Boo! Did we scare you? Probably not, but it’s that time of year when thousands don their scary best and hit the streets in search of tricks, treats and frightening fun. If you’re looking for this year’s biggest events and best shivers, here are the best Halloween parties of 2015.
Fantasy Fest: Key West, FL
This 10-day celebration during the last week of October is the Conch Republic at its open-minded, free-spirited and downright raunchy best. Recurring events include a Star Wars burlesque parody, the Bahama Village Goombay Festival of arts, crafts and music, body painting at the Garden of Eden and more. But the festival is also chock full of one-of-a-kind happenings like the 33rd Annual Headdress Ball, the annual Halos and Horns Pool Party and Wet T-Shirt Contest, a toga party, glow party, annual parade and more. This year’s theme is “All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show.”
Haunted Happenings: Salem, MA
The Salem Witch Trials were no joke, but somehow the tiny Bay State town has found a way to turn tragedy into tourism with Haunted Happenings, a month-long fest celebrating both Halloween and autumn that attracts more than a quarter million visitors each year. Highlights include an interactive recreation of the trial of Abigail Bishop (in which visitors are the jury), nighttime ghost tours, multiple haunted houses, The Salem Witches Halloween Ball, a memorial dedicated to the tragic events of the Salem Witch Trials and even a Golden Girls parody done completely in drag (talk about scary!).
High Heels Drag Queen Race: Washington, DC
Prepare yourself for a hundred drag queens racing through the streets of the nation’s capital. This annual event actually happens the Tuesday before Halloween (in this case October 27) and gathers together more than 100 men in drag who zip—as best they can—through the streets of DuPont Circle while more than 100,000 spectators look on and local businesses ply them with drink, food and retail specials.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: Orlando, FL
If you’ve ever been to the iconic Orlando theme park you’ve already seen plenty of costumed characters, but on Halloween visitors are encouraged to join in on the action by dressing for the occasion and joining in family-friendly nighttime activities that happen not just on Halloween itself but on select dates throughout September and October. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party includes the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade, a fireworks display hosted by classic Disney villains and all your favorite characters dressed in fun costumes.
New Orleans Halloween: New Orleans, LA
All Hallows’ Eve in the Crescent City isn’t just one event; it’s many. A city that is no stranger to celebrations, New Orleans Halloween offers something for everyone, including the kid-friendly nighttime experience Boo at the Zoo, a massive street party along celebrated Frenchmen Street in the Marigny, a weekend of festivities at the corner of iconic Bourbon and St. Ann streets in the French Quarter that bring out the city’s LGBT community and benefits an AIDS-related charity and a smorgasbord of haunted houses. Did we mention the average daily high in Nola in October is 80?
Phantom Fright Nights: Pittsburgh, PA
Steel City’s answer to Six Flags—an amusement park named Kennywood—is just a stone’s throw from downtown Pittsburgh and has been scaring the bejeezus out of visitors for more than a decade now with Phantom Fright Nights, a month of immersiveHalloween spine tinglers including a Haunted Noah’s Ark, Death Valley Ghost Town, the Dark Shadows Maze, Kennyville Cemetery, Gory Park, Villa of the Vampire and more. The thrill rides are still open but with one exception—they’ve cut all the lights on them. Don’t blame us if you soil yourself.
Terror Behind the Walls: Philadelphia, PA
How freaking scary is this? Every autumn the Eastern State Penitentiary, a National Historic Landmark and museum, transforms itself into a massive haunted house and swings open its doors to thrill-seekers looking for a fright. The Philly-based prison is divided into six attractions including Lock Down, The Machine Shop, Detritus, Infirmary, Breakout and Quarantine 4D that aim to scare the living daylight out of visitors as they tiptoe through a massive 11-acre compound at night that once housed the likes of criminals like Al Capone and is believed to be haunted. This is the real deal, folks.
Village Halloween Parade: New York, NY
A wicked good time is had by folks of all ages at this 42nd annual nighttime parade, which was started by puppeteer Ralph Lee in 1974 and now attracts more than 60,000 participants and over two million spectators annually. The largest nighttime event of its kind in the United States, spectators are treated to a smorgasbord ofcostumed marchers, dancers and more than 50 live bands all marching to the beat of their own wildly eclectic drum through Manhattan’s iconic Village. This year’s Village Halloween Parade theme is “Shine a Light.” Make of that what you will.
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval: Los Angeles, CA
While New York’s Halloween parade may attract more visitors overall, the City of Angels has the distinction of hosting the largest Halloween street party on earth with more than a half million visitors flooding Santa Monica Boulevard in the city’s iconic gay epicenter affectionately known as WeHo. Unlike other parts of the country where shivering occurs not out of fear but out of frigid temps, this balmy affair dares revelers to dress in their most revealing so expect plenty of eye-popping decadence and also live music, bar specials, food vendors, photo stations and more. WeHo Halloween rules!
Wicked Manors: Fort Lauderdale, FL
A mecca for sun, sand and surf gets a ghoulish makeover when thousands flock to a half mile stretch of Wilton Manors Drive on Halloween for an unhinged street party drenched in Florida heat. Expect this year’s party, “Once Upon a Drive,” to be a smorgasbord of racy costumes, booze, cheap eats and dancing as 30,000 visitors and locals converge for late-night revelry. Wicked Manors is fast becoming a must do annual tradition.