Salem – the not-so-forgotten town of witch hunts and trials – has forever been ingrained in the minds of Americans as a region plagued by the supernatural, with a morbid undertone that has prolonged for centuries. Capitalizing on Salem’s creepy historical fabric, the town hosts an uber-scary Halloween month, with its Festival of the Dead, a celebration filled with macabre activities, lasting for the entire 31 days. Events include psychic readings, talks with the dead, and graveyard conjurings, bringing in nearly 500,000 visitors every year to experience the paranormal. There are also numerous events outside the festival, including walking tours, haunted houses, costume parties, trial, fireworks, parades, magic shows, and a witch’s circle, culminating with the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball on Halloween night.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Known as ‘the most haunted city in America,’ it’s easy for New Orleans to turn its historical streets of jazz and Creole into the grim, voodoo-filled avenues it used to be. Second to the city’s famed Mardi Gras celebration, NOLA takes Halloween almost just as seriously, with numerous haunted tours and haunted houses, the Voodoo Music & Arts Experience, a parade through the French Quarter, and a massive street festival on Frenchman Street where locals head outside in elaborate costumes for a booze-filled party. Visitors can pop into one of the many voodoo shops for a peek into the city’s history passed; take a walk through one of NOLA’s famous cemeteries; or head to the zoo for child-friendly activities.
New York, New York
New York City’s Village Halloween Parade has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, drawing in visitors from all over the world to join its costume march down the streets of lower Manhattan alongside a band, dancers, and giant, mile-long puppets – a tradition since 1974. While the popular Halloween parade veers more into the quirky side of celebrations, the city also hosts numerous events for the spooky-inclined, including an after-dark crypt tour of the Cathedral of St. John’s the Divine, a ghost walk, and a Broadway show that immerses visitors into a tormenting experience carried out by the show’s hosts. Just a 30-minute trip north of the city, Hallow’s Eve fanatics can take a walk through the legendary Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, or indulge in a fright fest at the 300-year-old Phillipsburg Manor – transformed into a haunted mansion of witches, ghosts, and vampires.
With a bustling nightlife and epic live music scene, it’s no wonder Halloween is one of the biggest party weekends in Austin. From zombie balls and Halloween-inspired events to burlesque shows and themed dance parties, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get into full costume and celebrate the Day of the Dead. Plus, visitors can get into the spirit at the Dia de los Muertos festival, or at the outdoor screening of Hocus Pocus.
Nestled within the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Portland makes for the perfect creepy destination to take part in Halloween festivities – expect elaborately decorated homes and eerie, fog-filled streets. The city hosts a long list of events, with many starting as early as the second week of September – from witches’ balls to haunted corn mazes. First-timers can kick up the scare notch by taking a tour through the tunnel systems that were once used to carry drugged sailors to the waterfront to be shipped miles out to sea (known as ‘shanghaied‘ sailors) or embarking on a haunted pub crawl for the best mix of fun and fright.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, with its proximity to Hollywood sets and the film industry, takes advantage of this ghoulish holiday by turning some of its most popular destinations into haunted, fright fests. Head to Universal Studios where you’ll spend the night running from clowns, vampires, and zombies, or Griffith Park, which hosts a haunted hayride. Visitors can take a drive to Long Beach, 45 minutes outside the city, to one of the most highly regarded Halloween celebrations in the state, where the Queen Mary – an iconic 1936 ocean liner – is transformed into a haunted ship. To get in the mood, head to one of the city’s famous yard haunts for spectacular haunted houses and crazy good Hallow’s Eve decorations.
This small town, located just 45 minutes outside of Detroit, doesn’t mess around come October – in an event called Terror on Tillson Street, Romeo and its residents elaborately decorate their front yards and façades of their homes leading up to Halloween. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors from all over Michigan flock to the largest neighborhood-funded Halloween in the state to see the impressive decorations so intricate that some even rival the work of Hollywood set designers. Take a walk down the streets at night to discover rows and rows of haunted houses.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas has always been the go-to spot for outlandish parties – and Halloween here is no different. Although its prestigious nightclubs and many hotels play host to a long list of themed parties, the Strip is where the real party lies: here, catch a glimpse of some of the most inventive costumes as thousands of visitors flock to the streets drink in hand (thanks to Nevada’s open container laws). You can also head to Circus Circus for Fright Dome – a theme park transformed into six haunted houses.
In Chicago, a city that favors fall over any other season, Halloween is especially exalted – here, even fountains are dyed orange in celebration of the spooky holiday. From Oktoberfest activities to the Halloween on Halsted parade and costume competition, Chicago is wrought with events – lovers of terror can get their taste of fear at the many horror movie screenings held across the city, or at the haunted cornfields and houses. For a peek into Chi-town’s creepy past, take a tour of the city’s historic, haunted buildings.
Philly has been particularly known for its numerous haunted sites – especially the Eastern State Penitentiary, said to be plagued by the ghosts of past inmates. During Halloween, the city boasts several haunted houses, many of which have been applauded for their Hollywood-quality decorations and actors. Head to the Penitentiary for its famous Terror Behind the Walls tour, or opt for a look into the eerie Pennhurst Asylum. The city also hosts other spooky events – such as Fright Factory and ghost tours – so be prepared to delve into the paranormal. Those not into feeling the fear can head to more kid-friendly events like the Scarecrow Competition or straw mazes.