The Best Destinations for Halloween: From Colonial Williamsburg to Venice, Unforgettable Halloween Experiences Await

2023-11-23 03:00:20 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Are you ready for a spine-chilling adventure this Halloween? Get ready to be immersed in a world of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins as we uncover the best destinations for Halloween around the globe. From the historic streets of Colonial Williamsburg to the enchanting canals of Venice, this article will take you on a thrilling journey to some of the most hauntingly delightful places on earth. Get ready to be captivated by the mysteries of Transylvania, amazed by the vibrant Derry Halloween Festival in Scotland, and thrilled by the spirit of Halloweentown in St. Helens, Oregon. Whether you prefer a colonial throwback or a modern fright fest, these destinations are sure to give you a Halloween experience like no other. So join us as we discover the world's most eerie and exciting locations, where every corner holds the promise of a spooky adventure.

A Colonial Halloween in Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia

Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Experience Halloween with a touch of history by visiting the Virginia communities of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. These areas, part of America's Historic Triangle, offer a range of Halloween events suitable for the whole family. Younger children can enjoy the haunted settings and trick-or-treating at Jamestown's Family Frights or hear ghostly stories while celebrating fall in Yorktown. For a more immersive experience, visit the Haunting on D.O.G. Street in Williamsburg, where you can participate in a Halloween-themed museum talk. If you crave even more scares, head over to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg for Howl-O-Scream, an annual event featuring haunted houses, scare zones, and live entertainment. Please note that the theme park is kid-friendly until 5 p.m.

Boyne Valley, Ireland

Andrea Pucci/Getty Images

What better place to celebrate Halloween than in the birthplace of the tradition itself? Ireland's Boyne Valley is steeped in history, dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. People used to wear costumes during this festival to protect themselves from ghosts, a practice that continues to this day. Ireland now celebrates Halloween with festivals throughout the month of October, including the Púca Halloween Festival, which honors the Celtic new year with music, art, and plenty of sweet treats.

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA

Coupeville, located on Whidbey Island in Washington state, is a charming town that may look familiar to fans of the movie Practical Magic. While the iconic white house in the film was a set built for the movie, the stores and downtown area of Coupeville still retain their unique character. This picturesque town is the perfect destination for witches and lovers of the spooky season. Just remember to leave your boyfriends at home for a safe and enchanting experience.

Derry Halloween Festival

As someone who has done multiple road trips in Ireland, I have developed a soft spot for the country. However, I have yet to attend the famous Foyle Halloween Carnival in Northern Ireland's Derry (also known as Londonderry). Similar to the Samhain gathering in Scotland, this festival, known as the Awakening, is the largest Halloween festival in Europe. It attracts hundreds of thousands of spooky season lovers each fall with its Carnivale, fireworks, costume contests, tasty food, music shows, and other events. The combination of fall foliage and rain in Ireland creates the perfect eerie atmosphere for a Halloween party.

Bourbon Street Lafayette Cemetery

Edinburgh, Scotland

October is a magical time to visit Edinburgh, Scotland. The narrow, dark alleys of The Royal Mile and the iconic Canongate Cemetery are just a few examples of the spooky corners this city has to offer. During Halloween, Edinburgh hosts the annual Samhuinn Fire Festival, a celebration of Samhain, an ancient Celtic winter festival. While in Edinburgh, take a Guru Walk tour to learn about the city's ghost stories and explore historical sites. And for all the Harry Potter fans out there, make sure to visit the various locations in Edinburgh that inspired the magical world of Hogwarts.

Estes Park, Colorado at the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is both creepy and beautiful. This fall, I took a trip to the Boulder and Denver area and made a detour to visit the iconic hotel that inspired Stephen King's The Shining. It's one of the best places to experience a truly haunted Halloween. You can explore the hotel on your own, but I highly recommend taking a ghost tour to learn about the haunted rooms and hear chilling stories about the property's history. Don't miss the nighttime Shining tour for an extra spine-tingling experience. If you're feeling brave, you can even book one of the haunted rooms, with room 217 being the most notorious.

