Ultimate Halloween Guide for NJ Kids: Parades, Pumpkins, Parties

Hit the streets for the Ragamuffin Halloween Parade in Hoboken. Photo by John Dalton
The best Halloween Celebrations for NJ Kids

It's that special time of year when all thoughts turn to candy, costumes, parties, and pumpkins. The weeks leading up to Halloween are filled with costume parades, harvest festivals, pumpkin displays, and plenty of FREE Halloween happenings.

Whether your kids want to visit a haunted house, take a Halloween train ride, pick some pumpkins, trick-or-treat at the zoo, or parade through downtown streets dressed as their favorite superheroes, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best ways to celebrate—plus a list of drive-worthy day trips that offer up even more frightening fun.

So get your ghosts and goblins ready, fuel up on candy corn, and don’t forget to brush! Look to our Halloween Guide for even more frightening fun, and check out our Fall Fun Guide for seasonal activities beyond October 31.

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Festivals and Parades

Pick a pumpkin from the Pumpkin Patch Graveyard at Boo at the Boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Jenkinson's Boardwalk

Boo at the Boardwalk — Point Pleasant
Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21 & 27-28, 2018
Enjoy one last stroll down the Jersey Shore at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. Trick-or-treating, crafts, face painting, magicians, games, a beach maze, and pumpkin patch are all on the agenda during these two weekends of festive fun. See underwater pumpkin carving at Adventure Aquarium each afternoon at 2:30pm, and watch elaborately decorated jack-o'-lanterns race to the finish line during the Pumpkin Derby on October 27.

AddamsFest – Westfield
Friday–Sunday, October 26-28, 2018
The town of Westfield is going all-out for Halloween with this three-day festival, in honor of hometown cartoonist Charles Addams. The fun includes themed family activities, movie screenings, art exhibits and the AddamsFest Halloween celebration, with a trunk-or-treat, costume contest and parade.

Wildwood Trunk-or-Treat Block Party – Wildwood
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Wildwood Crest Pier hosts this fun trunk-or-treat event with music, refreshments, and a lot of candy. Register to take part with a decorated car, or just show up in costume to collect treats. FREE

Goblins in the Garden Family Festival – Camden
Saturday and Sunday, October 27-28, 2018
Calling all ghosts and goblins! Take your kid’s costumes for a test run at Camden Children’s Garden. Hop aboard a haunted train ride, meet creepy characters like the bumbling burglars roaming the gardens, and trick-or-treat during the costume parade.

Fall Fest – Holmdel
Select dates through Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Tons of twisty corn maze fun awaits at A. Casola Farms. In the daytime, have a blast with the five-acre corn maze, a petting zoo, pony and hayrides, and pumpkin picking. For the more daring—and perhaps older—audience, come back at dusk for a scary hayride to the Haunted Greenhouse, House of Horror, and Corn Walk of Fame. Daytime activities are held daily, while evening attractions are weekends only.

RELATED: Best Trick-or-Treating Neighborhoods for NJ Kids

Show up in your Halloween best for the Maplewood Village Halloween Parade. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

Maplewood Village Halloween Parade – Maplewood
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Maplewood’s time-honored tradition promises Halloween enjoyment for the whole family. Drawing crowds from neighboring towns, this event is the place to be in Essex County if you have little trick-or-treaters. The village streets close to traffic for an afternoon of trick-or-treating, music, prizes, and more.

Downtown Summit Trick-or-Treat – Summit
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Trick-or-treaters can stop by local businesses in downtown Summit and fill their bags with goodies. 

Trick or Treat at Physick Estate – Cape May
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Meet spooky characters while gathering treats at this Victorian Cape May mansion.

RELATED: Best Halloween Events for NJ Preschoolers

See amazing floats and cute costumes at the Ragamuffin Parade in Hoboken. Photo by John Dalton

Ragamuffin Parade and Costume Contest – Hoboken
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
This Hoboken tradition features local live music, floats, and, of course, lots of fantastic costumes. Wear your Halloween best, and you might just win a prize. To participate, line up at 12:15 p.m. on Washington Street between 13th and 14th Streets. The costume contest begins at 4:30 p.m. after the parade. Prizes will be awarded in five different age categories.

Toms River Halloween Parade – Toms River
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
If you attend only one Halloween celebration this year, make it this one. One of NJ's oldest and largest parades (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), the Toms River parade attracts more than 6,000 participants and thousands more who come out to watch the costumes, floats, and festive Halloween-themed attractions traveling down Main Street.

RELATED: 30 Free Halloween Events and Parades for NJ Kids

Bid farewell to your jack-o'-lantern at the Great Pumpkin Sail.

The Great Pumpkin Sail – Mountainside
Thursday, November 1, 2018
The celebration doesn't have to end on October 31! This annual tradition invites families to say farewell to Halloween by casting their jack-o'-lanterns onto the water. Watch as hundreds of carved pumpkins float along Echo Lake in an illuminated display. The evening's festivities include hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows, and songs around the campfire. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Hurry—it often sells out fast.

Museum and Zoo Events

Halloween Hootenanny – Cherry Hill
Friday, October 26, 2018
Halloween has taken over Garden State Discovery Museum, featuring crafts, dancing and trunk-or-treat in the parking lot. 

