Small, Witchy Places to Visit in the U.S.
In the United States and many other countries around the world, October 31st marks Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve. For most Americans costumes, trick-or-treating, and festive activities like bobbing for apples are part of the celebration; but for some, the holiday takes place the day before the Christian holy day, All Hallows’ Day.
This year, Halloween celebrations might call for a change of scenery! Perhaps you think All Hallows’ Eve should be more than a one-night candy-focused celebration. If so, you might want to get your hocus pocus on and travel to one of these small towns with epic Halloween celebrations.
Best Small Towns to Travel to for Halloween
Where should you go for a Halloween-themed vacation? The answer depends on how you want to celebrate and how far you want to travel. Below is a list of the best small towns to visit for Halloween. Read on to discover how these communities observe the year’s spookiest holiday.
1. Salem, Massachusetts
One of the most famous small towns in the United States, Salem, Massachusetts is known for the witch trials of 1692. At that time, 200 people were accused of witchcraft, 30 were found guilty, and 19 were executed. As a result, three centuries later, people believe that the town is still cursed by alleged warlock, Guiles Corey.
While the town celebrates all month long, October 31 is extra special. Put your costume on and head downtown as early as 10:00 AM for music, performances, and other special surprises. Visit an art show, psychic fair, witches market, and more. End the day believing in magic with finale fireworks.
Nearest Airport: Logan International Airport (BOS)
2. Sleepy Hollow, New York
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a story first published in 1819. It is one of 34 essays and short stories excerpted from The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving. But, Irving didn’t invent the mythology. In fact, this story’s origins are likely from a true Hessian soldier beheaded by a cannonball around Halloween 1776, during the Battle of White Plains.
Sleepy Hollow residents have countless real-life ghost stories attesting that they’ve seen the “Headless Horseman” from the legend. You can hear about and perhaps even experience a ghost sighting for yourself if you visit on Halloween. While you chat it up with the locals, check out the farmer’s market, music, lighthouse tours, and more. The only requirements are to eat, drink, and be scary!
Nearest Airport: White Plains Airport (HPN)
3. St. Helens, Oregon
If you’re a horror film fanatic, maybe you’ve wondered whether Halloweentown is real. Well, it is—St. Helens, OR. The 1998 movie was filmed in this small city, and while you can visit any time of year, families might have the most fun during the last week in October, when the community celebrates the Spirit of Halloween.
Entry to the festival and on-site parking is free every weekday and weekend evenings to make it easy and convenient to shop, dine, and enjoy the sights. While you’re here, visit the official Spirit of Halloween gift shop to pick up souvenirs. For an exceptional treat, check out one of the ticketed events. Oh! And watch out for black cats crossing the street.
Nearest Airport: Portland International Airport (PDX)
4. Anoka, Minnesota
This town is the self-proclaimed “Halloween capital of the world,” and possibly the country’s first established city. Their first official Halloween committee was organized in 1920, so the city has been perfecting their holiday tradition for over a century. The community goes all out to stage events that support local schools and scholarships.
Like St. Helens, Anoka provides family-friendly fun each Halloween season. In addition to pumpkin carving, coloring, and costume contests, you and your family can enjoy day and night parades and the Gray Ghost 5K Run. Arrive by October 23 to experience all the festivities of Anoka’s end-of-the-month Halloween celebration. Don’t worry -- the townspeople don’t bite (much).
Nearest Airport: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
5. Independence, Kansas
Independence is home to the century-old Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) Festival. Neewollah started as a small one-day celebration centered around parades on October 31. Today, the tradition offers so much more for community members and visitors alike.
Neewholllah takes place during the last week of October and consists of parades, 5K & 10K runs, a medallion hunt, and a carnival. See who will be crowned queen, eat, drink, and shop at the arts & crafts fair while you listen to local bands. Dress up for the occasion and fit right in!
Nearest Airport: Independence Municipal Airport (IDP)
6. Estes Park, Colorado
This small U.S. town is home to the Stanley Hotel, which inspired Steven King’s acclaimed horror novel, “The Shining.” The 142-room building that hangs over the Rockies was erected in 1909 and is known for having high levels of paranormal activity. Enter the Stanley, and stay if you dare.
The acclaimed DeVotchKa's Halloween Black Tie Ball takes place on October 29th and 30th, 2024 at the Stanley Hotel, and you’ll need to purchase tickets on September 10th for 2021. If you can’t get a room at the Stanley, stay somewhere nearby and experience other creepy community traditions for yourself.
Nearest Airport: Denver International Airport (DEN)
7. Savannah, Georgia
Many locals would agree—Savannah is arguably America’s most haunted town. From the Hamilton-Turner Inn to the Kehoe House, there are a plethora of Savannah accommodations and attractions at the heart of countless real-life ghost stories. So, why not visit on Halloween and find out whether the stories are hype and hoo-ha or based on genuine hauntings?
In addition to haunted tours (wherein children under age six are not permitted), you can visit Alee Shriners Terror Plantation Haunted House, take part in the Trick or Trot 5K run, or crawl the local bars via A Night on Congress Street VII.
Nearest Airport: Savannah/Hilton Head Airport (SAV)
How Did Celebrating Halloween Start?
Before you travel to a faraway land to experience new traditions, it’s fun to know the history. What we now celebrate as Halloween has evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half of the year” (aka: winter).
Samhain, which takes place on October 31, is roughly halfway between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice and is one of four holidays that mark the midpoint between solstices and equinoxes throughout the year; the three other “quarter days” are Lughnasa (August 1), Imbolc (February 1), and Beltane (May 1).
In ancient times, Samhain was likely celebrated with large gatherings & feasts and possibly bonfires & sacrifices. Moreover, large burial mounds were open to symbolize portals to the otherworld. It is a western pagan holiday that some Celtic neo-pagans, Wiccans, and other groups still celebrate.
All Hallows’ Day, also referred to as All Saints’ Day, is celebrated on November 1. It is dedicated to “all saints, known and unknown,” to observe those with no dedicated holidays to individually honor them.
Today, Halloween as we know it takes on many different meanings for people from varying backgrounds, religions, and cultures. So, how and where do you want to celebrate this year? We think any of these small towns will offer you much in the way of chills and thrills.
Whether you’re intrigued by ghosts, spooky legends, witchery, or plain ol’ family-friendly fun, there’s something hair-raising for you in at least one of these Halloween-fanatical small town communities. Which town sounds the most enchanting to you? Try something new and check it out this year… you’re in for a spine-tingling treat!
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