The leaves will soon be falling and there’s a chill in the air. That can only mean that autumn is almost here, and it’s time for some spooky fun. If your fall includes traveling to new destinations with family, friends, or just by yourself, there are some places you should keep in mind—especially if you’re drawn to the darker side. We’ve got haunted mansions, witch trials, and even more surprising spookiness. Keep reading to see what cities travel experts say are the best for ghostly fun.
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Set along the Hudson River in New York’s Hudson Valley is Sleepy Hollow. The quaint village is known as the setting for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” written by Washington Irving in 1819. Around the area, you’ll find nods to the story of the Headless Horseman in shops and during activities.
“Learn more about Irving and other notable citizens by taking a lantern-lit walk of the historic cemetery, or visit the old Philipsburg Manor, which has been transformed into the spooky Horseman’s Hollow,” says Jenny Ly, founder of Gowanderly. “Don’t miss the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, which includes over 7,000 carved pumpkins, the Museum of Pumpkin Art, and a Pumpkin Windmill if pumpkins are your thing. The live performance of [The Legend of Sleepy Hollow] story at Washington Irving’s home in Sunnyside, merges the past and present for a singular theatrical experience, [and] is arguably the most intriguing event.”
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While it might seem unconventional to mention a bustling tourist town like Orlando, there’s plenty of scary fun happening in the city’s famed theme parks. Those with kids will want to go to Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, while adults and older teens will enjoy Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights.
“It may come as a surprise but Orlando is actually our favorite fall destination and that’s solely because of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights! The detail of the themed haunted houses and scare zones will truly make you feel like you are on the set of a scary movie,” says Christina McMillan, cofounder along with Ben McMillan of the RV travel site The McMillan Express. The actors running around are terrifying but amazing and can make even the most hardcore horror fan get a little spooked. I mean, what could possibly be spookier than walking around inside your favorite scary movie on Halloween?”
Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event and nights often sell out, so it’s best to buy your ticket in advance of a trip to Orlando.
When it comes to Halloween, Salem is a must-see spot. Known for its witch trials, the city now hosts a variety of bewitching events in the fall.
“When you visit Salem in October, you’ll experience a unique kind of energy as the city seizes the biggest chance of the year to explore its past. Visit the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Trials Memorial, delve into the paranormal at the Psychic Fair, and top it all off by attending the Witches Ball, an annual masquerade hosted in the venerable Hawthorne Hotel,” says Ly.
Walking tours of the city are also offered, and are especially popular in the fall months when travelers flood the area for their fill of witchcraft and history. It’s best to book these types of tours before traveling to Salem to ensure your spot.
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Spooks are hidden all around Colonial Williamsburg, if you know where to look, of course. While the cobblestone streets are blanketed in orange and red leaves in the fall, the ghost tours are what continue to draw people into the dark past of the historic town.
“When in Williamsburg you can take a ghost tour walking around colonial Williamsburg, guided by a local in costume. You’ll learn about the life and customs of colonial Williamsburg, while also discovering its darker past,” says Dan Bagby of HoneymoonAlways.com. “You’ll learn about Blackbeard the pirate and how he and his crew were overtaken after years of terrorizing the area, and about the local history of witches. You’ll also visit the first public hospital for the mentally ill where experimental treatments were performed, and The Peyton Randolph House, considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in the USA.”
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Even though Bourbon Street lures visitors from around the world with its boozy drinks and nightlife, even more spellbinding adventures await in other parts of New Orleans. Around the city restaurants, bars, homes, and even cemeteries offer ghost tours for families or adults looking for a haunting story of the past.
“If you’re looking to go it on your own without a guided tour of stories, the LaLaurie Mansion can be seen from the outside,” Christopher Falvey, co-founder of Unique NOLA Tours tells Best Life. “Haunted bars such as The Creole Cookery, Bombay Club, and May Baily’s all have stories they’ll entertain you with. And there’s the famous table at Muriel’s Jackson Square, which is set out for beings from the beyond and has a wonderful (and lengthy) historic and haunted story attached to it.”
With its iconic riverfront, adorable bed and breakfasts, and plenty of Southern hospitality, Savannah has become a destination for foodies and those seeking the paranormal. Around the city, there are plenty of ghostly activities, but to get it all at once, consider a hosted ghost tour.
“Savannah ghost tours are the most popular haunted activity in the city. Visitors just love strolling down dimly-lit cobblestone streets at night in search of all things spooky. Tour guides will tell stories of Savannah’s past while directing guests to peek beyond the cemetery gates in search of spirits they can capture on camera,” says Erin Clarkson of Savannah First-Timer’s Guide.
If you’re looking for a libation with your tour, there are also haunted pub crawls that allow you to bar hop between places with to-go cups. Yes, in the Historic District of the city, drinking is allowed outside as you meander through winding streets.