Best Small Town Halloween Festivals & Carnivals Across The United States


New Years Eve is for adults. Valentine’s Day is reserved for high school students. But Halloween is for everyone.

You can celebrate it at all ages and in all places, whether you are making a treat out of something your grandmother sewn, lining your algebra teacher’s house with toilet paper, or realize how little money your algebra teacher must have made and volunteered with repentance. organize the local cart ride. Eventually, you can sew costumes for your grandchildren and haunt your enemies like a ghost. Halloween is forever.

Whatever phase of the Halloween life cycle you find yourself in, nothing beats a good old-fashioned Halloween festival in a small town. For all the corn mazes, floating apples, pumpkin carving, and costume contests you can handle, head to one of these small towns across the United States.

a crowd surrounding a giant lit pumpkin
Halloweentown is real in St. Helens, Oregon. | Halloween Spirit

Saint Helens, Oregon
You have almost certainly seen, heard of and / or wished you could go to Halloween town. Well, let your inner child rejoice: you really have can visit. The 1998 Disney classic was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon, just 30 minutes from Portland. Each year, the city brings the movie to life with an almost 1.5-month-long Halloween festival that even includes the lighting of the iconic giant pumpkin from the movie. Huge gourds aside, they go all out: you’ll find haunted houses and hotels, a Sand Island pumpkin hunt, and walking tours of where they filmed the two. Halloween town and Dusk.

three men pushing a woman in a cart
Have you ever done casket races? | Photo courtesy of Emma Crawford Festival

Manitou Springs, Colorado
The Emma Crawford Festival is known for a very special tradition: casket races. In the late 1800s Emma Crawford, with tuberculosis, came to Manitou Springs in hopes that the healing properties of the town’s mineral springs would save her. They do not have. But before she died, she fell in love with the city so much that she asked her husband to bury her on top of a mountain. He complied.

Decades later, spring flooding unearthed his coffin and sent it dragging along the mountain into town. His remains were gone, except for a few bones. Today, the people of Manitou Springs pay homage to her by forming teams of five – four coffin pushers (“pushers”) and one coffin driver (“Emma”) – and walking 195 meters through the city, heat. by heat. There are prizes for the three fastest times, Best Entourage, Best Coffin and Best Emma. The race is $ 75 to register per team. Due to Covid-19, the races will not resume until 2022, but in the meantime you can watch the pictures of the coffin races for yourself. The annual parade, the skeleton decorating competition and the Oktoberfest are still alive and well.

people dancing under an elaborate chandelier
Witches and wizards bring Salem to life at the Festival of the Dead. | Halloween

Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is hands down America’s most infamous Halloween destination, and every year residents make sure to remind us why they’ve held this title firmly for the past 300 years. Organized by “the greatest authorities in the spirit world,” the month-long Festival of the Dead celebrates all things death, magic and the occult. There is a psychic fair and a witches market, nightly sessions, a magic circle and even a big witches ball (which gives a lot Hocus pocus vibes) with live performances by DJs, ritual drummers and ceremonial dancers, as well as a costume competition with rewards of up to $ 1,000 in hard cash.

a Jack-O-Lantern with a roller coaster in the distance
They should call her Doll-Halloween. | Dollywood

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Halloween in Pigeon Ford, Tennessee is about as big as Dolly Parton’s hair i.e. very. There are events like spooky roller coasters, spooky parties, and kids’ costume parties, but the real showpiece is the Dollywood Harvest Festival. The park’s Great Pumpkin LumiNights surround guests with thousands of intricately carved Jack-O-Lanterns, there’s fall food like pumpkin cakes and caramel apple sundaes, and, as usual. , rides, lively music, and views of the Great Smoky Mountains abound. (The park also hosts a Southern Gospel Jubilee this time of year? Dolly’s duality.)

Jack o lanterns intricately carved
See more than 5,000 carved pumpkins at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. | Photo by Missy Wade, courtesy Roger Williams Park Zoo

Providence, Rhode Island
There are over 5,000 carved pumpkins at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, some weighing over 2,000 pounds! The festivities take place at Roger Williams Park Zoo come rain or shine, which means everyone is having fun as a family. This year they’re celebrating the last 150 years of music, playing hits from the 1860s to today (I hope they don’t snub the Monster puree) as guests explore dozens of musician-themed Jack-O-Lanterns. As a warning, you will need to purchase tickets in advance online.

people doing a rotating carnival ride
If the costumes don’t scare you, the rides will. | Neewollah

Independence, Kansas
“Neewollah”, if you haven’t already, is “Halloween” spelled backwards. Will there be carnival rides, live music and performances by The Wizard of Oz? Yeah ! Parades ? Three! Very important chili cooking? Most certainly, and desserts can also be grabbed. From October 22 to 30, Neewollah is also special because of her locket hunt. a price of up to $ 500 doesn’t hurt either).

people weighing a giant pumpkin
May the best pumpkin win. | Photo by Jerome Perez, courtesy of Sycamore Pumpkin Festival

Sycamore, Illinois
The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival started with a single resident who wanted to liven up their neighborhood in the 1950s, and today it’s the biggest citywide event of the year. Over 1,000 pumpkins are on display for display, as well as two carnivals, three craft shows and a grand parade on Sundays. The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival has a different theme each year. This year, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the event, it’s the Old Fashioned Pumpkin Festival. Catch it October 27-31.

a Halloween float running through town
A century of celebration supports this Halloween festival. | Anoka halloween

Anoka, Minnesota
Anoka Halloween is legendary. Indeed, this charming city just north of Minneapolis prides itself on being the Halloween capital of the world. In 1920, Anoka hosted a big parade and bonfire to give teens an alternative to the terror of the city with Halloween pranks. The plan was a success, and now, backed by 100 years of Halloween tradition, by the time October arrives, Anoka is absolutely having a blast.

There are of course all the must-haves of the Halloween festival: costume contests, movie nights, a pumpkin-weighing contest, a medallion hunt like the one in Independence, Kansas, a big parade that often sees 30 000 cool attendees, a bonfire after the parade, and most importantly a fucking pumpkin lighted up on top of town hall.

finely carved pumpkins on hay bales
Pumpkin carving is truly an art form. | Chadds Ford’s Great Pumpkin Carving

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
This year, from October 14-16, over 70 pumpkins, the real big ones, will be masterfully hand-carved in front of awe-inspiring spectators (you) at The Great Pumpkin Carve, then filled with candles. That would be a sufficient draw on its own, but because by law every Halloween event must include a pumpkin patch, hay rides, food and drink vendors, and live music, The Great Pumpkin Carve also has these things, plus a great haunted trail for the kids. Tickets cost $ 15 for adults and $ 5 for children; 6 years old and under enter for free.

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Kastalia Medrano is a New York journalist and frequent traveler. Am here @kastaliamedrano.

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