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As the leaves begin to change, and the air grows crisp, the anticipation for Halloween starts to stir. October 31st, a date many eagerly await, brings a global celebration with an abundance of joy, creativity, and excitement.
Halloween origins can be traced back to the Celtic Samhain festival in Ireland, where bonfires were lit, and costumes were worn to keep spirits at bay. This celebration journeyed across the Atlantic thanks to waves of Irish immigrants, eventually becoming a beloved American tradition. However, the very name ‘Halloween’ finds its roots in the Scottish abbreviation of All Hallows’ Eve, which is the night before All Saints’ Day. And since All Saints’ Day is on November 1st, Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31st.
Since Halloween is deeply rooted in ancient traditions, it’s celebrated in various unique ways across the globe. Each corner of the world has its own fascinating stories, customs, and festivities. Among the iconic symbols of Halloween, the grinning pumpkin, known as the jack-o’-lantern, takes center stage. And, of course, there’s the tradition of trick-or-treating, where kids and teens in costumes go from house to house collecting candy.
Now, let’s embark on a journey to discover some of the world’s best places to go for Halloween to experience extraordinary celebrations.
Best Places to Go for Halloween Around the World
As we mentioned above, Ireland is where Halloween, with its pagan roots, originated. While contemporary Halloween is all about dressing up in eerie costumes and indulging in sweet treats, its origins in ancient Ireland were significantly more primal. In those times, Halloween wasn’t a celebration, but rather a day when the Celtic people donned animal skins to protect themselves from malevolent spirits and the risk of being spirited away into the unknown.
Halloween in Ireland, like most parts of the world, is celebrated on the night of October 31st and extends into the following day. The foggy, and often drizzly, weather adds to the perfect atmosphere for the event.
The grandest Halloween event in Ireland takes place along the banks of the river Foyle in Derry, a city that has been hosting an annual street carnival for the past three decades. Derry Halloween Festival is not only a highlight in Ireland but also the biggest Halloween event in Europe. The city is renowned for its elaborate decorations and spooky atmosphere during this time. The festival typically features a wide range of events and activities, including a grand Halloween parade, fireworks displays, street performances, live music, and more. Running from the 28th to the 31st of October, this festivity attracts travelers to a place where the haunting unknown beckons!
In many ways, Scotland’s Halloween traditions closely resemble those of its Celtic cousin, Ireland. Both nations observe the Celtic festival of Samhain, originally spanning from October 31 to November 1 to signal the end of the harvest season and the approach of winter. Additionally, they share the presence of haunted castles and tombs, adding to the supernatural allure of their celebrations. Today, Scotland’s festivities primarily focus on the night of October 31, culminating in the Samhuinn Fire Festival—a unique blend of Celtic traditions and modern entertainment.
At the heart of this festival is a symbolic battle between the winter and summer kings, signifying the advent of the long, dark nights ahead. This event is deeply ingrained in Scottish culture and has even inspired celebrated works of literature, such as Robert Burns’ famous poem, Halloween, which vividly portrays the joyous gatherings and merrymaking that characterize the season.
Edinburgh, in particular, is renowned as a haunted hotspot and one of the best places to visit for Halloween, not only in Scotland but also throughout Europe. The city offers a plethora of ghost tours, inviting visitors to explore its historic streets and uncover old tales. These tours often lead to graveyards and underground tombs, adding to the spine-tingling atmosphere that permeates the city during this time of year.
For those planning to experience Halloween in Scotland, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile serves as an ideal starting point. This historic heart of Scotland’s capital holds secrets waiting to be uncovered, including frightening vaults, secret underground passages, and narrow stairways leading curious visitors into a mysterious underworld!
What better place to immerse yourself in the Halloween spirit than the home of the legendary Count Dracula? Nestled in the heart of Romania, the historical region Transylvania beckons with its rich culture and allure. This region, which dates back to 1377, is famous for its medieval towns, rugged mountain borders, and iconic castles, most notably Bran Castle—a Gothic fortress deeply intertwined with the Dracula legend. The character of Dracula was based on the real-life historical figure Ivan the Impaler, who may not have ever even stayed at the castle, so while you’re exploring the castle, you’re not likely to come across any fanged folk. However, it’s a fun experience to pretend you’re in the world of Dracula and who knows, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the ghosts of Ivan and his kin.
The castle’s doors are open daily to travelers, offering guided tours that delve into its intriguing history. For those seeking an even more adventurous Halloween experience, a special Halloween Tour of the castle on October 28th awaits, allowing you to encounter the elusive wicked fairies and join in their euphoric dance. To cap off this unique experience, indulge in a festive dinner complete with a lively costume contest, where the most creative attire is duly rewarded.
