Halloween is, without a doubt, the best holiday ever. Christmas and Hanukkah are cool, sure, but the stress of holiday shopping negates 60% of the joy the season brings. Thanksgiving is great, but a) you’re forced to spend time with people whose company you don’t necessarily enjoy, and b) think of all those poor turkeys. New Years is pretty rad but way too cold if you’re in the wrong part of the country. And Easter, with all its giant rabbits and psychedelic eggs, is mostly just confusing. But Halloween–now there’s a holiday. It’s fun for the sake of fun. To some, “fun” may seem an empty and superficial basis for a celebration, but I think it’s at least honest. What could be better than eating candy, partying with friends, carving pumpkins and dressing like an imbecile for no reason at all? In anticipation of the world’s greatest holiday, here’s a list of the 10 best Halloween celebrations across the US.
Half parade, half party, this massive Halloween event shuts down over a mile of 6th Avenue in Lower Manhattan. With 2 million annual visitors, 50,000 of which are in costume, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is the largest Halloween celebration in the world. Dozens of bands, dancers, circus performers and floats cut a colorful path through Greenwich Village for what is America’s only nighttime Halloween parade.
West Hollywood Halloween Festival
While New York boasts the world’s largest Halloween parade, Los Angeles lays claims to the world’s biggest Halloween street party. The celebration’s 500,000 participants swarm Santa Monica Boulevard for food, drinks, music, dance and costume contests. West Hollywood’s Halloween celebration is renowned for its dazzling and elaborate costumes–we would expect nothing less from the film capital of the world.
I’m not sure exactly why the Louisville Zoo calls its celebration “The World’s Largest Halloween Party” when it is clearly not (unless they’re going by surface area?). Nonetheless, they throw a pretty fantastic Halloween bash. The event is extremely family-friendly and keeps the entertainment tame for the little ones. The zoo is decked out with costumed characters, storybook scenes and trick-or-treating opportunities for kids under 11.
Salem – Festival of the Dead
Where most other Halloween celebrations are purely fantastical, the Festival of the Dead in Salem blurs the lines of reality. As a town most famed for its 17th century witch trials, Salem now takes great pride in its macabre history. The Festival is a spooky month-long event series that examines our connection with the dead. Events include ghost hunting lessons, a psychic fair and witchcraft expo, seances and a vampire-themed masquerade ball.
Like Salem, New Orleans can claim some serious Halloween street cred. A favorite backdrop of Anne Rice vampire novels, New Orleans has an extensive history of voodoo practice and is often cited as one of the country’s most haunted cities. Combine its morbid preoccupations with a propensity for spectacle, and you have one the world’s most vibrant and festive Halloween celebrations. The four-day event is packed full of parades, dance parties and costumed revelry.
Long Beach – Queen Mary
Mix phony fiends and real-life ghosts aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. Once a WWII troopship, the Queen Mary now functions as a floating hotel with a penchant for the paranormal. As if the ship weren’t creepy enough, it is transformed into an extensive haunted maze during the Halloween season. When you’ve had your fill of scares, head over to the Dome of Doom for dancing or Purgatory Park for live music.
Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando is not for the faint of heart. Universal is usually extraordinarily family-friendly, but you might want to leave the kids behind for this one. The haunted houses and costumed characters are legitimately frightening. This year, attractions include zombies from The Walking Dead, an Alice Cooper-themed haunted house and scenes and characters from Silent Hill.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney World
While Universal caters primarily to teens and adults, its next-door neighbor houses a less-scary Halloween event for children. At Disney’s Magic Kingdom, guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up and partake in a number of family-friendly festivities. There are parades, fireworks, special costumes and trick-or-treating in abundance. Basically, it’s exactly how you would imagine a Disney World Halloween celebration to be.
Attracting 35,000 visitors every year, the Little Five Points Festival is the South’s crowning Halloween celebration. Participants gather for food, drinks, live music and dancing. There is also an artist market and eye-popping two-hour parade through the business and arts district. The celebration is open to all ages, though, as the night drags on, the family-friendly environment gives way to a more boisterous adult party atmosphere.
Las Vegas – Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball
Appropriately dubbed the “most adult of all the adult Halloween events in Las Vegas,” the Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball is a smorgasbord of erotic stage performances, dance music, fire spinners, lasers and lights. True to its hometown, the Ball may just be the wildest and most risque Halloween celebration known to man. Tickets are not cheap, and if you without a costume, you’ll pay even more. But if you want to indulge in the ultimate adult Halloween celebration, Vegas is the place to go.