10 Towns You Need to Visit If You Love Halloween
Grab a map and a broomstick — it’s time to visit the best family spots for Halloween!
All across America, there are small villages and bustling cities that share our love of Halloween celebrations. We gathered a list of Halloween towns that bring their own magic to the season with one-of-a-kind celebrations, historic gatherings, and delightful new traditions.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is alive in this New York town, especially as Halloween approaches. In October, Sleepy Hollow offers literary events at the cemetery of author Washington Irving, where they read his story of the town driven insane by the Headless Horseman. While the Sleepy Hollow events are not recommended for little kids, the whole family will appreciate the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze and shadow puppet shows.
When: The full month of October
Explore the Halloween-themed pumpkin houses at Autumn at the Arboretum surrounded by 90,000 colorful gourds. This larger-than-life event in Dallas, Texas features breathtaking pumpkin towers and artistic designs that pull inspiration from childhood stories like "The Wizard of Oz" and "Peter Pan." In addition to appreciating the one-of-a-kind pumpkin displays, be sure to stop and enjoy the live music and family-friendly activities every weekend of this fall festival.
When: September 21 - October 31
St. Helens, Oregon
For Halloween movie magic, look no further than St. Helens in Oregon. In 1998, the small city became the well-recognized set of the Disney Channel movie series, “Halloweentown.” Each Halloween since, thousands of “Halloweentown” fans have gathered along the Riverfront District to celebrate the Spirit of Halloweentown with photo ops with cast members and ghostly walks through downtown St. Helens. The town, which is about 30 miles northwest of Portland, also served as the backdrop for several scenes in the 2008 vampire film, “Twilight.”
More recently, cast members for the six-season NBC show, “Grimm” appeared at local bars and restaurants in town because the TV show featured several Portland homes. Tina Curry, the event director for City of St. Helens, said the show’s Oregon backdrop in the final season inspired her to invite the Grimm cast into Halloweentown for their own magic this year. “It was the stones on our waterfront, they look so amazing that made me think of Grimm immediately,” she said.
When: The Spirit of Halloweentown begins October 1
The famed location of the Salem Witch Trials makes this Massachusetts town the harrowing place to remember the 17th-century accusations of witchcraft. Each year, the town draws people around Halloween who are reminded of the history through the Salem Witch Museum, which is open for extended hours in October. Others in town celebrate Halloween by offering palm readings and psychic events throughout the month.
When: The full month of October
Half Moon Bay, California
Along the coast of Half Moon Bay, California, pumpkin aficionados gather in the self-proclaimed World Pumpkin Capital to see Volkswagen-sized pumpkins compete in the annual weigh-off. The 2017 winner, Joel Holland, crushed the competition with an impressive 2,363-pound pumpkin and is expected to defend his title in 2018 against veteran pumpkin growers eager to contend for the $30,000 world record prize.
When: The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival takes place October 19–20, 2019
In the “Halloween Capital of the World,” this Minnesota town happily embraces its title as “the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks.” The family-friendly tradition began in 1920 after local town leaders sought to deter Halloween mischief by planning the annual Anoka Grand Day Parade and other community activities. Head to the Grand Day Parade to see floats from all over the midwest; if you're in town the Friday before, you can also watch Anoka's youngsters parade through the town in their Halloween costumes.
“The community's ongoing commitment to the celebration is clearly reflected in year-round planning that includes citizens of all ages,” said Representative Bill Luther in 2002. “In this way, the Halloween celebration is a unique civic asset and Anoka certainly lives up to its title as Halloween Capital of the World.”
When: The Anoka Grand Day Parade takes place October 26, 2019
Channel your inner Great British Bake-Off this October during the Great Pumpkin Bake-Off Contest in Nekoosa, Wisconsin. Competitive bakers can enter their pumpkin-based recipes in one of five categories: pumpkin pies and cheesecakes, cakes and cupcakes, bars, cookies and candy, or muffins and breads. The treats will be judged based on taste, originality, and presentation. The winner earns $200, a plaque, and baker’s bragging rights for the whole year. If you need help choosing a recipe to submit, find inspiration from one of our BHG test-kitchen-tested pumpkin desserts.
When: October 6, 2019
It’s no secret why people love attending Kansas’ “Neewollah” celebration (the name is Halloween spelled backwards) during the last week of October. The annual festival in Independence, Kansas boasts family fun runs, a chili cook-off, and multiple parades to entertain the whole family.
When: October 18-26, 2019
If blood curdling screams and eye-popping monsters are a Halloween favorite, consider the annual Screamfest Horror Film Festival, which invites filmmakers to compete for top horror honors: the skull award. While the event isn’t for the faint of heart, you might just catch a Halloween classic while you’re there. Previous films showcased at the Screamfest festival include "Paranormal Activity," "The Collection," and "Dark Was the Night."
When: October 8-17, 2019
Stephen King drew inspiration for the 1977 novel “The Shining” during a visit to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The 110-year-old venue inspired King’s fictional Overlook Hotel, which was later depicted in the famed horror movie by the same name. The hotel will host murder mystery dinners, a masquerade ball, and The 2018 Shining Ball during this Halloween season, as well as its regular Night Spirit tours that introduce guests to “active phenomena and spirit folklore.”
When: Now through December 31, 2019