6 of the best Halloween festivals and celebrations around the world

Are you a fan of spooky season? Get into the Halloween spirit by joining in with one of these spectacular celebrations around the world...

3 mins

1. Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Derry Halloween (Courtesy of Derry City and Strabane District Council)

Derry Halloween (Courtesy of Derry City and Strabane District Council)

Many consider Halloween to be a US affair, but Ireland is where the concept originated. It was inspired by the Celtic festival of Samhain, a religious celebration with spiritual traditions marking the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter.

As the biggest Halloween festival in Europe, Derry Halloween in Northern Ireland attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers every year to experience the spookified Walled City over a four-day event, where ghouls and ghosts come to life.

Visitors can expect everything you would wish for from a festival; fireworks, feasting, folklore and plenty of creepy costumes. The highlight of the event has to be its Carnival Parade, where hundreds of performers from the local community march through the city and alongside the River Foyle, putting on a show of live music, dancing, fire and lights.

If you want to travel further afield, consider heading to Ireland’s Ancient East for the folklore-inspired Puca Halloween Festival – a celebration exploring the supernatural side.

Read next Best things to do in Derry~Londonderry and Donegal

2. Salem, Massachusetts, USA

A witch's house in Salem (Shutterstock)

A witch's house in Salem (Shutterstock)

Another contender for the world’s biggest Halloween celebration is the coastal city of Salem. Just a 40-minute drive to Boston, this historic city, famous for its 17th-century witch trials, expects half-a-million people to show up across its month-long celebrations.

And you won’t be short on things to do. Learn about the city’s past at a historic museum, brave exploring a witch's house, hop aboard the red trolley and take a haunted tour of Salem plus so much more.

With 2022 being the 40th anniversary of Salem’s Haunted Happenings, expect the festival to be even bigger and better than ever.

3. Chicago, Illinois, USA

Arts in the Dark Parade, Chicago (Shutterstock)

Arts in the Dark Parade, Chicago (Shutterstock)

The city of Chicago celebrates Halloweek with two fantastic parades through the city.

Upside Down Parade begins the weeklong festivities on the tree-fringed Russell Drive, with performances from musicians, dancers, acrobats, sports mascots, and audiences wearing their finest Halloween costumes.

Whereas the Arts in the Dark Parade is an evening occasion and the grand finale of Chicago’s Halloweek. Artists from all fields take part in the spectacular production on State Street, featuring floats, puppets and creative performances. The magical procession is truly a celebration of the the immersive arts with a Halloween twist!

Read next Chicago's most extraordinary architecture

4. Mexico City, Mexico

Day of the Dead Parade through Mexico city (Shutterstock)

Day of the Dead Parade through Mexico city (Shutterstock)

Better known as Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos is not a Halloween event, but still brings an element of spookiness as people dressed as skeletons swarm the streets.

However, Día de los Muertos is an uplifting, colourful occasion which honours deceased loved ones by celebrating their life. It’s even been recognised by UNESCO and named a World Heritage event.

Throughout Mexico and some other parts of the world there are celebrations, but Mexico City has arguably the most vibrant parades, full of traditional dancers and incredible giant puppets. Other Day of the Dead activities usually take place across three days, from 31 October (Halloween) up until 2 November (the actual day of Día de los Muertos).

Read next The best places to experience Day of the Dead

5. Ottawa, Canada

Halloween pumpkin exhibition in Ottawa, Canada (Shutterstock)

Halloween pumpkin exhibition in Ottawa, Canada (Shutterstock)

Are you fan of carved gourds? Well, one city does it better than the rest. Pumpkinferno in Canada's capital is an award-winning festival where thousands of bright orange pumpkins aglow from candle light are displayed along a historic, kilometre-long promenade 

But there’s not only sinister faces cut into these pumpkins, oh no. Expect to find sea creatures, sports players, dragons and vehicles among many other fantastic, creative installations. Open throughout October, this outdoor exhibit in Upper Canada Village is worth the visit.

6. New York City, New York, USA

NYC Village Parade has giant puppets (Shutterstock)

NYC Village Parade has giant puppets (Shutterstock)

The biggest Halloween parade in the world? Of course, New York City must take the crown. Held on Halloween (31 October) every year, thousands of spectators and participants gather in mass to be a part of the NYC Village Halloween Parade.

The event has been running for nearly 50 years, with people from everywhere invited to join and lift the spirits of the world – but only if you’re wearing costume and a mask! The procession follows a different theme each year and is always wildly entertaining, with hundreds of giant puppets, marching bands, and a variety of dancers and artists.

Beyond the parade, New York hosts a variety of Halloween themed parties and events around the city – so the Big Apple is definitely a great choice for the spooky occasion.

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