16 of the Best Family-Friendly Halloween Destinations
Are you looking for a family-friendly place to celebrate Halloween?
How about taking a trip that will have you and your little ghosts and goblins reminiscing for years to come.
My fellow travel bloggers and I have worked hard to gather the top family-friendly locations to celebrate Halloween from New Orleans to Derry, Ireland.
Take out your costumes and luggage and get ready to be spooked with this list of the
16 Best Family-Friendly Destinations to Celebrate Halloween in the World!
St. Helen’s, Oregon
During any other month of the year, the small town of St. Helens is quiet and unassuming about forty-five minutes outside of Portland, Oregon. However, during October, St. Helens transforms into its dark alter-ego: Halloweentown. As the filming location for the Disney-classic Halloweentown, St. Helens honors its claim to fame each year by redecorating the town back into its film set. Props from the movie are lined up in the town square, and the mayor makes a grand speech every year at the start of the spooky season. On weekends, cast members from the movie always make an appearance to reminisce with fans of the movie. However, if you’ve never seen Halloweentown, there are still plenty of activities to do in St. Helens! There is a haunted house, clown performances, night ghost walks, and an extraterrestrial tour (complete with a truck ride through a strange abandoned mud pit). You can even take a photo-tour of the hit vampire franchise Twilight! The autumn hues of the trees in fall cover the town in red, orange, and yellow, and visitors of all ages stroll the streets in their Halloween costumes. Some weekends are themed, like the Festival of Faeries, so a local tip would be to dress on the theme to make the best pictures! For those traveling with a wheelchair, the main activities are all within a few blocks and they are all accessible. Service animals (with certifications) are allowed, but leave all of your other furry friends at home.
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Key West, Florida
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New York City, New York
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Appleton is a pretty cheerful town, chock-full of beauties, activities, and culinary joys in Outagamie County. Located in the north of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, it’s one of the best towns to celebrate Halloween, also known as the heart of the Fox River Valley. The city is indeed famous for featuring extraordinary performing art, fabulous shopping plus dining choices, and Halloween celebrations.
So, whenever you travel there, make sure not to miss out on the thrills, chills, and scares of Halloween alongside the town’s main attractions. There are also various things to do in Appleton, such as
• Hiking on the Fox Trot trail, besides downtown.
• Exploring the Bubolz Nature Preserve, the Fox River, Appleton Memorial Park, Butterfly garden, etc.
• Attending a Show at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
• Shopping at the Fox River Mall or the Farmers market. The distance between a major city of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Appleton is about 142 km (88 miles). But, the driving range from Milwaukee to Appleton is 173 km (108 miles). Apart from that, Appleton offers lots of festive fun and exciting Autumn activities to enjoy in the Halloween Season during October. If you’re further looking for family fun, you can either tour a pumpkin patch or spend the evening haunt-hunting with your companions. Moreover, Halloween in Appleton is overall magnificent, presenting numerous costume shops, like Party City, Halloween City, Dollar general, and more, giving you a perfect and unique Halloween experience.
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Salem is one of the premier Halloween destinations in the United States and for good reason. Home of the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Salem is one of the most haunted places in America. It definitely leans into that history being affectionately known as The Witch City. All throughout town you’ll find witch-themed shops and attractions year-round. However, Halloween is still a special time of year to visit The Witch City.
The entire month is full of different events throughout the city. Major events are found on the weekends, beginning, and end of the month. Highlighting the beginning of the month is the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade. This spooky parade runs through downtown Salem at night and ends with a party on the Salem Common. It’s great for families and even features a part of the route designed for those who are sensitive to flashing lights or loud sounds! The month wraps up with fireworks over the North River.
Salem’s attractions all do something a little special during the month of October. Make sure when you’re in town that you visit the Salem Witch Museum. The museum is cheap at just $13 for adults and is right across from the Salem Common. Its great central location means it’s easy to wander around Salem from here. Finally, if you’re wanting to pay your respects to those killed during the trials, visit the memorial located a short walk away off Charter Street.
Salem is a short drive from Boston, so make sure you plan a visit soon!
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Londonderry once known for the divisive Troubles in Ireland is now known for throwing the best Halloween Celebration in the world.
Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain on October 31, when the dead returned to earth before the start of a new year. Samhain (sow-in) is Irish Gaelic for “summer’s end”. The celebration came to America with the Irish diaspora during the great An Gorta Beag or famine when tens of thousands of Irish left for the shores of North America. This is when it became Halloween.
Derry’s fabulous Halloween festival began in 1985, at the height of The Troubles, down at Doherty’s bar they wanted to celebrate Halloween and invited everyone to dress up in costume for the event. A bomb scare disrupted the party, but the revelers took the celebration to the riverside and started a party that has grown into the LegenDerry Spirit celebrations we know today.
The ancient Derry walls are used for costume parades, live music, and some outstanding entertainment such as aerial ballet, acrobats, actors, and mimes take part in shows all around the walls. The bonfire flames rise into the night from the walls as you walk around the city watching the entertainment from above.
