America's Best Towns for Halloween
When locals set up paranormal-searching equipment at the B&O Museum in Oakland, Maryland, they heard footsteps. And voices. “Is this hell?” the voice asked.
“None of the volunteers work in the museum alone at night anymore,” says B&O’s chairman, Terry Helbig. The haunted railway museum is just one of the reasons Oakland reserves a spot on the list of one of great American towns to spend Halloween. (For what it's worth, the area also has great Halloween hayrides and an annual autumn festival.)
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But there are many, many other towns that boast some amazing Halloween festivities, including pub crawls, pumpkin beer on tap, and late-night shows. Others take a more low-key, kid-friendly approach, hosting costume competitions for pets or autumn festivals with corn mazes and apple-wine tastings. Read on for the best places to celebrate, from Colorado to Tennessee.
Snowmass Village, Colorado
Skeletons and bones litter this Rocky Mountain town, specifically, the 150,000-year-old bones, teeth, and tusks from mastodon and mammoth fossils on view at the Ice Age Discovery Center. As you stroll down Divide Road, listen for the howls of wolves—or more likely, the sound of 250 mixed-breed huskies and malamutes employed by Krabloonik, a restaurant that offers dogsled rides. Snowmass Village also drew high marks for its friendly—and attractive—locals. Mingle over drinks at Zane’s Tavern.
Park City, Utah
Squirrels, bees, sheep with Bo Peep, and bratwursts with mustard on buns: these are a few of the elaborately costumed dogs that march with their decked-out owners in “Bark” City’s Howl-o-Ween street party. It’s part of the bewitching charm of this old silver-mining town east of Salt Lake. Park City Ghost Tours takes visitors hunting for spirits while sharing ghastly tales of their lives and deaths.
Pumpkin People in the Park turn up to haunt Kate Gould Park each October. Look for pumpkin heads and bodies dressed as lobsters, knights, scarecrows, pigs, pilgrims, brides, and even as the protagonist of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. The Saturday before Halloween, musicians join them for an Oktoberfest event complete with donuts, pumpkin bowling, and apple bobbing. When you head back to one of Chatham’s B&Bs—a favorite amongst travelers—just be sure to check under your bed before turning out the lights.
In 1788, the Golden Stage Inn was a stagecoach stop; once it was converted into an inn, owners spotted a ghost in the attic—a ghost that doesn’t want to leave. The current owners have noticed lights, televisions, and stove burners going on and off, and contractors and housekeepers say they’ve heard ghostly footsteps. To stay in the spirit, ahem, of the season, the innkeepers decorate the B&B as a friendly haunted house. It makes a convenient base for skiing at Okemo Mountain or picking up some 18th-century-like skills at the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts.
Princeton, New Jersey
Where do you prefer to meet ghosts: on an ivy-draped university campus, in a historic neighborhood, on a battlefield, or in a cemetery? The Princeton Tour Company supplies tools to both skeptics and believers on its various ghost hunts: electromagnetic-field meters, dowsing rods, thermal meters for sensing heat, and instructions on how to “take orb shots” using camera phones. For a more kid-friendly take on Halloween, stop by Princeton’s Terhune Orchards for pick-your-own pumpkins, a corn maze, and the Barn of Legends and Lore.
Halloween is as good an excuse as any to party in this resort town, which counts about 80 bars in a six-block area and claims the survey’s second-place title for attractive residents. It’s the one night that the private Caribou Club opens its doors to all comers—at least those in costume. Or you could spend the night out with Aspen Walking Tours, which offers Walk with the Dead and Ghosts, Murder & Mayhem tours.
Harbor Springs, Michigan
Harbor Springs is best known as a family vacation destination, and it’s easy to see why come Halloween. Every year, there's a Community Halloween Party where kids “Trunk-or-Treat” among parked and registered cars, and a childrens' parade with costumed school children. The fun gets started as early as October 3, however, with a patch of hand-blown glass pumpkins and a live pumpkin glass-blowing demonstration.
Bar Harbor, Maine
This town has nearly as many ghost stories as there are coves around Mount Desert Island. The white shapes of eight missionaries killed in 1613 are said to haunt Jesuit Springs; an orb of white supposedly materializes in a corner of the town’s funeral home; and ghosts of two women are rumored to slam doors and throw vases in a local inn. Even pets can get in the spirit thanks to Acadia Veterinary Hospital, which hosts a Halloween party with prizes for the best-costumed cats and dogs.
