11 of the Best Places to Go for Halloween in the U.S.
For most people, Halloween is just a single day's celebration taking place on October 31. But then there's the rest of us who embrace the holiday all season long, breaking out decorations and starting to plan costumes once fall begins (and maybe even before then!). For true Halloween lovers, the festivities may start as early as September and can extend all the way into early November upon the end of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
If you're planning to host your own Halloween party, we have plenty of ideas to help you throw the perfect graveyard smash including party bites, homemade crafts and devilishly fun games. But if you're looking to do something a little different this year and find yourself counting down to October without a Halloween celebration plan set, don't fret. Instead, allow us to conjure up something frightful.
We've rounded up a tour of what we deem to be the best places to celebrate Halloween—taking in all the sights and haunting sounds of the holiday—around the country. Whether you're looking for family-friendly tricks and treats, a gathering of fellow horror film fanatics, or an eerie evening among spirits at a family-friendly picnic and parade at Laurel Hill Cemetery (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), celebrating Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever (Los Angeles, California), or attending St. Louis Cemetery No. 1's "Tombs by Twilight" Tour presented by Save Our Cemeteries (New Orleans, Louisiana), there's an all-Hallows' adventure waiting for people, and pets, of all ages.
Village Halloween Parade in New York, New York
New York City's Village Halloween Parade—which was created in 1973 by puppeteer Ralph Lee—is one of the most famous Halloween events in the United States and the largest Halloween parade in the world, attracting over two million spectators and 60,000 parade participants. While the event is free to spectators, you can also participate in the parade as long as you wear a costume. If you want to skip the long general admission line, you can purchase a ticket to join the annual Special Theme Costume section of the parade or purchase a ticket to skip the line and join any parade band of your liking.
Spirit of Halloweentown in St. Helens, Oregon
If you're a fan of the 1998 cult classic Halloweentown, a trip to St. Helens, Oregon, ought to be on your itinerary. St. Helens was the main filming site of this Halloween movie favorite, which starred Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag, and the late Debbie Reynolds. In honor of the film, the city puts on a month-long celebration called the "Spirit of Halloweentown," which kicks off with the Lighting of the Great Pumpkin at the city plaza and is followed by events throughout the month including haunted tours, costume contests for people and pets, face painting, parades, movie screenings, parties, and more.
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval in Los Angeles, California
The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval was first held in 1987—as a communal gathering of costumes, entertainment, and performers. Growing year after year, this free public event runs down Santa Monica Boulevard between North Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard—a one-mile stretch. Organizers suggest against bringing children and pets due to the dense crowds (it was estimated 150,000-200,000 attended last year in 2018). That said, there are plenty of other events such as Boo at the Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Youth Halloween Carnival at Plummer Park, or the Howl-O-Ween that are more family-oriented options.
Halloween Capital of the World in Anoka, Minnesota
While New Orleans may get credit for being the most haunted city in America, it doesn't get the title of "Halloween Capital of the World." Albeit a self-proclaimed title, Anoka, Minnesot,a has very good reason; Anoka's Halloween celebration is believed to be the first in the United States, formed in 1920 to steer kids away from Halloween pranks. Festivities were canceled in 1942 and 1943 due to World War II but the event has since been annual with 2020 set to mark the celebrations centennial year.
Featuring a Grand Day parade and nighttime parade, other events feature a house decorating contests, a bonfire, the Anoka Classic Car Show Spooktacular, the Blood Mobile Blood Drive created as a way to give back after two siblings were saved by the blood donations of others, a Pumpkin Weigh-Off, a pumpkin carving contest for kids, and a pumpkin smashing hosted by the City of Anoka's Waste Reduction & Recycling Board in an effort to curb pumpkins from the landfill.
Telluride Horror Show in Telluride, Colorado
A mountain resort town may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think Halloween but Telluride, Colorado, has quite the horror show to offer. Founded in 2010, Telluride Horror Show is the state’s first and longest-running film festival dedicated to the horror genre. With the festival also including flicks in dark fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, dark comedy, and thriller, it definitely covers the scope of what horror films can be. Averaging over 20 feature films and more than 60 short films, guests of the festival can expect special programs, events, and industry guests. One such example? A Nightmare Before Christmas director, Henry Selick, spoke at 2015's festival and confirmed that the Tim Burton-produced classic is, in fact, a Halloween movie, not a Christmas movie.
The Louisville Zoo Halloween Party in Louisville, Kentucky
Head to the "World's Largest Halloween Party" this fall for a kid-friendly Halloween experience at the Louisville Zoo. In addition to free experiences—such as the themed areas set to resemble iconic children's movies and books, time with the friendly Mumpkin the Giant Talking Pumpkin, a giant hay maze, hundreds of artistically carved and lit pumpkins on display, and the Meijer food truck (only on October 11) that will be serving free donuts and warmed cider—there are also optional experiences you can pay for including, face painting, train rides, carousel rides, or a walk-through guided attraction to find the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow as the classic tale of Ichabod Crane is told. Free with Zoo Admission during regular, the spider house will be open for the season and offers an upgradable experience for only $2 more, inviting guests to "walk alongside the spiders" at the 1,000-square-foot space where kids will learn about the different species and view the intricate webs.
