13 Cities That Will Scare You Silly This Halloween

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13 Cities That Will Scare You Silly This Halloween

New Orleans, Salem and Chicago top the list

In case you haven’t noticed, people have a crazy obsession with fall. From partaking in pumpkin-spiced everything to busting out beloved cableknit sweaters, many people believe there’s no better time of year than when the leaves turn rich shades of red and orange and the air becomes crisp.

One of the best reasons to rejoice when autumn graces us with its presence is the arrival of Halloween. If you’re a fan of the frightening, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out for you on the best cities to visit to celebrate this spooktacular season.

Using a collection of dozens of rankings lists from a variety of publishers, we created a Spooky Score scale of 0-13. A city earned points based on the number of times it was mentioned across all of our referenced articles, the number of creeptastic things to do there and the number of haunted locations it has.

Halloween is special because there are a lot of ways to celebrate it: some prefer to enjoy the season with the entire family, while others can’t imagine All Hallows’ Eve without an honest-to-goodness ghost sighting. For that reason, within each city we’ve included ideas that adults and children of all ages will love in, while our Extra Spooky section will satisfy those just dying to investigate the haunted history of each city.

Here are the top 13 cities for celebrating Halloween. Have fun, and beware!

rsz_bestcitiesforhalloween_1280x960_hero1. New Orleans, LA

Spooky Score: 12.4 out of 13
City Walk Score: 58

It’s no wonder that New Orleans topped our list — the Big Easy embraces its reputation as being one of the most haunted cities in America, and doesn’t disappoint with its seasonal and year-round ghostly activities. The city offers something for every age group so the entire family can delight in fright all day and into the night: begin with the Krewe of Boo parade (complete with eerie floats and music), head over to voodoo priestess Marie Laveau’s tomb at St. Louis Cemetery #1 and finish the night with a haunted history and paranormal tour — if you dare.

Things to Do / Places to See: Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Krewe of Boo Halloween Parade, New Orleans Vampire Ball, Ghost City Tours, Halloween in New Orleans Festival, Boo at the Zoo, Tomb of Marie Laveau, Mortuary Haunted Mansion, Voodoo Witchcraft Festival, Crawloween at the Audubon Nature Center, NOLA Halloween Pub Crawl, Halloween New Orleans, LaLaurie House, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, Hotel Monteleone, Sultan’s Palace, St. Louis Cemetery, Gardette-LaPrete House, Lafitte Guest House Bar, FrenchQuarter Phantoms Ghost Tours, Black Rose Tours

Extra Spooky: If you listen closely, amid the trumpets and saxophones whose songs flood the streets of the French Quarter, you might just hear whispers of voices from eras gone by. New Orleans is an absolute mecca for those in search of spirits, and there are plenty of places to break out your EVP recorder. The LaLaurie House is rife with spirits who were brutally tortured in the early 19th century; a long-gone pirate watches over Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop; and the city’s cemeteries — St. Louis Cemetery #1, St. Roch and Metairie — are home to countless souls wandering our earthly plane in search of the one beyond the grave.

2. Salem, MA

Spooky Score: 10 out of 13
City Walk Score: 66

If you’re visiting this historic town — whether it’s Halloween or not — it’s borderline criminal not to drop in on one of their Salem Witch Trial Reenactments. After crossing this item off of your to-do list, head over to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery Monster Museum, which brings movie monsters to life all year long and features a haunted house each October. Fuel up with dinner and a show at the Haunted Dinner Theatre, then end the night at the Witches’ Halloween Ball, where you’re sure to be the envy of every mortal who is stuck in the realm of the living.

Things to Do / Places to See: Gallows Hill Park, Old Burying Point, Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, Festival of the Dead, Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, Haunted Happenings, Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo, Salem Witch Trial Reenactments, Chambers of Terror, Ghosts and Legends Trolley Tour, Haunted Dinner Theatre, Nightmare Gallery Monster Museum, Great Pumpkin Carving Contest, Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, Salem Witch Museum, Witch House, Gallows Hill Museum/Theatre

Extra Spooky: While Salem — home of the infamous witch trials of the late 1600s — is a fantastic stop for any American history buff, there’s no better time of year to visit than at Halloween. Not only are you likely to run into a restless spirit at Gallows Hill Park or the Old Burying Point, but the city hosts its month-long Festival of the Dead every October, which celebrates those in the great beyond, and is a prime spot to see a visitor from beyond the grave.

3. Chicago, IL

Spooky Score: 9 out of 13
City Walk Score: 78

Chicagoans love when autumn rolls in over Lake Michigan and relieves the city of the summer heat, and it celebrates by throwing a weeks-long Halloween celebration with all kinds of events. Chicagoween at Franken Plaza — known as Daley Plaza the rest of the year — hosts movie nights, live performances and costume contests, and parks across the city are home to pumpkin patches and haunted houses. Land lovers should check out the Northalsted Halloween Parade, and those who aren’t afraid of a haunted sea voyage will love one of Navy Pier’s haunted cruise options.