A classic New England church steeple towers over this Green Mountain town, where ghost-seekers carry candle-lanterns while listening to haunted tales on Stowe Lantern Tours each fall. At the Green Mountain Inn, for instance, legend has it that Boots Berry—who was born on site in 1840 and died falling off the top—now tap dances on the roof. And the ghost of a young woman jilted on her wedding day still roams Gold Brook Bridge. T+L readers also love Stowe's historic inns and the town's distinct sense of adventure.
Delray Beach, Florida
There’s no autumn crispness in the air here, but that makes it all the easier for children to show off costumes at the Halloween Parade and in Trick-or-Treat Along the Avenue. Afterward, families head to Kidsfest in Veterans Park for food, crafts, bounce houses, and live entertainment to complete their “spook-tacular Halloween.” It’s the kind of laid-back fun that attracts tourists to the beach town of Delray, whatever the season.
Winter Park, Florida
With a bustling Main Street, Winter Park is one of central Florida’s most historic towns. It embraces Halloween with events like Pumpkins and Munchkins in Shady Park, with bounce houses, games, a costume contest, and a Trick-or-Treat Trail. Rollins College holds an annual Halloween Howl featuring haunted houses, carnival games, arts and crafts activities, and of course, a costume contest. But the real howling may be at the Park Avenue Pet Costume Contest, with both large- and small-dog categories.
Skaneateles, New York
This town in the heart-shaped Finger Lakes region won over T+L readers for its locals’ hometown pride and the quaint B&Bs. At Tim’s Pumpkin Patch, visitors get lost in a corn maze and a hay fort and, if they find their way out, pick pumpkins. Kids can also pet and feed farm animals like piglets, calves, chickens, and rabbits—no vampire bats, though. Pair it with a visit to Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard, where you can pick more than 15 fruit varieties and your poison of choice: hard cider, apple wine, apple vodka, or apple gin.
Tiptoe over to the outside amphitheater of the Telluride Historical Museum, flashlight in hand, to hear ghost stories. Then, once you’re prepped for the paranormal, take the lamplight museum tour through the dimly lit masonry building, originally built as Hall’s Hospital in 1896. Next stop: the costume contest at radio station KOTO’s Annual Halloween Bash. It’s the kind of celebration that comes naturally to a town that prides itself in a lively music scene and wild parades.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Located along the Delaware River, the artsy town of New Hope attracted T+L readers for its antique shopping and music. At Halloween time, the main event is The Rocky Horror Show at the Bucks County Playhouse. Should you decide to enter the High-Heel Drag Race (hosted by local diva Miss Pumpkin, of course), remember it’s strictly B.Y.O.H. (bring your own heels). Even local businesses dress the part; the scariest and most-originally decorated storefronts win prizes.
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City gets accolades for its daylight Halloween Walk, starring cute kids in costumes trick-or-treating at stores downtown. The Zombie Run ups the ante with its motto of “the more blood and guts, the better!” Costumed participants in the race have included beauty-pageant contestants, Elvis, and Village People zombies. And with vineyards, breweries, and beaches in close proximity to this hip lake town, there’s plenty to do long after the zombies have beaten their retreat.
Guests on the Halloween Hayride at Broadford Park ride on flatbed trailers pulled by trucks along the lakefront, passing 16 scenes of live zombies and ghosts—if you can call zombies and ghosts “live.” Local merchants decorate parking meters in all manner of Halloween getups. And nearby, the former B&O Railroad Station (now the B&O Museum) is rumored to be haunted. Scenic trails, a Main Street complete with an old-time soda fountain, and an annual Autumn Glory Festival add to the appeal of Oakland, rated No. 1 overall for fall travel.
The past isn’t dead in this historic town south of Nashville. Consider the actor-led cemetery walking tour Grave Matters: Stories Behind the Stones or the Ghosts of the Battlefield tour that visits the 1858 Lotz House. Those with young kids will dig the annual Pumpkinfest featuring pumpkin painting, a chili cook-off, arts and crafts booths, and bounce houses. It’s also an easy way to get to know this century’s Franklin residents, voted extra-friendly by T+L readers.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
A costume parade and a jack-o-lanter costume will be highlights of this year's Trick-or-Treat Village. Local merchants have been known to open their doors to trick-or-treaters in this family-friendly destination, and the town's performing arts center regularly hosts events on Halloween night.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is America’s oldest permanent European settlement, and it has the forts, Spanish colonial architecture, and legends to prove it. It’s crawling with creepies, especially at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, where alligators with glowing eyes are the main attraction of the Creatures of the Night event. Lighthouse Dark of the Moonghost tours fill visitors’ heads with tales of the paranormal while they wander out into the darkness by the sea. Practical-joking ghosts supposedly wedged a man under a bed at one of St. Augustine’s historic inns.