Party goers will also find costumed characters for meet-and-greets and plenty of trick-or-treating opportunities along the zoo paths. Bringing a child with a food allergy? The zoo has that covered with their allergy-friendly night, which features peanut-free treats, more non-food goodies than any other night such as stickers, bracelets, and pencils, and the "Switch Witch" will be around to help kids swap any treats of concern for a safer option.
Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts
October is when Salem is at its peak for tourism so it's no surprise that there are a number of events for you to enjoy. Haunted Happenings is an annual celebration of Halloween and fall in New England; individual events aren't organized by one entity but rather by a collection of timely Halloween festivities for every age. Catch a mix of classic horror films and submitted short and feature length films, lectures, and some of your favorite horror icons from over the years at Salem Horror Fest; dig into the city's witchy past and present with The Festival of the Dead; or join the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade presented by the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Whatever frightening adventures you seek, you're bound to find it in Salem.
A Colonial Halloween in Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia
One of the best ways to enjoy Halloween is to head back in time. Just as you'll find plenty of horror in the Victorian era (Dracula or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for example), the colonial era has its share, too—it's when the Salem Witch Trials took place, after all. For those willing to venture into a spirit world of old, the communities of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia, should be on your list. Part of America's Historic Triangle, the three communities have Halloween events that addresses everyone in the family. Elementary-school-age children explore haunted settings and go trick-or-treating at Family Frights in Jamestown, celebrate fall and hear stories of ghostly encounters in Yorktown, or sit in on a Halloween-themed museum talk at the Haunting on D.O.G. Street in Williamsburg. Want more scares? Head over to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg for the annual Howl-O-Scream, for elevated haunted houses, scare zones, and live entertainment. Parents should note the theme park is kid-friendly until 5 p.m.
Halloween at the Theme Park in Orlando, Florida
Orlando has been a top destination for families for years; it shouldn't be any different on Halloween. The city offers two events worth noting, one at Walt Disney World Resort and the other at Universal Orlando. Universal's Halloween Horror Nights runs early September through early November and with its haunted houses, scare zones, attractions, and live entertainment, there's certainly no shortage of scare opportunities. But if you're going to Orlando with kids, the full-force terror at Universal may not be the most family-friendly. Instead, head over to Walt Disney World Resort for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! Running from mid-August to early November, kids can enjoy the holiday without being overwhelmed by the more terrifying parts of Halloween. Fun for kids includes trick-or-treating, Disney character meet-and-greets, stage performances, and fireworks.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York
While it may be too much for the faint of heart, many historic cemeteries around the country offer year-round tours and events celebrating their long histories, the notable names that reside there, and the astounding architecture that gives each cemetery its uniqueness. An annual fall event at Green-Wood Cemetery, discover ethereal sights and sounds while walking winding paths lit by candles and moonlight at "Nightfall" where you'll find films projected onto mausoleums, Victorian-era circus acts, musicians, and storytellers. While the event is two nights only, you can also go on one of the multiple tours being held on Halloween night.
The resting place of greats such as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, versatile musician Leonard Bernstein, and FAO Schwarz founder Frederick August Otto Schwarz, the long list of famous names and nature of Green-Wood including bird watching opportunities, and over 500 species, varieties or cultivars of trees and woody plants, there's plenty of reasons to visit the cemetery at any point in the year.
Famous Haunts in South Dakota
If you haven't thought of South Dakota as a destination for Halloween fun, there are a number of events that'll make sure you keep the Midwestern state on your radar.
For amateur ghost hunters, scout these four events that allege bring you closer to the paranormal. Lodge at Rapid City's Hotel Alex Johnson, a historic inn said to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country, where you can hunt for ghosts with their Ghost Adventure package that includes accommodations in a reported haunted room or tour the Adams House with a team of professional paranormal researchers. Go back in time to the wild west in Deadwood, where you may meet the lingering spirits of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane at Mount Moriah Cemetery or visit the Sica Hollow State Park and walk the "Trail of Spirits" where the supernatural presence is said to be strong.
For more kid-friendly experiences, you and your children can take a guided night hike along a path lit by jack-o-lanterns painted by Custer Elementary School students at the Halloween Night Hike in Custer State Park, explore the Extinct Species Graveyard at ZooBoo, a three-night Halloween party at the Great Plains Zoo, create Halloween-themed science and art projects at the Washington Pavilion's Spooky Science, or attend the annual Harvest Halloween for fall and Halloween-themed fun in downtown Yankton, South Dakota.