Everything You Have to Do in New Orleans for Halloween
As far as holidays go, it’s Mardi Gras that most people associate with New Orleans, but the Crescent City is also one of the world’s great Halloween cities. It makes sense, once you think about it: The city is kind of a gothic wonderland which feels eerie and Halloween-y even on the brightest summer days, plus -- let’s face it -- no one throws a party like New Orleans throws a party. The Halloween festivities are already underway, but there’s still plenty to do as we head toward Halloween night, and even afterwards (hey, we don’t let the festivities die around here).
Spending Halloween outside of town? Check out our guides to the best Halloween parties and events in NYC, LA, Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, DC & Boston.
Weekends through November 2
For the second year in a row, this festival-cum-amusement-park sets up in NOLA’s giant City Park. The sprawling 50-acre urban park is taken over by several “fright zones,” a haunted house, live music, rides, and a “Zombie Outbreak battlefield” (yikes!) -- spooking both kiddos and adults alike. It wouldn’t be NOLA without booze, so, yes, you can get craft beer and spirits to give you a little liquid courage.
Geared towards inhabitants of Mid City, this fun annual event is essentially a grown-up version of trick-or-treating. Put on by the Mid City Neighborhood Organization, it consists of a tour of designated neighbors' porches -- each with a different food and cocktail sample (provided, of course, from awesome Mid-City restaurants and bars). Costumes are highly encouraged.
Cost: $55 if you’re not a member of the neighborhood organization; $40 if you are
Krewe of Boo is the official Halloween parade of the Big Easy, a citywide fave that draws big crowds of revelers (both locals and tourists). The floats in this parade are beautiful and monstrous, something you really have to see for yourself -- especially in a city that lives and dies by its parades. To get a good spot for the 6:30pm start time, arrive early. If you want more of the scary magic, keep the party going at the Monster Mash, the Krewe’s 21-plus after party. Or you can just hit up any bar in the vicinity because, hey, this is New Orleans!
Over the past 20 years, Voodoo has grown from a best-kept secret to a major international music festival with one of the most devotedly cross-genre lineups on the festival circuit. This year’s headliners include Guns n’ Roses, Beck, The National, Bassnector, Post Malone, and Brandi Carlile. There are, of course, dozens of smaller acts to enjoy over the three days of the festival. Voodoo is increasingly the reason that a lot of people end up in New Orleans around Halloween. (And, as with any big tourist-y festival, it's also the reason that a lot of New Orleanians flee the city for the Black Pot Festival and other smaller, out-in-the-boonies parties.)
Cost: Tickets start at $75
HNO is a legend in the LGBTQ+ community: a 34-year-strong event series that raises money for Project Lazarus New Orleans, an HIV/AIDS support organization that’s been working on the ground since not long after the disease got its modern name. The events under the HNO umbrella include a black-tie ball at the New Orleans Board of Trade on Friday night, the city’s most vibrant Halloween dance party (costumes mandatory!) at the Contemporary Arts Center on Saturday night, an afternoon dance outdoors at the Fillmore on Sunday, followed by a “pier dance” and classic New Orleans second line through the Quarter to the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streeta. Tickets are open to the public, just get them early (especially for the indoor events) as they do sell out.
Cost: Tickets start at $80
The Endless Night Vampire Ball is an unabashedly high-end steampunk/goth/dark masquerader's delight. The organizers are deeply protective of the event’s aesthetic and, as a result, it looks and feels straight out of a movie. Whether you’re simply cosplaying as a reborn Edwardian dandy or a Baroque werewolf or you’re deep into the subculture, all you need is a costume and a ticket and you can immerse yourself for the evening. Red Mass is at midnight, so don't miss it.
Cost: Tickets start at $65
Catch Widespread Panic or another local favorite in concert
If you’re in the mood to jam out on Halloween night, you’re in luck, as Widespread Panic is playing at the University of New Orleans on October 31, November 1, and November 2. If the hippie thing isn’t your cup of tea (or daiquiri, as it were), you might also consider hitting up the record-release show for local blues-funk band Galactic (featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph + Motel Radio) at Tipitina’s. Costumes not required, of course, but we can’t imagine you’d be remiss in dressing up for any concert in this city on Halloween night.
Cost: Ticket prices vary
Always wanted to ride in a New Orleans parade? This is an easy way to do it. The price may be steep, but it buys you a seat on a mule-drawn carriage and a whole bunch of throws. You provide your own costume. The parade winds through the French Quarter, beginning and ending at Molly’s at the Market (one of the only legit locals’ bars in the French Quarter), with a stop at Erin Rose in the middle where the costume contest will be held. If you just want to watch, get to somewhere between Molly’s and Erin Rose around 7pm on Friday night (pretty much anywhere on Decatur is good). But, the parade route will be different this year because of construction on Bourbon, so watch the website for more info. When in doubt, just grab a street beer and wander in the direction of the noise, and you’ll be golden.
Cost: Free to watch; $150 to ride
Center Business District
Dubbed “Ancient Spirits,” this special performance by the LPO is classical music with a scary twist -- they don’t call it Gothic for nothing, you know. Pieces will include “The Isle of the Dead” by Rachmaninov, then Peer Gynt Suites 1 and 2, followed by the mischief and mayhem of Petrushka. Definitely a different kind of Halloween, but one worth checking out!
So the “Day of the Dead” is a bit of a misnomer -- in most Latinx communities, the celebration of dead ancestors lasts from October 31 to November 2, give or take, allowing for a bit of wiggle room. The second year for this festival, held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, will be held on the Saturday after Halloween at the Baby Cakes’ field. Kinda fitting, in a way, since the Baby Cakes no longer exist. There’ll be all kinds of family events on offer: music, food, shopping, and all sorts of entertainment, as well as a costume contest and an ofrenda (an offerings altar), where the greater community is encouraged to bring mementos of those who have passed.
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Megan Romer is a contributing writer for Thrillist.