13 Halloween Destinations to Die For
With April 30 looming ominously on the horizon to mark the “Halfway-to-Halloween” changeover, the time to start plotting your ultimate Halloween getaway is now.
Where will you be October 31? (And acceptable answers simply will not include sitting at home, thank you!) Some cities just “go bump in the night” a little louder than the rest, but the reasons will vary.
So ask yourself, “What really puts the chill in my spine?” Whether you’re looking for famous haunts, delectable spirits, theatrical attractions or good old fashioned wholesome fun with the family, the following 13 locations will have you screeching happily into the wee hours of November.
Top Paranormal Hotspots
(Or should we say coldspots?)
American history is fraught with bloody wars, witch hunts, legendary crimes and other dark happenings that have created more than a few paranormal legends. Unsurprisingly, many of these locations have become Halloween hotspots coldspots for believers and skeptics alike.
While it’s hard to choose, the following sites offer bone-chilling histories worth checking out.
#1: Gettysburg, PA
Perhaps now more than ever, the ghosts of Gettysburg are out to play. One-hundred and fifty years since the bloodiest battle in American history to the year, 2013 marks a most auspicious anniversary for both historical and paranormal communities.
It’s not every year that a clock comes full circle on the loss of 51,000 American lives at a single site, after all! With paranormal theories coming to light, could the spiritual energy so often reported on these most hallowed of grounds be more active during landmark anniversaries? Only those who visit Gettysburg this year can say for sure.
Boasting site names that are now legendary including the Jenny Wade House, Triangle Field, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and the Gettysburg Orphanage, there is certainly no shortage of eerie sites to visit in this legendary town. Just please remember to be respectful of the locals – both living and dead!
#2: Galveston, TX
Just a single web search will give you a strong inclination for Galveston’s ghostly reputation. Even hotel reviews from the city lament the uncannily active temperament of the region. “They didn’t tell us it was haunted,” reads one 2006 review of a popular hotel in the area.
Another site reporting on the activity, GalvestonGhost.com, even writes, “Galveston, TX is the best kept secret in Texas, and in my opinion the country; especially when it comes to hauntings, ghost, and spirits.”
So what exactly makes Galveston such a spinning gyre of reported paranormal activity?
First off, it’s an island (isolation seems to always add some type of fear factor, if nothing else). Tack on the Great Hurricane of 1900 where, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred” and you get a sense for the great breadth of the disaster.
Claiming the lives of at least 6,000 people, the perfect storm for paranormal activity clearly hit Galveston 113 years ago. Should they invite you over for a visit?
#3: Salem, MA
Salem is a name synonymous with Halloween in the United States. While the witch hunts predominantly plaid out in Europe, this once little-known community experienced an event that marred and changed its reputation forever.
Nothing hurls a town into the collective memory faster than a witch-hunt, and between 1692 and 1693, one such witch-hunt gripped this woodsy region of Massachusetts in terror-stricken madness. According to SmithsonianMag.com, a staggering 200 people were accused of witchcraft in Salem before at last, 20 people were executed. Truly, a dark hour in American history, today the city remembers the fallen.
The witch-hunt is remembered in Salem annually, first in reverence, and second, for what is hard to ignore as clear affinities to the festivities of Halloween. Indeed, family fun, terrifying stories, plays, tours and events await any who dare to brave the streets of Salem in October. Just remember, this isn’t light history and thus, should not be treated lightly.
Top Party Locations
Perhaps all you’re after this Halloween is a delectable brew – and we’re not talking about something that witches cook up in their cauldron. For ghouls in search of the best spirits, these cities have a lot to offer for partygoers.
#4: Las Vegas, NV
Hey party people—have you ever heard of a little place called Las Vegas? As you might imagine, Vegas does it right one Halloween; even dedicating a page on LasVegas.com for “Howl-O-Weekend” (which is currently being repopulated).
Even without Lady Luck in your favor at the slots, you’re sure to have a ruckus time in Sin City. Pay the Las Vegas Halloween Parade a visit or check out the Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball, and you’ll get a big taste for what Las Vegas is all about on Halloween in no time.
#5: New Orleans, LA
Surely, the city that throws Mardi Gras every year is on every partier’s hit list. Add in an eerie reputation for voodoo, occultist rituals and a generally rich spiritual culture and no Halloween destination list is complete without New Orleans, LA.
The Big Easy is anything but on Halloween. Living out four days of Cajun debauchery that’s made the city legendary, this Halloween hullabaloo (which is listed as #4 on Askmen.com’s Top 10: U.S. Halloween Party Destinations) boasts a host of events, including the Ghoulish Gala at Hotel Monteleone, the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club Vampire Ball and the Endless Night Festival, among countless others.
Seriously, if you need convincing that New Orleans is a howl of a time on Halloween; you clearly haven’t been to NOLA.
#6: Greenwich, NY
For partygoers in Greenwhich Village, NY, the raging party that lights up the night each year is clearly something of a regional spectacle.
Again we simply must agree with the judgment of AskMen.com, who writes, “It's no surprise that the enclave of New York's trendy crowd throws the biggest, most visually dazzling public Halloween celebration on the planet. No less than 42 bands belt out the soundtracks to dancing puppets, wild floats, and 35,000 parade participants. Featured in the book 100 Things to Do Before You Die and voted "The Greatest Event on Earth for October 31" by Festivals International, you'll see why two million revelers flock there each year.”
Top Trick-or-Treating Destinations
When it comes to trick-or-treating by the numbers, deferring to the experts at Forbes will serve you well. After all, they did all the footwork collating real-estate data for you.
