The weather is finally starting to cool down and leaves are in the process of changing to their beautiful fall colors. A new season is here, and it's time to fully embrace all of the festive activities that Halloween has to offer this year. In addition to visiting your local corn maze or pumpkin patch, there are charming small towns all over the country that really get into the Halloween season.
Some of these towns first created an annual event nearly 100 years ago to deter the local youth from getting into mischief each October 31. Now they have become beloved traditions that draw in visitors from all over. We've rounded up the best 10 Halloween festivals in small towns around the country to add to your seasonal bucket list.
1. Estes Park, Colorado
Home of the famous Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, Estes Park really goes all out for Halloween each year. The hotel hosts an annual Shining Ball featuring decor inspired by the feature film as well as an epic costume contest. On Halloween night, Main Street closes down from 5-9 pm so that the entire town can go trick-or-treating to all of the shops. It's a perfect family-friendly activity for those not wanting to spend time at the haunted hotel. The Pumpkins and Pilsners Festival is a free Halloween event on October 10 that will feature pumpkin picking, live music, and beer for the adults.
2. Independence, Kansas
From October 23-31, the small town of Independence transforms to celebrate "Neewollah" (Halloween backwards). The tradition has been running since 1919, and these days it draws in as many as 70,000 additional folks wanting to get in the Halloween spirit. The oldest running annual festival in the state of Kansas offers a talent competition, musical, festive parades, and more. The Medallion Hunt kicks things off and gets the whole town involved in a citywide scavenger hunt with new clues revealed each day.
3. Providence, Rhode Island
The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo will be running October 1- November 1 and offers a seriously impressive pumpkin display. Thousands of carved pumpkins will bring the exhibit to life. This year it will be a drive-through experience. Visit their website for all the details.
4. Ceredo and Kenova, West Virginia
Not one but two West Virginia towns come together to offer the biggest fall festival in the state -- C-K AutumnFest. The Pumpkin House is the biggest draw at the entire fest as it features thousands of carved jack-o-lanterns outside of the former mayor's home. Unfortunately this year there will be some adjustments to make sure events can be socially distanced so be sure to check their website for updates.
5. Salem, Massachusetts
Home of the Salem Witch Trials from the 1600s, this Massachusetts town embraces its haunted past. Each year there are ghost tours, magic shows, an exhibit covering all of the details of the real historic witch trials, and singing pirates for the kids with the Tricks, Treats and Treasures show.
6. Laconia, New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival has focused each year on all things pumpkins. Over 20,000 carved pumpkins, as well as activities for the whole family, make this one of the best Halloween attractions in New England.
7. St. Helens, Oregon
Each year, St. Helens throws "The Spirit of Halloweentown" inspired by the classic Disney original movie that was filmed there in the '90s. And it is the definition of Halloween fun. Running September 26 - November 6th, visitors can enjoy a nonstop Halloween party. There will be a costume parade, street vendors and performers, haunted houses, pumpkin lighting and potentially even appearances by actors from the Halloweentown films.
8. Sleepy Hollow, New York
The small town north of New York City from the short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow always embraces the haunted season. They offer haunted hayrides, a haunted trail in the Philipsburg Manor, blazing pumpkins, and their Halloween mascot, the headless horseman. There are even cemetery tours lit only by lanterns as well as kid-friendly puppet shows. Events will be slightly different this year during the pandemic, so be sure to check their website to see which events have not been canceled.
9. Romeo, Michigan
The residents of Tillson Street are to thank for putting Romeo on everyone's Halloween map. Homeowners come together to put create an incredible spooky display of house decorations that draw in thousands of families to trick-or-treat each year. The street is free for the public to come to enjoy the week leading up to Halloween but actual trick-or-treating will only be offered from 6-8 pm on Halloween night.
10. Anoka, Minnesota
Anoka calls themselves the "Halloween capital of the world." Their annual Halloween-themed celebration has been running strong since 1920. They will have all of the typical fall fun including a costume contest, pumpkin carving contest, a house decorating contest and kid-friendly Halloween film screenings for some good family fun. Be sure to check their website for event updates this year for their 100th anniversary.
Editors Note: This article was originally published on September 23, 2020. It was updated on October 18, 2021.