Halloween in America is one big party! The holiday purportedly first took hold in the United States during the 1840s, but some historians point to Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) as proof that the holiday took hold before this time, possibly as early as the late 1700s. By the turn of the 20th century, Halloween, as we know it today, had already started to take shape. Our list of the top five best U.S. cities for Halloween is a collection of spooktacular parties for Americans of all ages.
Built from a hodgepodge of diverse parts, Halloween is one such tradition that has been continually reinvented since its ancient origins as a Celtic pagan ceremony. The Celts lived in what’s now Ireland as far back as 500 B.C. They celebrated New Year’s Day on Nov. 1, which they called Samhain. They believed that, leading up to the transition to the new year, the door between the worlds of the living and the dead swung open. The souls of the recently dead, previously trapped on Earth, could now pass to the underworld. Since they thought spirits came out after dark, this supernatural activity reached its peak the night before, on Oct. 31. The Celts invented rituals to protect themselves during this turbulent time. They put on costumes and disguises to fool the spirits. They lit bonfires and stuck candles inside carved turnips—the first jack-o’-lanterns—to scare away any spirits looking for mischief. If all else failed, they carried a pocketful of treats to pay off wayward spirits and send them back on their way to the underworld. Sound familiar?
Today, Halloween has evolved into a widely celebrated holiday that combines elements of ancient folklore, religious practices, and modern-day festivities. It has become a time for people to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, and indulge in spooky decorations and themed parties. While freshly fallen auburn-colored leaves and costumed children filled with joy can bring smiles to all of us on the final day of October, we all know what Halloween is really about. (That’s the treats, and not the tricks, of course.) Bringing home a bucket overflowing with the best Halloween candy in the neighborhood is a must!
During the Halloween season in particular, it seems that everyone wants in on those loaded sacks of candy. According to a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. parents with children between the ages of three and 15, 66 percent of respondents have stolen candy that their kids collected while trick or treating. So, why not load up on candy in some of the best U.S. cities for Halloween? Our sources helped us “scare up” a ranking of the top five locations for costumed fun! Let us know your favorite cities for Halloween festivities in the comments below!
The List: Best U.S. Cities For Trick-or-Treating, According to Experts
1. Salem, Massachusetts
Home of the infamous witch trials of 1692, Salem is an American city suffused with the essence of Halloween. Everyone from occult enthusiasts to U.S. history buffs eagerly enjoy the festive offerings of one of America’s spookiest cities. Via Travelers praises the small-town vibe of modern Salem, “Salem tops our list. It is among the best places to be during Halloween, especially since the celebrations here last an entire month… Salem attracts visitors who want to experience haunted places, witchcraft, and magic. Luckily, you can tour the Salem Witch Museum for a better look into this dreadful period. When visiting, there are a few attractions you don’t want to miss. These include Burying Point Cemetery, The Witch House, Proctor’s Ledge, and Howard Street Cemetery.”
Country Living writes, “Back in 1692, the infamous Salem Witch Trials were held in this tiny New England town. Hundreds of years later, the area’s witchy ties still draw herds of visitors—especially around Halloween. The community hosts hundreds of events every October, including festivals, balls, and tours.”
Martha Stewart adds, “October is when Salem is at its peak for tourism so it’s no surprise that there are a number of events for you to enjoy. Haunted Happenings is an annual celebration of Halloween and fall in New England; individual events aren’t organized by one entity but rather by a collection of timely Halloween festivities for every age… Whatever frightening adventures you seek, you’re bound to find it in Salem.”
2. Sleepy Hollow, New York
The famously haunted location and home to America’s specter, the Headless Horseman, Sleepy Hollow draws annual crowds seeking a fright. This typically quiet town starts to buzz each October. The Storage Space explains, “Located just a 30-mile drive north of Manhattan, Sleepy Hollow is best known as the setting of Washington Irving’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’ Halloween is when the village springs to life, with activities for every age, including haunted hayrides, mansion and cemetery tours, farmers markets, live music, street fairs, parades and runs, and visits from the Headless Horseman himself.”
“Take a tour of the historic cemetery by lantern light to learn about Irving and other notable citizens, or head over to the historic Philipsburg Manor, which is converted into a terrifying haunt known as Horseman’s Hollow. If pumpkins are your thing, don’t miss the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze which features over 7000 carved gourds, the Museum of Pumpkin Art and a pumpkin windmill,” says Lonely Planet.
