In the last decade, Halloween in the USA has become the second most widely celebrated festival after Christmas. With the celebrations becoming a mainstream part of the American culture, the Halloween week turns into a period of spooky costume parties, storytelling sessions, fun events like pumpkin carving contests and other games that invoke community spirit. With Halloween approaching on 31st October, here is a round-up of places you can visit and other spooky things you can do in the USA to soak in the Halloween spirit.
Places to visit on Halloween in the USA
1 Salem, Massachusetts
Also known as the City of Witches because of the infamous witch trials in 1692-93, Salem is a hotspot for cultural Halloween events and activities in October. One can sign up for a complete Salem Heritage Walking Trail, use the Salem Trolley shuttle to visit major attractions or even explore famous monuments like the Satanic Temple, the Witch House and the House of the Seven Gables at their own pace on foot.
Tip: Apart from these mainstream attractions, the lighthouses dotted along Salem are very picturesque spots as well.
2 New Orleans, Louisiana
Famously known for the Mardi Gras parade, New Orleans has a peculiar vibrant culture that sets it apart from the neighbouring cities.
Party enthusiasts can attend the Endless Night Vampire Ball which is an all-night costume party for all things Halloween!
For those who would want to experience staying in a historic haunted place, the famous Andrew Jackson Hotel should not be missed. A major event on Halloween night is the spooky and colourful parade called the Krewe of Boo, almost comparable to the Mardi Gras.
Tip: One can even visit some of the famous haunted locations in New Orleans that were featured on the show ‘Ghosthunters’.
3 The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
This is the famous haunted hotel featured in the movie The Shining, based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King. The hotel opened in 1909 and has since then been hosting guests that come to visit the beautiful alpine areas of Colorado. Past guests, employees and even the owners have reported paranormal experiences in this hotel.
Tip: There is a special night tour organised by the hotel that takes its guests through the various haunted sites within the property premises.
4 The Mission District, San Francisco
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican festival celebrated to honour those who have passed away.
This festival is usually celebrated on 2nd November in conjunction with the festivities of Halloween.
But it holds a slightly personal significance for all the families that participate and make alters to honour their deceased relatives and friends.
On this day, multiple parades with live music and costume events can be witnessed and participated in. One can decorate alters and also participate in a variety of art competitions held throughout the celebratory week.
5 Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), Pennsylvania
Counted amongst the top haunted places in the USA, ESP was one of the largest prisons until 1971. It has since then been converted into a historic museum for the public. During Halloween, the famous ‘Terror behind the walls’ event is organised at ESP where the public is given day and night tours to the haunted spots and haunted art exhibitions within the premises. Numerous films, documentaries and TV shows from the horror genre have been shot at ESP. Visitors, guards and past inmates have reported seeing shadowy figures, hearing echoes and whispers and feeling heaviness within certain areas of the prison.
Also read: Disney’s Halloween plans for 2018
Activities to do during Halloween in the USA
Other than visiting haunted spots and attending costume parties around the neighbourhood, one can indulge in the following activities commonly organised during Halloween in the USA.
6 Go apple bobbing
This is a traditional game played during Halloween. The players are supposed to compete by grabbing the most number of floating apples from a tub of water, only with their teeth.
7 Visit a pumpkin farm festival
Since Halloween coincides with the harvest season, a lot of farms organise community events that include pumpkin farm tours, pumpkin competitions, costume events, tarot card readings and other activities.
8 Participate in carving Jack-o’-Lanterns
Famously used as decorative props during Halloween, Jack-o’-Lanterns are usually carved out of pumpkins and turnips that are harvested in abundance around Halloween. During the Halloween week, a lot of competitions are held where contestants carve out the most artistic and intricate Jack-o’-Lanterns.
9 Visit an amusement park or escape room
Many amusement parks organise Halloween themed attractions and events especially during the end of October. These events usually run throughout the night, post the usual closing hours of the theme parks. Playing escape room games with friends has also become a popular activity during Halloween in the recent years.
10 Attend a horror storytelling session
Horror story buffs can attend live storytelling and book reading sessions and marathons organised during the Halloween week. Multiple restaurants also have an open mic night on Halloween for horror storytelling. Alternatively, live theatre performances and musicals are also fun options to spend the Halloween night with friends and family.
11 Attend baking workshops to learn Halloween themed recipes
Halloween is the prime festival for sugary candies and baked goodies. One can try their hand at baking Halloween themed sugar crafts or savouries at workshops specially organised during this festival.
12 Learn folklore and legends about your neighbourhood
Halloween is the best time to learn a little bit more about the spooky history of one’s neighbourhood. Local libraries, community centres and tourist help-desks happily assist amateur horror enthusiasts in doing research about the paranormal and other legends about the city during Halloween.
13 Go on a Halloween food crawl
Right from blood lava cakes and gummy spiders to slow burning mac and cheese and batwing sundae ice-creams, Disney theme parks are by far the best places to eat magical and spooky food during Halloween. One should also definitely not miss out on the special pumpkin and apple pies and the more traditional soul cakes, Irish Colcannon and Boxty pancakes during Halloween season.
So this was a list of top places to visit and entertaining things to do if you are in the USA this October. Generally speaking, every American state has its own spooky legends and haunted spots to keep the Halloween spirit alive.
Hope you have a fun Halloween and most importantly, always be mindful and respectful while visiting any locations that may have a cultural or historical significance.