You might think that because the American South carries a reputation (did someone said Bible Belt?) that people don’t celebrate Halloween in the South. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. The South was celebrating Halloween in their colonies when the Puritans in New England did not want to participate in anything the Anglicans or Catholics were doing. The southern states have a reasonable share of ghosts, voodoo, and paranormal stories, making it the perfect place to celebrate a spooky Halloween.
Bonaventure Cemetery – Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA is not only one of the most haunted cities in the South, but in all the United States. Instead of trying to change this reputation, the city has capitalized on it. For example, today, you can choose from more than 40 ‘Ghost Tours’ for all tastes and budgets.
There are valid reasons as to why the city is full of ghostly presences. Yellow fever epidemics, deadly fires, dramatic murders, slavery, and bloody battles are part of city history.
Furthermore, the construction of Savannah over who knows how many unmarked graves probably contributes to the many ghost sightings and its icy Wright Square (even in Summer nights).
If visiting one of the most haunted cities in the United States during Halloween feels like it could be ‘too much,’ click here to see 10 Pictures That Will Inspire You to Visit Savannah During the Summer instead.
St. Augustine, Florida
Tolomato Cemetery – St. Augustine, FL (Picture by Roselyn Gonzalez)
St. Augustine, FL, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States (San Juan in Puerto Rico is the oldest if we also count US territories). But its fame as one of the South’s most haunted locations is not only based on how old the city is but in the characters that have called St. Augustine their home – even after death.
As it also happened in Savannah, the St. Augustine population also suffered a yellow fever epidemic. If you’re familiar with the topic, you’ll know that epidemics appear to be common between haunted places.
Additionally, pirates, conquistadors, and soldiers with not the best intentions have been part of St. Augustine’s history since 1565, bringing death with them.
If you’re looking for some of the spookiest places in the city, the Old Jail, Castillo San Marcos, and the Spanish Military Hospital, which you can read more about it here, are some of the places with the most reported appearances.
New Orleans, Lousiana
The city of New Orleans, with its Creole culture, should be on a category on its own. Here you don’t have to dig deep to find a place that’s haunted. From hotels to restaurants to the city’s sidewalks, paranormal and hair-raising encounters have been widely documented.
The practice of Voodoo and Vampirism also cast a mystic cloak over the city, and deciphering here what’s real and what’s not might not be as easy as you think. Countless stories have inspired several movies, series, music, and it doesn’t matter what you believe in; the artistic legacy of the paranormal is unquestionable.
During October and Halloween, there are many things to do in NOLA, but the focus is on the many LGBTQ events that range from black-tie events to dance parties.
Key West, Florida
If you are wondering why Key West in the state of Florida is on the list for ‘Best Places to Celebrate a Spooky Halloween in the South’ odds are you have not heard about Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is an almost 40 years old, 10-day event that changes its theme every year.
Here, you and other grown-ups can go and enjoy parties and parades. Food and drinks also abound (including a Street Fair), so you can have the necessary energy to run from or join the ghouls.
Please Note: Because of COVID-19, Fantasy Fest has been canceled in 2020.
The Vortex Restaurant Interior (Little Five Points) – Atlanta, GA
Atlanta is known as the home of one of the top-rated haunted houses not only in the South but in the United States, Netherworld. The city is also associated with The Walking Dead series, and film site tours are available.
Nonetheless, I’m here to talk to you about the Little Five Points (L5P) Halloween Festival & Parade. L5P is an eclectic neighborhood in Atlanta, who also happens to be the home of the best burger in the United States (at The Vortex – you’re welcome!). Halloween here is serious business, and costumes and floats will not disappoint.
Louisville, Kentucky, is also a city that doesn’t necessarily ring a bell when talking about Halloween. The town, however, is home to many haunted houses, ranging from family-friendly ones to the more extreme.
For example, the Wavery Hills Sanatorium Haunted House is not a made-up name but used to be a sanatorium. Paranormal tours are available from March through August, and on these tours, you can learn more about the sanatorium history. Maybe even encounter an otherworldly force.
The city also hosts a parade and festival, shows, and the Jack O’ Lantern Stroll, where you can see more than 1,000 beautiful and lighted up carved pumpkins. These are great options if you want to enjoy a milder version of Halloween instead.
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Please Note: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and HHN in Universal Orlando are not happening because of COVID-19 in 2020. However, you can still enjoy Halloween-themed parades, spooky vibes, and creepy food offerings in WDW Resort and Universal Orlando Resort. Universal even has two haunted houses that you can visit during the day, but don’t forget to make a Virtual Line Reservation!
Halloween Horror Nights bring a ridiculous amount of people to Universal Orlando during select nights in September and October.
The haunted houses take around a year to be completed, and the attention to detail separates this event from others. In addition to the haunted houses, which on occasion, are themed after famous horror movies or series, you can find scare zones through the park and enjoy Halloween-themed shows, food, and drinks.
HHN target audience is adults, but if kids are part of your spooky trip to Orlando, there is a good option. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom Park. Here, kids can trick-or-treat through the park, dress up, meet their favorite Disney characters, and be mesmerized by an impressive firework show prepared just for the occasion.
Keep in mind, though, that the previously mentioned events require separate tickets just for the event.
Charleston, South Carolina
Rainbow Road in Charleston, SC
The city of Charleston in South Carolina is probably one of the prettiest towns in the South of the United States. The thing is, it’s also one of the most haunted. Since its foundation in 1670, this port town had between its residents and visitors, slave traders, 19th-century pirates, and civil war prisoners.
There are also stories without a happy ending of affluent members of Charleston’s society who had sordid affairs, frequented the city brothels, and engaged in corruption. Don’t worry, though; you don’t see these characters during Sunday Brunch in Charleston anymore. Unless that is, you encounter one of their ghosts at the Old Jail, arsenal, or alleyways.
If planning to visit Charleston, consider visiting during a weekday when there are fewer people. Click here to read more about things to do, see, and eat during weekdays in Charleston, South Carolina.
Wynwood Walls – Miami, FL
One of Miami’s most bustling districts at the moment is Wynwood. You have probably seen numerous pictures of the Wynwood Walls, but you probably didn’t know that this neighborhood is also a great place to celebrate Halloween.
In Miami fashion, the best way to celebrate Halloween here is through parties and music. First, there is HalloWYN, Wynwood’s official Halloween Block Party. Here you can expect to see outrageous costumes without a cover charge while also exploring the area.
There is also Wynwood Fear Factory, an Electronic dance music festival with more than fifteen performers. Choose your poison.
That is unless parties are not your thing, which in this case, you should check out this guide about Miami for Non-Party Animals.
Austin, the capital of Texas and the Live Music Capital of the World, also has a spooky vibe. From haunted hotels, bars to hospitals, there are numerous buildings where people claim to have experienced paranormal activity.
The city also celebrates Halloween the best way it knows, through music and art. If you can’t make it before October 31st, don’t despair. Austin also celebrates Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead (including fireworks!) until November 2nd.
COVID-19 hasn’t deterred Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream in Tampa Bay. However, you cannot just walk up to it as it was done in previous years. Advance reservations are required to help maintain social distance requirements.
For those of you that have gone to Halloween Horror Nights in Universal Orlando, the concept of Howl-O-Scream is similar. There are scare zones, haunted houses, and entertainment. I always say, that because of the animal habitats, number of trees, and size of the park, the scare zones (at least for me) feel scarier than in HHN.
This year, however, there are no haunted houses. What Busch Garden’s did was increase the number of scare zones. Remember, it is a ticketed event (meaning is a different ticket than your daily admission ticket or your annual pass), and that you need to reserve in advance.