Halloween in New York City for Free And Cheap Fun

Starting in early September, carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts and candy treats mark Halloween in New York City. Best yet, ghostly elves spread the spirit of autumn across the five boroughs through All Hallows’ Eve on October 31… and maybe the following weekend!

A troop of skeleton puppets marches through the West Village of Manhattan. Photo c. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYC & Company.
A troop of skeleton puppets marches through the West Village of Manhattan. Photo c. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYC & Company.

Saving money? Watch and participate in the world-famous Village Halloween Parade. Take the family to discounted Broadway shows; there is no shortage of budget events during Halloween in New York City. Getting there cheaply with cool new flight booking apps like JustFly makes this a bargain getaway for the whole family.

It’s easy to enjoy decorated store windows — they go all out! — in a city with 32,600 retail busineses. Places like historic Chelsea Market, open daily till 2 am most nights, are packed with fun Halloween scares. Go for Oktoberfest the last weekend in September, or the October Blood Drives! Don’t avoid the aching, screaming and groaning tableaux of your favorite creepy characters. Instead, kill hours street-walking or be killed of course, by the more mature frights. Like Chelsea Market, most retail events are free, some are cheap and all are guaranteed fun.

The Very Famous Village Halloween Parade

Four people in bath towels dress like women in a bubble bath during the famous Village Halloween Parade in New York City.
These four people in bath towels are taking a bubble bath during the famous Village Halloween Parade in New York City. Photo c. Village Halloween Parade Halloween-NYC.com

Parades are the perfect opportunity for revelers to strut their stuff and Halloween costumes. Go and you’ll see there’s no bigger Halloween in New York City event than the Village Halloween Parade, now in its 49th year. Watching is free!

This year’s parade is dedicated to freedom. The theme encourages marchers to celebrate the movement and dance to “Freedom” with the Brooklyn United Marching Band. New York’s high schools and university students volunteer with local theatre professionals to dress up more than one mile of runway during the event.

Expect to see at least 50,000 costumed guests (only those in costume can march.) Experience 53 live bands, puppets, dancing and revelers strutting north on 6th Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street. Join the fun between 7pm-10:30pm on October 31. This spectacular event 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 public benches for hours beforehand!

Get a discount New York City hotel room for your Halloween fun.

All neighboring streets are closed to traffic. To get there, pick a subway stop along the route. 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. Alternatively, families who don’t like crowds can roost at 16th Street, where the parade ends, and watch as it winds down.

Free Halloween in New York City Street Frights

Upper West Side towers of the San Remo seen from Central Park, in autumn.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan is very residential so look for side streets that close to traffic for local trick-or-treating. Photo c. NYC&Co.

Try one of our favorite trick or treat outings — the side streets in Manhattan’s more residential neighborhoods. Here, residents decorate the outside of their buildings and take turns serving candy treats on the stoops of each building. That’s so kids and parents are not nervous about going inside a stranger’s apartment. It’s great fun and free. The pedestrian-only blocks are ideal for little ones to parade around in their Halloween costume and meet others.

Ask any locals you meet about their neighborhood’s Halloween in New York City event. We’ve seen some streets in the East 70s go all out with stoop-side candy baskets and great decorations. This year, look for a “haunted house” made of cardboard and flapping black garbage bags terrifying West 90th Street. Will the hugely popular West 69th Street Halloween Party between Central Park West and Broadway return after its Covid pause? Use Google for suggestions on safe trick or treating in several neighborhoods.

Hudson River Park, which runs from the city’s southern tip along the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge, boasts many scheduled activities. Check out their toddler-friendly autumn weekend events. Bring your pumpkins to Pier 84 the weekend after Halloween when volunteers smash them into compost for city gardens. Free festivities take place October weekends at the Plaza at Lincoln Center, near Broadway at 64th Street.

Alternative Halloween in New York City Family Fun

If you and the kids are terrified of T. Rex and friends, there’s no better fright than trick or treating at the American Museum of Natural History. Visit the museum the last weekend in October to unearth halls full of trick-or-treating, crafts, cartoon characters and live performances.

Stroll around Times Square from mid-October on and pause at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! marquee at 234 West 42nd Street. During Oddtober, you may catch free Sideshows outside this collection of eccentricities. You are 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 usually hosts extra fun with free candy treats over the pre-Halloween weekend, special face painting artists, and much more through the 31st. 

When it comes to haunted houses, they have spread like the plague so we must recognize a few others: Blood Manor, a terrifying manor that’s been jam-packed into 359 Broadway downtown for more than a decade. It’s Tribeca’s favorite, recommended for ages 14+.

Halloween Costumes are a New York City Way of Life

A blaze of fire costume marches in the famous Village Halloween Parade, West Village of Manhattan. Photo c. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYC & Company.
A blaze of fire costume marches in the famous Village Halloween Parade, West Village of Manhattan. Photo c. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYC & Company.

