The 7 Best Places to Be on Halloween

Get spooked with a spine-tingling ghost tour or elaborate fete this All Hallows' Eve.

U.S. News & World Report

The 7 Best Places to Be on Halloween

Group of candle lit Halloween pumpkins in park on fall evening
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Discover top spooky spots, lively parades and holiday-inspired events near and far.

Halloween may conjure images of pumpkin-carving contests and spirited costume competitions, but there are plenty of less contrived festivities across the globe that go well beyond trick-or-treating. Whether you want to brush up on history with a bone-chilling Dracula-themed tour in Romania, join a colorful street parade in Mexico or have a bloody good time with a traditional bonfire and festival in Ireland, there are plenty of unique locales celebrating the holiday in style. Read on to discover seven Halloween-inspired happenings around the globe that are anything but hokey.
Next:Mexico
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Mexico

The annual Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a two-day festival in Mexico that commemorates the dead with elaborate festivals and plenty of skull-inspired face painting and attire, candy, mariachi music and dancing. "One of the most familiar symbols of the celebration is the calavera (skull), and travelers to Mexico can buy sugar calaveras or read literary calavera – short, humorous poems that poke fun at the living – which are a popular part of both past and present Dia de los Muertos celebrations," explains Andrea Leich, National Geographic Travel's digital director. Consider observing the eye-catching celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico, where you'll find lively street parades and authentic eats.
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Discover top spooky spots, lively parades and holiday-inspired events near and far.

Halloween may conjure images of pumpkin-carving contests and spirited costume competitions, but there are plenty of less contrived festivities across the globe that go well beyond trick-or-treating. Whether you want to brush up on history with a bone-chilling Dracula-themed tour in Romania, join a colorful street parade in Mexico or have a bloody good time with a traditional bonfire and festival in Ireland, there are plenty of unique locales celebrating the holiday in style. Read on to discover seven Halloween-inspired happenings around the globe that are anything but hokey.

Mexico

The annual Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a two-day festival in Mexico that commemorates the dead with elaborate festivals and plenty of skull-inspired face painting and attire, candy, mariachi music and dancing. "One of the most familiar symbols of the celebration is the calavera (skull), and travelers to Mexico can buy sugar calaveras or read literary calavera – short, humorous poems that poke fun at the living – which are a popular part of both past and present Dia de los Muertos celebrations," explains Andrea Leich, National Geographic Travel's digital director. Consider observing the eye-catching celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico, where you'll find lively street parades and authentic eats.

Romania

Want to retrace the steps of Count Dracula? Make the pilgrimage to Romania, where tales of haunted castles, vampires and werewolves abound. Adventure travel outfitter Intrepid Travel offers a "Dinner with a Bite" horror-themed meal in Turda, Romania, where participants can marvel at the monument of Vlad the Impaler, rumored to be the inspiration behind Bram Stoker's Dracula. Another option: a spine-tingling cemetery stroll. "Halloween is a celebration of the spooky, but more importantly, it's about honoring the dead. Taking a tour in cemeteries is a fun and unique way to engage with both," Leich says, pointing to Merry Cemetery in Romania, "where colorful carved crosses with poems mark hundreds of graves."

New Orleans

The Crescent City, with its penchant for voodoo, ghosts and vampires, offers thrills all year long, but October is an especially chilling time to explore the city's haunted sights and creepy above-ground cemeteries. "While we often look to haunting places like Romania for Bran Castle (Dracula's castle), or Germany for Castle Frankenstein, the U.S. has many haunted mansions to explore," Leich says. "One of many is the LaLaurie Mansion in the New Orleans French Quarter where Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie hosted lavish parties [while] horrifying scenes [were] unfolding upstairs," she adds. To take in hair-raising haunts on foot, tag along a vampire- or voodoo-focused tour offered by venerable company Haunted History Tours.

Amsterdam

With blood-curling raves, decked-out costume parties and kid-friendly festivities, Amsterdam offers Halloween events well-suited for a variety of traveler types and ages. For a mix of gore and holiday lore, make sure to swing by the annual Amsterdam Halloween Festival. If you're traveling with youngsters in tow, don't miss trick-or-treating and face painting at the Hard Rock Cafe. And for an adults-only fete, check out the Dead Space Sci-fi Halloween costume party hosted by Amsterdam Spook on Oct. 29 and the Helter Skelter Halloween party on Hallows' Eve.

Ireland

In Ireland's County Meath – the place where Halloween originated about 2,000 years ago – you can partake in a time-honored Celtic festival known as the Spirits of the Meath Halloween Festival from mid-October to early November. Around the country, revelers can enjoy bonfires, Irish delicacies (think: barnbrack, a type of fruitcake) and traditional fortune-telling games and candy. And, of course, Ireland hosts its fair share of mystifying paranormal tours, parades with elaborate costumes (such as the City of Bones Street Carnival parade) and haunted houses.

London

In England, Guy Fawkes Day (or Bonfire Night) on Nov. 5 is a not-to-be-missed celebration. Honoring the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 by Fawkes to dismantle the British government, the annual event features flaming bonfires, dazzling fireworks spectacles over London's Tower Bridge and a tradition of gathering pennies (and candies) for Fawkes. Increasingly, Brits have joined in on the Halloween hoopla on Oct. 31, too, with pumpkins, ornate costumes and parades through London and other parts of Britain.

Charleston, South Carolina

If you're a history buff who appreciates a bone-chilling story, explore storied Southern sights. Home to spooky graveyards, eerie jail tours and haunted hayrides, Charleston lures revelers with a combination of terrifying and family-friendly festivities. If you're traveling with youngsters, consider checking into the French Quarter Inn, where guests can pick up a free pumpkin-carving kit and embark on a complimentary ghost tour. Or, check out the HarbourView Inn, which offers a holiday-inspired Harbor & Hauntings package that includes a walking tour of a Revolutionary War-era dungeon along with a leisurely sail through Charleston Harbor, among other perks.
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