Forks, Washington

For a double whammy of fall fun, head to Forks, Washington, and take a tour of all the Twilight filming locations. Last fall, I explored Olympic National Park and enjoyed the beautiful fall foliage. Autumn also provided the perfect backdrop to embrace all things Twilight and vampire-related in the local area.

Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts

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October is the peak season for tourism in Salem, Massachusetts, and it's easy to see why. The city hosts Haunted Happenings, an annual celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. Rather than being organized by a single entity, the event is a collection of timely Halloween festivities suitable for all ages. Join Salem Horror Fest for a mix of classic horror films, lectures, and appearances by iconic horror figures. Immerse yourself in the city's witchy past and present with The Festival of the Dead, or participate in the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade presented by the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of the chilling adventures you seek, you're sure to find them in Salem.

Halloween Capital of the World in Anoka, Minnesota

Courtesy of Anoka Halloween Capital of the World via Facebook

While New Orleans may be known for its haunting history, it doesn't hold the title of the "Halloween Capital of the World." That distinction goes to Anoka, Minnesota. This self-proclaimed title is well-deserved, as Anoka is believed to be the first city in the United States to organize Halloween festivities back in 1920. The annual celebration features a Grand Day parade, a nighttime parade, house decorating contests, a bonfire, car shows, blood drives, pumpkin weigh-offs, pumpkin carving contests, and even a pumpkin smashing event. Anoka's rich Halloween traditions have been going strong for almost a century.

Halloween at the Theme Park in Orlando, Florida

Orlando Sentinel / Getty Images

Orlando, Florida, has long been a popular destination for families, and Halloween is no exception. The city offers two noteworthy events: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World Resort. Halloween Horror Nights, running from early September to early November, is known for its haunted houses, scare zones, attractions, and live entertainment. While it may be too intense for young children, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World Resort offers a more family-friendly experience. Kids can enjoy trick-or-treating, meet Disney characters, watch stage performances, and end the night with fireworks.

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong knows how to throw a good party, and Halloween is no exception. While you won't find trick-or-treaters roaming the streets, you'll still be able to experience the festive spirit throughout the city. Both Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park host Halloween events that rival their counterparts around the world. Additionally, Lan Kwai Fong, the city's renowned party district, usually offers a plethora of Halloween happenings. Please note that due to the pandemic, some events may be subject to change.

Kawasaki Halloween Parade in Japan

If you're a fan of dressing up for Halloween, you must attend the Kawasaki Halloween Parade in Japan at least once. This massive parade brings together locals and visitors who showcase their creative and artistic costumes. With a serious costume contest and a prize of ¥500,000, participants go all out to impress. So, make sure to come prepared with an unforgettable costume.

Kersey Valley Spookywoods Haunted Attraction in Archdale, North Carolina

Courtesy of Kersey Valley Spookywoods Haunted Attraction

For nearly 40 years, the Kersey Valley Spookywoods Haunted Attraction in Archdale, North Carolina, has been thrilling visitors with its ever-changing themes. The attraction takes inspiration from the town's history, which dates back to 1881, and offers a foundation day celebration each autumn. During Halloween, visitors can explore the town further by venturing into the funeral home, butcher shop, pumpkin patch, and other spooky locations that promise surprises and scary sights.

Knott's Scary Farm in Buena Park, California

Courtesy of Knott's Scary Farm

Knott's Scary Farm in Buena Park, California, claims the title of the largest Halloween attraction in Southern California. With almost 50 years of history, this immersive event continues to innovate year after year. The farm offers 15 attractions, including scare zones, mazes, and rides that take you on a terrifying journey throughout the park.

London, England

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London provides the perfect setting for an epic Halloween season. The city is filled with ghost stories, and the Tower of London is the ultimate spot to immerse yourself in the spooky atmosphere. As the place where notable figures like Anne Boleyn met their demise, the Tower is said to be haunted by their lingering spirits. While you can tour the Tower of London at any time of year, it takes on an extra eerie vibe in October. Consider joining a Twilight Tour for a truly chilling experience.

