Halloween is here, and you might be feeling eager to treat yourself to a spooky little holiday. Luckily for you, the U.S has no shortage of incredible cities worth exploring, with great food, museums, culture, shopping and a rich and very haunting history. If you’re looking for a bit of a scare, or you’d like to learn more about America’s ghosts, gremlins and ghoulish goings-on, then look no further than these cities for an extra frightful Halloween getaway.
New Orleans, Louisiana
For lovers of culture, history, music and good food, there is no better getaway destination than New Orleans, Louisiana. The city also has a rich and eerie history and it’s no wonder that so many terrifying TV shows like True Blood or American Horror Story have been set here. New Orleans is famous for being the home to many a witch, Wiccan, vampire and Voodoo practitioner, and plenty of lost souls and the ghosts of pirates, slaves and yellow-fever victims have been known to still wander the streets. Explore the famous French Quarter and then spend your afternoon at the local Voodoo Museum. Visit the terrifying LaLaurie Mansion, where serial killer Madame LaLaurie tortured her victims, and then, if you can stomach it, enjoy the best of Creole cuisine at nearby Mr B’s Bistro. View the stunning mansions of the Garden District and make sure to listen to some jazz at The Spotted Jazz. New Orleans has no shortage of haunted locations worth visiting and so, it should be the number one destination for your Halloween getaway.
I’ve had Savannah on my mind lately and once you get to know the city, you’ll definitely see why. Savannah is one of the South’s most charming cities, but it’s also known as one of the country’s most haunted. Built on Native American burial grounds, with a history of slavery, disease epidemics and bloody battles, Savannah has a hell of a history and plenty of ghosts have stuck around to tell the tale. Spend a weekend strolling through the quaint historic district and then make your way to Bonaventure Cemetery, a traditional Victorian cemetery with Gothic tombstones and mausoleums. Enjoy a day of shopping or learn some local history at Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters and then eat a delicious dinner at the Olde Pink House, where diners have been known to see the ghost of James Habersham Jr, who built the home and hung himself there in the late 1700s. When night falls, try one of the city’s many ghost tours, or haunted bar crawls or, if you’re feeling really brave, stay the night at Marshall House, one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S, where the voices of nonexistent children have been heard throughout the halls.
Photo from Wikimedia user SalemPuritan via a Creative Commons license
There’s no better time to visit the town of the famous Salem Witch Trials than for a spooky Halloween getaway. It’s a small, walkable town, so it’s perfect for a quick weekend trip, and there’s no shortage of food, culture, sights and frights to fill your time with. Learn more about Salem’s witchy history at the Salem Witch Museum and then wander through Gallows Hill, where the 19 innocent victims, alleged to be witches, were hanged. Visit the historic house museum, The Witch House, the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the trials, and then Salem Witch Trials Memorial or Burying Point, where the judges involved were buried. Salem also throws some of the biggest Halloween celebrations in the world, so there’s plenty of holiday-specific goings-on all throughout the month of October including Howloween, a pet costume competition and a ‘Haunted Speakeasy’ experience.
For some less scary fun, eat some delicious seafood at Turner’s Seafood, see some art at the Peabody Essex Museum, tour the home made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, or enjoy a cool sea breeze and a stroll at one of the many nearby beaches.
Trendy Portland is known for its art, beer, food, coffee, nightlife and good vibes, but you may be surprised to know that this wonderful city also has a dark and curious past that has led to plenty of ghosts calling it home. In the 1800s, Portland was a bustling international port, and the Shanghai Tunnels were built under the city as a means to transport illegal goods between the shore and the ships. Legend has it that these tunnels were secret passageways to opium dens and brothels and even used as a place to keep kidnapped residents. These shady characters of Portland’s past still haunt the city to this day. While visitors cannot currently see the tunnels directly, Portland has plenty of ghost tour options to allow you to wander the city and learn more about its sordid history. Keep an eye out for apparitions at the White Eagle Saloon, or prepare to get more than a few slices of margherita if you eat at Old Town Pizza, where the ghost of a young woman called Nina is said to haunt. Lone Fir Cemetery is definitely worth a walk around, as it’s not just a beautiful cemetery but also an arboretum, with 67 species of trees to be found. Once you’ve out spooked yourself, calm down at the Portland Japanese Garden, view some art at the Portland Art Museum, or even visit the Oregon Zoo. Recharge at Coava Coffee Roasters and tuck into a delicious meal at Mucca Osteria or Higgins, to sample local Oregon wines. With so much to see and do, this city is an ideal spooky season getaway destination for those who will want to do more than just indulge in the Halloween spirit.
There are so many U.S destinations that can make for a fun Halloween getaway, so I’d like to give an honorable mention to Chicago, San Antonio, Boston and San Francisco, which are all cities that have their own spooky stories to tell. Wherever you decide to go, many cities have haunted spots, impressive cemeteries and ghost tours on offer for those willing. So get your Jack o’Lantern ready and go forth and enjoy an entertaining, educational, relaxing and very scary Halloween getaway. Good luck!
Bryony Parker is a writer and artist currently living in São Paulo, Brazil and working on her Masters in International Affairs. You can find her at @par666ker on all social media.