Jack-o’-lanterns begin to line your city streets. A freaky ghost seems to have taken shelter above your neighbor’s lawn. You feel the sudden urge to watch “Hocus Pocus” for the hundredth time. Halloween season has finally arrived! No longer is this holiday a single-day affair, but a month-long celebration filled with frights.
Across the U.S., many cities have taken Halloween to a whole new level. From ghost tours and grand parades to historic haunts and happening bar crawls, there’s something for everyone to embrace the spooky spirit of the season in these exciting cities:
Kicking off the best places to celebrate Halloween is Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is infamous for its witch trials in 1692. A group of citizens accused and convicted a woman named Bridget Bishop for being a witch. After Bishop was hanged, 18 others were also executed and nearly 150 more people were accused.
Rather than steer clear of its gloomy history, Salem marks these incidents with a month-long event. Salem Haunted Happenings offers daily gatherings from haunted houses, ghost tours, family film nights and the Grand Parade. If you’re traveling from Boston (about 15 miles away), there are a few must-see attractions to check out. The Salem Witch Museum depicts the history of witch trials in the late 17th century.
The historic House of the Seven Gables also offers reenactments of the Salem witch trials in addition to hosting family-friendly Halloween events. For those in search of a truly spooky experience, embark on a ghost tour through the city.
Keeping up with the prevalence of witch trials, Williamsburg, Virginia also focuses on its colonial roots for Halloween. Williamsburg has a haunting history due to a variety of unfortunate events. In addition to a famous witch trial, Williamsburg also holds ancient Native American burial grounds and has gone through battles in the Revolutionary War and Civil War.
Perhaps one of the most haunting aspects of Williamsburg is The Public Gaol, which features a prison and insane asylum most active in the 1700s. Many of Blackbeard’s pirates were prisoners who later went on to be executed. Because of its rich melancholy history, Williamsburg offers one of the most highly rated ghost tours in the U.S. Test your fears during a walking tour or on one of the many cruise and carriage tours.
The Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream is a major event in Williamsburg as well, perfect for thrill seekers. Discover haunted houses, escape rooms and live shows. If you’re looking for Halloween events that are a bit more tame, Pumpkinville and Oktoberfest offer family-friendly fun with pumpkin patches, mazes and games.
New York City
Taking on more of a modernized vibe for Halloween is New York City. The Village Halloween Parade is one of the largest events in the Big Apple. Over the past 45 years, this parade has become a hallmark of Greenwich Village and grown from being a neighborhood puppet show to gathering over 60,000 people in costume and 2 million viewers. What sets this NYC Halloween event apart from the rest is its focus on creative expression. Participants of the parade exceed expectations with their costume design in both creativity and size. The parade also features giant puppets cascading through the city streets.
Keeping up with the vast scale of Halloween celebrations in NYC is The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. With over 7,000 glowing pumpkins, a pumpkin carousel, pumpkin bridge and life-size pumpkin sculptures, this event is a true feast for the senses. New York City also offers plenty of haunted house and ghost tours to get your heart racing.
If you’re in search of something less terrifying but still in the spirit of Halloween, visit the Annual Tompkins Square Park and prepare yourself for cuteness overload. This parade showcases hundreds of dogs in costume. Bring your own pooch and compete for the cash prize.
Next stop for Halloween festivities, the Windy City. Chicago takes on more of a party theme for its Halloween celebrations. Compete for best costume at the Haunted Halloween Ball at the Congress Plaza Hotel. This lavish event transports you into the ultimate Halloween party with famous DJs, zombie bartenders and an enormous dance floor.
Get your day drinking on or fulfill your night cap by going on one of the many bar crawls in Chicago. You can even take your party overseas by attending a Halloween Booze Cruise event, complete with captivating views and costumes. Not much of a partier? Chicago still provides the classic Halloween parade with their Arts in the Dark and Northalsted Halloween Parade.
Navy Pier, a major landmark in Chicago, also offers multiple events for Halloween. Check out one of the many spooky movie showings, fireworks show or trick-or-treating events. For even more trick-or-treating with the kiddos, visit Lincoln Park Zoo’s Spooky Zoo event which attracts thousands of families every year.
The Big Easy isn’t just famous for its fabulous beignets and colorful Mardi Gras parade. It’s also brimming with voodoo culture and folklore. While voodoo originated in Western and Central Africa, it traveled to Louisiana in the 1700s. There are a number of voodoo shops in the French Quarter that will help get you in the Halloween spirit and teach you more about the history of voodoo in the city.
Combining voodoo culture with modern day music is the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience festival. Enjoy an entire weekend of some of the nation’s top artists. Another famous aspect of New Orleans is its large number of cemeteries. From the Saint Louis Cemetery to Lafayette Cemetery, embark on one of the many spooky cemetery tours for Halloween.
For some classic Halloween fun, visit the Krewe of Boo! parade which travels through the French Quarter and garners over 100,000 spectators. Set your sights on enormous parade floats, dance performances and wacky costumes at the official parade event of New Orleans. For some family-focused fun, the popular Ghost in the Oaks event features an amusement park, pumpkin patch and trick-or-treating for parents and children.
Lastly, Halloween isn’t complete without a terrifying journey through a haunted house. New Orleans offers a variety of choices for your annual scare. From historic homes to transformed zoos, New Orleans brings your worst nightmare to life in many extravagant haunted house events.
Ending our list of top spots to celebrate Halloween in the U.S. is Hollywood. The West Coast city uses its movie history to play up the holiday in a larger-than-life fashion. A must-see for your Halloween endeavors is the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. Founded in 1987, this event is one of the biggest annual events in Southern California – bringing in hundreds of thousands of people. Costumed visitors can expect live entertainment and major party vibes.
Horror movie fans will love Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights event, which brings fictional cinema worlds to life. Test your fears in eight mazes featuring the settings of “Stranger Things,” “Poltergeist,” “The First Purge” and more. The event also offers rides and live dance performances.
The thrill ride continues at Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood with Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights event. If you loved the movie “It” or Tim Burton films including “Sweeney Todd” and “The Corpse Bride,” you’ll love being transported at this eerie event. Prepare yourself for movie-themed mazes, haunting studio tours and a horror film screening.
Whether you want to test the limits of fear, party past midnight or simply gaze at spectacular costumes, these cities offer true spectacles in honor of Halloween. Visit Salem, Williamsburg or New Orleans for some history-inspired terror. Take your pick of New York City, Chicago or Hollywood for unforgettable parades and party scenes. Wherever you decide to celebrate the 31st, take advantage of exclusive savings on airfare and accommodations through Vacations by Marriott.