Do your kids like a good thrill? Are you as into Halloween as Claire Dunphy on Modern Family? If so, it is time to plan a spooky fall getaway that will give the whole family spine-tingling thrills.
Here are some ideas for the best places for Halloween on the East Coast from small towns to haunted historic cities. From the silly to the macabre, the historic to the fall fun, you are sure to find something to give you a fright.
See more East Coast family vacation ideas.
Best Places for Halloween
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1. Salem, Massachusetts
With its unfortunate history around the Salem Witch Trials, Salem Massachusetts has become a go-to place for chilling fun. For the entire month of October, Salem’s Haunted Happenings take over the town with a festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England.
More than 250,000 people come to Salem Haunted Happenings each year to take part in events such as a Grand Parade, the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, Family Film Nights on Salem Common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music, and chilling theatrical presentations.
See what else there is to do in Salem in the fall for those that aren’t as into the spooky stuff.
2. Newport, Rhode Island
This old sailing capital has seen its share of history and retains its share of ghosts. Take a lantern-led ghost tour down historic Newport, Rhode Island’s shadowy lanes, and discover the ghosts, ghouls, and legends of the haunted city by the sea.
Newport Shipyard also hosts a “pumpkin regatta” in the middle of October, where you can see paddling around in floating “pumpkins” to raise money for local causes. If you want to explore some local “haunts” on your own, head to Whitehorse Tavern, Purgatory Chasm overlooking Second Beach, Belcourt of Newport, Carey Mansion, and Colt State Park to see if you spy any local ghosts.
For more thrills, head up to nearby Providence for a visit to Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular or take a ghost tour of Providence. You can even visit the Lizzie Borden House in nearby Fall River (or book an overnight stay).
Where to stay: The Vanderbilt in Newport has the best spooky vibes
3. Sleepy Hollow, New York
If anywhere is going to go big on Halloween, it would be Sleepy Hollow, New York, home to the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” author Washington Irving. On weekends in October, visitors can tour Washington Irving’s house—decorated for the season—watch an original shadow puppet short film, and enjoy games on the lawn. See how the “Legend” has lived on in the imagination of popular culture.
The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson is one of the best jack-o-lantern displays in the country with more than 7,000 illuminated jack o’ lanterns—all designed and hand-carved on-site and complete with synchronized lighting and an original soundtrack. (Buy tickets online)
Where to stay: Courtyard by Marriott Tarrytown Westchester
4. Erie, Pennsylvania
What could be eerier than Erie? This lakeside town offers ghost walks and cemetery walking tours for the brave and daring. Those a bit less courageous can enjoy the ZooBoo! at the Erie Zoo, the Peek’n Peak Fall Fest in mid-October, or haunted hayrides and corn mazes.
For more frights, try the Eeriebyss Factory of Terror haunted attraction, Murder & Mayhem walking tours, or Fright Night at Presque Isle Light. If you would rather just enjoy some fall fun, Presque Isle State Park is a popular spot for birders, with more than 339 species that pass through on the Atlantic Flyway for rest and food as they migrate across Lake Erie.
Where to stay: Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel
5. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The Gettysburg Battlefield is a place where you can feel the presence of the horror that took place in that spot, especially when you take a tour with a licensed guide and they tell you stories from the Civil War.
To see for yourself, take either a Civil War Ghosts nightly walking ghost tour of downtown inns and buildings to hear the gripping stories of the ghosts and hauntings of Gettysburg, or take a battlefield tour with Battlefield Paranormal Excursions. These small group tours make use of ghost meters, EMF detectors, dowsing rods, temperature gauges, and more paranormal tools.
Beyond the battlefield, Gettysburg offers tons of fall fun with Fields of Adventure, offering a corn maze, hay rides, pumpkin fields, and more. Gettysburg also hosts the National Apple Festival in early October.