Yet, Romania’s Halloween offerings extend beyond the famed Transylvania and its Dracula’s castle. The capital city, Bucharest, also buzzes with excitement during this season. Here, you can discover various celebrations, including the Day of the Dead on November 1st, a time when Romanians pay homage to their departed loved ones. Additionally, St. Andrew’s Feast on November 30th features customs reminiscent of the traditional All Hallows’ Eve, providing a different but equally intriguing angle to the Halloween festivities.
London, the iconic city on the Thames, with its famous dense fog, has always had an air of mystery. The city hosts a myriad of Halloween parties and events that cater to all tastes. From horse-drawn rides in the hauntingly beautiful Richmond Park to the vibrant Twisted Circus Halloween Festival, there’s an abundance of options to choose from.
One of the prime locations to fully immerse yourself in this haunting ambiance is the historic Tower of London. Within its ancient walls, a tapestry of history unfolds, marked by the executions of several notable figures, including Anne Boleyn, the former Queen of England and the second wife of Henry VIII. Legend has it that her spirit still roams the dimly lit corridors of this historic fortress.
And, for those with a taste for the macabre, don’t miss the Jack the Ripper walking tour in London’s Whitechapel district. It retraces the steps of the infamous 1888 murders and lasts about 2 hours. The tour offers a mix of facts and entertainment, presented in a lighthearted way, making it a fun experience.
London’s Halloween celebrations extend far beyond the Tower’s somber halls. The city comes alive with a multitude of dark dungeons, ancient structures, and ghostly attractions, offering a diverse array of festivities for the season. Among the most famous is the London Dungeon, a more gruesome version of Madame Tussauds, filled with a series of set scenes reproducing chilling aspects of medieval London. Expect darkness, dripping water, tolling bells, skeletons, and caged rats, among other elements, all contributing to the haunting atmosphere.
Prague, renowned for its one-of-a-kind Gothic architecture, exudes an aura of mystery and slight macabre charm. The city’s medieval buildings and winding streets create an ideal backdrop for any mystery tale. Although Halloween isn’t traditionally celebrated on a grand scale in Prague, the city offers a host of engaging ways to embrace the spooky spirit, drawing visitors into its collection of haunted cemeteries and local legends.
Many events take place throughout the city, including the iconic tradition of trick-or-treating, vibrant parades, lively carnivals, storytelling festivals, themed fairs and markets, as well as engaging pumpkin carving workshops.
While exploring the historic streets of Prague, consider taking a tour of the Old Town, where you can learn about the city’s history. If you are in the mood, a visit to the Torture Museum is a particularly different experience, with 14 exhibitions showcasing medieval torture instruments and their grim purpose. You’ll also have the chance to admire the art and craftsmanship of the medieval Astronomical Clock and the opportunity to experience the best of Gothic architecture up close.
For the history buffs, Prague Castle is a must-visit. Inside the castle, you can see the window where the defenestrations of Prague occurred, a pivotal event in Czech history, where political opponents were thrown out of a window, leading to significant consequences. The castle grounds also house the beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral, one of Prague’s most beautiful buildings, which gives the castle its striking silhouette on the city’s skyline. Stroll through Golden Lane, an alley of tiny houses dedicated to different medieval professions and some transformed into gift shops. The castle gardens offer a serene escape, and if you visit in autumn, be sure to sample some burčák (young wine) to complete your Prague experience.
Halloween is primarily celebrated as a children’s festivity in Mexico on October 31. However, it is often overshadowed by the grandeur of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebrations that follow, taking place from November 1st to November 2nd. This unique occasion, despite its somber-sounding name, is anything but mournful—it’s a lively assembly that honors and celebrates the memories of departed loved ones. On November 2nd, the celebrations peak as the gates to heaven, metaphorically speaking, open up. It’s a time when people believe the spirits of the departed return to their earthly homes for a brief reunion, marked by vibrant celebrations and a feast of traditional foods.
During these festivities, it’s common to see people in skeleton costumes or adorned with intricately painted faces. The Day of the Dead in Mexico is characterized by a profusion of colorful flowers, bright hues, and the ubiquitous presence of skulls, creating a visually stunning and spiritually significant celebration. For those looking to immerse themselves in this unique Mexican tradition, Oaxaca and Mexico City come highly recommended.