By looking at real-estate data from Zillow’s – to maximize candy returns without doing too much walking (kids have short legs, after all) – the following cities and neighborhoods topped the Forbes list (for trick-or-treating, of course)
#7: San Francisco, CA
Not only is San Francisco often touted as one of the most haunted cities in America, it is apparently built for some darn good trick-or-treating. According to Forbes, the following neighborhoods should surely be on the itinerary if you are in the area:
- Presidio Heights
- Cow Hollow
- South Beach
- Sea Cliff
- Pacific Heights
There is no harm in getting the biggest bang for your buck, and these neighborhoods are sure to satisfy the sweet tooth of your youngsters while keeping their footsies fresh from fatigue.
#8: Boston, MA
Considering the inescapably historical nature of Boston, there is a little something for everyone in the City on a Hill. While the kiddos certainly won’t dive into the history with as much glee as most parents and tourists, they are sure to light up at the sight of these top Forbes trick-or-treating neighborhoods:
- Beacon Hill
- Back Bay
- North End
- South End
#9: Honolulu, HA
Who doesn’t want an excuse to go to Hawaii, really? This fall, the following neighborhoods are your best bet for paying out dividends on the island state according to Forbes:
- Kuliouou-Kalani Iki
Remember, “Aloha” may mean both “hello” and “goodbye”, but nothing says “give me candy” quite like “Trick-or-Treat”!
Top Haunted Attractions
Perhaps you enjoy a good fright, but would feel safer in the fuzzy-warmness of a totally controlled environment. Who can really blame you – ghost hunting isn’t for everyone!
For those in search of a good scare with a specific start and stop time, these haunts are sure to do the trick!
#10: Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride and Pennhurst Asylum Haunted Attraction
For the goriest, scariest, blood-curdling-est time in the realm of Haunted attractions, look no further than the clan at HauntedHouseMagazine.com.
For anyone familiar with haunted attractions – hay rides, haunted houses, controlled ghost tours, corn mazes and everything between – it’s hard to argue with the locations on their list. Atop their list, The Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride and Pennhurst Asylum make tantalizing destinations.
At The Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride in Pennsylvania, expect nothing less than 200-year-old forests creaking in the fall wind. Add some moonlight, a spooky soundtrack and pyrotechnics and it’s easy to see how the fright level climbs.
The Pennhurst Asylum, also in Pennsylvania, is a regular stomping ground for paranormalists and innocents alike looking for a scare on Halloween. But enter at your own caution. Marred by 100 years of dark history, this abandoned mental hospital just may house more than old equipment and cobwebs!
#11: Spookywoods, High Point, NC
Another list that’s easy to get behind is the voter generated list of America’s Best Haunted House Directory at HauntedHouseRatings.com. Topping their list, Spookywoods in High Point, NC is sure to get your teeth chattering.
Situated on a 60 acre farm, Spookywoods has been in the business of scaring your pants off for nearly 3 decades.
“We have year round events like our Kersey Valley zip line tour and Kersey Valley outdoor laser tag.” write the folks at Spookywoods. “During the fall months we open our massive Maize Adventure corn maze, gem panning and pumpkin patch.”
#12: The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
Just to be fair, the third attraction on our list comes from none other than the folks at Travel Channel. Come on, these guys produce Ghost Adventures – surely they know a thing or two about ghostly attractions.
With 12 floors of horror in a single massive ship, one has to wonder (or perhaps hope?) that there is a 13th floor squirreled away somewhere reserved only for the most tortured of souls. Or perhaps this fixation with the number 13 is erroneous and scares can come in twelve’s.
Whatever the case may be, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA is sure to add some excitement to your night this Halloween! Choose from seven mazes, a 45,000-square-foot “Dome of Doom” and anything else you can stomach on this horrific journey to nowhere.
The Tippy-Top: Ghosts with the Most
#13 Savannah, GA
Since you can only really be in one place this Halloween, perhaps the most haunting experience can be found on the famed cobbled streets of Savannah, GA. To put the tingle back in your spine - look no further than this historical, and historically haunted, locale.
Savannah is often said to be a city caught in time. It’s a place where the modern and historic worlds collide and the feeling is thick in the air. Search for “America’s Most Haunted City” in your web browser, and you will be hard pressed to not find Savannah topping most lists.
Author Alan Brown explores the haunted energies in Savannah in Haunted Georgia: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Peach State. Pointing to the presence of piracy and slavery in the early years of Georgia’s statehood, it becomes clear that such dark energies may have created bad juju in the region.
Brown points to famous haunts including the “Olde Pink House” on Abercorn Street, which was built in 1771 by James Habersham Sr. So notorious is the haunt, it even made an appearance on the Travel Channel show, Most Haunted Places: Savannah.
Amid countless other examples, stories and locations of repute, Jaime Moore of USA Today put it best by describing Savannah this way: “Savannah may look like a sweet Southern belle, but she keeps a dark secret. The city was built, literally, on its dead. Homes and buildings sit atop Native American burial grounds; roads cover forgotten cemeteries of slaves and colonialists. Over the years, bloody battles, massive fires, yellow-fever epidemics, and hurricanes have taken hundreds of lives, leaving behind unsettled spirits.”
No matter where you end up, this year is shaping up to offer a smorgasbord of ghoulish opportunities for every personality.
Already halfway-to-Halloween, the time to start plotting your course starts here.
Considering the 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, 113 years since the Great Hurricane of 1900 in Galveston and the auspiciously numbered year – 2013 – this could be a holiday that goes down in the hallowed annals of Halloween history. Choose your path wisely!
By Marlon Heimerl of HalloweenCostumes.com