11 Top Places to Celebrate Halloween Across the U.S.
Grab your costume and embrace holiday-inspired happenings this October.
Elaborate parades, time-honored traditions, decked-out costume parties and kid-friendly fetes await at these spirited destinations. (Getty Images)
The kids are back in school, the air is turning crisp and the leaves are starting to change, but that doesn't mean it's time for you and the kids to hibernate. Whether you want to partake in quirky traditions or kid-friendly events, there are plenty of seasonal activities to pique your interest. If you're ready to celebrate October in an exciting destination, don a costume and trick-or-treating bag and check out these 11 locales that embrace witchcraft, festive displays and holiday happenings each October.
From Boo at the Zoo to the Fabulous Fox Theater, the Gateway City has plenty of Halloween festivities for all ages. The Saint Louis Zoo hosts a not-so-scary Boo at the Zoo Spooky Saturday with haystacks, pumpkins and an adorable souvenir T-shirt complete with costumed grizzly bear dressed as Wonder Woman. Those looking for more thrills can head to the Fabulous Fox Theater for its popular ghost tour. Docents illuminate tales of ghost sightings and unexplained phenomenon over the 88-year history of the Fabulous Fox.
Often considered one of the spookiest cities in America, New Orleans shows off its haunted hotels and official "Krewe of Boo" parade during the Halloween season. Little ones can also enjoy the Museum Mash, with fun games at the Louisiana Children's Museum and the Halloween Spooktacular Family concert with spooky music and ornate costumes. For a spookier adventure, tag along a ghost tour in the historic French Quarter.
The Emerald City has its own unique spin on trick-or-treating known as Hilloween, due to its Capitol Hill locale in Seattle. This year's Hilloween features a circus-themed indoor carnival with rides, games, bounce houses and more. Other Halloween events around the city include Scream Park Seattle with two separate haunted houses, Festál - Dia de Muertos at the Seattle Centeranda Harvest Festival at Carnation Farms.
The notorious setting of the 1692 Salem witch trials, when nearly 20 women and men were found guilty of practicing witchcraft, Salem appeals to travelers seeking real-life holiday magic. The Salem Witch Museum helps visitors understand the original perceptions of witchcraft, interpretation of witches and the "witch hunt" phenomenon that continues today. During the month of October, Salem Haunted Happenings hosts a Halloween festival with family-friendly events, ghost tours and trick-or-treating.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
From late September through November, New York's historic Hudson Valley embraces its most famous tale with the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze. Imagine a big, bright over-the-top holiday light display and switch out Christmas lights for pumpkins, and you can get a sense of Blaze. In addition to Blaze, a number of other Halloween events take place in Sleepy Hollow. Horseman's Hollow and Irving's "Legend" are scary haunts for older kids and adults. Plus, there are family-friendly activities suited for visitors of all ages, including "The Legend Behind the 'Legend'" at the Sunnyside home of Washington Irving, Jay Ghoul's House of Curiosities and more.
Savannah's combination of battlefields and mystery contribute to its supernatural reputation. The Savannah Ghostwalker Tour highlights stories, legends, cemeteries and battlefields around the city. Meanwhile, younger visitors will enjoy the Halloween hike at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center with family-friendly costumed animal characters passing out candy to little ones. Plus, adults can head to the Boo Bash Halloween Party at the Alee Shriner's Temple, a charity event that includes a costume contest.
Colonial Williamsburg embraces its spooky side with "A Haunting on DoG Street." Ghost tours take place throughout Colonial Williamsburg's historic area, where guides tell ghost stories and recount Williamsburg's witch trial. The "Ghosts Amongst Us" tour for teens and adults takes visitors into haunted properties. Down the road from Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens theme park hosts its Howl-O-Scream event – a scare-fest filled with zombies, ghouls and other ghastly creatures.
The home of the Chattanooga Choo Choo is also home to some famous haunted sites including Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern. Rated as one of the top Halloween haunts in the country, Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern opens in a new location for 2017 creating Dread Hollow in the Chattanooga Valley. In addition to Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern's Dread Hollow, families looking for more frights and delights can check out Winnepespookah! on Lake Winnepesaukah. Less frightening attractions in the area include the Halloween Eerie Express, Boo in the Zoo at the Chattanooga Zoo and a "Boo"-ze Cruise on the Chattanooga River.
Theme parks across Orlando don costumes and elaborate decorations for a variety of holiday events, ranging from not-so-scary to spine-tingling activities. SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom all host family-friendly Halloween parties where the youngest of visitors can collect a plethora of treats, while Universal Orlando Resort offers more thrilling diversions for older visitors.
Fort Worth, Texas
Trick-or-treating through historic stockyards are just one Fort Worth's Halloween activity. The Fort Worth Ghost Bus takes visitors to spooky sites around the city, and the Cowtown Winery Ghost Tour focuses on the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. On Halloween itself, the Stockyards offers trick-or-treating, pumpkin decorating, hayrides and more in the free family-friendly event.
Buena Park, California
The Southern California town of Buena Park transforms into "Boo-uena" Park for fall events that include the longest-running theme park Halloween party in the country. Knott's Berry Farm offered the first-ever Halloween event when it transformed into Knott's Scary Farm 45 years ago; now the largest such event, it includes mazes and an interactive zombie experience. A less intense Knott's Spooky Farm is offered for younger kids with less scares, more Snoopy and trick-or-treating. Other Buena Park Halloween events include Vampirate's Halloween Show at the Pirate's Dinner Adventure theater, Rock & Brews Monster Beer Fest and the Silverado Days Festival. Near Buena Vista, families can also visit Disneyland to enjoy with Mickey's Halloween Party and the first-ever Halloween events at the Disney California Adventure theme park including: Cars Land "Haul-O-Ween" and Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark.
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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.