Halloween in New York City is celebrated extravagantly—unsurprisingly—with spooky haunted houses, ghost tours, cursed bars, and what's said to be the world's largest Halloween parade. Whether you're staying in Brooklyn's trend-forward Williamsburg neighborhood or amid the florescent lights of Times Square, All Hallow's Eve in NYC is destined to be a delightfully hellish affair.
In 2020, Halloween falls on a Saturday, warranting a whole weekend of spooks and thrills. However, many of the below events have been canceled or altered this year. Check the websites of the organizers for updated information.
Everyone loves a parade—even ghosts, goblins, and other assorted ghouls. Manhattan's legendary Village Halloween Parade is the highlight of New York City's spooky season. Now nearly 50 years running, it features around 50,000 "costumed participants" (puppets, performers, and average Joes in fancy dress) and is watched by an additional 2 million spectators. Anyone can join in on the procession: Just show up to Sixth Avenue and Canal Street on Halloween evening and follow the masses north. 2020's theme would have been "Big Love! Big Embrace!" but the event has been canceled. The organizers have promised to surprise its fans with a "treat" closer to the date. "Our Halloween treat will be spontaneous and unannounced and unique to our night Parade," the website says.
Visit New York City's Best Halloween Costume Shops
Whether you plan to attend the Village Halloween Parade or another party in town, you'll want to dress the part. Costume shops abound in New York City, each of them mini treasure troves of sartorial trinkets. Whether you're looking to put together your own outfit with vintage and secondhand finds or pick up something easy and off-the-rack, you'll find it at The Abracadabra Superstore, a magic shop and bottomless costume reserve that calls itself "the world's most unique store," or Early Halloween, a renowned vintage clothing rental and styling house. Screaming Mimi's, Frank Bee Costume Center, and Gothic Renaissance are good bets, too.
Seasonal haunted houses in New York City tend to occupy big warehouses, like Blood Manor—comprising 10,000 square feet of themed rooms, corridors, and maze-like passageways—and the beloved Nightmare NYC immersive theatrical horror experience, now titled "I Can't See." If artificial ghosts and ghouls don't thrill you, chase the real thing at the supposedly haunted Morris-Jumel Mansion, The Dakota (from "Rosemary's Baby"), or the so-called House of Death on West 10th, home to a whopping 22 ghosts. Many haunted houses will remain closed during the 2020 season.
Speaking of local establishments with a history of frights, there are a number of bars and restaurants in Manhattan that are reportedly haunted. For instance, you may encounter the ghost of a sailor named Mickey while sipping your old fashioned at the 1817-era Ear Inn in SoHo, or brush shoulders with the specter of poet Dylan Thomas during your visit to the White Horse Tavern, where he reportedly died after taking 18 whiskey shots. The iconic Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal is said to be haunted due to its history as a police utility closet and jail. Most of NYC's ghostly bars are set in historical buildings dating back to the 1800s.
Go on a Ghost Tour
Those seeking a more curated experience can uncover Manhattan's hair-raising history via a guided ghost tour of New York City's spookiest mansions, museums, parks, and buildings. The Morris-Jumel Mansion, said to be haunted by its former residents, runs its own bi-monthly paranormal investigations in which participants learn how to use electronic paranormal detective equipment to communicate with the dead. Boroughs of the Dead hosts tours of Roosevelt Island, aka the "Island of Lost Souls," where a notorious asylum and prison once stood. Alternatively, you can embark on a nighttime tour of the Merchant's House Museum—long haunted by the Tredwell family who used to live there—by candlelight. In 2020, many tours have been put on hold.
Humans aren't the only ones who like to undergo transformation and howl at the moon on Halloween night. The canines of New York City like to dress up and parade around town, too, and they get the opportunity to do so at the annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. Hundreds of dogs dressed in tutus, capes, and clown outfits vie for thousands of dollars in prizes in this free-to-enter competition and procession, cited as "the largest dog costume parade in the world" by CNN. In 2020, the event has been canceled.