The best places to celebrate Halloween in the US

While a large portion of the world considers Halloween to be largely for children, Americans of all ages take the holiday very seriously.

Starting as early as September, cities begin hosting their favorite eerie events designed to celebrate all things spooky, and most everyone takes part.

Visit these top destinations in the US during this haunted season and you’ll discover equal parts charming and creepy Halloween events everywhere you go; here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate all things ghostly, macabre and undead.

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The Annual Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, New YorkThe Annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York © Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Sleepy Hollow, New York 

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ first penned by Washington Irving in 1820, has permeated popular Halloween culture for literally centuries; lucky for us, the town at the center of the story is very real and comes alive for a month-long Halloween celebration. 

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. 

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A woman dressed in dark brown leather witch garments holds a wooden staff in front of a brick wall Visiting Salem during October provides the biggest opportunity to delve into the history of the town © xeni4ka / Getty

Festival of the Dead and Witches Ball, Salem, Massachusetts 

As the epicenter of the grim witch trials of the late 1600s, Salem, Massachusetts, sits at the heart of the country’s most visceral Halloween lore. Its heritage played a starring role in the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, and its fame has led people from all over to make the pilgrimage to this haunted spot year-round. 

Visiting Salem during October, however, yields a special type of energy, as the town embraces the year’s biggest opportunity to delve into its history. Take a candle-lit haunted tour of the city, visit the Witch Trials Memorial and the Salem Witch Museum, dive into the world of the unknown at the Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo, and top it all off by attending the annual Witches Ball, a masquerade held at the historic Hawthorne Hotel.

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Scout new ways to explore the planet’s wildest places with our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox. A large float with a huge Dracula figure at the front is illuminated by a strong of light bulbs. People dressed in elaborate costumes throw items off the float to people on the street. Krewe of Boo! is a Halloween celebration with a New Orleans twist © Paul Broussard / Courtesy of Krew of Boo!

Krewe of Boo!, New Orleans 

It’s no secret that New Orleans can throw a party like nowhere else, and the festivities aren’t limited to Mardi Gras in February. The city is widely regarded as one of the most haunted in the country, with ghost tours abounding throughout the year, so Halloween is a particularly important time in the Crescent City. Hit the Quarter during October for a supernatural celebration that really knows how to party – Krewe of Boo! brings Mardi Gras-esque flair to the spooky season. 

The parade features what New Orleans does best, with a ghoulish twist: hand-crafted floats, costumed bands, dancers and even beads (locally sourced and make an effort to be environmentally friendly). The Krewe also hosts an annual Zombie Run, where zombies take to the streets like a scene out of World War Z

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Immerse in the festive spirit at New York's Halloween paradeImmerse in the festive spirit at New York’s Halloween parade © Photo Spirit / Shutterstock

Rocky Horror Picture Show NYC and the Village Halloween Parade

Head to any US city with an art-house movie theater in October and you’ll find a live-action showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with costumes, props, callbacks from the audience and a full in-house cast shadowing the on-screen antics.

However, this take on the iconic stage show and film all began in New York City at the now-defunct Waverly Theater (now the IFC Center), consequently making the Big Apple the birthplace of a country-wide phenomenon. Join in the interactive fun with your own version of the ‘Time Warp’ on select dates around the city with the NYC Rocky Horror troupe.

While you’re in town, don’t miss the famous Village Halloween Parade, famed for its size and detail; watch as giant puppets make their way through the neighborhood and costumed revelers jam to dozens of ambulatory bands playing music of all genres.

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A Halloween-decorated public bus on the Seawitch Festival parade in Rehoboth Beach, DelawareA Halloween-decorated public bus on the Seawitch Festival parade in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware © Khairil Azhar Junos / Shutterstock

Sea Witch Festival, Rehoboth, Delaware  

Not all witches are land-dwelling – if your vibe skews nautical, don your seaweed and celebrate Halloween with your seafaring brethren at the Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth, Delaware. Festivities include Halloween staples like a parade and costume contest, but also ocean-inflected events like a haunted bonfire, coastal wildlife seminars, a trick or treat for kids on the beach and a scavenger hunt for the sea witch herself.

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