  Walgreens has those final touches like makeup, hair accessories, rope, and tape (what good costume doesn't involve rope & tape? NONE!). And accessories always make the outfit – check out Light Years Jewelry  for sunglasses & jewelry. In addition to clothes and shoes downtown boutiques have accessories like scarves, hats, jewelry and more. Check out The Clothes Hound, Uniquities, bevello, and Classic Fashions to complete an ensemble.  


Tip #3: Learn the THRILLER Dance

At first you’ll faintly hear the song being played, then the crowd will part and those with the skills will find their way to the circle. Some years it’s the whole crew – complete with zombie Michael Jackson leading the brain-thirsty crowd. Other years it’s just random rodeo clowns, 1940’s sailors, bumblebees, and monsters that feel the beat and are drawn in. Trust me it WILL happen - and when it does you will wish you’d learned it ahead of time too. Check out this scene from 2009 on Franklin Street .  Or possibly we’ll see a massive Gangnam style/Thriller hybrid dance? Yes please – someone make that happen!

Tip #4: Group Costumes Are Crowd Pleasers

And you are here to please us - so get creative! It already takes courage to dress up so group costumes are a great idea for the night. There are some classic group costumes like Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz crew and Alfalfa & the Gang that are easy to assemble. All good ideas but jazz them up – why not be the best zombie Oompa Loompas you can be? Be the game of SCRABBLE; each friend can have a letter on their chest, scoot about and spell out words. If you can spell out TAR and then get the crowd to yell HEEL - bonus points! How about rock, paper, scissors, lizard, and Spock? Be the Candyland characters, The Fantastic Four, the months of the year, a herd of zoo animals, or Ms. Pac Man & the ghosts. Whatever the group theme is – it’s always more fun when you are with friends. And don’t be surprised when the Ghostbusters run by you complete with backpacks & jumpsuits, screaming “Venkmen  this way!" - and then tackle the first guy they see in a white sheet.  It’s timeless, it’s fun – and the crowd loves it!


Tip #5: Humor Beats Gore and Sexiness Every Time

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that Halloween is a great time to let your freak flag fly – but make me smile and laugh and I’m yours forever.  Like the guy who was Waldo – when someone would yell “Hey, there’s Waldo!” and off he’d run to another spot until he was' found' again. And to the brave soul who will dress as Richard Simmons and do some serious aerobics – you kill me. And I don’t care that it’s done every year – I always appreciate the guy who will gift wrap a cardboard box and attach a big tag that reads “To: Women, From: God”. Sir, you made my day. And long-time favorite – the portrait guy! Stop, shake hands and get your picture taken with him. Many tens of thousands have before you too – he’s a crowd favorite.

Tip #6:  BE the Pez Dispenser with All Your Heart and Soul

We all get it….dressing like the Cookie Monster and walking on Franklin Street for a couple of hours is not something that most of us would do on any given day of the year. But that’s the point, and feelings of awkwardness and ‘why didn’t I just be a pirate?’ are going to happen. Just embrace your character and get into it. Talk in the Cookie Monster voice – “Me Want Cookies!”; bring a box of cookies with you and hand them out to people; and definitely walk up to the gal dressed like an Oreo and attempt to gobble her up!  Everyone loves the person that seemingly never breaks character. Like the guy who dresses up like Forrest Gump –  sits on one of the benches downtown with a box of chocolates and a Bubba Gump Shrimp hat on and asks people if they know when the number 9 bus is coming. Go ahead and just try to have a normal conversation with him!

Tip #7: Think Pop Culture for Costume Ideas

I predict internet memes and politics will factor heavily into the costume trends on Franklin Street this year. If you can pull off the Erhmagerd Girl or a very unimpressed McKayla Maroney, - go for it!  There will be numerous variations of Binders of Women, and probably a few Romneys dressed as a hunter with a stuffed Big Bird slung over his shoulder.

If you go this route, you may have to explain what you are but those of us that spend time on that thing called ‘the internets’ will appreciate it. For other popular culture ideas -- think of characters from a popular movie or tv show this year, viral videos, internet comedy sketches, funny commercials, political figures, and international events.    

Tip #8: Don’t stop at Sexy Cat or Sexy Nurse, Go For Sexy Stop Sign! 

Halloween has always been an excuse to abandon ones inhibitions, throw modesty out the window, and try on a new personality. Most folks will caution you to go as the sexy tube of toothpaste costume you were planning. But I say – go for it!  Halloween is nothing if not a collective spirit of having a good time and enjoying oneself. But at least attempt a new take on the standard get ups. Put some effort and thought into it -if you insist on having a sexy costume then be the sexiest bulldozer you can be. Wait...what? See Tip #5.

Tip #9: Keep Safe and Carry On

Halloween on Franklin Street is not the free-for-all that your older cousin told you about with a glimmer in his eye. It has smartly become a more controlled, safer, and yet still exciting night for everyone.  You will be stopped by police officers before you get to the main stretch and you will not be allowed to bring in any costume accessories that are, or even look like, weapons. Also prohibited are paint, fireworks, animals, alcohol, glass bottles, or coolers. (Full details here.)  (  So, Cleopatra leave the snake at home. And Luke Skywalker – if your get up doesn’t convey what you are then a faux-light saber isn’t going to help you.


While you are at it – thank those police officers for being there to keep us all safe. They are missing out on taking their kids trick-or-treating to make sure your mom doesn’t get a phone call in the middle of the night.

If there is one thing that we do extremely well in Chapel Hill is throw a great street celebration and we do it with our utmost southern charm and congeniality. Taking care of each other is a shared value that we expect everyone to have. This is a night of creativity and fun– so have a  safe Halloween and keep your hands to yourself (I’m looking at you guy who is dressed as Charlie Sheen) and when it does get crowded – keep an eye out for anyone that may need a helping hand even if it is a green, bumpy, alien hand.

And again this year, I would like to propose a new tradition on Franklin Street - everyone bring candy to pass out!  Don’t turn it into the beads ala New Orleans and don’t throw it at each other – leave the tricks at home. This is Halloween after all and giving out candy is just a nice thing to do. And plus I REALLY like candy. See you downtown!