5 of the Best Halloween Towns in the U.S.

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All Hallows Eve has been celebrated for centuries, tracing back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celts believed the transition from summer to autumn on November 1st blurred the lines between the world of the living and the dead, so they dressed in ghoulish costumes and lit bonfires on the evening of October 31st to ward off evil spirits. By the time the tradition reached the U.S., the practice took on a lighter meaning and new traditions were born.

Today, Halloween is about dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and tiptoeing through haunted houses, but some places in the U.S. get a little more into the holiday than others. As the last wisps of summer slip away and we shift into autumn, check out five towns you should visit to get in the Halloween spirit.

Salem, Massachusetts

People walk through the streets during Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts.
Credit: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/ AFP via Getty Images

Since Salem was the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, it’s only fitting that this small Massachusetts city would take Halloween to the next level. The town celebrates witches, goblins, ghouls, and ghosts with Haunted Happenings, a month-long Halloween event. Visitors can partake in a séance, wander around a haunted marketplace, check out eerie paintings by Alexander Reisfar, or explore the creative exhibition detailing the witch trials at the Peabody Essex Museum.

A “psychic” fair and witches’ market, broom-making and book-binding workshops, and interactive theater are other spooky ways to get in the holiday spirit. The festivities conclude on Halloween night with a costume party in the streets of Salem featuring live music and performances.

St. Helens, Oregon

A halloween celebration outside of City hall in St.Helens, Oregon.
Credit: Spirit of Halloweentown

The real-life setting of Disney Channel’s fictional “Halloweentown” featured in the Halloweentown film series and the Twilight franchise doubles as one of the most haunted places in the country. Situated 30 miles northwest of Portland, the town of St. Helens is known for being a paranormal hotspot. The town takes full advantage of its haunted heritage and throws a six-week-long Spirit of Halloweentown festival in historic Old Town beginning in mid-September.

Popular attractions include self-guided walking tours of the Halloweentown and Twilight movie sets, checking out the soon-to-be-reopened Klondike Hotel that’s apparently haunted, going on a ghost tour of downtown, and shopping at the Halloweentown gift shop and Dark Market.

Sleepy Hollow, New York

Halloween decorations are seen on display during the Great Jack OLantern Blaze.
Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/ AFP via Getty Images

Made famous by Washington Irving’s gothic short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the small Hudson Valley village comes alive every October to relish in the spirit of Halloween. Sleepy Hollow kicks off the season in mid-September with tours of Irving’s estate, which includes a themed scavenger hunt and exhibit dedicated to the story’s villain, the “Headless Horseman.” The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze featuring 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins lights up a spooky, 18th-century manor and sets the scene for the following weeks.

Other events include a walking tour revolving around Irving’s life and a tour of significant landmarks mentioned in his works, a murder mystery game in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and a lantern tour of the famous cemetery. The main events are interspersed with concerns, fall craft fairs, and a Halloween Parade complete with a block party, a DJ, and outdoor performances. There’s so much going on in Sleepy Hollow that these activities and events don’t wrap up until the end of November!

Telluride, Colorado

A view of Downtown Telluride, Colorado.
Credit: Danica Chang/ Shutterstock

The Rocky Mountain town of Telluride is known for throwing the best Halloween party in Colorado. The Telluride Horror Show — a three-day horror, thriller, and sci-fi film festival — gets things warmed up in mid-October. The film festival attracts people from around the world and some movies are screened for the first time ever in the U.S.

From there, the Halloween season is officially in full swing. Revelers can take a Lamplight Cemetery Tour, venture through the “Haunted Hospital” at the Telluride Historical Museum, and attend a family-friendly Halloween parade. The 2021 season is capped with the KOTO Halloween Bash, marking the 44th year the city has hosted the epic costume party.

Independence, Kansas

A scary carved pumpkin lighting up the streets during halloween.
Credit: Dmitry Galaganov/ Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a Halloween celebration in Kansas, look no further than Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards), a nine-day festival hosted in the city of Independence. Neewollah began in 1919 when townspeople decided to create a more positive environment for kids to celebrate Halloween, as opposed to the pranks that are typically played on the holiday. It was such a success that following generations kept the spirit alive.

The fun typically begins in late October with all events following an age-appropriate theme. The party warms up with performances of The Wizard of Oz, a 5K race, and a talent competition before transitioning into more ghoulish events like a Halloween carnival and costume parade.

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