New York City Hosts Free And Cheap Halloween Festivities

Author: Jillian Ryan

Tags : Baby, City Break, Couples, Fall Getaway, Kids, New York, New York City, Teens, USA

Starting in early September, carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts and candy treats permeate every corner of New York City, spreading the spirit of autumn and the impending Halloween. NYC & Company, the City's official marketing and tourism partnership organization, welcomes New Yorkers and visitors alike to experience the holiday across the five boroughs, from early October through All Hallows' Eve. Whether it's watching the world-famous Village Halloween Parade or taking the family to discounted Broadway shows, there is no shortage of Halloween events in the City.

Most are free, some are cheap, and all are guaranteed fun.

Halloween Costumes are a New York City Requirement

What to wear to a Halloween event in NYC? If you're shopping for Halloween costumes, count on Star Wars aliens, political candidates, sports celebrities, pets, bunnies and Disney/PIXAR characters from the latest hit movies to be among the city's favorites.

Costumes are widely sold and many neighborhoods boast pop-up stores if you didn't make your own. Locals flock to Ricky's, a chain of beauty supply and exotic sundries shops that sell everything from stage makeup to reading glasses, lingerie to shampoo to wigs. Kids and their grownups will find that exploring the city's streets in a Halloween costume is an event all its own, as residents dress up and express themselves as only New Yorkers can. 

The Very Famous Village Halloween Parade

Parades are the perfect opportunity for revelers to strut their stuff -- and Halloween costumes -- and there's no bigger event in New York City than the Village Halloween Parade, now in its 43rd year. 

This year's theme, "Reverie," promotes a night of self-realization, a chance to dress up and play your real self.  Expect to see thousands of costumed guests marching, dancing and strutting north on 6th Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street, 7:00pm-10:30pm on October 31. The spectacular event is full of music, dancers — even puppets — and attracts more than 2 million visitors each year. Keep in mind that to get there, you'll need to pick a subway stop along the route, since all streets are closed to traffic. Arrive early as locals camp out on the sidewalks, bring their own ladders, and even sleep on the public benches for hours beforehand!

We've found that from the West 8th Street-New York University stop on the Red or #1 Broadway subway, you can usually find a bit of sidewalk to watch from.

Manhattan Halloween Streets & Festivals

One of our favorite trick or treat spots with little ones is the hugely popular West 69th Street Halloween Party, that extends from Central Park West to Broadway along pretty brownstone-lined streets. Here, residents decorate the outside of their buildings and take turns serving candy treats on the stoops of each building, so kids and parents don't have to be nervous about going inside a stranger's apartment. It's great fun, and the pedestrian-only zone is ideal for little ones to parade around in their Halloween costume and meet others.

Ask any locals you meet about their neighborhood celebration.  We've seen some streets in the East 70s go all out with stoop-side candy baskets and great decorations, and even found a "haunted house" made of cardboard and flapping black garbage bags that was terrifying the little kids on West 89th Street.

Hudson River Park’s toddler-friendly Halloween Kidz Karnival takes over the riverfront on October 30 from noon to 5pm, with free festivities all over Pier 26 (off Franklin Street). Get everyone dressed up and head over for Halloween-themed improv shows by the Story Pirates, plus face painting, mask decorating, magic acts, wax hands creation (weird!), spin art, cotton candy, rides and much more designed for ages 8 and under. You're sure to be in the Halloween spirit.

Alternative Halloween Family Fun

Visit the American Museum of Natural History for a Live Bat Encounter on October 29 and check out the latest revelations about dinosaurs, which will make even the city's pigeons seem scary.

Stroll around Times Square before nightfall on October 28, and pause at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! marquee at 234 West 42nd Street. Every weekend there are free Sideshows outside this collection of eccentricities, so you're bound to fit right in. Seriously, it's an amazing, no-cost treat to watch sword swallowers and people knocking nails into their own heads and it goes on even when it's not Halloween. Ripley's is also hosting a Halloween Party, with a 20-room haunted house, a laser maze, costume contest, food and drink for those calm enough to imbibe and a DJ. Bound to be memorable.

