Ah, Halloween. The best season of the year (yes, I said season!). From my childhood to adulthood, I’ve always loved the holiday and the anticipation throughout October—the decorations, the changing leaves, and the costume planning. But my favorite holiday tradition as a kid? Mapping out my trick-or-treating route and making absolutely sure I would pass the house with the full-sized candy bars at least once. Okay, twice. Fine… three times.
Because my family moved around a bit during my childhood, the neighborhoods I trick-or-treated in changed frequently. From living in the suburbs of Phoenix, the beaches of Mississippi, and the mountains of Colorado, I lived in five different neighborhoods during my trick-or-treating years.
Some of those neighborhoods posed challenges. Large distances (we’re talking miles, here) between homes, confusing street networks, and the chaos of trick-or-treating in an apartment building.
But two of the neighborhoods I lived in were a trick-or-treaters’ dream. As I thought about why these specific spots reigned supreme, I realized a lot of the characteristics of a good trick-or-treating neighborhood also make for strong, livable neighborhoods.
1. They’re safe.
The neighborhoods prioritize pedestrians. With narrow streets and wide sidewalks, cars are forced to move slower and more carefully. This design also allows residents (and trick-or-treaters) to feel safe walking, biking, etc., and promotes a friendly neighborhood dynamic.
2. They’re welcoming.
Trick-or-treaters will flock to houses that are well-kept and designed to welcome others. Houses with lots of lighting and porches not only optimize the number of trick-or-treaters you can greet at once, they also give the neighborhood a safe and welcoming feel.
3. The network of streets is easy to follow.
There’s nothing worse as a trick-or-treater (or parent) when the streets are a mess with no easy route to follow. Badly designed street networks make it easy to get lost, or even worse, miss out on candy. Neighborhoods with well connected streets are more accessible and attractive.
4. They maximize space.
When we talk about housing at Community Builders, the term “density” is often used. The term might put some off, initially, but in practice, neighborhoods that allow for more efficient use of space are exactly what people want. When homes are closer together, walkability increases, making it easier to get more candy. Missing middle housing also provides greater density while maintaining a traditional neighborhood feel. Housing typologies like duplexes tend to hide in plain sight, all the while diversifying housing choices. Plus, imagine trick-or-treating at duplexes—twice the candy at one location!
As I alluded to above, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I argue that Halloween provides a unique opportunity many other holidays do not- it promotes community by getting outside and interacting with your neighbors. On this night, friends, family, and neighbors get out into their neighborhoods and celebrate the community that exists there.
And a bonus… there is candy.