It's scary how many ways there are for families to celebrate Halloween in New York City. From family-friendly haunted houses to FREE Halloween festivals and fairs to kids' costume parades to door-to-door trick-or-treating, the options seem endless—and overwhelming.
That's why for the second year in a row, we're rounding up the absolute best Halloween celebrations in all of NYC. These aren't your run-of-the-mill fetes in parks or playgrounds. We're highlighting major Halloween events hosted by top NYC cultural institutions and organizations that are worth the schlep as well as your valuable time, energy and money (though some are FREE). These are all special, must-experience-at-least-once happenings like the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden, the Monster Mash dance party at the Brooklyn Children's Museum and Central Park's Halloween Parade & Pumpkin Flotilla. If an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And keep in mind: In NYC, really cool Halloween happenings often get booked up quickly. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to try to beat the crowds.
So let's cut through the cobwebs! Here are our top 10 Halloween celebrations for NYC kids.
Click through to our listings for all the details, including address, time and recommended ages.
The Haunted Pumpkin Garden – the Bronx
Through Friday, October 31
Now in its fourth year, the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden is one of my family's favorite fall activities. Reminiscent of Historic Hudson Valley's Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze, the installation features hundreds of pumpkins carved and sculpted into elaborate spiders, scarecrows, bats, snakes and other scary sights. Additional fun includes nature scavenger hunts, storytimes, and special weekend programming like costume parades, creepy live animal presentations, pumpkin carving by famous master carvers and Spooky Nighttime Adventures when you can explore the exhibit after dark. Free with All-Garden Pass: On weekends and Columbus Day: $25 for adults, $22 for students, $10 for children ages 2-12; on weekdays: $20 for adults, $18 for students, $8 for children ages 2-12; Spooky Nighttime Adventures: $20 per person
Monster Mash – Crown Heights
Friday, October 24-Saturday, October 25
Every October, the Brooklyn Children's Museum throws a spooktacular bash for young ghosts and goblins. Best for the under 8 set, Monster Mash features a museum-wide scavenger hunt, face time with creepy critters, scary storytimes, magic lessons, crafts and live holiday-themed entertainment by shadow puppet troupe Cave Dogs and Brooklyn-based band Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino. Each evening ends with a dance and costume party. Advance tickets are recommended. In advance: $12; at the door: $13
Halloween Haunted Walk and Halloween Carnival – Prospect Park
Saturday, October 25
Prospect Park's Lookout Hill is usually a serene setting. But in honor of Halloween it's overtaken by zombies, wolf men, headless horsemen, and witches both good and bad. Although it's all in ghoul fun, the spine-tingling hike might be a bit too much for sensitive tots. So families with very young children may want to go straight to the Nethermead for a Halloween carnival featuring games, treats and other fun. FREE
Ghouls & Gourds – Crown Heights
Saturday, October 25
Head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a seasonal celebration with a whimsical twist. March in a costume parade led by giant puppets and kooky stilt-dancers, groove to live music, dance with human-size woodland creatures, meet local children's book authors, and try your hand at Brussels sprout bowling on the garden's gorgeous grounds. Free with admission: $10 for adults, free for children under age 12
Halloween Parade & Pumpkin Flotilla – Harlem
Sunday, October 26
This is Central Park's sole Halloween celebration this year since its annual Pumpkin Fest has been canceled. Famliies can enjoy seasonal crafts, not-too-scary stories, live music and a pumpkin carving demo. At dusk, watch as a fleet of jack-'o-lantern are set afloat on the Harlem Meer and join the joyful costume parade around the northeastern edge of Central Park. Want your carved pumpkin to be part of the sail? Read our event listing for important info on size, weight and other restrictions. This festive community affair becomes more popular every year so arrive early and expect crowds! FREE
The Haunting of Ichabod Crane – Upper East Side
Saturday, October 25 and Sunday, October 26
Get ready for an interactive ghost story! Trusty Sidekick Theater Company's immersive Halloween show at the Park Avenue Armory was inspired by Washington Irving's iconic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Brave tweens can get a creepy peek at what really happened to poor put-upon school teacher Ichabod Crane. Journey from the Revolutionary War battlegrounds of Manhattan to the scary Sleepy Hollow without ever leaving the building. $6
Halloween Celebration at the American Museum of Natural History – Upper West Side
Friday, October 31
Although there are lots of cool places to trick-or-treat in NYC, for young children nothing beats doing it in AMNH. In the past, my husband and I have volunteered to give out candy at this annual celebration so I can attest to how much fun it is. The kids score lots of loot as they wander the decked-out halls, and they can burn off the sugar rush grooving to tunes by David Grover & the Big Bear Band, and Louie Miranda and Subanda, watching The Big Apple Circus' Dr. Finklestein’s Zombie Show, making crafts, and meeting Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Bring your own trick-or-treat bags. Advance tickets recommended. $12
BAMboo! – Fort Greene
Friday, October 31
Before you go out trick-or-treating, hit the Brooklyn Academy of Music's annual fest, which offers a virtual trip around the world this year. Details are still being worked out but the themed outdoor block party always features candy, a costume contest, carnival games and live performances. FREE
Halloween 313 – Clinton Hill
Friday, October 31
Every year, a group of creative folks (including lots of theater design pros) transform the house at 313 Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn into a Halloween main stage with a one-night-only, one-of-a-kind, over-the-top creep show for all ages. This year's 20th anniversary production is called Nightmare on Clinton Avenue and it's a good old-fashioned ghost story/murder mystery that's actually a throwback to the original 1994 show. Watch these clips from previous shows for an idea of what to expect and then hightail it out there on All Hallows' Eve. Families come from all over the borough (and even across bridges and through tunnels) to see this unique spectacle. The performances take place approximately every 30 minutes outside the house from 5:30 to 9pm. It's always mobbed so arrive early to get a good spot. FREE
Park Slope Civic Council Children’s Halloween Parade – Park Slope
Friday, October 31
There are a heck of a lot of Halloween parades in NYC, including the overwhelming one in Greenwich Village. But if we had to pick our favorite for families, it would be the annual procession in Park Slope that ends at the Old Stone House, where the party continues with live music, dancing and romping in the adjacent J.J. Byrne Playground. FREE
Bonus: Best Halloween Day Trip
The Great Jack-O' Lantern Blaze – Croton-on-Hudson
Select evenings through Sunday, November 16
This event is actually my family's No. 1 Halloween activity—but it's not in NYC! It is, however, a short drive or train ride away from Manhattan, and makes for a great seasonal day tip. For 28 nights in October and November, families can marvel at more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack-o'-lanterns displayed all over the 18th-century grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor. In addition to traditional pumpkin heads, there are huge dinosaurs, snakes, giant spiderwebs, creatures from Greek and Roman mythology and a menagerie of life-size animals, all cleverly assembled from carved pumpkins (both organic and synthetic). Plus there are themed pumpkin patches like a beehive, an aquarium and a huge pumpkin cake in honor of the Blaze's 10th anniversary. Eerie sound effects and mood lighting enhance the experience. Although the carvers spend months creating these sights, you only need about 45 minutes to take it all in. Check out our slide show and in-depth review of the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze from a few years back. Tickets started selling out weeks ago so if you want to go, get your timed tickets now. Saturdays: $25 for adults, $20 for children ages 3-17; other nights: $20 for adults, $16 for children ages 3-17
Find many more ways to celebrate the season in our jam-packed Halloween Guide.