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11 Nontraditional Halloween Celebrations Across the Country
Tag along bone-chilling ghost tours or enjoy whizzing around thrilling rides at holiday-inspired events.
Celebrate the holiday with fun festivities across America, from spine-tingling ghost hunts to Jack-o-Lantern spectaculars. (Getty Images)
Americans will spend an estimated $8.4 billion celebrating Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation. While most Americans will spend money on candy, decorations and costumes, travelers will also invest in haunted events wherever they go. And since many kid-friendly activities are held the weekend of Oct. 22-23, you can travel and be home in time to greet your trick or treaters on the big day. Here are unique spooktacular events in the U.S. worth traveling for.
Get Spooked at a Haunted House in Salt Lake City
Haunted houses, typically open from mid-September until the weekend after Halloween, are especially scary with tech-forward features, such as green screens, lasers and projections. One of the wildest attractions is Nightmare on 13th, which has been frightening Salt Lake City visitors for 25 years. What's more, the haunted house is bringing back its favorite ghouls and terrifying tableaux. Text 31996 for special ticket discount codes.
Tag Along a Ghost Hunt in New York State
No matter your political beliefs, you'll likely be spooked on a haunted tour of the New York State Capitol. Weeknights in October, as the leaves turn to shades of crimson and Albany residents carve pumpkins, you can join a Capitol Hauntings Tour and look for spirits who moved in after the fire of 1911. Calm your nerves afterward at the New World Bistro Bar, which has been recognized as one of New York State's top restaurants by critics.
Take a Ghost Walk in Virginia
From Oct. 21-22, Virginia's huge stone Fort Monroe, a decommissioned 1834 Army installation built on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, hosts guided ghost tours. On the 45-minute guided Ghost Walk, which is well suited for visitors ages 12 and older, you'll pass through the heart of historic Hampton. Along the way, you'll meet the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis (imprisoned at the fort after being falsely accused of Lincoln's assassination), spot a young girl chasing her cat and see many more otherworldly beings.
Attend a Halloween-Themed Bash in Louisiana
The Rougarou Fest in Houma, Louisiana, uses Halloween to highlight Bayou legends, showcase Cajun bands and raise money for community causes. Like a lavish local version of Mardi Gras, the town's Krewe Ga Rou Parade on Oct. 22 will show off the best costumes as decorated go-karts, wagons and golf carts pass by and distribute candy to spectators.
Take the Kids on a Costume Parade at Great Wolf Lodge Resorts
In some climates, a bathing suit would be a Halloween costume, but they're worn every day at 13 Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark resorts around the U.S. Each Great Wolf Lodge outpost hosts Howl-O-Ween festivities throughout October, hosted by Wiley the Wolf, who leads a nightly costume parade through the lobby. Use the promo code: HOWL for deals that include accommodations, access to a Trick or Treat Trail, a Spooktacular Story Time and a Monster Bash Dance Party for all ages; kids spa treatments spoil little ones even more.
Get Spooked at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights
Universal Studios has mastered special effects makeup, lighting and visual effects to such an extent that their pioneering Halloween Horror Nights (held in both Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles most nights through Nov. 5) is both a terrifying and fascinating experience. This year, characters from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "American Horror Story," "The Exorcist," "The Walking Dead" and other horror classics occupy dark mazes, fog-shrouded soundstages and back alleys. The multi-fright experience is designed for ages 13 and older.
Enjoy Whizzing Around Thrilling Rides at Six Flags
Those who recall the Fright Fest of yesteryear at most of the Six Flags' theme parks have another scare coming as several parks will debut 3-D thrill rides amped by virtual reality. At Six Flags Over Georgia outside of Atlanta, on select nights through Oct. 31, you can ride one of the world's first fully interactive VR roller coasters, Rage of the Gargoyles Virtual Reality Coaster. Strap into Samsung Gear VR headsets to virtually manoeuver a helicopter while battling futuristic gargoyles, or check out 20 other attractions, including haunted houses and mazes. Children 12 and under are encouraged to join kid-friendly thrills by day, when favorite characters, pumpkin painting and costumed shows fill the parks.
Carve Pumpkins in Providence, Rhode Island
The Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence attracts thousands to its annual Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, in which more than 5,000 pumpkins (many carved) are displayed along the Wetlands Trail through Nov. 5. From Oct. 29-30, children under 12 dressed in costume pay half price to visit the Spooky Zoo.
Don Your Best Costume for a Parade in Killington, Vermont
Killington is so stoked to be the first Vermont resort to open for ski season, that they run their snow guns all fall. Catch some snowflakes during the Killington Witchcraft, a family-welcoming craft brew fest that takes place from Oct. 8-9. Mountain lifts and runs will be open for the annual Halloween Costume Parade on Oct. 31. The Wobbly Barn Nightclub hosts an après-ski gathering, with live music, costume contests for ski and snowboard gear and lift ticket giveaways.
Check Out Colorful Floats and a Pet Costume Competition in Key West, Florida
Work on your tan, shop, eat, dine and dress up at the Key West Fantasy Fest, held from Oct. 21-30. With this year's election theme, the Oct. 29 parade will feature flamboyantly decorated and motorized floats, Caribbean bands, street dancers in red, white and blue feathered costumes and a special pet costume contest.
Watch a Scary Flick in Austin, Texas
Tee off for Halloween at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin. The Texas resort's current Green to Gruene package ($888 for two nights including contribution to Feed the Hungry) includes luxury accommodations, a bucket of Shiner Bock, a round of golf for each guest and transportation to the historic town of Gruene where the state's oldest dance hall has hosted Willie Nelson, George Strait and a famous Friday night happy hour. Plus, two can't-miss events take place on Oct. 28: the Spa's Halloween Facial and Scream on The Green – a scary movie shown next to the golf course.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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