Halloween in America is just another day for some. However, for others, it’s become a day, week and even a month long celebration of over-the-top costumes, parades, shivering ghost tours, and spine-tingling paranormal experiences! These top halloween destinations in the U.S. are just waiting for you to enter without knocking!
If you’re a hardcore Halloween enthusiast, you already know that the pagan holiday is more than the spooky costumes and decorations. It’s all about the ghostly experiences too!
Which makes it all the more reason to visit these super fun places to celebrate Halloween! These cities and towns literally go all out to welcome visitors into their world of somewhat ghastly getup!
Learn about the history of their ghoulish celebrations and how these halloween destinations came to be so popular.
Fear not though! While some may scare the bejeebers out of you, I promise you will make it out alive…maybe?!
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Where did Halloween originate?
Halloween originated back in what is now Ireland, Great Britain and parts of France some 2,000 years ago.
The ancient festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-win) was concocted by the Celts to celebrate the end of harvest and beginning of winter.
They believed the shortened daylight and end of harvest brought in the world of unknowns; the supernatural and paranormal.
During Samhain, there was a blurry time when the people believed spirits could cross the boundary from the underworld into the world of living.
It was a frightening time. So, the people would build big bonfires and wear spooky costumes and masks to ward off and protect themselves from the unwelcome spirits.
There were also good spirits too. They were welcomed with food and other offerings.
However, once Christianity spread into the Celtic regions, God-loving believers turned the scary Samhain event into a much more tame celebration conducive to that of the Christian religion.
But, keeping the events separated, the Christians called their holiday All Saints’ Day or All Hallow’s Eve. Hence, why the pagan holiday is now called Halloween.
When did Halloween start in the U.S.?
Fast forward many centuries, Halloween was brought to North America (what is now America and Canada) by the Scottish and Irish in the mid 19th century when immigrants immigrated to the U.S. to flee the potato famine.
Being they were Christians, they adapted by combining both Samhain and All Saints Day to the current version of Halloween.
Halloween became a watered down version characterized by costumes, trick or treating and spooky traditions and celebrations.
They also held harvest festivals, costume parties and yes, even some ghoulish pranks like unhinging fence gates or tipping over outhouses in the middle of the night.
Through many decades, Halloween is becoming more than just a single day celebration. The Autumn holiday has actually evolved into a season within a season.
Now, throughout our own travels and scouring the internet, we’ve happened upon some pretty cool places to celebrate Halloween.
So, we’re going to take you on a roundup tour of some of the best and most notable Halloween destinations across the U.S. While some are geared more for adults, most are family-friendly places to take in all of the spooky sights and sounds of the pagan holiday.
So, Let’s take a little trip to see where your next spine-tingling Halloween destination may be lurking!
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“Haunting and Hip Halloween Destinations to DIE FOR!”
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in New York
There’s a famous little place in New York that resonates everything Halloween. Historic Sleepy Hollow fully embraces the town’s spooky legendary Headless Horseman that rides into the night.
The town transforms Philipsburg Manor into a haunted village where visitors can experience every ghost, goblin and things that go bump in the night.
And if that’s not enough to scare the wits out of ya, head over to the historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for a guided tour.
You can even see the final resting place of Washington Irving who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Some even claim his spirit still makes his presence know there!
If ghost tours aren’t enough to steal your soul, take one of the historical reenactments of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in various locations around the town.
Should you have your own little goblins in tow, there’s lots of more family-friendly Halloween events. Check out the Sleepy Hollow Halloween parade, Fall festivals and fairs, pumpkin carvings and even outdoor movie screenings that show the movie as well as other creep shows.
And lastly, get an up close and personal look at thousands of creatively-carved, illuminated pumpkins at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in nearby Croton-on-Hudson.
Village Halloween Parade in New York City
Speaking of celebrating Halloween in New York, you didn’t think we’d leave out the Big Apple out of our best places to celebrate Halloween, did you?
There’s a good reason why New York City is listed as one of the top Halloween destinations in the U.S.
While New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade reigns as one of the best parades in the U.S., the City That Never Sleeps just couldn’t go down as being second best for Halloween.
And it’s all because of one man who enjoyed a masquerade world of puppetry!
In 1973, World renowned Puppeteer Ralph Lee created the largest Halloween Parade in the world! and most wildly creative public participatory event in the greatest city in the world!
Attracting over 60,000 parade participants and 2 million parade spectators, it’s no wonder! Rain or shine, the party’s on because that’s just how the Big Apple rolls!
As it’s been for 48+ years, it is a free event for all all ages to view from the sidelines or join in the fun by wearing your Halloween costume.
And let me tell ya, there’s a lot of creative costumes beyond those Halloween costumes you find in stores. Each year, the parade theme takes on its’ own identity.
Now, there is an order of assembly. Hence, you’ll need to stand in line to get through to the parade viewing area. But there are ways to skip the line to get the party started!
The first thing I think of when someone mentions New Orleans during the spooky season, I instantly get a shiver. With its’ unique voodoo vibe and ghostly cemeteries, Halloween in New Orleans is the ideal place to celebrate thriller events that are frightfully fun!
