Thousands of Jack O'Lanterns at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island

From ghost tours, to haunted houses, to terrifying corn mazes, there are no shortage of extreme Halloween experiences across the country. In fact, the Halloween scare factor seems to grow by the year with every haunted house trying to outdo the next. Some of these places are so intense that guests need to sign a waiver before entering! McKamey Manor (locations in Nashville & Huntsville) makes you sign a 40 page waiver and claims they will give you $20,000 just for completing the insane tour. Note – no one has ever lasted to the end. Of course, you could always visit a real haunted location. From the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Old Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, you can always explore the paranormal on your own terms, and possibly capture real evidence.

For all those who prefer to keep the frights down to a bare minimum, there are endless options for you as well. For those who prefer spooky fun like Ghostbusters and Hocus Pocus, over gory “can’t look at the screen half the movie” thrillers like Saw and Hostel, the following attractions should please. The Halloween events featured below offer more fun than frights, and are sure to leave you in the Halloween spirit. With festive treats, themed rides, colorful lights, jack o’lanterns, crazy costumes, and spooky music, you will be glad that you exchanged the horror for the fun.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Main Street decor at Walt Disney World

The best Halloween attraction in the country for kids and adults alike is the family-friendly Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World. Not only is this Orlando’s best event of the year, it’s also one of the best in the country. Featuring special after hours park admission, themed rides, more treats than you can imagine, stage shows, a Halloween themed fireworks show, and a catchy “Boo to You” parade, there’s more Halloween crammed into one night here than anywhere else. What’s more, everyone is free to wear a costume. Or, pick up some really cute Halloween themed Mickey necklaces, ears, or t-shirts. Various trick or treat stations throughout the park (all ages allowed!) will bring back the nostalgia of Halloweens past.

Main Street looks incredible, decked out to the brim with Jack O’Lanterns, scarecrows, Mickey Halloween wreaths, and festive garland, with every shop offering some type of specialty fall treat. When the sun goes down, the lights come on for a spectacular spooky show. The hotspot to be is in front of Cinderella’s Castle where the decorations are extravagant and the entertainment is amazing. Past entertainment has included a Disney Villain’s and Hocus Pocus themed stage show. The event is festive, while being low on the frights, so great for scaredy cats who still want to enjoy a bit of seasonal fun.

Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland

Mickey Halloween decor at Disneyland in Anaheim, California

While Disneyland hosts a similar Halloween event, it’s a bit smaller in scale. The decorations are still fabulous, although the park does not have the same WOW factor. On the plus side, the characters all don their most festive costumes, trick or treat stations are scattered throughout the park, hundreds of jack o’lanterns adorn Main Street, and the fireworks show features spirited music from Disney classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The special Halloween themed Haunted Mansion ride experience is what sets this event apart from Halloween at WDW. For the past 20 years, the Mansion has received a makeover as Jack Skellington takes over for a special Nightmare Before Christmas themed ride. This ride is always fantastic (one of the best in the parks in my opinion), but even more spectacular as Halloween and Christmas collide in the ultimate Disney fan experience. If you love Nightmare Before Christmas, then you will want to line up early for this one! Fortunately, the lines are much shorter than normal at this event as there is just so much going on. This helps to disperse the traffic, and thus, even popular rides have a short wait.

Jack O’Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo

Jack O'Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island

The best Halloween event in New England, and possibly the entire country, is the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Providence’s premier Halloween extravaganza has been going strong for over 30 years now. Featuring over 6000 intricately carved pumpkins in a new theme each year, this event is truly a feast for the eyes. If you love art and Halloween, you really will not find a better event. No scares, no haunts, just an amazingly artistic event that will delight Halloween fans both old and young. So much so that in 1999 the Library of Congress named the event a “Local Legacy.” Over the course of the month long celebration, an average of 20,000 pumpkins are used. Passions for Pumpkins out of Oxford MA carves all the pumpkins (the designers work around the clock!).

The nice thing about this event is that they include everyone. Sensory friendly nights (designed for those with ASD) themed family fun nights, and value nights for anyone watching their budget are all on the calendar. Apple cider, pumpkin beer, hot chocolate, and snacks available for purchase. Themes across the years have ranged from TV and movie favorites, to famous historical sites, to music legends.

Haunted Happenings

The Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts
The Witch house, the former home of Judge John Corwin, is the only building still standing with ties to the Witch Trials. Weekends in October you can tour the house and listen to ghost stories.

Salem frequently receives a top spot amongst the list of most haunted cities in the US. Tourists come from all over to take ghost tours, tour haunted cemeteries, and visit spooky historic sites. The iconic filming locations from Halloween cult classic Hocus Pocus are a big hit as well. The weather is beautiful this time of year, and the fall foliage amongst the most colorful in New England. The nice thing about Salem is that they offer a whole month long lineup of festive activities. Any time you plan your visit, you can enjoy the regular attractions, plus a lineup of special festive events.

Haunted boat cruises, a horror villain wax museum, a haunted magic show, spooky trolley rides, a witch themed 5k, and a psychic fair and witch market are just a few of the special events you can look forward to in October. Guilty! A Salem Witch Trial is a new interactive show premiering at the Gallows Hill Museum/Theatre. If your visit falls in the weeks leading up to Halloween, expect to see lots of tourists wearing costumes and plenty of bar parties.

Howl O’Ween at the Reid Park Zoo

Howl O'Ween at The Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona

Reid Park Zoo is a small underrated zoo in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. The zoo is well-maintained and quite easy to walk through at a manageable 24 acres. One of the best times to visit is during their annual Howl-O’Ween event. Boo at the Zoo events are common across the country, although most take place during the afternoon hours. On the contrary, the Tucson Halloween extravaganza takes place in the evening which gives the event a spookier, more festive tone. Colorful holiday lights, music, a choreographed show, and fall treats add to the seasonal ambiance. The amount of effort they put into this event is pretty impressive. Let’s say Reid Park definitely gives the big cities a run for their money.

At just 11 bucks a person, this is a real steal. So, put on your best costume, enjoy the lights and festivities, and be sure to stop by Potterville for a unique Sorting Hat photo opp. Of course, there’s plenty more reasons to visit the Tucson area, especially during the fall months when the temps have finally begun to cool down a bit. Beautiful Saguaro National Park, Catalina State Park, and Sabino Canyon are hands down 3 of the most gorgeous natural recreation areas in the country. Come for the outdoor adventure, stay for the Halloween festivities!

Pumpkin Walk at the Dallas Arboretum

2018 Pumpkin Village at the Dallas Arboretum

The Dallas Arboretum is an amazing 66 acre botanical masterpiece, surely one of the country’s best. It was rated one of the “Top Botanical Gardens” by USA Today’s 10Best, and is definitely the place to go on any Dallas trip. Highlights include the 6.5 acre Margaret Elizabeth Jonsson Color Garden featuring colorful seasonal flowers, the Nancy Rutchik Japanese Red Maple Rill garden, and the Crape Myrtle Allee garden.

However, if you are a fan of autumn and Halloween, you will want to save your visit for October. During this time, more than 90,000 pumpkins adorn the grounds in what Fodor’s has called “One of America’s Best Pumpkin Festivals.” The theme changes each year, so there is something new to look forward to each fall. Special events include Halloweekend. Trick or treating, live music, and pumpkin decorating are all on the lineup. Plan your best costume for a chance to win tickets to another great event, Holiday at the Arboretum.