What to wear to a Halloween in New York City event? If you’re shopping for Halloween costumes, count on Star Wars aliens, Marvel superheroes, sports celebrities, pets and bunnies 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. If you’re really serious, check out Abracadabra, a huge funky shop in Chelsea that will kit out ghouls, firefighters, call girls, everything from King Ramses to Batman’s sidekick Robin. Beware, this place is for an investment in an adult costume!

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.

Halloween in New York? The Boroughs are Terrifying, Too

Of course, beyond Manhattan there are dozens of great pre- and during-Halloween weekend programs for families. Watch or participate in smaller Halloween parades throughout the city. Search the web or ask neighbors about children’s parades in Jackson Heights, Queens; Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and New South Bronx. Small neighborhood parades are much easier to handle with young children than the ginormous Village Parade.

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 Enid Haupt Conservatory at the Bronx Botanical Gardens showcases every variety of pumpkin during Fall-o-Ween. Photo c. New York Botanical Garden
The Enid Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens showcases every variety of pumpkin during Fall-o-Ween. Photo c. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx

The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx specializes in Fall-o-Ween. Mid-September to October weekends, plan on guided kids activities, carving techniques for pumpkins and gourds, beer sampling and more. Spooky Pumpkin Garden, running nights only Oct. 22 and 29, is about as hard core as they get. Evening events, however, give all ages the chance to show off their Halloween costumes. Sample the flavors of the season with food and drink talks while admiring the changing fall foliage.

Weekends from Oct. 1-30, check out the Bronx Zoo Boo at the Zoo. Tire everyone out with a full day of Halloween delight: hay mazes, pumpkin carving, magic shows, bone murals, Bootoberfest beer tastings, live music and more. Costumes and all ages are welcome. Brave souls should book the first “Dinosaurs in Darkness: The Hatching” — a terrifying, in-the-dark, Halloween walk-through event for ages 13+ Oct. 7-29.

Brooklyn Parading around Halloween in New York

Quiet side street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in autumn.
Crown Heights is a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood to spend Halloween in New York in your costumes. Photo c. NYC&Co.

Pack up the kids and head for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, celebrating its 43rd Annual Halloween Haunted Walk and Fair. Oct. 29, the friendly merry-go-round becomes a Haunted Carousel and the next day, things get really spooky. In past years, park-goers have found witches — both good and bad — headless horsemen, stormtroopers and more lurking around the Haunted Barn. Check out Lookout Hill for weekend events.

The New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, which has hosted an annual “Halloween at the Ascarium” in the past, has not announced its Halloween plans. If you go, be sure to visit the famous Coney Island amusement park and see what’s up at its delightfully refreshed amusement park.

Speaking of Coney island, the charming Luna Park midway, now more than 130 years old, hosts Halloween Harvest each fall. On select dates Wednesday through Sunday from Sept. 30-Oct. 30, an extra fee added to your wristband tickets include Halloween themed activities such as pumpkin decorating, tractor racing and trick-or-treating.

Ferry Over to Spooky Staten Island

Bats fly over old house at Historic Richmond Town village on Staten Island, New York.
Will you see bats flying over the old houses at Historic Richmond Town during the Halloween festivities? Photo c. Historic Richmond Town

Visit Staten Island for Fall in Historic Richmond Town on the weekends before Halloween. The whole family can go back in time and experience a candle-lit Village Ghost Tour. How scary is it? Well, it’s recommended for ages 8+ and the hour-long walk runs rain or shine. If you’re 18 or over, join paranormal investigators on six evenings between Sept. 16 and Nov. 12. Detective Vinnie Carbone assists guests to find the spectral visions, noises, and tingling sensations reported in some of the original and relocated hisotric buildings. Discover more fall activities and harvest events during October weekends. Pumpkin picking and pumpkin carving lessons are in full swing and busy at Decker Farm.

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, we’re hoping Pick Your Own Pumpkin returns to the Queens County Farm Museum on October weekends. We find it a favorite fruitful Halloween in New York City event. The little ones will love searching the pumpkin field and choosing the best gourd (for a fee) to carve and decorate. With your free admission, count on a scavenger hunt around the farm and, with a ticket, a hayride for all ages. Visit the farmstand to find mulled cider, pumpkins and apples for sale.

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….

Pumpkins are displayed on a bale of hay in the Bronx during the NY Botanical Gardens Spooky Pumpkin Garden event. Photo c. New York Botanical Gardens
Pumpkins are displayed on a bale of hay in the Bronx during the NY Botanical Gardens Spooky Pumpkin Garden event. Photo c. The New York Botanical Gardens

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 blog post is sponsored by JustFly.com which helps travelers find cheap flights and save. The opinions are those of the author.

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4 Replies to “Halloween in New York City for Free And Cheap Fun”

  • gra

    But a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style and design. “Individuals may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.” by Benjamin Disraeli.


    Celebrate Halloween night by watching the Sanderson sisters rise from the dead and wreak havoc in this cult classic. PS: where did the last 25 years go?

  • elahe

    It’s free to enter if you’re in costume and arrive before m, so arrive on time and party the night away!

  • Apartments Barcelona

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

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