New Orleans is known for its rich history of the supernatural eeriness which makes it one of the best Halloween destinations in the U.S.!
Visitors can take one or several guided tours in and around the city’s Big Easy. There’s lots of haunted locations, cemeteries, and voodoo shops to explore if you dare!
Now, if you’re not squeamish about ghosts, goblins and things that will raise the hair on the back of your neck, definitely check out the historic cemeteries and iconic burial grounds. You should especially check out the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
The Big Easy’s vibrant music scene totally embraces the eerie spirit of Halloween. There’s lots of live jazz and blues performances throughout the French Quarter and even the outskirt parishes.
And if you didn’t already know it, New Orleans loves their parades, parties and elaborate costumes. I mean, New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans without it’s over-the-top, lavishly adorned Halloween-theme parties and parades right?
But make no mistake, New Orleans can be enjoyed by children too. There’s lots of fun family-friendly events like Boo at the Zoo during the month of October. And believe me, they’ll absolutely love the Krewe of Boo Halloween parade!
Neewollah in Independence, Kansas
Dorothy definitely would say ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore’ if she landed in the town of Independence at Halloween! This huge annual festival is called Neewollah. And if you’ve not figured it out, Neewollah is Halloween spelled backwards.
Since 1919, the town embraces the Fall season and combines it with a 9-day celebration of family and community. It’s good reason why over 75,000 people put on their costume best and go!
The course of Halloween events at Neewollah include parades, a live music, shopping, pageant and even a great chili cookoff contest.
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Ghostly Adventures in Gettysburg Pennsylvania
In early July of 1864, the bloodiest Civil War Battle in American history took place in what was then, the tiny farm town of Gettysburg. Losing over 7000 lives with close to 100,000 casualties, there’s definitely something eerie about what remains.
Though Gettysburg isn’t necessarily known as a Halloween town per se, there’s many claims reporting it is one of the most haunted places on earth!
Though I can’t put my finger on it, when Fall arrives, there’s just something extra peculiar about the town that puts a chill in the air.
While there are a ton of awesome things to do in historic Gettysburg, Halloween brings in a bonus event for visitors to enjoy.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy watching local marching bands, dance teams and baton twirlers as well as fun homemade floats at the annual Gettysburg Halloween Parade and Street Dance.
And of course, this is the perfect time to check out the many creative Halloween costumes; including those dressed as Civil War Soldiers and Jennie Wade. You and all of your little goblins can wear your own costumes to get into the Halloween spirit!
But, the real fun is when the sun goes down and unexplained things go bump in the night. It’s been said that the spirits come out to haunt the region with screams and painful cries. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say.
But let me just preface by saying the ghost tours in Gettysburg really play into it, especially during Halloween. There’s something weirdly thrilling about strolling the streets in the dark listening to the haunting stories of spirits of Gettysburg who refuse to go to the other side.
And let’s just say, there isn’t a more perfect time than Halloween to visit Gettysburg!
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Henry Ford’s Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan
The Henry Ford’s Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village, Michigan is one of the best Halloween destinations in the Midwest!
For over 40 years, residents and visitors come during this bewitching event to experience a one-of-a-kind family-friendly Halloween tradition.
Dearborn’s Greenfield Village transforms to Fall theme harvest markets, ghostly performances, fun storybook characters and lots of other events.
Over the course of 16 nights in October, Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village visitors can choose to stroll through a jack o’lantern line walkway (lit up at night!) or down a spooky tunnel for a frightful experience.
The Hallowe’en Express train ride takes passengers along a ghoulish, surprising journey through Greenfield Village. Enjoy the ride of your lives passing by howling werewolves and moaning ‘what is that’ spooky ghosts and goblins amidst the shadows in the night.
Oh, and that’s certainly not all! Other events to enjoy throughout the day and into the dark spooky nights;
- Fall Flavor Weekends wool dying, beer brewing and Hallowe’en yard games (all daytime)
- Hallowe’en Express train ride
- Horse-drawn carriage rides
- 18th and 19th century activities, including wool dyeing, cooking demonstrations, beer brewing, corn husk crafts and Hallowe’en yard games
- More than 50 costumed characters like the Grim Reaper, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and more
- Dramatic vignettes from The Wizard of Oz, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Tell-Tale Heart and more
- Imaginative storybook experiences from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan
- Village-wide theming with special lighting and sound effects
- Illuminated jack-o’-lantern path
- Fall foods, hot beverages, craft beer and treats for the kids (for purchase)
We do suggest arriving during daylight hours to enjoy viewing the cobblestone homes and craftsmen barns. As well, you’ll get to also enjoy gorgeous relaxing views of the riverfront and fall foliage.
Then, grab some dinner and stay to enjoy all the nighttime Halloween adventures!
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida
Teens and adults can get all the guts, gore, blood curdling screams and hair raising haunted houses they want all in one place! Universal Studios in Orlando Florida steps up to tend to the young and young at heart all through September and October with their Halloween Horror Nights!
While Disney, just 10 miles down the road, caters to the very young with make believe cuteness, Universal Studios ranks as one of the best places to celebrate Halloween for families with older kids!
