halloween activities

From people to pups, everyone can get into the celebration at these Halloween festivities. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Fun (and Not-so-Frightening) Halloween Destinations for the Whole Family

Around the country neighbors band together on Halloween to surprise and delight trick-or-treaters with front-yard graveyards, talking skeletons and, of course, the inevitable bucket of candy. Because the holiday tends to bring out the most creative — and most hospitable — in people, it’s a great time to get a genuine sense of a city that you may not normally experience as a tourist.

This year, why not pack up the kids and their costumes to sample what Halloween is like around the United States? You’re bound to make a few new friends and plenty of irreplaceable memories. Here are a few spooktastic cities worth the journey.

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The entire city and its suburbs offer plenty of fun for the whole family. For families with little ones, the Spruce Hill neighborhood hosts a scary-adorable Halloween Tot Parade, where residents offer cider and treats to the tiny princesses and bumble bees toddling their way down the tree-lined street in West Philly.

Down in Society Hill residents throughout the neighborhood decorate their houses to the hilt, and on Halloween afternoon, sit outside to meet and greet kids with treats and some pretty incredible DIY interactive holiday displays along Delancey Street. The festivities culminate at an informal neighborhood pizza party at quaint Three Bears Park.

Of course, you can’t miss the Eastern State Penitentiary for its annual Terror Behind the Walls Halloween extravaganza, one of the country’s largest haunted houses. For several weeks each year, the entire prison, which once counted Al Capone as one of its “guests,” opens its haunted halls to the public after dark.

Warning: This one’s not for the littles! Dark tunnels, uneven floors and actors that jump out of the shadows make this one perfect for your teens after their little siblings hit the hay.


halloween activities
Day of the Dead is a spooktastic way to celebrate. (Photo: Getty Images)

On the weekend before Halloween, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrate the city’s cultural diversity and host the annual Arts in the Dark festival and parade. The “artist’s holiday” features stunning displays, giant puppets, music and elaborate costumes in an after-dark event you’ll want to push bedtime back for.

Head over to the free Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) event at the National Museum of Mexican Art, where the entire museum is transformed into a work of art. You can get your face painted and eat traditional pan de muerto, traditional Day of the Dead bread. For more ideas, the local blog Chicago Kids is a great place to start as you plan your trip.

Boulder, Colorado

Fall is a beautiful season in this ever-sunny town in the Colorado foothills. During Halloween you can’t miss the Munchkin Masquerade, the town’s annual children’s parade down Pearl Street, where shop owners up and down Boulder’s main shopping street sit outside and offer kids treats as they toddle past.

Make sure to take a stroll through Boulder’s Whittier neighborhood as the sun goes down on Halloween. Residents of the community’s ornate Victorians and cozy bungalows (many of which used to house the town’s carpenters and woodworkers) go all-out and create funhouses out of patios, front lawns and entire floors of their homes.

Some displays are scarier than others, but kind neighbors try to spot your little ones and warn you if the block ahead might be too frightening for them.

halloween activities
Carve a pumpkin or show off your favorite costume. (Photo: Getty Images)

Park City, Utah

Park City’s Main Street goes to the dogs during Howl-O-Ween , the annual canine-centric Halloween festival, a tradition since 2001. The party begins in the early afternoon, when the street closes to car traffic and merchants hand out treats to two- and four-legged passersby.

You can stand on the sidelines and watch, but think about actually joining the parade at five o’clock, when dogs and their humans march down Main Street to land at the local watering hole Wasatch Brew Pub for post-parade refreshments.

You don’t need a furbaby to participate, or any baby at all, for that matter. Park City’s family-friendly Halloween welcomes neighbors and visitors no matter the size of their pack.

Irvine, California

You’ve been meaning to check sunny Orange County off your list anyway, so why not get to know the area in super-family-friendly Irvine? The town’s Pretend City children’s museum is decorated to the hilt and is a fantastic option for your littlest littles that may be a little too freaked out by some of the scarier neighborhood displays.

Your kids can dress up and go trick-or-treating through the museum’s small “City.” Also, the Irvine Park Railroad holds an annual Pumpkin Patch with face-painting, hayrides and, of course, a bounce house or two!