Halloween has grown into a major festive season, and almost every city, town, theme park, kids museum, and zoo has some themed fun throughout October, and sometimes starting as early as September. Many families take special trips to their favorite Halloween destinations. See suggestions below for ten top spots (and see also many more Halloween events).
Families have both east and west coast opportunities to have Halloween fun at a LEGOLAND theme park designed for ages two to twelve. LEGOLAND Florida is located in Winter Haven, about an hour from Orlando; LEGOLAND California is a half-hour north of San Diego. Both have Brick-or-Treat events on weekends in October, with giant themed models made out of LEGO (such as the giant pumpkin, left), trick-or-treating along the Brick-or-Treat trail, costume contests, dance party, and more.
The original Disneyland theme park in Anaheim has several big events. "Haunted Mansion Holiday" takes over the classic Haunted Mansion attraction and gives it an overlay from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. There's also Halloween Screams Fireworks, and a separate-admission Mickey's Trick or Treat Party. Meanwhile at the Disney California Adventure Park, "The Art of Frankenweenie," is a special exhibit in Hollywood Land that features props and puppets used in the "Frankenweenie" film. And the fun doesn't end on October 31st. Dia De Los Muertos themed events continue until November 2nd.
Walt Disney World, meanwhile, has "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party", a separate-ticket event held on multiple evenings in October and September in the Magic Kingdom theme park (which is just just one of four giant theme parks at Disney World.) A side benefit of this type of special party is that families can ride popular attractions with no line-ups or crowds.
Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood are two epicenters of Halloween madness throughout October. About.com's Guide for Theme Parks has details and this warning: "There are no age restrictions, but Universal doesn't skimp on the gross-out gore and advertises Halloween Horror Nights as being rated 'PG-13.' It's probably best to leave the younger kiddos at home." The night-time events are separately ticketed; during day-time, there's less scary Halloween-themed spookiness that younger kids can enjoy.
The deceptively-named Knotts Berry Farm not only has killer roller coasters but is also one of the scariest theme parks for horror-type Halloween events. About.com's Guide for Theme Parks notes: "Nobody would be refused admittance, but the Haunt is not recommended for children under 13 (or anyone else easily grossed out)." For families with younger kids, try the Snoopy's Costume Party daytime event that's included in regular park admission. The Halloween Haunt is a separate night-time ticketed event.
Reportedly Disneyland Paris - aka Euro Disney- is the place to go for those who want to jump into Halloween in France, where generally Halloween is not widely celebrated (yet.) Highlights include "Halloweenmosphere" decorations, Disney Villains, a live show, and a grand finale party. Hong Kong Disneyland likewise has major celebrations for Halloween, and Tokyo Disneyland has a special party from mid-September through October, and a "Holiday Nightmare" program at the Haunted Mansion.
New York City has dozens of fun Halloween events for families throughout October, and October's a great month to visit the Big Apple. Weather can be lovely on the Columbus Day long weekend, for example, and this is also the three-day Thanksgiving weekend travel opportunity for Canadians. To name just a couple of highlights in NYC: families can find free or low-cost Halloween fun in Central Park, and can also join the crowds for the terrific Village Halloween Parade on October 31st.
Salem is unique among the destinations here because its real-life history is associated with witches, i.e. the terrible Witch Trials of 1692. Salem nowadays replaces those old ghosts with happier ones, and puts on major Halloween celebrations: a 3-D haunted house, an annual carnival, ghostly tours, a costume ball, a Children's Costume Brunch, and more. Read more about Spooky Salem at About.com, and see all the details at Salem's Haunted Happenings website. Families can also take in Salem's year-round attractions such as the Salem Witch Museum, and the Witch Dungeon Musem where actors recreate the witch trials.
You gotta give points to a city that merges its own name with "Halloween": "Chicagoween" takes place throughout October in the city's Daley Plaze, with pumpkin decorating, circus-type entertainment, a farmers market selling pumpkins, and more. Late in the month, Daley Plaza becomes Franken Plaza for more fun including a costume contest, and this too is a free event. Click above to read more about these events, haunted houses, and other Halloween-ish things to do.
London's a great place to visit with kids, especially as the major museums (including the Science Museum and and the Museum of Natural History that has real dinosaur skeletons) are free-- read more about London sightseeing. Check out special Halloween events at the link above. Visitors will find fun events, off-season airfares and lodgings rates, plus the chance to stay on for Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night, with big celebrations on November 5th.