If your family really wants to get into the Halloween spirit, skip your local pumpkin patch and make a pilgrimage to a truly terrific Halloween town. A Halloween town might be a city that goes all out on Halloween, like Los Angeles; it might be a town with a storied history, like Salem, MA or Sleepy Hollow in NY; or it might even be an actual ghost town.
Here are 15 of the best Halloween towns, haunted locals, and spooky cities in the country to visit with kids. Here you'll find haunted attractions, ghost tours, creepy parades, and more—these towns just ooze Halloween. For more Halloween happenings in your own city, check out your local Halloween Events and Activities Guide for Kids—if you dare!
Life-size stage sets and tours explore the 1692 Salem Witch Trials at the Salem Witch Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
Halloween Towns and Spooky Cities to Visit with Kids
It's no secret that the site of the Salem Witch Trials is one of the spookiest places in the country, no matter the season. But in October, the city transforms into a true Halloween town with its Salem Haunted Happenings, a month-long celebration full of ghost tours, parades, haunted houses, parties, and more. The events range from not-so-scary to downright terrifying. Families can also visit the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Witch History Museum to learn all about how Salem, MA earned the nickname "Witch City."
2. Sleepy Hollow, NY and the Westchester Rivertowns
The Rivertowns of Westchester, New York are steeped in spooky history and Halloween spirit for one big reason: It's home to Washington Irving's Sunnyside, a home of the famous author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, where you can see the story performed live throughout October in Irving's 'Legend'. In Sleepy Hollow, NY itself, you can take a walking tour of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where the Headless Horseman is said to have taken its last late-night ride. Then, head over to Ulster Park to get your screams in at the Headless Horseman Haunted Houses. If you're looking for more family-friendly Halloween fun, head to The Great Jack-o' Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson to see more than 7,000 illuminated jack-o'-lanterns. Whew. Oh, and don't miss Tarrytown's famous annual Halloween parade.
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Unlock the secrets of Sarah Winchester's beautiful but bizarre estate. Photo courtesy of the estate
3. San Jose, California
San Jose's famed Winchester Mystery House is spooky any time of year—the 24,000-square-foot mansion is full of architectural curiosities and is said to be haunted (many have reported ghostly sightings within its walls). But for two weeks around Halloween, the Winchester Mystery House transforms into a terrifying haunted house and show featuring creepy entertainers, midway games, food, and more. That alone can lure families to San Jose in October, but there are also other kid-friendly festivities like Santana Row's annual Mummy & Me Kids Club Event and History Park's Halloween Haunt Light Show.
Calico Ghost Town, located just a short drive from Los Angeles, is an old mining town that boomed in the 1880s and was abandoned soon after. Walter Knott, creator of Knott's Berry Farm amusement park, purchased Calico Ghost Town in the 1950s and restored most of the buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. The town is now home to a variety of attractions including a museum, a train, a silver mine, and more. Though the ghost town has an eerie feel all year long, things get really spooky during its annual Halloween Ghost Haunt, which includes trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, costume contests, haunted attractions, and more. This is one of the most popular actual ghost towns in the US.
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See ghosts at the haunted Victorian Ghost Manor in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Visit New Orleans
Honestly, this whole city is steeped in spooky energy, in the best possible way. There are several ways for families to learn all about New Orleans' paranormal past, and not just during Halloween. You can take a Ghosts and Legends or Ghost and Vampire tour of the French Quarter, a New Orleans Cemetery Tour, or even a Vampire Tour. For more festive and less frightening fun, there are also plenty of kid-friendly Halloween events all over the city, like Boo Carré and Longue View Fall Fest. And in a city famous for its over-the-top parades, you can count on the annual Krewe of Boo Halloween parade to be legendary.
This city may be full of Brotherly Love, but it's also full of haunted places for only the bravest of souls to visit at Halloween. Explore the haunted jail cells of Eastern State Penitentiary, take a candlelight tour of Fort Mifflin (said to be one of the most haunted places in the country) and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, go on a ghost tour of Philadelphia, and more. Philly also has tons of Halloween events, from not-so-spooky activities like the Trick-or-Treat Trail to creepy happenings like haunted hayrides and haunted houses.
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Film professionals put on elaborate lawn displays in LA. Photo by Roberta Brown
LA may conjure images of glamor and sunshine, but it is also the home of noir and mysteries. Los Angeles is the movie capital of the world, but also seems to be the Halloween capital of the universe. Not only is it home to two world-famous and terrifying haunted outings (Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and the Haunted Hayride), but it's also home to the Psycho House. In fact, there are more haunted houses and terrifying mazes here than in pretty much any other city in the country if you like a good scare. However, you can also simply roam the neighborhood streets and soak up the atmosphere of houses tricked out by actual Hollywood set and costume designers, making for some truly amazing Halloween decorations.