Things to Do / Places to See: Oriental Theatre, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and Pond, 2122 North Clark Street (location of the Valentine’s Day Massacre), Drake Hotel, Haunted Halloween Ball at Congress Plaza Hotel, Old Town Tatu, Halloween Parade on North Halsted, House of Torment, Six Flags Fright Fest, Chicago Hauntings Tour Company, Wateriders Ghosts and Gangsters Kayak Tour, Race of the Dead, Franken Plaza/Chicagoween, Pumpkin Patches and More

Extra Spooky: Few cities on our list have as many haunted locations as Chicago, so if you’re looking for the thrill of a lifetime with a good, old-fashioned ghost hunt, head over to Chi-Town. Explore the Oriental Theatre, where more than 600 victims were engulfed in flames in 1903; stay a night in the Drake Hotel, where the heartbroken spirit of a young woman wanders the halls; or work with the paranormal investigators of Chicago Ghost Investigations to communicate with the other side in a warehouse once occupied by Al Capone.

4. Philadelphia, PA

Spooky Score: 8 out of 13
City Walk Score: 79

The Founding Fathers would be proud of how all-out Philadelphia goes during the year’s most bewitching season. Those who think they’d be a survivor in a scary movie should make their way over to the Bates Motel or the Fright Factory for a haunted house experience with special effects straight out of a horror film. For a milder dose of fright, the Zombie Prom or Henri David’s Annual Party invites guests to dress up and dance the night away — the perfect way to fade into the darkness of night.

Things to Do / Places to See: Eastern State Penitentiary, Fort Mifflin, Bates Motel, Philly Zombie Prom, Fright Factory, Henri David’s Annual Party

Extra Spooky: Philly is home to the Eastern State Penitentiary, which is often ranked the most haunted location in the country. This is a can’t-miss site for any paranormal explorer, where many a visitor have heard the echoes of the terrified screams of prisoners past. Another local hotspot lauded for its ethereal beings is Fort Mifflin, where you may encounter spirits like the Screaming Woman, Faceless Man and the Lamplighter, who illuminates paths from one haunted building to the next.

5. Portland, OR

Spooky Score: 7.8 out of 13
City Walk Score: 65

Portland is a lush city by day, and a spooky one by night. After seeing the sights, grab a slice at Old Town Pizza, where you might spot Nina, the joint’s resident ghost, who loves dining with visitors. You can start the night off at FrightTown, which haunts an entire city block with attractions like Grimthorne Manor and Buried Alive. If you’re in the mood for a fright-nightcap, Lovecraft, a horror-themed bar, will thrill you with its themed evenings like Black Mass and Bones.

Things to Do / Places to See: Shanghai Tunnels, Old Town Pizza, McMenimans White Eagle Saloon and Hotel, Hobo’s Restaurant, Benson Hotel, Pittock Mansion, Portland Walking Tours, Lovecraft, FrightTown

Extra Spooky: Portland is a gorgeous city with friendly residents — but it has a sinister side. Phantom hotspots are scattered throughout the city: you can tour the infamous Shanghai Tunnels and take part in a paranormal investigation; watch a painting move on its own at the Pittock Mansion; or even book a room at the McMenimans White Eagle Saloon and Hotel, and see if you spot a long-gone soul at the bar.

6. Los Angeles, CA

Spooky Score: 7.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 67

It may be called the City of Angels, but come fall wicked spirits also come out to play. LA is home to Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags, all of which turn into horror fests each October. To get a true taste of the city at Halloween, take a stroll through the West Hollywood Carnaval, or hitch a ride in LA’s Haunted Hayride, which offers stunning city views to help take the edge off of being chased by zombies.

Things to Do / Places to See: Queen Mary, West Hollywood Carnaval, LA Haunted Hayride, Dia de los Muertos, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, Magic Mountain Fright Fest

Extra Spooky: Old Hollywood may be famous for glitz and glam, but the LA area is home to its share of ghost stories. At the Roosevelt Hotel, you may run into some of the most famous stars to have ever graced the red carpet, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift, who have been dead for decades; the tunnels of the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice still run Prohibition-era alcohol by spirits of long-gone mob men; and the Queen Mary, a notoriously haunted cruise ship-turned-hotel harbored in Long Beach, has been providing otherworldly encounters to guests since 1967.

