Top Monster Mashes and Halloween Bashes

Check out some of these spooky but fun fright fests taking place this Halloween season.


No matter how old I get, I will never grow out of celebrating Halloween. Everything about the holiday—the costumes, the tricks, and, of course, the treats—makes me feel like, for one night, that I can enjoy myself the way I did as a child.

Halloween dates back more than 2,000 years, to the time of the ancient Celtics living in present-day Ireland, who on October 31, would celebrate the festival of Samhain (pronounced sho-in). On this day, they believed that the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and the dead would return to the earth, and they would wear costumes, mostly consisting of the skin and heads of animals, in order to help tell each other’s fortunes.

Today, we have costume manufacturers and no longer have to “borrow” our Halloween wears from our furry friends, and the ancient tradition is celebrated far and wide. Here are a few of our favorite seasonal events, from amusement parks to city parades. No matter where you are in the country, chances are there’s a Halloween celebration nearby.

Thrills and Chills

Already geared toward families with kids, many amusement and theme parks, along with zoos, offer special Halloween events during the weeks preceding the holiday.

The Louisville Zoo, claiming to have “The World’s Largest Halloween Party,” is a great place to take younger kids who have a tough time with the scary aspects of the holiday. Families can enjoy costumed characters, storybook scenes all over the zoo, the Halloween Express Train ride and Trick-or-Treating for guests under 11. Tel. 502-459-2181, Thurs. to Fri., 5 to 8 p.m., Sat. to Sun., 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 4 to 5, 9 to 12, 16 to 19, 23 to 26, 2008. Admission is $8 (for ages 3 and older).

Weekends in October mean one thing at any of the 12 Six Flags theme parks across North America: Fright Fest. During this month-long event, the parks are decorated with spooky adornments, and various attractions are re-named or re-themed to crank up the chill factor. Costumed characters roam the parks and scare unsuspecting patrons. Fright Fest is included in park admission.

Historic Halloweens

Sometimes the creepiest things during the Halloween season aren’t the special effects or made-up monsters but rather a historically haunted past. On top of a good scare, these spots offer great historical insight, which your kids may never have suspected. Arguably the most famous scary destination is Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. (See our Westchester County Fall Foliage and Festivals article for information on this town’s seasonal event.) But these other places offer figurative ghosts of centuries past as well.

Halloween’s colonial roots are in evidence in Colonial Williamsburg during the Halloween season. Meet some of the oldest remaining inhabitants of Colonial Williamsburg on the “Ghosts Among Us” tour. Also, visitors have a chance to watch the inquiry of an accused witch during the program, “Cry Witch.” For more information, go to

The entire month of October is cause for celebration in Salem, Massachusetts. This witch-hunting village pulls out all the stops when it comes to Halloween. Activities are available throughout the entire month: from the Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo to masquerade balls and historical reenactments. Spiritaways, one such reenactment, is a full immersion journey through the woods and the village of Salem’s “afflicted girls.” While most events in Salem are all-ages appropriate, Spiritaways may be frightening to younger children. Visit for October’s scary schedule.

Urban Parade Parties

Almost every major city across the country hosts its own special Halloween celebrations, some of which are more adult-oriented than others.

Los Angeles has its West Hollywood Carnaval, Atlanta’s biggest Halloween party can be found in Little Five Points.

In the Big Apple, everything is bigger (and more crowded). New York Citys biggest Halloween celebration, the Village Halloween Parade, is held each year in Greenwich Village. This year’s ghost-themed parade will kick off at 7 p.m. The greatest part about this celebration: anyone can participate. As long as you don a costume, feel free to hop on the parade line and celebrate with the kookiest collection of costumes around. Beware though, like everything in the city, this event can be jammed-packed. For more information visit

After living in New Orleans for more than four years, I can safely say that even more so than Mardi Gras, you have to experience a Halloween in the Big Easy. It has all the merriment and fun of Mardi Gras, but without the meat-headed visitors. Following in the footsteps of the city’s other most popular holidays, this year’s Halloween will feature the “Krewe of Boo,” rolling the first-ever Halloween parade in New Orleans. The parade will travel the traditional Uptown route down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street before ending near the Robin Street Wharf behind the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. From there, make your way to Frenchman Street where all the Halloween action takes place. Visit for more information.

Small Town, Big Spooks

It may come as a surprise to some that the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World” would be located in a small city in Minnesota, but Anoka does not disappoint. The city gave itself the title after hosting the first Halloween parade ever, back in 1920. The local Kiwanis Club decided to throw the bash as a way to curb youngster Halloween shenanigans. Today, the entire month of October is filled with Halloween activities like costume and pumpkin carving contests, bingo and a few smaller parades beside the main one, which takes place this year on, Saturday, Oct. 25. For more information visit

Destinations: New Orleans, New York City, Williamsburg

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment

User Comments

Bring out your dead for Zombiecon The West Village parade is always a blast, but for those in New York, another fun, participatory and ghoulish event is Zombiecon--in which the fashionably undead swarm onto the subways, demand brains, and then head to the bar. They have a website,, where you can sign up to get updates about where to meet up with your fellow zombies.

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