24 Frightfully Fun Halloween Events Across the Country
Sooner or later we all age out of trick-or-treating, but no one is too old to enjoy Halloween. While children gorge themselves on free candy, adults celebrate with their own sorts of revelry, from elaborate costume contests to scary movies to raunchy parades. Here are some of the best free or cheap Halloween events happening around the country this year.
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More than half a million people attend the West Hollywood Carnaval, held along Santa Monica Boulevard. The free event offers multiple music stages, while nearby bars draw visitors with themed drink specials and contests. This night of excess and outrageous costumes (leave the kids at home) ends with a celebrity guest being crowned "Queen of the Carnival."
The home of the Salem witch trials embraces its notoriety with a monthlong Festival of the Dead. Some events have steep prices, but others are free, including the Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo (with free psychic readings) and the Salem Witches' Magic Circle on Halloween night, when practicing witches and open-minded vistors from around the globe honor the dead.
Named for a woman whose coffin was displaced from the top of Red Mountain by railroad construction and bad weather, the Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade begins with a lively parade on Oct. 29. The free event concludes with 70 teams -- each consisting of one "Emma" and four "mourners" -- racing homemade coffins down Manitou Avenue to win trophies for speed, creativity in coffin design, and more.
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Often named the nation's most haunted city, New Orleans has a Halloween second only to Mardi Gras for liveliness. Walking tours delve into the city's rich, spooky history and peek into voodoo shops and graveyards. A free celebration lights up Frenchmen Street, the music-venue-lined avenue near the French Quarter, with elaborate costumes and seasonal marketplace vendors Oct. 28 to 31.
Chicago's beloved Halloween on Halsted celebrates its 20th year Oct. 31 in the city's LGBT-friendly Northalsted neighborhood. Anyone who takes the time to register (for free) can join the festivities and costume competition in categories including pet costumes, drag, scariest, most original, and group costume. Keep an eye out for people on stilts, fire twirlers, and other entertainers among the 2,000-plus competitors walking the 0.7-mile parade route.
The self-proclaimed "best Halloween parade in the South" takes over this historic Atlanta neighborhood Oct. 15. Costumed participants and floats from local businesses come out in droves for the free event, but the main attraction may be the food trucks and neighborhood restaurants selling everything from barbecue to wood-fired pizza at pop-up stalls throughout the event.
The Louisville Zoo transforms into a "cheery, not eerie" seasonal wonderland of costumed storybook characters and trick-or-treating for children 11 and under Thursday through Sunday throughout October. Families can view certain animals before enjoying a hay maze or strolling through decorative walkways with themes such as "Frozen" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." Tickets are $8 for non-members.
One of Washington's proudest Halloween traditions is a different kind of drag race. Hundreds of drag queens run a quarter-mile in their most extravagant outfits -- stilettos included. The free Oct. 25 event starts at 7 p.m. with a pre-race costume parade and food vendors. Arrive early to get a good spot among the thousands of attendees and enjoy drink specials from bars along the route.
The city's largest Dia de Muertos festival takes place in the shadow of city landmarks such as the Space Needle on Oct. 29 and 30. The free celebration honors the departed through family-friendly activities, meticulously created community altars, and cultural rituals that let attendees create sugar skulls and paper skeletons before marching in a joyous musical procession.
The centerpiece of this event is the Pumpkin House, an attraction that began with only five carved pumpkins in 1978. Today about 3,000 jack-o'-lanterns draw more than 30,000 people during the free C-K Autumnfest. The festival on Oct. 28 and 29 also features an arts and crafts show, cruise-in tractor show, food vendors, and a bake-off.
Three thousand jack-o'-lanterns is impressive, but how about 30,581? That's the record set by the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in 2013. On Oct. 22, locals and visitors will contribute jack-o'-lanterns in an attempt to beat that record while enjoying seasonal harvest foods and a costume parade. The Pumpkin Dump Derby has teams compete to clean up afterward in exchange for a cash prize.
This Kansas town has celebrated its own annual October holiday, Neewollah ("Halloween" backward), since 1919. Most events Oct. 21 to 29 are free, including a chili cook-off, parades, movie screenings, live music, talent shows, and craft fairs. Tickets to a musical and festival queen events are $6 to $12.
A three-band bill of the Midnight Serenaders, Bridgetown Sextet, and Starella Sisters gives Halloween a Jazz Age feel in a city with an ever-original music scene. Tickets to this 21-plus event at the Secret Society are $15.
The streets of the Colorado capital will be overrun with the undead (or at least with people clothed and painted to look like the undead) in the 11th year of this free, all-ages event on Oct. 22. Costumed zombie hordes take part in the Organ Trail, solving clues and overcoming obstacles to win cash prizes of up to $300.
This outdoor dance party features an "American Idol"-themed costume contest, live entertainment, food trucks, and bars. The Oct. 29 event costs $15 -- but arrive early and take advantage of a complimentary cocktail hour for the first 300 guests.
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Children trick-or-treat for 4,000 pounds of candy as colorful hot-air balloons float overhead at the Salt River Fields Balloon Spooktacular. Tickets to the sixth annual event, Oct. 28 and 29, are $15 for adults and $10 for children. It's an extra $25 for adults and $15 for children to take a tethered balloon ride, but there's plenty to enjoy on the ground, including live music, fireworks, and a haunted trail.
This town of 17,000 is the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World" and hosts free or cheap movie nights, scavenger hunts, costume contests, a home-decorating competition, and other events all month long. They culminate in a parade on Oct. 29, when floats and child-friendly costumed marchers take over Main Street after a flyover by the T-6 Thunder team.
Halloween on the Mile activities begin the afternoon of Oct. 31, with businesses along Coral Gables' Miracle Mile hosting events such as trick-or-treating, reading circles, pet costume contests, face painting, live musical theater performances, and a haunted house suitable even for little ones.
A three-block stretch of Court Street crowded with bars and restaurants has drawn as many as 30,000 Athens residents, Ohio University students, and other revelers to celebrate Halloween. Drink specials and trick-or-treat stations are expected on Oct. 29, as well as two stages of live music interrupted only by a massive costume contest.
Silent screen horror is on the marquee at Indiana Landmarks Center on Oct. 28. Local horror TV host Sammy Terry introduces the 1920 classic "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with live organ accompaniment (along with spooky musical selections beforehand). There's a costume contest with a cash prize for the winner. Tickets are $13.
All ages are welcome at the Oak Lawn neighborhood's gigantic street party on Oct. 29, but some of the sexier costumes in the parade and the uproarious live commentary may not be appropriate for children. It's free to get in, and there's food, beer, and live music throughout.
South Dakotans turn the historic frontier town into something scarier Oct. 28 and 29 with a Monster Ball, coffin races, and a $10,000 costume contest. Spooky tours and ghost stories take place all month at the Adams House Victorian mansion.
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