7. San Francisco, CA

Spooky Score: 7.2 out of 13
City Walk Score: 86

The City by the Bay has entertainment for every age group by land and by water. Pier 39 offers kid-friendly festivals and pumpkin carving throughout the season. If you want to make a preemptive strike against all of the Halloween candy you plan on indulging in, run or walk in Run with the Zombies, a festive but family-friendly 5K. If you’re brave enough to set sail with ghouls, goblins and monsters, hop aboard San Fran’s Ghost Ship, where you’ll enjoy live music, dancing and carnival-style rides.

Things to Do / Places to See: Queen Anne Hotel, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Winchester Mystery House, Presidio, San Francisco Zombie Walk, Chinatown Ghost Tour, Dia de los Muertos, Haunted Pirate Ship Tours

Extra Spooky: San Fran is home to two of the most talked about creepy destinations in the United States. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary once contained the country’s most notorious criminals, and those brave enough to take a night tour may just cross paths with the souls of Machine Gun Kelly or Bumpy Johnson. The Winchester Mystery House was constructed under the direction of vengeful spirits, and today provides visitors with an uneasy feeling of being watched.

8. New York, NY

Spooky Score: 7 out of 13
City Walk Score: 89

NYC is the city that never sleeps — and when Halloween nears, that probably has something to do with all of the goblins and ghouls roaming the streets of the Big Apple. The Village Halloween Parade completely takes over lower Manhattan with its display of intricate costumes and paper-mâché puppets, and there are haunted houses all over the city all season long. If you’re looking for something slightly more chilling, venture into the crypts below the Cathedral of St. John the Divine — you’ll never look at a chapel the same way again.

Things to Do / Places to See: New Amsterdam Theatre, Village Halloween Parade, Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, Blackout, Crypt Crawl Under the Cathedral of St. John, Webster Hall Halloween Party, Blood Manor

Extra Spooky: It’s nearly impossible to run out of sights to behold in NYC, and that’s true even if ghost hunting locales are on your go-see list. Washington Square Park was once a burial ground, and when the sun sets over the skyline, is overrun with souls lost in the early 19th century; the master of macabre has never left his former home which now bears his namesake, the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, even a century and a half after his death; and the Kreischer Mansion has a 130-year history of brutality, even as recently as 2005, when it was the scene of a gruesome mob slaying.

9. Estes Park, CO

Spooky Score: 6.8 out of 13
City Walk Score: 62

You probably know Estes Park’s most famous site, the Stanley Hotel, of book and movie fame: it served as the inspiration for Stephen King’s classic The Shining after his own eerie experience of staying there. For those who aren’t quite ready to meet an evil specter face-to-(ghostly) face, it’s still easy to enjoy the splendor of the season at the hotel’s Shining Ball, Halloween Masquerade Party or Murder Mystery Dinner. Just don’t be too surprised if any otherworldly guests show up.

Things to Do / Places to See: Stanley Hotel, Baldpate Inn, Elkhorn Lodge

Extra Spooky: Paranormal and film buffs alike should add a visit to Estes Park to their bucket lists: it’s home to the Stanley Hotel, made famous for being the inspiration behind Stephen King’s book and movie The Shining. The truly bold can reserve a room there for an unforgettable evening. If the Stanley is booked up, head over to the Baldpate Inn or Elkhorn Lodge. The original owners of the Baldpate still make appearances — even in death — and will be happy to check you in, and the Elkhorn hosts guests alongside dozens of cattle rancher apparitions who date back to the 1870s.

10. Savannah, GA

Spooky Score: 6.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 43

Savannah is a near-perfect place for ghost hunting, but there are plenty of fun activities for those who aren’t eager to have a paranormal experience. To show the kiddos a good time, check out Tybee Island Pirate Fest, which salutes those who sailed the Seven Seas, or the Halloween Hike, where children can explore nature and create festive crafts. For a more grown-up celebration, check out the local Oktoberfest, Lot 13 Haunted House or Crawl-O-Ween, the creepiest way to enjoy a local cocktail or craft beer as the witching hour approaches.

Things to Do / Places to See: Sorrel-Weed House, Moon River Brewing Company, William Kehoe House, Marshall House, Mercer House, Gribble House, Forsyth Park, Bonaventure Cemetery, Calhoun Square Ghost City Tours, Colonial Park Cemetery Ghost Tours, Crawl-O-Ween, Haunted Forest, Annual Halloween Parade

Extra Spooky: The ghost population in Savannah is as thick as the Spanish moss swaying from the city’s tree branches. Lost souls from the Revolutionary and Civil wars abound, as well as those who lost their lives to the yellow fever epidemic in the late 1800s. If that’s not enough to get your spine tingling, visit the Gribble House — home to a triple axe murder in 1909 — and see if you can sense any unknown presences.

