Halloween is one of those holidays that rarely lives up to the hype. Visions of having the smartest costume, going to the best party in town, or hitting up the craziest bar might swirl in your head throughout October, only for Halloween itself to be a major letdown. But this year, there’s no reason Halloween shouldn’t live up to your expectations. Some cities thrive on Halloween with wild carnivals, costume parties, and truly out-of-control nightlife. We can’t pick your costume for you, but if you want a truly epic Halloween experience, you need to check out these cities that do October 31 right.
1. Derry, Northern Ireland
Although Halloween has become a largely Americanized institution, the holiday actually has deep roots in Celtic lore. Maybe that’s why one of the best places to celebrate is Derry, Northern Ireland, which has fully embraced Halloween as part of its cultural identity. While there are Halloween events all throughout the month of October, the real highlight is the city’s legendary street carnival on October 31, featuring light shows, crazy costumes, and circus acts with performers from around the world. But that’s just the start of Halloween night in Derry. After a spectacular fireworks show, head over to Granny Annie’s for some live music, and for a truly wild, club-like experience, end the night with dancing at Sandinos.
2. Bran Castle, Transylvania
Nothing’s more Halloween appropriate than Dracula, but you probably never thought you could actually party at Dracula’s Castle. Well, now you can. Tour company G Adventures is giving you the rare opportunity to spend Halloween night in Bran Castle, Transylvania, the 14th-century castle that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The party features a tour of the estate, as well as food, drinks, and dance music for costumed guests. And the best part is that when you wake up hungover the next day, you don’t have to go back to reality. Your Halloween will continue with tours of the nearby cities of Bran and Bucharest, and if you choose the seven-day option, Sibiu and Sighișoara as well. The seven-day tour runs $1,499, so the scariest part about this Halloween experience might actually be the price.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
While Prague offers Halloween events for the whole family, including a Zombie Night Run for charity, the city really shines when it comes to 18+ nightlife. Bloody Sexy Halloween is the Czech Republic’s biggest Halloween party with thousands typically in attendance. The event runs until 6:00 AM on November 2-4, and the winner of “best costume” will receive about $900. You should also check out SaSaZu, a nightclub whose two-day Prague Halloween party on October 27 and 28 features live dancers, internationally renowned DJs, and dancing until 5:00 AM.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam’s reputation as one of the best party capitals in Europe certainly doesn’t disappoint on Halloween. While Amsterdam has always boasted a solid lineup of parties and events on Halloween, this year is special. Amsterdam Halloween, the city’s premier Halloween party organizer, is celebrating 10 years of epic events on October 26 with a crazy blowout. Costume ideas from the past nine years of themes — including Monster Ball, Super Heroes, Noche de los Muertos, Circus Mortale, The Walking Dead, and more — are all fair game. The event occurs over three venues — The Transformer House, WesterUnie, and the WesterLiefde — all of which will feature a lineup of top DJs. Tickets can be purchased via the website for $33 per person.
5. Savannah, Georgia
A relic of America’s Old South, Savannah’s cobblestone streets and rich history will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time — and that’s the perfect setting for a spooky Halloween. One of the premier events is a bar crawl called A Nightmare on Congress Street, which takes place on October 26. The crawl will take you through Savannah’s eerie cobbled streets, where you’ll be able to take advantage of drink specials at each bar. The costume contest awards a total purse of $2,000 between first, second, and third place, and there’s even an afterparty at Club 51 Degrees where you’ll receive a free t-shirt. If you’re too exhausted from the bar crawl to attend the afterparty, you can always hit up the Overnight Halloween Party at the Moon River Brewery on Halloween itself, October 31. True to its name, the event runs from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM — so you should probably pace yourself unless you want to have a frightful hangover.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans might be famous for Mardi Gras, but you don’t have to wait until March to have an epic party in the Big Easy. You can lose yourself in the costumed weirdness of the bars on Frenchman Street or revel in the spooky absurdity of the Krewe of Boo Halloween Parade — the official Halloween Parade of New Orleans — but what really makes NOLA a Halloween destination is the annual Voodoo Music + Arts Experience festival. October 25-27, the festival features some pretty impressive performers, like Post Malone, Guns N’ Roses, Brandi Carlile, Young the Giant, Bring Me The Horizon, and Jai Wolf. One-day tickets are $75 while a three-day pass is $155.
7. New York City, New York
In a city so massive, there are literally hundreds of events, parties, haunted houses, bar crawls, and girls dressed like sexy superheroes, but there’s one party in town you simply can’t miss. The Village Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village on October 31 might not be as famous as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it certainly has no shortage of giant puppets, marching bands, dancers, and artists. The best part is that you can march in the parade yourself. That’s right. You don’t have to be a musician, or a performer, or have any talent at all — just wear your favorite costume and hop in on the fun. If you’re craving a classic NYC all-nighter, hit up the Monster Ball on October 25, 26, or 27 for a wild costume party at Stage 48, complete with DJs, a costume contest, and sinister revelry until 4:00 AM.
8. Key West, Florida
Key West’s party reputation doesn’t just apply to summertime and beach-themed getaways. The Florida Keys are a magnet for scantily clad, shot-downing partiers all year round, and that’s especially true on Halloween. From burlesque shows to costume balls, this city doesn’t just scream Halloween — it shouts it into a megaphone. The craziness of Halloween in Key West is best experienced at Fantasy Fest, a 10-day party created back in 1979 to bring visitors to the island during the slow season. And obviously, it worked. From October 18 to the 27th, there will be dozens of events to choose from, like the Pajama and Lingerie Party, Pet Masquerade, Toga Party, Naughty Bike Race, Pirate Bash, and Kinky Carnival.
9. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
There’s certainly nothing creepy about white sand and palm trees, but Halloween in Lahaina, on the island of Maui, is called the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific” for good reason. There’s an annual parade, costume contest, and plenty of bars and restaurants with live music and drink specials. Front Street, the town’s main drag, is closed to traffic on Halloween night, creating a lively atmosphere where residents and visitors alike can take full advantage of the town’s events. If you’re coming from elsewhere on the island, it’d be a good idea to take the Maui Halloween Cruise to Lahaina on October 31. With delicious food, an open bar, costumed staff, and a lively vibe, the cruise is the perfect way to do Halloween in Hawaii. Cruise tickets start at $100.
10. Chalindrey, France
The small town of Chalindrey, France, might be one of the best places to celebrate Halloween in true Old World fashion. Based on the town’s 17th-century war against a suspected wizard, the Fête des Sorcières (Witch Festival) is being celebrated in Chalindrey for the 23rd year in a row, and it’s evolved to include dozens of craft exhibitors, scary movies, live performances, and the crowning of a new Miss Sorcière. The main event of the festival, however, is an all-night Celtic dance the Saturday of Halloween weekend. The wide range of festivities, and the historic backdrop of the late-19th-century Fort du Congelot, make Chalindrey one of the most unique places to celebrate Halloween. The festival takes place on October 26 and 27.
11. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas might be one of the only places in the world that feels like Halloween 24/7. If you walked down the street in a full Spider-Man costume on July 25, it’s very likely that no one would even bat an eye. As you can imagine, each themed hotel has its own lineup of Halloween experiences and parties, so you won’t be starved for options. Apart from the hotel nightclubs, there’s also the Clown Carnival on October 24-27, taking place at Lake Las Vegas with a haunted pirate ship experience and food, prizes, and clown performers. There’s also a Halloween Party Cruise on October 31 with music, dancing, a costume contest, and Halloween drink specials.