Halloween has grown from a one-day event into a major festive season, and almost every city, town, theme park, kids museum, and zoo has some themed fun throughout September and October. Many families take special trips to their favorite Halloween destinations. Here are our suggestions for top places to visit during the spookiest of seasons.
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New York City
New York City offers dozens of fun Halloween events for families throughout October, and October's a great month to visit the Big Apple. Weather can be lovely during the Columbus Day long weekend and families can find free or low-cost Halloween fun in Central Park. If you are in the city on October 31, join the crowds for the terrific Village Halloween Parade.
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Second only to Mardi Gras, Halloween in New Orleans is a culmination of a 300 year history delivering spooky experiences. Highlights include the Molly's at the Market parade, which winds its way through the French Quarter; the three-day Voodoo Music Experience concert series; and the awesome Boo at the Zoo at the Audubon Zoo.
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Salem is unique among the destinations here because its real-life history of the terrible Witch Trials of 1692. Salem nowadays replaces those old ghosts with happier ones, and puts on major Halloween celebrations: a 3-D haunted house, an annual carnival, ghostly tours, a costume ball, a Children's Costume Brunch, and more.
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Walt Disney World (FL)
Walt Disney World wows families every Halloween season with Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, a separate-ticket event held on select evenings in October and September in the Magic Kingdom theme park, one of four giant theme parks at Disney World. The focus is on fun instead of fright, and events are suitable for kids of all ages.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Disneyland Resort (CA)
The original Disneyland theme park in Anaheim offers Mickey's Halloween Party. During the seven weeks of Halloween Time, both of the Disneyland Resort parks—Disneyland and Disney California Adventure—are decked out for a cheerfully spooky and definitely kid-friendly Halloween celebration.
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Chicagoween takes place throughout October at Daley Plaza, with pumpkin decorating, circus-type entertainment, a farmers market selling pumpkins, and more. Late in the month, Daley Plaza becomes Franken Plaza for more spooky fun including a parade and costume contest, and this too is a free event. Don't miss special Halloween events at the Brookfield Zoo.
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Traverse City, MI
The hip Michigan lake town of Traverse City is fab in the fall, when prices drop and kids can go trick or treating downtown at the charming daylight Halloween Walk. Make a point of watching the hilarious Zombie Run (“the more blood and guts, the better!”) featuring over-the-top costumed participants who outdo each other every year. Afterward, leave time to explore the area's nearby vineyards, breweries, and beaches.
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LEGOLAND (FL and CA)
Families have both east and west coast opportunities to have Halloween fun at a LEGOLAND theme park designed for ages two to twelve. LEGOLAND Florida is located in Winter Haven, about an hour from Orlando; LEGOLAND California is a half-hour north of San Diego. Both have Brick-or-Treat events on weekends in October, with giant themed models made out of LEGO bricks, trick-or-treating, costume contests, dance party, and more.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Universal Theme Parks (FL and CA)
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood are icons of Halloween madness throughout October, but these events are not for little kids. Tripsavvy's theme park expert delivers this warning: "There are no age restrictions, but Universal doesn't skimp on the gross-out gore and advertises Halloween Horror Nights as being rated 'PG-13.' It's probably best to leave the younger kiddos at home." The night-time events are separately ticketed; during day-time, there's less scary Halloween-themed spookiness that younger kids can enjoy.
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Knott's Berry Farm (CA)
Just a few miles west of Disneyland in Buena Park, the deceptively named Knott's Berry Farm theme park transforms into Knott's Scary Farm for Halloween. Not only does this park offer killer roller coasters but is also one of the scariest theme parks for horror-type Halloween events. Tripsavvy theme park expert Arthur Levine notes, "Nobody would be refused admittance, but the Haunt is not recommended for children under 13 (or anyone else easily grossed out)." For families with younger kids, try the Snoopy's Costume Party daytime event that's included in regular park admission. The Halloween Haunt is a separate night-time ticketed event.
– Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher