Halloween parades bring out the creative spirit (and spirits) of the season — Photo courtesy of Luciano_Marques / iStock Via Getty Images
October is usually filled with two kinds of events: incredibly terrifying haunted houses and the more charming family-friendly events like Halloween parades. For the latter, we’re talking people in super creative costumes, colorful pageantries, floats, and other spooktacular celebrations.
Some of the biggest Halloween parades across the country attract locals and visitors alike to see spooky magic happen or simply march along in the fun. Whether you’re there to ogle the ogres, zombies and witches, or be a part of the action, here’s where to find 10 ghoulishly great Halloween parades, from New York City to California and everywhere in between.
Village Halloween Parade, New York City
New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is a cherished neighborhood event — Photo courtesy of Village Halloween Parade
One of the largest Halloween gatherings in the country, New York City’s Village Halloween Parade celebrates 50 years of bands, giant puppets, costumes, dancers and more in 2023.
Greenwich Village puppeteer Ralph Lee started the event as a neighborhood house-to-house walk for his children and their friends. Now the NYC Halloween parade is its own entity, with everyone wearing their frightening and festive best marching along a one-mile route through Lower Manhattan.
Portsmouth Halloween Parade – Portsmouth, New Hampshire
The Portsmouth Halloween Parade marches through downtown — Photo courtesy of Sydney Bilodeau Photography
Started by a small marching troupe in 1995, the all-volunteer, grassroots Portsmouth Halloween Parade has evolved into a beloved October tradition.
Everyone is welcome to participate, but costumes — preferably homemade, not store-bought — are strongly encouraged. Need inspiration? You can find a list of local thrift stores ready to help marchers source items for their creative ensembles on the event website. A grand marshal leads the parade, with the route going through downtown Portsmouth.
Krewe of Boo! – New Orleans, Louisiana
The Krewe of Boo! is like Mardi Gras for Halloween — Photo courtesy of Krewe of Boo!
In true New Orleans fashion, the annual Krewe of Boo! Halloween parade isn’t just a few hours of fun. The city’s official party takes place over the entire weekend before Halloween.
What started out as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief in 2007 is now an array of events, including a family-friendly trek through the French Quarter with floats, marching bands, and local krewes. The full schedule includes a lunch at world-famous Galatoire’s, the New Orleans Zombie Run through the Warehouse District, and a blowout costume bash and post-parade after party.
Anoka Halloween Capital of the World – Anoka, Minnesota
Anoka Halloween’s festivities include three different parades — Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota
Anoka, Minnesota, the self-described “Halloween Capital of the World,” puts on quite the Halloween extravaganza every year, with three parades and other related events throughout the month of October.
The first big parade, Light Up the Night, kicks off with floats and more; it’s followed by a bonfire right after. The Big Parade of Little People gives local school kids a chance to walk around the town. The Grande Day Parade tops off the fun with marching bands and floats.
Fun fact: Anoka’s Halloween festivities started in 1920 by civic leaders looking to divert Anoka’s youth from pulling Halloween pranks.
Sea Witch Festival – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
The Sea Witch Festival is a fall favorite in Rehoboth Beach — Photo courtesy of Portraits in the Sand Photography
One of the best Halloween parades of the Mid-Atlantic happens in Southern Delaware. While the Sea Witch Festival is named for a 19th century clipper ship that traversed the waters around Rehoboth Beach, it really started as a way to bring in tourists after the busy summer season.
Today the beloved annual event features two parades (one solely for dogs), when witches, monsters, and creepy characters fill the streets along with floats, live music, and other frolicky fearsome fun. Lots of family-friendly events abound throughout the weekend, from magic shows and pony rides to a broom-tossing contest.
Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade – Anaheim, California
The floats at Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade are out of this world — Photo courtesy of Anaheim Fall Festival
While it might be the town of theme park Halloween events, the annual Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade have been going strong since 1923 and 1924, respectively.
Celebrating all things Halloween, Dia de Los Muertos, and the harvest season, the family-friendly event is so popular, many famous faces have served as grand marshal over the years, including Babe Ruth, Jodie Foster, and Buddy Hackett. The parade features whimsical floats, car clubs, and costumed walkers and attracts thousands of spectators every year.
Arts in the Dark – Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Arts in the Dark celebrates the artistic side of Halloween — Photo courtesy of LUMA8
Chicago’s historic State Street becomes a colorful backdrop for Arts in the Dark, a Halloween parade that celebrates the true artistic side of the season.
The parade goes way beyond the usual trappings. You won’t see politicians or dignitaries waving from floats. But you will see creativity at its best, from handmade costumes to lighting displays, scenic spectacles, puppets, dancing, music, and more, all celebrating cultural diversity and the all-as-one mantra of the arts.
Little 5 Points Halloween Festival & Parade – Atlanta, Georgia
The Little 5 Points Halloween Festival & Parade takes over an arts hub in Atlanta — Photo courtesy of Little 5 Points Business Association
In its current iteration since 2001, the Little 5 Points Halloween Festival & Parade ushers in the season with an array of events.
Set in a popular arts hub of Atlanta, expect a lot of creativity everywhere, from individual costumes to decorated floats, art cars, a 3D haunted house, ghost tours, and more.
Del Ray Halloween Parade – Alexandria, Virginia
The Del Ray Halloween Parade welcomes people, pets, and strollers as participants — Photo courtesy of Claire Mouledoux for Visit Alexandria
Since 1996, this Alexandria, Virginia, neighborhood has hosted one of the most fun Halloween celebrations in the region. The Del Ray Halloween Parade welcomes anyone who wants to march in a costume, adults, kids, and pets alike.
Awards are given to the best pet and stroller costumes, and for the best decorated house and business in what has become a very competitive contest. The whole town, plus many visiting spectators, come out to join the fun.
Ultimate Halloween Parade & Festival – Louisville, Kentucky
The Ultimate Halloween Parade & Festival is four days of ghoulish fun — Photo courtesy of Ryan Powers and Don E. Yeoman, Jr., Louisville Halloween
Louisville goes out for its four-day Ultimate Halloween Parade and Festival. First, the parade heads from Louisville Slugger Field to Lynn Family Stadium, where a boo-ntiful array of events take place.
We’re talking a haunted house, tethered hot-air balloon rides, trick or treating, costume contests for kids and pets, live music, and so much more.