World's Spookiest Halloween Festivals
There's nothing quite like a festive neighborhood soiree to embrace the Halloween spirit. But some cities around the world truly go above and beyond with Halloween celebrations that include plenty of ghouls and goblins. According to the Haunted Attraction Association (yes, this exists!), a haunted house is essentially live theater that entertains millions of people a year. We rounded up some of the world's most ghoulish Halloween festivals and attractions that not only give a good fright but also put on a stellar show.
One of New York City's most highly touted events, the Village Halloween Parade comprises more than 50,000 paraders who revel in 3 hours of festival fun in the West Village. Best of all, anyone can participate in the parade as long as they’re in costume (the more outrageous the costume, the better!). Weaved into the parade are 50 bands from around the world, as well as dancers, giant puppets, artists, drag queens and thousands of New Yorkers in creative outfits who march down Sixth Avenue. Just like the annual Macy's Day Parade and New Year’s Eve bash in Times Square, the event is televised on local stations.
This small city north of Boston known for the infamous Salem witch trials
is so into Halloween that the entire month of October is a party. With the annual Festival of the Dead, Halloween lovers can experience a variety of events, such as the annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo, and the Vampires Masquerade Ball. The most popular event is the Official Salem Witches' Halloween Ball. Hundreds of costumed patrons flock to Salem as fires are burned on hilltops, while witches gather to cast spells for the new year and to honor the dead during Samhain (the ancient name for "Halloween"). This year's theme is Witch and Famous, and the Halloween Ball includes live performances, costume prizes and free psychic readings.
Douglas Neiner, Flickr
Like to be really frightened? London's popular Dungeon has been giving visitors friendly panic attacks since 1976, thanks to an elaborate, interactive experience that takes visitors through London's bloody past. Come face-to-face with notorious villains like Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd, as well as horrifying events such as the Black Plague. With actors escorting you through 14 shows and 3 scary rides (including one that has you spin in the dark at high speeds as you shoot it out with evil ghosts), the horrors of London are a scream-fest. Enter … at your own risk!
It’s no surprise that drag queens are a hit on Halloween in Toronto: The ever-popular Halloweek takes place in the Church Wellesley Village, Toronto’s largest gay neighborhood. The weeklong festival is chockfull of events, attractions and, as you might guess, tricks and treats. Visitors (both gay and hetero) can enter Jack-o'- Lantern carving contests and ghoulish dining tours. But the headliner is the block party on Halloween night. The streets are closed off for Toronto's biggest Halloween celebration where locals and visitors alike in imaginative costumes party well past midnight.
The Queen Mary
All aboard … if you dare! Often said to be the most haunted place in the world, the cruiseliner Queen Mary
, docked off Long Beach, CA, is one of the scariest -- and most festive! -- places to celebrate Halloween. The experience at Dark Harbor is unique and quite unpredictable: Visitors venture through 6 terrifying mazes haunted by more than 200 monsters and ghosts, many of which are inspired by the actual spirits that haunt the ship. The experience runs throughout the month of October, and includes live entertainment, food and beverages.
David Sprague for Universal Studios Hollywood
If you thought theme parks couldn't have a dark side, think again. In October, Universal Studios transforms itself into a creepy wonderland of horrors, with over-the-top settings and scream-worthy attractions. Horror-movie fans can experience their favorite shows and movies first-hand with interactive mazes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Walking Dead, where visitors need to outrun hordes of zombies on the all-new Terror Tram. With additional shows, rides and "scare zones," you'll be sorry you entered! While you're in the area, be sure to check out the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval
, where half a million Halloween revelers flood Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween day.
Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau
One of the world's most underrated Halloween events is in Derry, Ireland . On Halloween weekend, more than 50,000 revelers flood the streets of this small town in Northern Ireland wearing inventive costumes, many of them homemade. Halloween is taken so seriously here that pubs refuse pints to those who don't dress up! All weekend, visitors take to the streets and the town’s main square (including a 17th-century walled-in city within a city) for a fireworks display and carnival parade.
Brace yourself for some serious farm-raised scares. Every year, Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, CA, transforms itself into “160 acres of horror.” The slogan here is “Walk in, Freak Out,” and that’s no joke: More than 1,000 monsters, 13 mazes and 4 scare zones make up Knott’s Scary Farm. Bring some Ricola, your voice is bound to need it from all the screaming. This year promises to up the scare quotient with Trapped, an all-new, interactive maze that allows 6 visitors through at a time, with one catch -- there’s no escape.