Newest NYC Real Estate Nightmares

When it comes to haunted houses, most fun-seekers picture Victorian, cobweb-encrusted, rickety wooden mansions, not glittering highrises. And Blood Manor does not disappoint. For more than a decade, the terrifying manor has been jam-packed into 163 Varick Street downtown. Get ready to be terrorized by clowns with chainsaws and the supremely horrifying Annabelle. Grab an online advance ticket at a discount, or check out the after midnight entry, student discounts and other promotions. It's open mostly Thursday through Sunday nights through early November.

The whole world knows how New Yorkers feel about their exorbitant rents, but don't call This is Real just another theatre festival. No, it has evolved from the long-popular high rent haunted house called Nightmare NY into a festival of live productions -- or maybe dead ones -- that play only in October. Arm yourself for a visit to the Brooklyn space at 153 Coffey Street. Sounds terrifying.

The Boroughs are Terrifying Too

Of course, beyond Manhattan there are dozens of great Pre- and during-Halloween weekend programs for families. Much easier to handle with young children than the Village Parade, watch or participate in smaller Halloween parades throughout the City, including children's parades in Jackson Heights, Queens; Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and New South Bronx.

Attending one will give you a chance to see more of the big city, and come into contact with locals who won't be so overwhelmed by the crowds that flock to Manhattan events. Getting around by public transportation is easy via the MTA.

The Bronx Horrifies Halloweeners all October!

The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx will feature the Scarecrows & Pumpkins, running September 17-October 30. Roam the grounds and admire pumpkins weighing more than a ton. Families will love the guided kids activities about the history and role of the scarecrow, carving techniques for pumpkins and gourds, and many other events. Daily except Mondays till Halloween.

Throughout the month of October over each weekend, check out the Bronx Zoo Boo at the Zoo for a full day of Halloween delight with hay mazes and hayrides, pumpkin carving, magic shows, live music and more.

Brooklyn Halloweening

Pack up the kids and head for Prospect Park in Brooklyn the weekend before Halloween for fun holiday celebrations. Witches -- both good and bad -- headless horsemen, storm troopers and more will be lurking around the Haunted Barn. The fun and the haunted walk geared for ages 7-12 take place on Lookout Hill, where bats, snakes and other creatures of the night will be on display. Nevermead is the site of the day-long Halloween Fair for all ages.

The New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, which usually hosts an annual "Halloween at the Ascarium," is under renovation this year and, while open and worth a visit, will not be holding the event. While you're there, be sure to visit Coney Island and see what's up at its delightfully refreshed amusement park. 

Ferry Over to Spooky Staten Island

Visit Staten Island for Halloween in Richmond Town on the Saturday before Halloween, when the whole family can go back in time and experience trick-or-treating as it was in the '50s. How scary is that? Children can bob for apples, watch puppet shows and play themed games. Costumes encouraged; reservations are required. Note that this restored village also has other fall activities and pumpking carving during October weekends.

If you're touring New York City during autumn, the Staten Island Ferry still offers the best views of the Statue of Liberty and it's free. Dress the kids up and let them trick or treat aboard and you can save visiting Liberty Island for another trip.

Queens Residents pick out pumpkins

In Queens, Pick Your Own Pumpkin at the Queens County Farm Museum on Saturdays and Sundays throughout October. The little ones will love searching the pumpkin field and choosing the best gourd (fee) to carve and decorate. When you've had your fill, try their 3-acre corn maze. For something a little spookier, a Halloween Haunted House runs the last weekend in October, with hayrides, treats, mulled cider and pumpkins and apples for sale. Celebrate even more with the Children's Fall Festival the weekend prior to Halloween. Admission is just $5/person, and members get in for free. Admission includes kids games, pig racing, Halloween characters and crafts. Also featured in October is Eating America, with tours describing where our food comes from, and how it's prepared. 

And if this isn't enough....

For more information, the last-minute special events, and up to date schedules of Halloween events in and around New York City, log on to the NYC & Company site or follow #falltrips on Twitter -- we guarantee live updates of cool places to be seen.

Note! This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.


NYC is a great place to celebrate Halloween, and good opportunities for celebrity sightings too!