New Orleans, Louisiana

If you've ever wandered the streets of The Big Easy, you know that New Orleans has a special atmosphere. The city is rich in history and has a hauntingly beautiful quality. It's no wonder that a Halloween trip to New Orleans is a fantastic idea. Halloween night in the city is filled with events, parades, and plenty of Halloween fun. Join a voodoo ghost tour to delve into the city's dark history, and don't miss the vibrant parties on Bourbon Street. New Orleans truly comes alive during Halloween.

Screenshot from Practical Magic movie.

Oaxaca, Mexico

In Mexico, there is a special holiday called Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead. It is celebrated annually on November 1 and 2. During this time, families have the opportunity to welcome back the souls of their deceased loved ones into the mortal realm. The doors open at midnight on Halloween and remain open for 24 hours to allow the souls to visit their families.

To honor these departed souls, families create elaborate altars adorned with marigolds, candles, sugar skulls, and photographs of their loved ones. Many people also paint their faces in intricate sugar skull designs, which symbolize the souls of the departed.

This festival, which has been taking place for over 3,000 years, is a hauntingly beautiful sight. I have always been eager to witness it in person and experience the view of the altars and the sweet scent of marigolds in the air.

While Day of the Dead celebrations occur throughout Mexico, Oaxaca is particularly famous for its vibrant festivities. Another city that is popular for experiencing and participating in the celebrations is Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

If you're unable to travel to Mexico, you can still enjoy a massive Day of the Dead festival in San Antonio, Texas. Notably, San Antonio is also home to the Emily Morgan Hotel, which is known as the third most haunted hotel in the world!

Paris, France

If you're looking for a Halloween event that exudes sophistication and style, Paris is the place to go. Known as the City of Lights, Paris may not have the same trick-or-treating atmosphere as other places, but it does have an equally significant holiday called La Toussaint, or All Saints' Day. This day serves as a remembrance for friends and family who have passed away and is celebrated on a national and Catholic level.

Similar to the Day of the Dead in Mexico, families in Paris honor their loved ones by visiting their graves and adorning them with flowers. The city also hosts lighthearted events, including parties at Disneyland Paris and Le Manoir de Paris, which is known as one of the biggest and coolest haunted houses in Europe.

Prague, Czech Republic

As the expat community in Prague grows, Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular holiday in the Czech Republic. While trick-or-treating is not widely practiced, the city's gothic architecture creates an atmosphere that is both romantic and spooky. Prague even boasts a torture museum, which offers a more terrifying experience than any artificial haunted house.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Día de los Muertos is a deeply meaningful celebration in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Although it is a festival associated with the dead, it is by no means a horror show. Instead, it is a way for people to honor and keep the spirit of their loved ones alive.

The celebration spans two days, during which families decorate the graves of their deceased relatives and create ornate altars in their homes. Travelers can join in the festivities by participating in parades and parties that take place throughout the town of San Miguel de Allende.

Screams Halloween Theme Park in Dallas, Texas

Located just outside of Dallas, the Screams Halloween Theme Park is a must-visit for fans of fright. The park offers five haunted attractions, including Zombie Wasteland… Apocalypse, Cursed… The Witches of TerraMythica Castle, Klownz in 3-D, Hotel D'Feers, and Time's Up… Maze. Alongside these spooky experiences, visitors can also enjoy Scary-Oke, a haunted rendition of karaoke, and engage in games of skill like paintball.

Scotland

Scotland shares strong historical ties with Halloween. In fact, the name Halloween itself originates from the Scottish version of "All Hallows' Eve." While there are various events and celebrations held across the country to honor the day, one notable experience is the Ghost Trail. This trail consists of 15 locations scattered around Scotland that are believed to be some of the most haunted spots in the world. Additionally, the Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh provides a captivating conclusion to the Halloween festivities.

Spirit of Halloweentown in St. Helens, Oregon

For fans of the cult classic film Halloweentown, a visit to St. Helens in Oregon is a must. This charming city served as the main filming location for the movie, and in honor of its legacy, St. Helens hosts a month-long celebration called the "Spirit of Halloweentown." The festivities include the Lighting of the Great Pumpkin, haunted tours, costume contests for both people and pets, face painting, parades, movie screenings, parties, and much more.

