Halloween costumes, candy, and assorted hauntings inject a monster-sized influx of cash into the economy, with spending exceeding $7 billion. Halloween is rapidly turning into the favorite calendar holiday with lots of locales picking up on the spooky action. So where are the best places to travel for a Halloween experience? Fodor’s Travel investigated the ghoulish goings-on across the country and came up with their list of the top Halloween festivals and festivities for you to enjoy on this spooky holiday. But don’t worry – if you don’t want to do scary, then the Disney parks offer a good not-so-spooky option for you. Otherwise, consider a weekend trip to one of the places below for your Halloween celebrations.
Of course Sleepy Hollow, New York, home of the headless horseman, would be a travel destination. One day to celebrate things that go bump in the night isn’t nearly enough; Sleepy Hollow observes Halloween for a month. Take a haunted hayride or an evening lantern tour through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where Ichabod Crane’s creator Washington Irving rests in peace. At Lyndhurst Castle, there’s family-themed fun with poltergeist tour guides. Sleepy Hollow’s A-list includes Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and the Phantom of the Opera.
Halloween, Hollywood style in Los Angeles is the setting for the West Hollywood Carnaval, the world’s largest street party; past holders of the title “Queen of the Carnaval” include Queen Latifah and Rihanna. More than 50 musical acts perform on six stages, and bars and clubs offer contests, drink specials, and live performances.
Travel back to the haunted roots of the United States and join the residents of Salem, Massachusetts in a 31-day Festival of the Dead. The Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo bring visitors up close and personal with mediums and more. Finish the fun off at the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel.
The Village in New York City shuts down lower Manhattan for Halloween festivities, as costumed marchers in the parade share the route with papier-mâché creations.
Head west, young haunters to the Emma Crawford Festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Emma who? A pianist who went to the springs to cure her tuberculosis, Crawford died in 1891, but in 1995 the town began to commemorate her death the weekend before Halloween with Crawford impersonators ride in wheeled caskets.
Atlanta, Georgia’s Little Five Points District’s Halloween Festival and Parade features food trucks, artisan kitchens, local musicians, an artist’s market, and a two-hour Halloween parade.
New Orleans, Louisiana takes tourists on haunted tours that are heightened by the Big Easy’s “let the good times—and heads—roll” ambience. New Orleans bills itself as the “Most Haunted City in America” so somewhere between the French Quarter and one glass too many, expect a Halloween you won’t forget. Or might not be able to remember.
The Las Vegas Strip becomes a masquerade extravaganza with some of the most astonishing costumes to ever grace a creature of the night. At Circus Circus, the Adventure Dome theme park becomes Fright Dome with a haunted house that’s more in line with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Ghostly Manor. If you really want shivers down your spine, try the isolated haunted house where you must enter on your own, with no one’s hand to hold for comfort.
Chicago’s Halloween on Halsted hosts a costume contest with five different categories. The parade includes fire twirlers, stilt walkers, and marching bands, along with Dorothy, who’s not in Kansas anymore. The LGBT-friendly atmosphere is a prominent feature of the restaurants, clubs and bars.
The Louisville Zoo Halloween Party bills itself as the world’s largest Halloween party, as characters from the Wizard of Oz, popular favorite Pirates of the Caribbean and children’s delight Frozen are ready for photos. Zebras, bears, and giraffes, oh my, make trick-or-treating by train a unique experience. Sleepy Hollow’s most famous resident makes an appearance at the end of the tour.