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Celebrate Halloween Like a Local
Historic Hudson Valley
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  • States:
    New York
    California
    Louisiana

Every Oct. 31, people across the U.S. dress up in spooky costumes, throw parties and wander door-to-door for candy to celebrate Halloween.

Historically, the harvest moon holiday commemorated spirits of the dead. Over time, it has become a more lighthearted event that nods toward the supernatural, with carved pumpkins, ghostly decorations, otherworldly costumes and haunted houses.

Wear a Costume

Costumes are a quintessential part of Halloween — the more outlandish, the better. Some people choose costumes that reference current popular culture icons (previous top sellers include Justin Bieber and Britney Spears). Others opt for ghoulish ghosts, vampires or zombies. Find costumes for sale or rent at costume shops or seasonal Halloween stores, or get crafty and make one—costume contests are a Halloween staple so the more creative costumes usually win. Plan for chillier weather in most U.S. cities in late October by incorporating layers of warmth.

Dress up as a pirate, a princess or anything you can imagine on Halloween.

Dress up as a pirate, a princess or anything you can imagine on Halloween.
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Gene Duncan / The Walt Disney Company

Go Trick-or-Treating

Who doesn’t love candy? Trick-or-treating is a beloved pastime dating to the 1920s in which costumed, school-age children travel to neighborhood houses at dusk asking for treats. At every stop, kids say, “Trick or treat!” suggesting that if the homeowner doesn’t dole out a treat, the child will engage in some sort of trick or mischief.

Many businesses and shopping centers have adopted the tradition, handing out individually wrapped candies, fruit or non-edible items such as pencils. Etiquette for trick-or-treating is simple: Wait your turn, be polite and take one treat unless offered more. Kids are expected to visit each stop only once.

Halloween is one day when children everywhere can enjoy buckets of free candy.

Halloween is one day when children everywhere can enjoy buckets of free candy.
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Kent Phillips / The Walt Disney Company

Carve a Pumpkin

Jack-o’-lanterns, or carved pumpkins lit with candles from the inside, are an iconic Halloween tradition. Many homes and businesses feature these pumpkins transformed into smiling, toothy faces as a nod to the fall harvest. Seasonal festivals and pumpkin patches often feature areas to carve jack-o’-lanterns, providing markers to draw designs on the front of the pumpkin and carving knives to slice a hole in the top, scoop out the seeds and then cut out your creation.

Find more than 7,000 jack-o’-lanterns at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, New York (65 kilometers north of New York City, New York), inspired by the famous 19th-century ghost story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. How did we start doing this?

Show off your artistic side by carving spooky faces into pumpkins.

Show off your artistic side by carving spooky faces into pumpkins.
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Historic Hudson Valley

Visit a Haunted House

If you’re up for a thrill, visit a haunted house on Halloween. These seasonal attractions are designed to give visitors a playful fright. Some might have mummies popping out of closets, while others pipe in fog or creepy organ music to add to the suspense. Many haunted houses appear only for the weeks leading up to Oct. 31, although you can find year-round spooks at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion in Anaheim, California (40 kilometers southeast of Los Angeles, California) and The Mortuary Haunted House in New Orleans, Louisiana.