Halloween in Hong Kong has undergone quite the transformation. Once a rare sight, it’s now turned the city into the vibrant “Halloween Capital of Asia.” Hong Kong has wholeheartedly embraced the holiday and everything that comes with it, even its theme parks join in on the fun each year.
If you happen to be in Hong Kong on October 31st, you won’t want to miss the Lan Kwai Fong Street Party, a lively gathering that epitomizes the spirit of Halloween. For a truly magical experience, Hong Kong Disneyland goes all out to compete with its global counterparts during the Halloween season, offering a plethora of themed events and attractions. Ocean Park, another beloved theme park in Hong Kong, throws an annual bash that’s just as amazing.
Best Places to Go for Halloween in the U.S.
New York doesn’t just celebrate Halloween; it transforms into an otherworldly realm of creativity and spookiness when the witching day approaches. Leading the charge in the city’s Halloween festivities is the legendary Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which takes place on October 31st. Since its beginnings in 1973 by mask maker Ralph Lee, this parade has evolved into the largest Halloween celebration in the United States, drawing millions of participants and spectators alike. With a fresh theme each year, you’re in for a unique experience every time you join the revelry. Imagine a kaleidoscope of artistic expression, with people donning elaborate, jaw-dropping costumes and creating mesmerizing displays.
While the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade takes the spotlight, the rest of New York City doesn’t hold back in embracing the Halloween spirit. From haunted houses to themed parties at renowned venues, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Every area and neighborhood dresses up for the occasion, with streets adorned in eerie decor. Sleepy Hollow, in particular, is famous among tourists for its October festivities. This little village was named by Dutch settlers for its dreary atmosphere and supernatural occurrences — the most famous being the tale of the Headless Horseman. Parks like Central Park and Prospect Park host family-friendly activities, ensuring that Halloween is a holiday for everyone to enjoy.
Nestled just 16 miles north of bustling Boston, the quaint town of Salem holds a significant place in American history. It gained notoriety through the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, a dark chapter that continues to define the town as “The Witch City.” This was where twenty-six individuals were tried and, tragically, executed on charges of witchcraft, leaving a lasting historical imprint. Today, the legacy of these trials remains a potent tourist attraction, drawing visitors to Salem year after year.
In Salem, you’ll find not only a dedicated witch museum but also a wide array of events centered around Halloween, collectively known as Salem Haunted Happenings. The festivities kick off in early October with a grand parade that marks the commencement of the Halloween season and culminate with a spectacular fireworks display on the night of October 31st, capturing the essence of the event.
Beyond the parades and fireworks, Salem offers a variety of activities to indulge in. Paranormal tours allow brave souls to explore the town’s haunted past, while carnival rides provide thrills and excitement for all ages. The renowned Salem Witches’ Ball, held on October 27, is a must-attend party, adding a touch of mystique to the Halloween celebrations.
For those in search of Halloween-themed retail therapy, Salem doesn’t disappoint. The charming Essex Street boasts a multitude of witchcraft and occult shops where visitors can find lots of Halloween-related items and experiences.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is famous for its vibrant revelry, and Halloween is no exception. With a deep-rooted connection to the occult and a penchant for eccentric costumes, the city has earned its place as one of the best Halloween destinations. When October rolls around, New Orleans adorns itself with festive decorations and showcases its finest costumes through parades and parties that set the city abuzz. These range from the famous Vampire Ball which happens on October 28, to the various family-friendly events in the French Market District.
New Orleans’ Krewe of BOO! Halloween Parade is a season highlight, winding through the heart of downtown the weekend before Halloween. This parade features a massive collection of spooky creations, including ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and various other Halloween-themed monsters.
Speaking of the supernatural, a visit to St. Louis Cemetery is a must during this time, where you can pay your respects at the tomb of the legendary Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Legend has it that if you touch her grave and make a wish, it comes true!
Explore the Best Places to Go for Halloween in Style
From the spirited streets of New York to the historic haunts of Ireland, we’ve uncovered some of the best places to go for Halloween, each with its own unique charm and traditions.
However, as this magical night unfolds, navigating through the labyrinthine streets of Halloween hotspots can be a daunting task. Traffic congestion can cast a shadow on your spooky soiree, making it challenging to reach your destination on time and in a relaxed state.
That’s where Blacklane comes in, offering the comfort of a personal chauffeur who can ensure a stress-free and stylish journey to your Halloween destination. With a professional driver at the helm, you can sit back, relax, and savor every moment of your adventure, knowing that you’ll arrive safely and in the epitome of style.