Where to stay: Gettysburg Hotel
6. Frederick, Maryland
Did you know that Frederick is Maryland’s Most Haunted City?? Neither did I but their master storytellers will take visitors on a candlelight tour through Frederick’s historic district, leading guests through dark streets and alleyways, weaving together historical accounts and documented stories of the paranormal. The city’s long and storied history is full of tales of soldiers, famous local residents, and moments that shaped the nation’s history.
A few of the “haunted” sites include the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and City Hall. Explore these sites through Frederick Ghost Tours or Cemetery Tours.
On the less scary side, Frederick has strong German roots and this is clear in the Frederick Oktoberfest. Located on the Frederick Fairgrounds, Oktoberfest offers over a dozen different types of beers, including some from local breweries, along with several food tents that serve up brats, strudel, pretzels, and schnitzel. Visitors will also take part in music and dancing, children’s events, and a sports tent.
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Frederick
7. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond has a whole host of scary attractions, from Kings Dominion’s Halloween Haunt to a ghost tour of Richmond’s historic neighborhoods. Visitors can join an October UnHappy Hour at the Poe Museum or experience an evening of spellbinding tales at Haunted Henricus Historical Park.
For even more frights, at the Terror on the Farm at Ashland Berry Farm or the Creepy Hallow Scream Park with live actors, monsters, incredible animatronics, amazing illusions, and acres of screams. If terror isn’t your thing, maybe try a walk through “Garden Glow” at Maymont Gardens and trails, complete with food trucks and fire pits.
Where to stay: The Jefferson
8. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is known as the most haunted city in America. See if you can spy one of the local ghosts or experience some serious paranormal activity at the Hamilton-Turner Inn (made famous by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), the Marshall House, 17 Hundred 90 Inn, Kehoe House, and Moon River Brewing Company. The Pirates’ House restaurant is another historic spot that is rumored to be haunted.
From its annual Oktoberfest in the Plant Riverside District to Tybee Island’s Pirate Festival in early October, Savannah is a great place to visit in the fall. For those that are looking for thrills, 6th Sense World Savannah Ghost Tours cover paranormal and haunted story topics of poltergeists, hags, exorcism, missing cemeteries, disembodies spirit forms, and haunted hotels.
Where to stay: The Marshall House
9. St. Augustine, Florida
Located in Florida’s northeastern “Historic Coast”, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S. and home to quite a few ghost stories and haunts. Learn a few of them on a St. Augustine Ghosts & Gravestones tour in the historic downtown, which was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers.
You can even stay in a “haunted” hotel. Dating back to 1791, the St. Francis Inn is on the Select Registry of luxury inns and each room and suite is unique. If you don’t mind sharing with a ghost, request Lily’s room. Of course, if you want the opposite of death, visit the Fountain of Youth.
For more non-spooky fall fun, the Sykes Family Farms’ award-winning Crop Mazes are an annual treat in St. Augustine in October. Creepy crawly fun can be had at the Creatures of the Night events throughout October at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
Where to stay: St. Francis Inn
10. Orlando, Florida
Yes, the “happiest place on earth” can also be a great place for Halloween. While Walt Disney World keeps Halloween tame with Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party. Just keep in mind that this is a special ticketed event not included in your entrance ticket/reservation and need to be booked in advance (and yes, they do sell out early!)
For the real thrills, head to Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights. My friend Bryanna has a full guide to Halloween Horror Nights, but this event includes 10 haunted houses, five Scare Zones, themed shows, and decked-out rides and attractions. Guests can come in full costume, just be sure to buy your ticket to the event as it isn’t included in admission.
Even SeaWorld gets into the action with Howl-o-Scream, with 5 haunted houses, 7 scare zones, 3 terrifying live shows, roaming hoards, and pulse-pounding coasters in the dark, or Halloween Spooktacular for younger kids.
Legoland Florida also hosts a Monster Party as part of its Brick-or-Treat celebration during late September and October weekends. There you will find tons of candy, new shows, never-before-seen exclusive LEGO® characters, and a costume parade.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
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Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.