New England

Best 5 New England Halloween Towns

Halloween is an entire season — not just one day — in these spirited New England Halloween towns.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Oct 12 2021

Salem Haunted Happenings 2017 John Andrews Photography

Salem, Massachusetts | The Best 5 Halloween Towns in New England

Photo Credit : Courtesy of Salem Haunted Happenings/John Andrews Photography
Days grow shorter, pumpkins swell on the vine, and wee werewolves aren’t the only ones who crave a howlingly good time. Halloween has become the one holiday that anyone with a creative bone in their body can embrace — and these New England Halloween towns offer treats for all ages as October 31 sneaks up.

Best 5 New England Halloween Towns

Salem, Massachusetts

New England’s Halloween capital has a remarkable knack for playing up the wart on its history left behind by 17th-century witch hysteria. Psychic fairs and séances, haunted tours and masquerade balls, chilling storytelling, and Killer Karaoke add an extra cloak of frightful fun to Salem’s always fascinating collection of witch-focused shops and attractions. The city’s October-long lineup of Haunted Happenings keeps magically expanding. The Haunted Harmonies a cappella festival has become a tuneful tradition. The Salem Horror Fest delivers scary screenings, and Wicked Wednesdays feature family-friendly activities like the Great Salem Pumpkin Walk.
Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH, for Every Kind of Night Out
Portsmouth, New Hampshire | Best 5 Halloween Towns in New England
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Suddenly, they’re everywhere: pumpkin-headed scarecrows with ghoulish grins. It’s October, and Portsmouth’s Halloween genies are hard at work, creating the sort of enchantment that only happens in the shadows. Queen of Halloween Diana Kirkpatrick opens her Haunted Halloween Barn to all who dare venture inside(free, but donations are requested). Strawbery Banke wakes its ghosts for two eves of trick-or-treating at historic houses. And “The Coven” invites revelers to a series of fund-raising events: the Rock Show, Undead Beat Night, and the Pumpkin Smash, where a small fee allows you to inflict mighty harm on a mushy orange squash. These secretive organizers of the city’s famed Halloween-night parade take pride in keeping this march through downtown one of the last parades in the country free of corporate sponsorship. There are more costumed participants than spectators most years, including a well-rehearsed contingent of “Thriller”-dancing zombies.
Best 5 New England Halloween Towns
Bucksport, Maine | Best 5 Halloween Towns in New England
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Ghostport/Facebook

Bucksport, Maine

Even on summer days, there’s a dank chill inside Fort Knox, and when the mid-19th-century granite fortress gets a macabre makeover for Fright at the Fort nights, thousands travel to this Penobscot River town to have their spines tingled. You don’t need just a bold backbone to make Bucksport your Halloween go-to spot, though: Brace your funny bone, because the community becomes “Ghostport” for one 12-hour day of madcap, all-ages activities. March in the costume parade, have brunch with the witches, cast your vote in the chili cook-off, launch pumpkins into the river with a trebuchet, and be sure to find a spot on Main Street for the coffin race. If a Ghostport Ghoul nabs you, you’ll receive a wicked-good cash prize. As night falls, jack-o-lanterns are brought to the waterfront for judging, free movies are screened, costumed revelers dance under a tent, and surprises are unveiled right up until the fireworks display.
Best 5 New England Halloween Towns
Putnam, Connecticut | Best 5 Halloween Towns in New England
Photo Credit : Courtesy of the Putnam Redevelopment Agency

Putnam, Connecticut

Have you dreamed of dressing your undead best and lurching down a catwalk? If so, you need to be in this reawakening mill town (with plenty of free parking) for October’s First Friday, when anyone can enter the annual Zombie Fashion Show. It’s the first of several Halloween spectacles in Putnam’s harvest-bedecked downtown. Next up: the Great Pumpkin Festival, featuring pumpkin-themed restaurant specials, a street fair, entertainment, and a sincerely enormous pumpkin. The town crier welcomes a trainload of passengers, who arrive via rail from Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley station, lending a spark of nostalgia. Then, on the Friday eve before Halloween, costumed kids and parents swarm downtown as business owners take to the sidewalks to dispense treats.
Best 5 New England Halloween Towns
Jackson, New Hampshire | Best 5 Halloween Towns in New England
Photo Credit : Dan Houde/Wiseguy Creative Photo

Jackson, New Hampshire

Each October, this serene White Mountains village is the target of a monthlong invasion. But don’t fear! There’s nothing sinister about the Return of the Pumpkin People. Pick up a map and go meet the more than 100 gourd-geous characters who pop up at businesses in Jackson and surrounding towns. The pumpkin flavor — and the photos ops — intensifies during the All Things Pumpkin Festival, which features tastings, tours, pumpkin carriage rides through the village, and New England’s most competitive pumpkin carving contest. Bring your trick-or-treat-loving offspring to town October 31 for Sweet Street, a candy-filled final Halloween hurrah on the lawn of the Snowflake Inn. What New England Halloween towns would you add to the list? This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE: Best Halloween Events in New England5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New EnglandHalloween in Salem, Massachusetts