There’s stilt walking grim reapers, zombie pipe bands, dancing banshees, Draculas’ vampires, and even Ghostbusters roam the town waiting for the fireworks. Over the Foyle River which used to separate Derry, a spectacular firework display takes place at the end of the festival great blooms of color and light sparkle and dance in the air as Derry celebrates Halloween.
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With the sun shining and palm trees swaying, Orlando may not seem like the best city to celebrate Halloween in at first glance, but as the theme park capital of the world, it’s got some surprises in store for you.
Most years, you can visit the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a special ticketed event where guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters and go trick or treating around the park. And if it’s not running? Rest assured that all of the Magic Kingdom is decked out in Halloween cheer, with pumpkins and fall leaves galore.
If you want to kick the frights up a notch, you can find lots of thrills and scares at Universal Studios, which regularly hosts Halloween Horror Nights and is always looking for ways to make its visitors jump on Halloween.
The great part about Orlando is that this is the perfect time of year to spend outdoors, including visiting the farmer’s markets, going for walks and swan boat rides on Lake Eola, and enjoying the great temperatures. And fear not – there are plenty of pumpkin patches to be found!
Orlando airport is right in the heart of the city with easy access to all theme parks and visitor destinations.
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If you’re looking for a unique destination to celebrate the spooky season, consider spending Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky. The state’s largest city, Louisville is full of exciting Halloween activities to satisfy families looking for fun or groups of friends looking for frights.
One of the best things to do while spending Halloween in Louisville is visiting Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Waverly Hills is an old tuberculosis hospital that is said to be one of the most haunted spots in the world. Throughout the year, the site hosts historic tours of the hospital as well as overnight paranormal investigations. Around Halloween, Waverly Hills host one of the biggest and scariest haunted houses in the area. What would be more fun than celebrating Halloween in a haunted hospital?
Another fun (and family-friendly) Halloween event in Louisville is the annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. Each year, more than 5000 pumpkins are carved into incredible works of art fitting the theme of choice for the year. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a must-do for all ages.
Louisville is home to tons of wonderful restaurants and fun things to do that aren’t Halloween related as well. Make sure to spend some time wandering through the hip Nu Lu neighborhood or hit up some of the nearby distilleries on the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
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Harbor Springs, Michigan
Every fall and Halloween, it’s fun to travel to the small town of Harbor Springs, Michigan located near Petoskey. We enjoy visiting Pond Hill Farms for their fabulous pumpkins, warm donuts, sweet cider, and a community bonfire. The farm has a lovely café, winery, and brewery so it’s best to arrive in the late afternoon and stay well into the evening. The farm’s café has a wonderful farm to table options including sandwiches, wraps, and salads (the heirloom tomato and basil caprese salad is my favorite!).
Kids and adults alike love the very steep hill used as a pumpkin roll. The pumpkin roll has several obstacle courses that bring cheers and shrieks of delight when a pumpkin explodes upon impact. The farm also has several farm animals to see: last year we took some selfies with cute pigs!
As night falls, adults and kids gather around the bonfire with mugs of cider and engage in lively conversation. It’s a great way to celebrate Halloween each year!
Harbor Springs also has a community Halloween parade that draws all the locals to cheer on wildly dressed parade participants. You just might see people dressed as owls, tigers, Dr. Seuss characters, and lots of other imaginative costumes!
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Día de Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico
After the tremendous success of the movie Coco in 2017, Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday has gained popularity in the U.S. as well.
While this holiday is celebrated throughout Mexico, one of the best places to experience Day of the Dead is in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka), located about 6 hours south of Mexico City.
Unlike America’s somber funerary rituals surrounding death, Día de Muertos is a days-long celebration.
For two days each year, Nov. 1-2, many Mexicans believe the veil to the spirit world is lifted, and our departed family members return Earth-side to visit us.
The day before the holiday, Oct. 31, families & friends join together to create elaborate ofrendas (altars), filled with marigold flowers, candles, copal incense, photos of their loved ones, and whatever food & drink they would want to consume upon their Earthly arrival.
The ofrendas line the streets of Oaxaca City, and parades and processions make their way through town during the day & night.
Many processions end at cemeteries, which have also been decorated in the same manner as the ofrendas. Oaxacans encourage visitors & tourists to join in on the processions and celebrate the holiday right along with them.
In fact, the easiest way to enjoy the Día de Muertos in Oaxaca is to arrive with no plan! The whole city becomes one big party: so you just have to show up, walk around, and join in on the parades, dancing, singing, and city-wide merriment whenever & wherever you’d like.
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Saint Augustine, Florida
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New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the best US cities to celebrate Halloween because it’s one of the most haunted! Once controlled by the French then the Spanish, and once home to many European immigrants, Haitian refugees, and freed slaves, the population of New Orleans grew quickly. When there were multiple outbreaks of yellow fever, numerous fires, and devastating natural disasters, reports of hauntings and spooky stories became popular. Now, when you visit New Orleans (whether for Halloween or year-round), you can see interesting remnants of the past, like the above-ground cemeteries, historic buildings in the French Quarter and Garden District, and touches of French and Spanish influence in the architecture, food, and culture!