Zoo Boo 2018 – Paramus
Friday and Saturday, October 26-27, 2018
Celebrate Halloween with furry friends at Bergen County Zoo. Trick-or-treat throughout the zoo, plus enjoy magic shows, ghostly storytelling and a ride on the Eerie Express Train. Train rides cost an additional fee. 

RELATED: Halloween and Fall Foliage Train Rides for NJ Kids

Spend the night (and climb the walls) at Liberty Science Center's Spooky Sleepover.

Spooky Sleepover – Jersey City
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Spend the night at Liberty Science Center’s Halloween-themed sleep-in, perfect for families with kids ages 5 and up. This full night of scary-good activities and experiments includes measuring animal skulls to determine which has the best sense of smell, learning about brains and other organs, and trying to get through a maze that puts you up-close-and-personal with various spider species. All of this is in addition to LSC’s regular exhibits, a 3-D movie, live demonstrations, an evening snack, and a light breakfast.

Pumpkin Patch Day – Union
Saturday, October 27, 2018
No pumpkin yet? No problem! Head to Liberty Hall Museum for plenty of last-minute seasonal entertainment. This historic home, built in 1772 and once home to NJ’s first elected governor, hosts a special pumpkin patch event where kids can carve and paint their pick, while also enjoying hayrides and other crafts. Reservations are suggested, and kids under 3 are free.

Halloween Spooktacular at Morris Museum – Morristown
Saturday, October 27, 2018
There's tons of Halloween fun to be had at Morris Museum. Enjoy spooky science, crafts, a costume parade, and a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt.

Boo at the Zoo – Cape May Zoo
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The always-free Cape May Zoo offers games, candy, entertainment, inflatables, and all kinds of animals at this annual celebration.

Safe Howl-O-Ween – West Orange
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Bring your kids dressed in their Halloween finest with goody bags in hand to trick-or-treat among furry friends at Turtle Back Zoo. Stop at the candy stations that will be set up throughout the zoo, and hop aboard the train for a not-so-scary ride through the picturesque South Mountain Reservation.

Amusement Parks and Attractions

Dinosaurs After Dark – Leonia
Fridays and Saturdays through October 27, 2018
Take a trip to the dark side at Field Station: Dinosaurs' night time experience. On Fridays and Saturdays through October, the park is invaded by dinosaurs in costume, with a dinosaur sing-along and campfire. Reservations are recommended. The prehistoric park is also open during the day on weekends. 

Trick-or-Treat Weekend at Storybook Land – Egg Harbor Township 
Friday–Sunday, October 26-28, 2018
We can't think of a better place to celebrate Halloween weekend than at this magical amusement park. Your little princess or superhero will feel right at home walking through the wooded grounds, encountering characters from popular nursery rhymes and classic children's stories along the way. Kids receive a free trick-or-treat bag with paid admission to collect candy from 20 stations set up around the park.

RELATED: Harvest Festivals, Hayrides, and Fall Fair Fun for NJ Families

Celebrate with the Sesame Street gang at the Count's Halloween Spooktacular.

The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular – Langhorne, PA
Select dates through October 28, 2018
Enjoy pint-sized thrills and chills at Sesame Place, where the entire park is transformed into a Halloween haven. In between enjoying the theme park’s main attractions, check out three new spooky shows, paint a pumpkin, score treats at several trick-or-treat stations around the park, and hop aboard a mystery train ride. And you can’t miss the famous neighborhood street party, where your kids' favorite characters will parade down Sesame Street dressed in costume.

Pumpkin Train – Flemington
Weekends through Sunday, October 28, 2018
Board the Black River and Western Railroad's Pumpkin Train and get off at Pumpkin Junction, where kids can pick pumpkins in the field, explore a corn maze or hay-bale maze (for toddlers), take a hayride, visit a small petting zoo, and enjoy other games, refreshments, and activities. Allow 2.5 hours for the entire visit.

Six Flags Fright Fest – Jackson
Weekends through October 28, plus October 29, 30, and 31, 2018
As always, Six Flags is ready for Halloween. During the day, the attractions are little kid–friendly, with treat stations, costumed characters, and kooky but not-too-spooky magic and variety shows. Come nightfall, the scares intensify with terror trails and haunted attractions aimed at the 13-and-older set. And, of course, there are the spine-chilling rides, which are scary no matter what season is it.

Bane Haunted House – Livingston
Select dates through Wednesday, October 31, 2018
It just wouldn't be Halloween without a trip to a haunted house. Touted as the scariest in NJ, the Bane family's house is full of zombies and flesh-eating relatives, and daring visitors will have to climb through, over, and around what lurks inside. While Bane is not recommended for kids under 12, the younger set can enjoy Happily Haunted on Sundays afternoons, when littles are invited to trek through the house with the lights on.

RELATED: Top Pumpkin Picking Farms for New Jersey Families 

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is a can't-miss Halloween spectacle. Photo by Jennifer Mitchell/courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze – Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County
Select evenings through Sunday, November 24, 2018
Marvel at more than 7,000 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 dinosaurs, snakes, giant spider webs, the Headless Horseman, and a menagerie of life-size animals, all cleverly assembled from carved pumpkins. Eerie sound effects and mood lighting enhance the experience. 

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the events/venues.