This Brooklyn neighborhood is known for its famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights, but it also turns into a Halloween town every October. Homeowners around the area deck their houses out with dancing zombies, giant skeletons, talking ghosts, and much more. One house on 79th Street even transforms into Dyker Frights, a spooky haunted attraction. Unsurprisingly, trick-or-treaters flock to Dyker Heights on October 31.
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HellsGate is not for the faint of heart. Photo courtesy of HellsGate
The Windy City and its surrounding areas are loaded with fun Halloween activities for families. The farms in the area host fabulous pumpkin patches and challenging corn mazes, and the city itself boasts loads of other fun Halloween events. But the real Halloween draw is the suburb of Lockport, home to HellsGate. This terrifying haunted house, hidden deep in the woods, has over 40 rooms and more than 150 actors. The multi-level mansion is like a Halloween town in itself, filled with secret passages, giant slides, and more fun and creepy adventures. For big kids that like big scares only, this single attraction is worth the trip.
San Antonio has a storied history spanning over 300 years, so naturally it is full of legends and mysteries for visitors to explore. There's the Alamo, where hundreds of soldiers died during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and visitors have reported seeing the ghosts of soldiers and even the ghost of a small child. There are also two hotels that are said to be haunted: the Emily Morgan Hotel and the St. Anthony Hotel. Families who want to avoid ghosts can enjoy a plethora of gentler Halloween and Día de los Muertos activities around the city, including Zoo Boo! at the San Antonio Zoo, Muertos Fest, and BOOtanica at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
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For a family-friendly Halloween, experience the Museum of Fright. Photo courtesy of the museum
While we wouldn't call the entire city of Seattle a Halloween town, you can't get much creepier than the legendary Georgetown Morgue if your family is into scary activities. This massive attraction features haunted walks, spooky escape games, creepy photo ops, and more. You can also tour the Seattle Chocolate Haunted Factory. If your kiddos scare easily, try one of Seattle's tamer Halloween events like the Junction's Harvest Festival or the Museum of Flight's transformation into the Museum of Fright.
We can't think of a better Halloween town to add to this list than the city where Hocus Pocus 2 was filmed (the first Hocus Pocus was shot in Salem, MA). Families can visit various sites from the film, such as Washington Square and the Newport Colony House. There are also plenty of other Halloween events, such as a Children's Halloween Party Cruise and Newport ghost tours.
Take a peek inside the basement of the Dent Schoolhouse. Photo courtesy of the venue
If you're getting bored of typical haunted houses, why not try a haunted schoolhouse? The Dent Schoolhouse, consistently rated one of America's best haunts, allows visitors to relive the legend of a murderous janitor with cinematic sets, award-winning makeup, and scary storytelling. There are also mini escape games, fall treats, axe throwing, and creepy photo ops. Cincinnati's many less-scary Halloween events include HallZOOWeen at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and a Magic Forest Jack-O'-Lantern Hike at the Caldwell Nature Preserve.
Has your family hopped on the Stranger Things bandwagon? Visit the place from which the hit TV show drew its inspiration. For years, conspiracy theorists have whispered about experiments that took place at Camp Hero as part of the Montauk Project, a journey to explore mind control, time travel, and everything viewers see in Stranger Things. The creators of the show, the Duffer brothers, were deeply inspired by these eerie events. Stranger Things fans can catch a glimpse of the Camp Hero Radar Tower, which resembles the Hawkins National Laboratory seen in the show, and look for signs of Demogorgons, Eleven, and other supernatural phenomena. It's a pilgrimage tweens and teens will brag about to their friends
Beaufort—North Carolina's third-oldest city—is located along the state's Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of beaches known as the Southern Outer Banks. Beaufort offers so many ways for families to celebrate Halloween. On the kid-friendly Beaufort Ghost Walk, pirate guides take guests on a tour of 300 years of haunted history, complete with ghost ships, haunted houses, and chilling tales. At the North Carolina Maritime Museum, visitors can see artifacts discovered on Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge. And at Beaufort's Old Burying Ground, one of North Carolina's oldest cemeteries, families can see headstones with interesting sayings about the people buried there. It's a hauntingly beautiful part of the country, and the spooky history will stay with you for a long time.