There’s everything to do under the sun but when all goes dark, be prepared for some incredible experiences that lurk in the shadows!
Just a handful of the killer things to do at Halloween Horror Nights include haunted houses, scare zones and live entertainment, breathtaking rides, themed merch, and food and drinks.
The lively ‘big kids’ theme park encourages wearing costumes to get into the spirit. However, you may want to read and abide by their costume guidelines or you’ll be shown the door.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS TIPS
Plan to be in the gate at least 1 hour before event starts. This helps limit driving time, parking and waiting in security lines.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of going to the first haunted house you see. Head to the back of the park first for a better chance at seeing more haunted houses.
Go in September! October is the most popular month for Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Night’s event.
Halloween Capital of the World in Anoka, Minnesota
Anoka, Minnesota has truly earned its’ distinction as being ‘all things Halloween’! And it’s all due to its rich history and going-all-in efforts in celebrating all things spooky at Halloween.
Anoka is said to be one of the first American cities to start the citywide Halloween celebration in 1920.
It’s been noted that the town began this spooky tradition to divert bored youngsters from committing acts of vandalism and crafty pranks that scared the residents stiff.
And seventeen years later, Anoka officially deemed itself as being the Halloween Capital of the World.
And now a hundred or so years later, their longstanding tradition puts the city on the map and the calendar as being the ultimate Halloween destination.
But it doesn’t just start and stop in October. In fact, the people of Anoka celebrate Halloween all 365 days of the year!
The town’s pumpkin-painted roundabout greets visitors leading them to lots of great gift shows and even a small museum proving why they embrace the Halloween spirit 24/7.
But for the Halloween holiday itself, Anoka puts on quite a show for visitors near and far; including ghosting one of the largest Halloween parades in the country, eerily decorated haunted houses, hayrides, and other Halloween-themed attractions.
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Halloweentown at St. Helens, Oregon
Though Halloween comes just once a year, in St. Helens, Oregon, you can celebrate Halloween all month long! That’s right, all MONTH long!
Attracting tens of thousands of daring visitors, their Halloween celebration is just that! The Spirit of Halloweentown has been featured on many highly recognizable news outlets.
Since 1998, the small city of St. Helens (zip code 97051) served as a backdrop to the Disney Channel Halloween classic “Halloweentown”. Every year since, the town transforms their Riverfront District into the Spirit of Halloweentown, a celebration of all things spooky.
Halloween enthusiasts and visitors of all ages can meander the small town any weekday or weekend during the Halloween events. You can celebrate their haunted history.
Or, Plan to watch Halloweentown or Twilight on the big screen throughout the month on special dates along with other Saga movies on the weekends.
There’s also many fun attractions and family-friendly activities that may change from year to year.
The courthouse plaza is the home of the big pumpkin in St. Helens. We light the pumpkin on the first Saturday of October following the Big Halloween Parade and it stays lit for the month.
And for those who don’t scare easily, check out their haunted house that’s sure to have you screaming for more! Just a note though, this has scary things inside and may not be suitable for all ages.
✰✰ PRO TIP ✰✰ Beware! Some Halloween events, attractions and activities may require tickets and parking fees depending on location.
Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts
Salem Massachusetts, also known as Witch City, is a well known seaport town with great maritime history.
But the dark coastal New England town is most (in)famous for its’ 17th century witch trials. Back in the day, locals were violently executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Yet, their legends and spirits continue to haunt the region.
Now in modern days, Salem attracts millions of visitors from all over the world to experience the witch city’s eerie charm.
Becoming somewhat of a spectacle of curiosity, tourists can visit landmarks, including the Salem Witch House. Outsiders can learn their stories and visit the former home of a trial judge.
But, something bizarre happens when the dampness of foggy October rolls through Salem, Massachusetts. The town becomes, quite literally, the epicenter of Halloween celebrations! And every hour becomes the witching hour!
The organizers of Salem Haunted Happenings step up their game to bring in hair-raising witchy events and exhibits, ghost tours, museums and haunted houses, séances, the grim, the gruesome and all that macabre.
Salem starts decorating for Halloween in early fall. And, by October 1st, Halloween decorations will adorn every storefront window, business’ and residential door, front yards, back yards and even people’s cars!
The entire town of Salem plays into the aura. They go all out with otherworldly spectacles of spooky displays and enchanting witch costumes for their Salem Halloween parade!
Tourists (of all beliefs) and modern day witches can explore the town’s haunted history through their witch trials reenactments, ghost tours and haunted houses.
Planning a Halloween Camping Adventure with your RV?
If you’re planning on taking your RV to any of these Halloween destinations, it’s important to know before you go! By planning ahead of time, your experience will be greater and less stressful.
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Wrapping up the best Halloween destinations in the U.S.
Halloween has become a big deal holiday for all ages. And in some cities and towns across America, celebrating Halloween has become a whole month of parades, parties, ghost tours and storytelling!
So, which one is on your halloween bucket list? And have you gone to one not listed here? Please share your own favorite Halloween destination to add to our collection!
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