Darkness falls across the world on October 31st, ushering in a night of Halloween thrills and chills. The pagan festival of Halloween was first celebrated in Ireland 3,000 years ago. Today, the Gaelic festival is celebrated with freaky fun that includes wild halloween events, carved pumpkins, trick-or-treating, ghost tours, parades, and more. While there are plenty of haunted places around the world for year-round spooks, take your terror to the next level at these 12 places that go all out for Halloween.
There’s no place like New York on Halloween. The annual Village Halloween Parade is a massive public participatory event in which anyone dressed in a costume can march in the parade in Greenwich Village. The free parade is the largest Halloween event in the world with over 2 million spectators and 60,000 costumed marchers, including puppeteers operating oversized puppets and a dance group of zombies that performs Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller dance.
What was once the most expensive prison in the world, is now the ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary, a popular place to explore year-round, but even creepier in October thanks to special programming. Halloween Nights includes four scary haunted houses, a psychedelic walk-through experience, three performances, four themed bars and lounges, plus the chance to explore the former home of the notorious prisoners like “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.
There’s plenty of dark fun in Amsterdam, including Amsterdam Halloween: Amsterdam’s largest annual Halloween party on October 29th. If creepy history is more your thing, don’t forget to visit the macabre Amsterdam Dungeon. Built over a medieval cemetery, the dungeon is a thrilling live show and attraction that will whisk you way back into the Netherlands’ past. See, hear, feel and (ahem) smell the chillingly amusing characters of the ‘bad old days’ as they come to life before you. During Halloween, guides lead spine-chilling, 75-minute ticketed tours in English and Dutch that are sure to scare the wits out of you.
Halloween’s origins are in pagan Ireland, so it’s fitting the Emerald Isle is one of the best places to celebrate Halloween. Some 3,000 years ago, Samhain, the precursor to Halloween, was a festival celebrated to mark the beginning of winter. Today, Halloween celebrations from coast to coast include the Púca Halloween Festival a folk festival of myth, music, and food in Meath and Louth on the East Coast, and Derry Halloween, Europe’s biggest Halloween celebration in the walled city of Derry on the banks of the River Foyle in Northwest Ireland.
While the fifth of November is reserved for Guy Fawkes Night to commemorate the foiled plot of Roman Catholics, including Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, Londoners also celebrate Halloween. The English capitol is filled with old-school haunts like the Tower of London (one of the most haunted places in the uk), where revelers can learn about the tower’s bloody past, and pubs and clubs hosting Halloween happenings.
Halloween lovers have months to celebrate Halloween in Orlando thanks to theme park Halloween events in Central Florida. Mature park-goers can enjoy 28 nights of frights at SeaWorld Orlando’s Howl-O-Scream and 10 haunted houses, five scare zones, and two live shows at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando. Younger visitors can get in the Halloween spirit with fun-for-all-ages events like the daytime SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular and the nighttime Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
The town that hosted the Salem witch trials in 1692 attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its Haunted Happenings each October. The Haunted Happenings includes a month of eerie and enchanting events like a psychic fair and witches market, broom making, zombie walk, ghost tours, witch costume parade, children’s costume ball, Howl-o-ween Pet Parade, the annual Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel and The Dumb Supper: Dinner with the Dead, and Halloween fireworks over the North River.
For centuries, the Scottish have celebrated All Hallows’ Eve, which is rooted in the Gaelic festival of Samhuinn. Edinburgh’s Samhuinn Fire Parade is a spectacle of fire play and drumming to usher in winter that is not to be missed. Other ways to celebrate Halloween in the Scottish capital include embarking on one of the city’s many ghost tours and strolling Scotland’s Ghost Trail, which includes two haunted spots in Edinburgh.
Home of the mythical Headless Horseman, the historic Hudson Valley is the place to explore The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other Halloween haunts in October. Beginning in early fall, Halloween fans can admire the intricate pumpkin carvings at New York’s famous fall festival: the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, which features over 7,000 hand-carved, illuminated pumpkins arranged in elaborate displays on the grounds of the historic 17th-century Van Cortlandt Manor, a Revolutionary War-era manor that is now a museum.
Find yourself immersed in the fabled home of Count Dracula at Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania. The historic Romanian castle rose to fame thanks to Bram Stoker’s 19th-century novel, Dracula. The fang-tastic museum is filled with art and furniture collected by Queen Marie, the last queen of Romania. If you visit in 2022, you’ll find a special exhibit on the making of Stoker’s Dracula. Add this mysterious place to your Halloween bucket list…if you dare.
The town in Southeastern New Mexico made famous by the 1947 Roswell Incident, the crash of a flying saucer (the U.S. military maintains it was a weather balloon) that crashed near a Roswell ranch in 1947, is all the more spooky on Halloween. After a visit to Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center (one of the best things to do in New Mexico), you just might find yourself believing in aliens in this thrilling town that’s out of this world.
The Belgian capitol is a year-round Halloween haunt, but it’s all the more festive on Halloween. Get in a morose mood at the Fantastic Art Museum in Saint-Gilles, which displays fantastical, strange, and surreal paintings and sculptures and the creepy, dimly-lit bar Le Cercueil (French for “The Coffin”), where it’s Halloween every day. The bewitching bar has coffins for tables and Halloween-themed brews in skull-shaped mugs.