There is a lot to see for your first time in New Orleans, but the highlights include Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the French Quarter and Jackson Square, and a Mardi Gras museum. You absolutely have to try all the food as well. New Orleans has signature dishes like gumbo, po’boys, and my favorite: beignets! For Halloween, take a ghost tour of the city to learn more about New Orleans’ spooky history with detailed stories of haunts like the ghost of Muriel’s Restaurant, the ghosts of Pirate Alley, and the truth about the real-life killer, Madame LaLaurie, Also, be sure to check out Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street to shop for talismans, voodoo dolls, mojo bags, and tarot cards.
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Sleepy Hollow, New York
Sleepy Hollow, NY in the Historic Hudson Valley is located just 45 minutes north of New York City and it’s one of the best places to experience Halloween. You might recognize the name of this town from the famous old tale about the headless horseman known as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” which was a TV show and a movie featuring Johnny Depp.
For those who are into ghost stories and old tales, Sleepy Hollow has plenty of spooky attractions for you. You can take a graveyard tour as a guide tells you the legend of Sleepy Hollow. The tour leads to to the site where the headless horseman supposedly rose in search of his head, complete with spooky music and surprise appearances. The town offers haunted hayrides and a walk-through haunted attraction during this season.
If you want something less spooky, the Hudson Valley has plenty of family-friendly activities to celebrate the Halloween season. You can attend the Halloween parade (check dates) or book tickets to see The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze where more than 7,000 hand-carved jack o’ lanterns are placed in large and small structured, illuminated by candles (pictured here)
Note that some of the normal activities are not available this year due to the pandemic.
How to get there – Drive 45 minutes north from Manhattan on NY 9A or by train 1.5 hours.
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Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is one of the best cities in the US to celebrate Halloween. From Downtown Disney to Hollywood, there are many family-friendly Halloween events around town that are truly unique to Los Angeles.
For 2020, many of the city’s annual Halloween celebrations will go on as planned, but with modifications for social distancing.
For example, one of the most popular Los Angeles Halloween events each year is the Haunted Hayride at Griffith Park. This year the event will instead take place at Bonelli Park and will be a drive-up experience with multimedia effects and costumed characters.
On the westside, there will be a drive-in theatre screening family-friendly films such as Edward Scissorhands, Scream, Casper, and more.
Many local neighborhoods are putting together drive through trick or treating during the week of Halloween. In some cases, even socially distanced door to door trick or treating is also being arranged.
For a truly special Halloween, and local favorite, head to Downtown Disney for the always popular Disney inspired festivities.
In Downtown Disney, families can enjoy the Halloween themed decorations, music, dining, and of course, plenty of Halloween inspired treats. Little ones are welcome to arrive in costume.
Tip: Halloween is very popular with LA locals, both young and old. Be sure to pick up tickets for any ticketed events early, they will sell out.
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Savannah, Georgia, is one of those destinations you tend to fall in love with immediately. Whether it’s stepping on to River Street’s cobblestone streets, exploring any of the 22 public squares, or eating fried chicken at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, it’s easy to be swept up by its charm.
About four hours from Atlanta, Savannah offers the perfect mix of history, arts, and cuisine, and there is even a beach nearby — Tybee Island- located 20 minutes away.
Savannah holds the honor of being Georgia’s oldest city, so you can experience many “firsts” when visiting, like touring the Telfair Museums, the first public art museum in the South. On a fun note, Savannah is also the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. The home is now a museum and welcomes visitors.
The destination is also recognized as one of America’s most haunted cities. You have your pick of ghost tours, everything from walking tours to trolley tours and more; there is even a hearse driven one. But the hauntings don’t stop there. Let Bonaventure Cemetery’s app be your guide as you meander through the grounds. Opt to stay at a “spirited” accommodation such as the Marshall House or Kehoe, or dine among paranormal activity at The Pirates House or the 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant.
The trip isn’t complete without sampling Savannah’s culinary scene. From authentic Southern dishes to seafood and more, there’s something for all palates.
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Boston is hands-down one of the best cities to celebrate Halloween in the USA. This beautiful city is an absolute must-visit because of its ideal coastal location and true historical connection to the country. Plus, it’s filled with some amazing places to eat and things to do. It’s also only 3 hours away from New York City.
When visiting this city, you absolutely can’t miss visiting Boston Burger Company, one of the best restaurants in Boston. They serve huge, over-the-top burgers and milkshakes. One burger is even filled with mozzarella sticks, fried macaroni and cheese, and french fries!
Other fun activities in Boston include seeing the city from above from the Skywalk Observatory, exploring the inside of the Boston Public Library, and walking along Newbury Street. It’s also worth visiting the North End, venturing out to the Seaport, and walking along the Charles Esplanade. You truly won’t run out of things to do in Boston! If you have time, you could even take a quick day trip to Cambridge or Somerville.
If you’re lucky enough to visit around Halloween, you’ll find that there’s truly no shortage of events. Many of the more residential areas, like Somerville and Mission Hill, turn into great places to go trick or treating. A lot of the local pubs and restaurants also hold parties and large events that you won’t want to miss out on. If you want to see a true Halloween town, then take the trip 40 minutes north to Salem, which is one of the spookiest places near the city. Plus, it’s a great place to see fall foliage!
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