“Sleepy Hollow remains sleepy pretty much all year round, but come October, it becomes a major hub for all things Halloween-related, with the Headless Horseman, of course, being a huge part of the celebrations! All throughout October, the streets of the village get adorned by spooky Halloween decorations and become bustling with parades, haunted hayrides, live music, and storytelling,” according to Anna Everywhere.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
After Mardi Gras, Halloween is NOLA’s biggest annual bash. The rich history of supernatural happenings and hauntings make an October trip to “The Big Easy” a must for Halloween lovers. Mindful Travel By Sara chimes in with more, “Did you know that New Orleans is known as the most haunted city in the United States? It goes without saying that it’s one of the coolest places to visit for Halloween in the world. The combination of its [haunted] reputation and all its… paranormal tours will make your Halloween experience truly unforgettable.”
“New Orleans has some of the largest Halloween street parties in the US. If you want to join the fun, we’re sure you’ll have no trouble tracking down a costume or two from the stores to rock out. Finally, New Orleans hosts the largest LGBTQ+ Halloween gatherings in the U.S., so if you’re part of that community, it may be worth heading to the city,” adds Attractions of America.
“Often considered one of the spookiest cities in America, New Orleans shows off its haunted hotels and official “Krewe of Boo” parade during the Halloween season. Little ones can also enjoy the Museum Mash, with fun games at the Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Halloween Spooktacular Family concert with spooky music and ornate costumes. For a spookier adventure, tag along a ghost tour in the historic French Quarter,” according to U.S. News and World Report.
4. Anoka, Minnesota
Anoka is host to one of the Nation’s most renowned Halloween festivals. They also boast the Nation’s oldest Halloween Parade dating back to 1920. Travelmarket Report offers more information, “About a week before Halloween, the city hosts a Light Up the Night parade. Then, on Halloween weekend, locals and visitors alike dress in costumes and walk in the famous Grande Day Parade. Other events in October include costumed Bingo nights, the coronation of the new Anoka Halloween Ambassador, and a house decorating contest.”
“Known as the ‘Halloween capital of the world,’ this lively community has made it its mission to provide everyone with fun ways to celebrate the holiday since the 1920s. Special events were originally planned to prevent teens from stirring up trouble in the neighborhood, but nowadays, troves of volunteers organize scarecrow contests, scavenger hunts, runs, bonfires, and parades galore,” writes Country Living.
“Featuring the Grande Day parade and nighttime parade, other events feature a house decorating contests, a bonfire, the Anoka Classic Car Show Spooktacular, the Blood Mobile Blood Drive created as a way to give back after two siblings were saved by the blood donations of others, a Pumpkin Weigh-Off, a pumpkin carving contest for kids, and a pumpkin smashing hosted by the City of Anoka’s Waste Reduction & Recycling Board in an effort to curb pumpkins from the landfill,” adds Martha Stewart.
5. Estes Park, Colorado
This quiet Colorado town hosts a slew of Halloween events centered around the famous Stanley Hotel, from the infamous Stanley Kubrick film “The Shining” based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The Storage Space describes the some of the appeal, “Estes Park is a quaint mountain town with a lot of supernatural elements to it. Take guided ghost tours (both at the hotel and beyond), bring the kids trick or treating at businesses on Elkhorn Avenue, or simply book a room on the extra-haunted top floor of the Stanley and watch ‘The Shining’ on loop all night on the TV, which the hotel ‘graciously’ provides for free.”
“Top places to stay when visiting Estes Park in Colorado include: The Stanley Hotel – It’s pretty evident why Stephen King loved the Stanley Hotel and included it in his famous novel ‘The Shining.’ This 142-room hotel is said to be home to ghosts, and folks have reported witnessing supernatural occurrences. The Oxford Hotel – Stay at the Oxford Hotel if you want to encounter ghosts and spirits in the rooms and hallways. This 125-year-old hotel is shared in many ghost stories by Estes Park residents,” according to Via Travelers.
“Visitors can get into the Halloween spirit by attending the Shining Ball or a murder mystery dinner hosted at the hotel. Also fun: On Halloween night, everyone in the community skips door-to-door visits and heads to Main Street for trick-or-treating,” adds Country Living.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Halloween Costumes
- Best Halloween Candy
- Best U.S. Cities for Oktoberfest
- Best Oktoberfest Beers
- Via Travelers
- Country Living
- Martha Stewart
- The Storage Space
- Lonely Planet
- Anna Everywhere
- Mindful Travel By Sara
- Attractions of America
- U.S. News and World Report
- Travelmarket Report
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.