Halloween in New York City for Free And Cheap Fun

Starting in early September, carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts and candy treats for Halloween sprout all over New York City making window shopping a great way to enjoy free fun. Best yet, it spreads the spirit of autumn across the five boroughs through All Hallows’ Eve on October 31… and maybe the following weekend! 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 and getting there cheaply with cool new flight booking apps like JustFly makes this a bargain getaway for the whole family.

Robot costume at Halloween parade
Fantastical robots marched in New York’s 2018 Village Halloween Parade.

It’s true! Places like historic Chelsea Market, open daily and till 2 am Monday through Saturday, are packed with fun Halloween scares and aching, screaming and groaning tableaux of your favorite creepy characters tucked between shops and restaurants. You can kill hours window shopping in there, 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

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 46th year.

This year’s theme, “Wild Thing,” encourages marchers to create their own costume a la Mudman, GreenMan or Scarecrow and, for a $25 fee, costumed participants can reserve a spot in a special section of marchers with its own DJ. Expect to see at least 50,000 costumed guests marching (only those in costume can march), 53 live bands, 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.

Free Halloween on New York City Streets

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. Google your location for suggestions on safe trick or treating in several neighborhoods.

Hudson River Park’s toddler-friendly Halloween Kidz Karnival takes over the riverfront, typically the last Sunday in October, with free festivities all over Pier 26 (off Franklin Street). Get everyone dressed up and head over for Halloween-themed improv shows, 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 that weekend at the Plaza at Lincoln Center, near Broadway at 64th Street, and it’s free.

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We are afraid to share one of the city’s newest thrills, Bane Haunted House, which opened Sept. 20 at 618 West 46 Street. It’s not just scary — the NY Times reporter who reviewed had to evacuate (scream “Mercy!” and staff escort you out) at the halfway point! Originally from New Jersey, Within view of The Intrepid and tranquil Hudson River, dimly lit by the glow of Times Square billboards, is one of the creepiest experiences we’ve ever survived. It’s true; even before it was halfway over for us, this site’s editor started running through the clever, three-story maze of horror (assisted by a cast of about 100 amazingly well dressed and made up zombies.) Bane Haunted House welcomed 30,000 victims last year and is hoping to exceed that in Hell’s Kitchen. 

It’s the only haunted house in the city that forces you to squirm, crawl, slide and spin while also providing back doors for the mobility impaired and a gentler, kinder weekend fright for little children. Try it; for ages 12 and up you’ll pay $35 ($55 for a first in line pass) or just $10 for the Happily Haunted family experience each Sunday in October from 3pm-5pm.

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, and the long-popular, high rent haunted house called Nightmare NY which is now a live production — “This is Real.”

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 the Halloween Sleepover at the American Museum of Natural History October 12, which costs $150 per person– isn’t that cool? Alternatively, visit the museum the afternoon of October 26, when more than 30 halls will be 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, 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 usually hosts 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.

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 Marvel 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, two affordable beauty supply and exotic sundries shops that sell everything from stage makeup to reading glasses, shampoo to wigs. 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.

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 Spooky Pumpkin Garden, running 6 weeks from mid-September through October 31. Families will love the guided kids activities, 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 or don costumes the last two weekends of October for Spooky Pumpkin Nights.

Weekends from late September till early November, 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, bone murals, corn maze, Bootoberfest beer tastings, live music and more. Costumes and all ages are welcome.

Brooklyn Halloweening

Pack up the kids and head for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, celebrating its 153rd anniversary this year. Each October weekend before Halloween catch witches — both good and bad — headless horsemen, stormtroopersers 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. Nethermead is the site of the day-long Halloween Fair for all ages.

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

Ferry Over to Spooky Staten Island

pumpkin patch and tractor
Picking your own pumpkin is a treat.

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


    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!