Telluride Horror Show in Telluride, Colorado

Although it may not be the first location that comes to mind for Halloween celebrations, Telluride in Colorado offers a unique horror experience. The Telluride Horror Show, founded in 2010, is the state's first and longest-running film festival dedicated to the horror genre. The festival showcases a variety of films in genres like dark fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, dark comedy, and thriller. Guests can expect over 20 feature films, more than 60 short films, special programs, events, and industry guests. It truly encompasses the wide scope of what horror films have to offer.

The Catacombs of Paris, France

Deep beneath the streets of Paris lie the catacombs, the resting place of over 6 million people. These bone-filled passageways create a uniquely eerie atmosphere that is perfect for Halloween. Visitors to the catacombs can experience the darkness, the still air, and the distinct earthy smell that accompanies these underground chambers. Exploring the catacombs is especially enjoyable in the fall when Paris is less crowded and the autumn foliage adds to the spooky ambiance.

The Louisville Zoo Halloween Party in Louisville, Kentucky

The Louisville Zoo hosts the "World's Largest Halloween Party," offering a fun-filled Halloween experience for kids. In addition to free activities like themed areas inspired by children's movies and books, visitors can enjoy encounters with Mumpkin the Giant Talking Pumpkin, explore a giant hay maze, admire artistically carved and lit pumpkins, and indulge in free donuts and warmed cider from the Meijer food truck. There are also optional paid activities, including face painting, train rides, carousel rides, and a walk-through guided attraction to find the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

Transylvania, Romania

Transylvania, located in central Romania, is widely regarded as one of the best places to celebrate Halloween in Europe. With its medieval towns, picturesque mountains adorned with vibrant fall foliage, and famous castles like Bran Castle, which is associated with the legends of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, Transylvania offers a truly enchanting Halloween experience. Travelers can visit Bran Castle to learn more about its history and explore the charming streets of Brașov during their visit.

Venice and Borgo a Mozzano, Italy

While Halloween may not be widely celebrated in Italy, there are pockets of ghoulish fun to be found. Venice, for instance, is known for its ghostly associations, particularly on the haunted island of Poveglia. Poveglia was once a quarantine zone for plague victims and later served as an insane asylum, creating an atmosphere rich in paranormal activity. For Halloween festivities, the town of Borgo a Mozzano, just north of Lucca, hosts a massive annual celebration on the Devil's Bridge.

Village Halloween Parade in New York, N.Y.

The Village Halloween Parade in New York City is an iconic Halloween event that attracts millions of spectators and tens of thousands of participants. Created in 1973 by puppeteer Ralph Lee, this parade is not only the largest Halloween parade in the world but also a vibrant display of costumes, entertainment, and performances. Spectators can enjoy the procession of creatively dressed participants, while those wearing costumes have the opportunity to join in the parade. Special theme and band sections are available for those who want to enhance their parade experience.

West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval in Los Angeles, California

The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval is an annual event that has been held since 1987. This free public celebration takes place along Santa Monica Boulevard, covering a one-mile stretch between North Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard. It serves as a gathering of costumes, entertainment, and performers. While it is not recommended to bring children and pets due to the dense crowds, there are family-oriented options available, such as the Boo at the Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Youth Halloween Carnival at Plummer Park, and the Howl-O-Ween event.

Note: All images are reproduced from the original article and may not be visible here. Please refer to the original article for accurate visual representation.

Whether you're looking for a Colonial Halloween experience or the thrill of exploring haunted attractions, these destinations have something for everyone. From the historic streets of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown in Virginia to the spooky happenings in Salem, Massachusetts, and the enchanting vibes of Venice and Borgo a Mozzano in Italy, Halloween enthusiasts can indulge in a variety of experiences around the world. Whether you're seeking a terrifying adventure or a family-friendly festivity, these destinations promise to make your Halloween memorable and full of eerie excitement. So grab your costumes and prepare for a Halloween like no other in one of these incredible locations.

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