Time to pull out the RuPaul wig and add fake blood to your Instacart, because something wicked this way comes — namely, Halloween! 🎃
Whether it’s walking through a creepy-cool cemetery (we recommend Green-Wood in Brooklyn) or tiptoeing through a vampire crypt (you might just find one in NOLA’s Garden District), a touch of fear is what gives Halloween such a unique and otherworldly vibe.
While staying home and passing out fun-size Snickers to pint-size witches and wizards has a charm all its own, an even better way to celebrate is by Monster Mash-ing somewhere a little further afield. And you don’t need black magic to find a great deal on travel — Wanderu is the perfect place to snag cheap tickets on buses, trains and flights.
The destinations below do Halloween right, so see what they’re all about and figure out where you’ll be howling at the moon this year.
1. Charleston, SC
For the rest of the year, Charleston is a sleepy city on the Atlantic Coast, known for its lush parks and eye-catching architecture.
But in the lead up to Halloween, the Southern bell starts to show its spooky side. Haunted properties like the Old City Jail and Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon will send a chill down your spine, and Boone Hall Plantation has a haunted corn maze, which will take the term “stalking” to a new level.
2. Key West, FL
Fantasy Fest is Key West’s answer to Mardi Gras: A 10-day “party in paradise for grown-ups” that includes a costume parade and street fair. For the Fantasy Facade contest, local organizations and businesses decorate their buildings based on a theme — in 2018, the theme was “Games” and the Key West Women’s Club won the grand prize by dressing up their building like a Monopoly board — which visitors can admire while wandering around town.
Those seeking more of a spook can jump on the Ghosts & Gravestones tour, which stops at a barracks where Civil War soldiers died of yellow fever.
3. New Orleans, LA
We already touched on NOLA’s link to vampires up top, but a tour through one of the city’s above-ground graveyards like St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is sure to give you the heebie-jeebies.
In the French Quarter, Voodoo Authentica sponsors an event in which volunteers teach passersby about the roots of the faith, selling potions, oils and voodoo dolls. Then, of course, there are the evening festivities on Bourbon Street, where you’ll find the usual debauchery — but in costume!
4. Washington, DC
The nation’s capital has a Halloween atmosphere all its own, with some special events you won’t want to miss. The Smithsonian National Zoo hosts Night of the Living Zoo, in which costumed attendees get after-hours access to animal houses and exhibits. (So if you have a fear of snakes, you can seek some scare-therapy in the Reptile House after dark. 🐍)
Then there’s Nightmare on M Street, D.C.’s vaunted Halloween bar crawl that takes place in trendy Dupont Circle. It has a costume contest, Halloween-themed cocktails and, best of all, no cover.
Carving a pumpkin can be relaxing, but walking through a park trail lined with 5,000 glowing Jack-O-Lanterns? That’s downright chilling. Louisville’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular runs from dusk until 11 p.m. during the week, and until midnight on Saturday and Sunday.
Labeled one of the “most haunted buildings on Earth,” the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was a tuberculosis hospital from 1910 to 1961. It then served as a geriatric facility until 1981, and today is the site of a truly terrifying haunted house.
6. Tacoma, WA
When you think corn you probably think Midwest, but Tacoma gives the stalks of Iowa and Illinois a run for their money. (Our favorite is Mosby Farm in Auburn.) An added bonus, corn mazes are more creepy than frightening, a good alternative if you consider haunted houses a scare too far.
For those who are looking for something a little more blood-curdling, the Frighthouse Station Haunted House is sure to make your hair stand on end.
And finally, for some outside-the-box Halloween fun, hit up the FreakNight Festival. The nation’s longest-running Halloween festival features multiple performance stages, stilt walkers, contortionists and even flamethrowers!
7. Nashville, TN
Every city on this list offers something haunted in one form or another, but only Nashville can boast the ghost of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Elvis’s daughter has said that his ghost can be found laughing at the Ryman Auditorium, and that she herself has heard it. The auditorium holds Haunted History Tours on Halloween, an exciting attraction for Elvis and horror fans alike.
And the dream of the 90s is alive in Nashville — but only for Halloween! Attend Acme Feed & Seed’s “I Know What You Did Last Halloween” party for some throwback fun. Early-bird tickets are $15, or $20 at the door. (JNCO jeans and Starter jackets sold separately.)
The City of Brotherly Love offers visitors some variety in the scare department, starting with the historically controversial Pennhurst Asylum, which was first opened in 1903 as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic. While Pennhurst hosts a haunted house every Halloween, some locals say that the run-down establishment is actually haunted, giving this house of horror an added air of terror.
And Halloween in Philly would be incomplete without a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison where Al Capone was first incarcerated, ESP hosts one of the most immersive, interactive and downright bone-chilling experiences in any city.
9. San Antonio, TX
San Antonio’s Riverwalk is among its signature attractions, but did you know it gets … haunted every Halloween? It’s true! Take a stroll along the spookier version of the Riverwalk to get yourself in an All Hallows mood.
Listen in, amusement park fans: Six Flags Fiesta Texas transforms every Halloween into Six Flags Fright Fest: The haunted amusement park straight from your favorite teen slasher flick! With haunted mazes, seasonal updates to the rides, and throngs of ghouls and zombies patrolling the park, this trip is sure to leave your heart pounding.
10. Salem, MA
Few cities, if any, do Halloween quite like Salem. With its uniquely witchy history (Salem Witch Trials, ever heard of em?), Salem might as well be called “Halloween Town” (though they’d have to fight Jack Skellington for the naming rights).
To get the quintessential Salem Witching experience, we recommend “Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridgette Bishop,” a live performance with an interactive component, in which the audience decides at the end whether the accused witch is innocent or guilty.
And if you’re really a theater fan, then take in a play at the House of the Seven Gables (the birth house of author Nathaniel Hawthorne). New England’s oldest wooden mansion, Seven Gables puts on a dramatic interpretation of the Witch Trials every year around Halloween.
All Hallow’s Eve is the most fun you can have on a holiday. Just think: It involves costumes, parties, candy, and you’re not obligated to spend it with family. Besides, who doesn’t love the adrenaline rush of a scare?
So this year, join the fray at one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in the country. The 10 cities above are packed to the brim with both tricks and treats. And the #1 way to get there is by booking your travel through Wanderu: Your source for cheap plane, bus and train travel across North America (and Europe!).