Starting in early September, carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts, and candy treats permeate every corner for Halloween in New York City and spreads the spirit of autumn 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 in New York City events.
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 in New York City event? 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 44th year.
This year’s theme, “Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie,” encourages marchers to create their own hybrid character costumes, honoring traditional monsters like Frankenstein and classic vaudeville sideshows. Expect to see 50,000 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. Arrive early as locals camp out on the sidewalks, bring their own ladders, and even sleep on the public benches for hours beforehand!
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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. 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.
Halloween in New York City 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 Halloween in New York City Halloween. 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 90th Street. Mommy Poppins also has suggestions for safe trick or treating in several neighborhoods.
Hudson River Park’s toddler-friendly Halloween Kidz Karnival takes over the riverfront on October 29 from noon to 5 pm, 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. Similar festivities take place October 28 at the Plaza at Lincoln Center, near Broadway at 64th Street, and it’s free.
Alternative Halloween in New York City Family Fun
Visit the American Museum of Natural History the afternoon of October 28, when more than 30 of the Museum’s halls will be full of trick-or-treating, crafts, cartoon characters, and live performances.
Stroll around Times Square from October 13 on, and pause at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! the marquee at 234 West 42nd Street. During Oddtober, you may catch 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 extra fun with free candy treats over the pre-Halloween weekend, special face painting artists, and much more through the 31st. 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 with timed ticket admissions.
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 live production — or maybe dead one — that plays all the time in October and is slated to run till the end of the year. Arm yourself for a visit to the Brooklyn space at 153 Coffey Street in Red Hook. 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 Halloween in New York 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 Scarecrows & Pumpkins, running 5 weeks from late September through October 31. 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. Roam the grounds and admire pumpkins weighing more than a ton during its Giant Pumpkin Weekend.
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, Bootoberfest beer tastings, live music and more. Costumes are welcome, and a new haunted forest (plus a few surprises) have been added for the very brave ages 12+.
Pack up the kids and head for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. On the weekend before Halloween catch witches — both good and bad — headless horsemestormtroopersers and more lurking around the Haunted Barn. The fun and the haunted walk geared for ages 7-12 takes 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 Friday 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, harvest festivals, pumpking picking and 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 for a fun Halloween in New York City. 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 Maize Maze corn maze (open two nights this year!) 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 Sunday prior to Halloween. Admission includes kids games, pig racing, Halloween characters and crafts.
You can also head way out of the city and go upstate for a Halloween in New York. Go here to see what all of the frights are all about.
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.. and see for yourself!
Looking for more fun haunted houses for kids, spooky thrills, and frights? See what’s going on this Halloween across the country.
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.