11. San Diego, CA

Spooky Score: 5.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 51

San Diego is a destination that never disappoints, and harvest season is no exception. Film aficionados can be the stars of their own horror movies at McKamey Manor, while more traditional Halloween revelers can visit the Haunted Hotel Haunted House. For an immersive experience that is guaranteed to haunt you until next October, take a mile-long stroll through the Haunted Trail at Balboa Park, where you’ll be greeted — and stalked — by creatures straight out of your nightmares.

Things to Do / Places to See: Whaley House, Hotel Del Coronado, El Campo Santo Cemetery, Horton Grand Hotel, Haunted Hotel Haunted House, Haunted Trail

Extra Spooky: An historic coastal city is bound to have a rich supply of shadows and apparitions, and San Diego delivers. The Whaley House offers daily tours, where visitors’ photographs showcase unexplained, humanlike figures. The Horton Grand Hotel is fraught with ghost sightings, and enthusiasts flock to room number 309, where a brutal execution-style murder took place more than 150 years ago. Meanwhile, the Hotel Del Coronado is home to multiple haunted rooms, and has never let down those seeking a connection with the other side.

12. Louisville, KY

Spooky Score: 4.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 33

Louisville is home to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, which is reportedly seeping with plagued spirits of the hospital’s distressed past. You don’t have to be a ghost hunter to enjoy the infamous site, however: the landmark hosts a haunted house that runs from September to Halloween every year. Just be warned that not every ghoul you see will be a planned part of the event.

Things to Do / Places to See: Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville Zoo Halloween Party, Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, Otter Creek Nightmare Forest, Dead End Hotel, Louisville Zombie Attack

Extra Spooky: Louisville is home to a site much beloved by those who have a fascination with the afterlife: the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Constructed to care for those suffering from tuberculosis in 1910, it’s estimated that more than 63,000 victims lost their lives there. Although its tour season runs March through August and is sadly over by the time Halloween rolls around, a Waverly Hills summer’s end paranormal tour is the perfect way to kick off fall.

13. Sleepy Hollow, NY

Spooky Score: 4.4 out of 13
City Walk Score: 80

New York is home to Sleepy Hollow, one of the most famous haunted settings of literature, and you can even see the formidable Headless Horseman at a live performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. For a wider array of terrifying creatures of the night, head over to Philipsburg Manor, a 300-year-old structure that becomes home to all manner of demons, vampires, and witches on Halloween.

Things to Do / Places to See: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Old Dutch Burying Ground, Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Horseman’s Hollow, Lyndhurst Castle, Philipsburg Manor, Jay Ghoul’s House of Curiosities

Extra Spooky: Sleepy Hollow may have become famous because of how it was painted in fiction, but it holds its own when it comes to haunted towns. If you can get by on little-to-no sleep, visit the Bronze Lady of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, who has been known to curse visitors with nightmares for weeks after they visit her. But for a true fright, visitors need only make one stop: the Old Dutch Burying Ground. There, the Headless Hessian — the inspiration behind The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman — has been riding his stallion over the grounds since his demise in the Revolutionary War.

Honorable Mentions

14. Gettysburg, PA

Spooky Score: 4.2 out of 13
City Walk Score: 85

Things to Do / Places to See: Gettysburg Battlefield, Lightner Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, Devil’s Den, Farnsworth House, After Dark Investigations

15. Detroit, MI

Spooky Score: 3.8 out of 13
City Walk Score: 55

Things to Do / Places to See: Masonic Temple, Erebus Haunted Attraction, Zombie Walk Detroit, Creepy Cheapy, DAMNED Show, Theatre Bizarre

16. St. Augustine, FL (tied)

Spooky Score: 3.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 57

Things to Do / Places to See: St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, Spanish Military Hospital Museum, Old Jail, Castillo de San Marcos, Creatures of the Night

16. San Antonio, TX (tied)

Spooky Score: 3.6 out of 13
City Walk Score: 38

Things to Do / Places to See: Alamo, Emily Morgan Hotel, Menger Hotel, San Fernando Cathedral, Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours, 13th Floor

Methodology

Using a collection of dozens of rankings lists from a variety of publishers, we created a Spooky Score scale of 0-13. A city earned points based on:

  • The number of times it was mentioned across all of our referenced articles
  • The number of creeptastic things to do there
  • The number of haunted locations it has

In order to get the highest Spooky Score possible, first and foremost, a city had to be mentioned multiple times across the articles we referenced. Then, a city earned bonus points based on the different activities, sites and events the city offers; some of these are seasonal, some are year-round, but they’re all guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. Cities with the highest scores have a rich mix of a haunted history and a welcoming spirit for those seeking out bumps in the night.

Is your city a Halloween haven? Tell us about it in the comments!

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