If your family loves going door-to-door for tricks and treats, why not extend the scary-fun feeling by discovering some haunted happenings during a Halloween-themed road trip before October 31? Dozens of cities across America don disguises, light jack o' lanterns, and celebrate all that's spooky throughout October. Here are eight creepy festivals, parades, and neighborhoods the whole gang can scream about. (Bonus: You'll get to amortize those overpriced kids' costumes that would otherwise be worn just once!)
1. Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts, home of witches and pagans, offers up plenty to do throughout the entire month of October. Of course, the city has long had a spooky reputation, thanks to the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the 17th Century. But today's month-long festival is designed to be family-friendly, not fearsome! Kicking off the event is the Grand Parade, followed by activities that change weekly, including magic shows, costume balls, haunted harbor cruises, and cemetery- and ghost tours. Take a walking tour on Wicked Wednesdays, which features interactive fun for the 12-and-under set, or visit one of the many haunted houses (arranged on a sliding scale of fear!). Kids Fun Days will offer rides for the little ones, while Saturday nights are reserved for free family movies.
2. Join 'The World's Largest Halloween Party' in Louisville, Kentucky over four weekends in October for delightful (not frightful) fun. The local zoo is transformed into a living storybook surrounded by princesses, with hundreds of lit pumpkins to find. Make your way through a giant hay maze, snap a photo with your fave superhero, or go trick-or-treating with kids 11 and under. Don't forget your dancing shoes—the Astro Disco is open to families. New this year: October 26 is Allergy-Friendly Night, where kids can visit peanut-free treat booths and collect fun stuff like stickers, sunglasses and pencils.
3. Hang out in the 'Halloween Capital of the World', Anoka, Minnesota, a town that creates family-friendly Halloween fun while raising money for scholarships and schools. Anoka is believed to be the first U.S. city to put on a Halloween party—in 1920—to draw its youngsters away from pranking their neighbors. That first parade has grown into a huge celebration: the town's parades draw visitors from across the Midwest to see the thousands of costumed children marching down Main Street. There's also an Amazing Race, a scarecrow contest, pumpkin decorating competitions, movie nights with pizza and a medallion hunt.
4. Check out 'the Biggest Pumpkin Festival in the World' in Keene, New Hamphsire, a giant jack-o-lantern extravaganza with parades, live music, pumpkin seed spitting, and pumpkin pie eating contests. Thousands of jack-o-lanterns will be lit at dusk on October 29, casting a ghostly glow over the entire area. Check out the Halloween and harvest crafts for sale, or have the kids march in the children's costume parade followed by free games. Try your hand at pumpkin bowling and enjoy the street dancers, too. Kids can then go trick-or-treating at downtown Keene's shops and restaurants.
5. Who can beat a parade that combines Mardi Gras with Halloween? The Krewe of Boo event takes place October 22 in New Orleans and features jaw-dropping props and 3D fiberglass or papier-mache sculptures crafted by Kern Studios, which builds Mardi Gras floats. Parade riders will toss out some fantastic swag to the crowd, such as candy (of course!), doubloons, voodoo doll pins, toys and yes, medallion beads a-plenty! This year's parade throws feature locally crafted snacks such as Aunt Sally's pralinettes and cheesy Chee Wees from Elmer's Fine Foods.
6. Bet you've always wanted to try racing coffins, right? If so, the Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade should top your family's must-do list for October 28. Named for one of the town's famous residents, this event draws thousands of spectators, who line the streets of Manitou Springs, Colorado, as 50 coffin teams race for the Coffin Cup. There's also cool parade of antique hearses and coffins, a costume competition and a 'Ghost Stories of Old Manitou' walking tour.
7. Packing more fun than Halloween spelled backwards, Neewollah has been happening every October in Independence, Kansas, since 1919, when parades of cars and carriages lined the streets. Today's event is the largest in the state, with the town of 10,000 attracting 65,000 visitors for its three-day fright fest. Packed with three parades, a chili cook-off, a musical performance, and a queen's pageant, Neewolah is perfect for families. There's also an arts and crafts show, a Great Pumpkin contest and a Fun Run. Roughly 500 local volunteers coordinate all activities.
8. Want to check out more than 1,000 incredibly carved jack-o-lanterns? The 56th Sycamore Pumpkin Festival takes place October 22-29 in Sycamore, Illinois. This year's theme is 'Pumpkins Across the Decades', and also features two carnivals, indoor craft shows, fireworks and a 90-minute parade. Originally started as a front yard display by area resident Wally Thurow (aka Mr. Pumpkin) in 1956, the festival now brings together 30 non-profit organizations who sponsor a weekend of fun, including a pie-eating contest, ghost stories in the park, pumpkin crafts and a teen carnival.