Leaves are turning and a chill is in the air. Fall is here, and that means All Hallow’s Eve is upon us. Halloween, like Christmas, has evolved from a one-night holiday to an entire month-long season.
Whether your flat is right in your mid-Atlantic hometown or you’ve just moved to a new rental along the I-95 corridor, resist the urge to curl up on your apartment couch with a horror movie-a-thon. Get out and experience Halloween in the Northeast for yourself.
From long-standing colonial traditions to massive urban carnivals, nowhere celebrates the 31 Days of Halloween like the Northeast U.S. all throughout the month of October. No matter where your apartment is on the map, an awesome and scary Halloween celebration is a short drive or train ride away.
Here are eight of the best Halloween events in the Northeast.
1. Haunted Happenings – Salem, MA
Infamous as the site of the ill-fated 17th-century witch trials, Salem, MA, may be the best historic site in all of America at which to spend Halloween. The city’s holds a full month-long Halloween festival called Haunted Happenings, which features spooky plays, carnival games and rides, psychics and mediums, museums, ghost tours, haunted houses and more than a dozen costume contests.
You will also find many witch and Halloween-themed stores and shops throughout downtown Salem such as Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery and Crow Haven Witch Shop.
For an authentic Salem Witch experience, be sure to hit up historic attractions including the Witch House on Essex Street (former home to one of the primary judges responsible for sentencing witches to death), the Salem Witch Trial Memorial at Burying Point Cemetery, Proctor’s Ledge where 19 convicted witches were hanged and the historic home that inspired the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic gothic novel The House of the Seven Gables.
2. Creamy Acres Farm – Mullica Hill, NJ
With a name as quaint and pleasant as Creamy Acres Farm, you wouldn’t expect one of the Northeast’s scariest destinations. But that’s what you’ll find at South Jersey’s “Night of Terror,” a complex of a half-dozen frightening attractions and named one of HGTV’s Scariest Haunted Houses.
The massive 100-acre park, the largest Halloween park in New Jersey, is inhabited by zombies, attack dogs, chainsaw-wielding maniacs and killer clowns.
But the most unique attraction at Creamy Acres is the Haunted Paintball Hayride, which is exactly what it sounds like. Visitors climb aboard a wagon and use man-mounted paintball guns to defend the crew against live actors dressed as zombies and intricate moving props in a host of scenes over a 15-minute ride.
3. Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, PA
Can you think of anything creepier than a gigantic haunted house inside one of America’s most infamous prisons? You can experience just that at Philly’s Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP). Built in 1829, ESP was the world’s first penitentiary (based on the “penance” system), housing infamous criminals from Al Capone to Willie Sutton.
Sitting dormant since being shuttered in 1971, the National Historic Landmark now serves as home to “Terror Behind The Walls,” America’s largest haunted house, spread throughout the massive rundown empty cell blocks.
Heavier on surprise than gore, more than 200 costumed characters and dozens of special effects elicit screams from visitors across the 11-acre operation, which is divided into six distinct attractions with names like “Quarantine” and “Blood Yard.” You might even find yourself grabbed by the shoulders and pulled into a maze of hidden passageways.f
4. Night of the Living Zoo – Washington D.C.
At America’s National Zoo, officially the Washington National Zoological Park, you can visit with 1,800 animals from 300 different species, including the famous Giant Panda Habitat. But come Halloween time, the Zoo hosts after-hours fun in the Nation’s Capital for one-night-only.
Night of the Living Zoo is a 21+ Halloween animal party and adult costume contest that includes live music, dancing, performance artists and carnival sideshows, as well as DC-area food trucks and beer from local craft brewers. The event is open after-hours with spooky nighttime access to some of the zoo’s most famous attractions.
5. The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze – Croton-On-Hudson, NY
In the Hudson Valley, just an hour north of Central Park, the Van Cortlandt Manor is a stately 17th-century mansion, home to one of the most stunning Halloween attractions in the Northeast, The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze.
The Blaze features a display of more than 7,000 hand-carved glowing jack-o’-lanterns, along with life-sized zodiac symbols, a fully-functional “Pumpkin Planetarium” and a 20-foot-wide working pumpkin carousel. The display uses a remarkable 200,000 pounds of pumpkins each year, and carving begins as early as August.
And while you’re in the area, the Blaze is just 10 miles down the road from Sleepy Hollow, the setting of the famous Washington Irving gothic novel about Headless Horseman Ichabod Crane.
During Halloween season, you can take a nighttime lantern tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and visit Irving’s final resting place or visit the headless one at the “Horseman’s Hollow” haunted house.
6. Arasapha Farm – Glen Mills, PA
About 15 miles outside Philadelphia sits Arasapha Farm, a full-time working farmstead owned by a family named … Bates. Each Halloween the farm transforms into a gigantic haunted corn maze trail, haunted hayride and a haunted house called – what else – Bates Motel.
The long 25-minute forest hayride, rated one of the top haunted attractions in America by Hauntworld Magazine and USA Today, takes you through 25 distinct scenes including recreations of a ghostly New England church, a 200-foot-long cave and a drive-thru insane asylum, populated by more than 75 actors.
The main attraction is the recreated Bates Motel haunted house, based on the infamous residence from Psycho. The giant haunted house features animatronic monsters, pyrotechnics and Hollywood-level digital effects including levitating spirits, living floorboards, creepy portraits that follow you as you walk and interactive actors in full spooky makeup and costume.
7. Central Park – New York, NY
There’s no better place to celebrate an urban Halloween than smack dab in the middle of Manhattan’s Central Park. Park activities abound through October, including storytellers spinning ghost yarns, pumpkin carving demonstrations from the world-renown Hugh McMahon and the famous Central Park Halloween Costume Parade.
There are also educational events not to be missed like an up-close program about blood-sucking animals from biologist Bill Schutt and “Bats at Belvedere,” the true story of the bats at Belvedere Castle.
The culmination of Halloween in Central Park is the Central Park Conservancy “Pumpkin Flotilla,” where more than 50 jack-o’-lanterns, carved and donated by attendees, are placed aboard rafts and set adrift across the Harlem Meer as night falls.
8. Pumpkintown – East Hampton, CT
For those seeking less scary entertainment, Connecticut’s Pumpkintown is a family-friendly country tourist village, named one of the 5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New England.
The streets of Pumpkintown feature houses, stores, a church, a post office, a saloon, a jail and a restaurant called “MacPumpkin,” inhabited by nearly 100 life-sized mannequins and scarecrows (and their pets) with literal painted pumpkin heads. Imagine Colonial Williamsburg but featuring pumpkin people with names like Leroy Butternut and Penelope Parton.
There are three primary attractions inhabiting the site. “Pumpkintown Village” is the picturesque New England farm town perfect for an autumn stroll among the pumpkin people, mixed among rides, games, face painting and a pumpkin moon bounce – safely non-scary for kids.
“The Halloween Harvest Shop” is a charming country store featuring everything pumpkin you could ask for in fall, including handcrafted pumpkin candles and fresh pumpkin syrup, butters and pie fillings.
“The Ride” is a mile-long hayride through the local forest with views of more than 30 unique hand-painted Pumpkinheads. And admission fees go towards the Sandy Peszynski Breast Cancer Foundation.