By Joanna O’Leary
Each Halloween, I find a plethora of ways to have a hell of a good time in Houston, given the abundance of parties, bar crawls, and pumpkin patches—not to mention the impressively decorated houses in West University and River Oaks.
And while it’s easy to do the same thing every year, succumbing to foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Consider opening yourself up to some new experiences via an out-of-town Halloween holiday. Chances are good that goblins will still be involved.
Dallas. This Halloween, set aside any sister-city rivalry with Dallas and visit one of their many spooky venues such as the Cutting Edge Haunted House. The setting, an abandoned meatpacking plant (sufficiently scary on its own for vegetarians), becomes that much more terrifying via the addition of live actors and special effects. And on October 28, tens of thousands of Halloween revelers will flock to the LGBTQ entertainment district on Cedar Springs Road for the largest street party in Texas, which features a live DJ, food booths, and a costume parade.
Estes Park, Colorado. A necessary bucket-list destination for Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King fans, Estes Park is home to The Stanley, a sprawling mountain resort that served as the inspiration for The Shining. On the weekend before Halloween (October 21), the hotel hosts a murder-mystery dinner as well as The Shining Ball with theme décor and cocktails, as well as a costume contest. In previous years, Jack “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Nicholson has been known to make an appearance. Then on October 28, The Stanley pulls out all the stops for its Halloween Masquerade Ball with gourmet appetizers and live music. Those looking to enjoy less-raucous, family-friendly fun on Halloween night should head to downtown Estes Park, where the main thoroughfare (Elkhorn Avenue) is closed to traffic so that children can go trick-or-treating at the shops that line the street.
New Orleans. Although it’s better known as the mecca for Mardi Gras, New Orleans also boasts a wide range of Halloween events. Take advantage of the city’s open-container laws as well as its walkable boulevards and attend one of the many ghost tours of the French Quarter and various street parties, the grandest of which is on Frenchman Street in Faubourg Marigny. NOLA is also a great place to pick up Halloween supplies and souvenirs, given its many costume boutiques and voodoo shops. Each Halloween weekend, New Orleans hosts the Voodoo Arts & Music Experience, in which local and national artists from various musical genres (2017 headliners include the Foo Fighters and Kendrick Lamar) perform for the costumed crowds. Surrounding the stages are other outlets for revelry, including a marketplace featuring many fried edible things, art installations, and a beer hall.
Los Angeles. The West Hollywood Carnaval on Santa Monica Boulevard draws hundreds of thousands of attendees who weave (often wobbly) in and out of the adjacent bars and restaurants offering special holiday food-and-drink specials, as well as costume contests. The event culminates in the crowning of a celebrity as the “Queen of the Carnaval,” with past winners including Rihanna and Queen Latifah. Nautical enthusiasts can experience thrills and chills at one of the country’s most unique Halloween attractions: a haunted ship. During the month-long “Dark Harbor” event in Long Beach, the Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner that’s now a floating hotel and restaurant, is the site of claustrophobia-inducing haunted mazes as well as festive Halloween feasts and 3-D shows.
Sleepy Hollow, New York. I think Washington Irving would turn over in his grave (but in a good way) if he were to observe the annual Halloween festivities held throughout October in the town best known as the setting for his famous short story. The first stop on your itinerary should be Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to pay your respects at the tomb of the creator of the Headless Horseman. Then head to Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor. In the course of following the trail built around this 17th-century farm, visitors (none of whom should include children, according to the website) will bear witness to scenes of horror and encounters with fearsome creatures including (but not limited to) vampires, witches, and the ghosts of deceased soldiers. For seated scares, buy tickets to Irving’s Legend, a dramatic interpretation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Performances are held at the very creepy Old Dutch Church, which plays a key role in the story.