18 Spooky Ways to Celebrate Halloween in New Orleans This Year
In the Before Times, Halloween in New Orleans was a wildly fun and lively time of year for both kids and adults—perfect for a city that takes any opportunity to dress up and cut loose. This year, however, everything closes by 11pm and public gatherings are limited if not flat out prohibited. No Voodoo Festival, no Krewe of Boo, no throngs of costumed people flooding the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street. (Well, they can gather, but there won’t be much to do, with strict occupancy rules and no live music.)
But! There are still a few spooky activities—and maybe not so spooky but still festive and lots of fun—that you can partake in safely. But, be careful out there and remember to mask up. Halloween weekend falls during a full moon, and it is still 2020 after all.
Located outside New Orleans proper right underneath the Huey P. Long Bridge, this haunted house has been scaring the pants off of aspiring scream queens and kings for years and now has integrated COVID safety procedures which actually sound kind of awesome. Limited tickets per night, shorter lines, no combining with other groups, and enforced social distancing. Also, pumpkin spice hand sanitizer. There’s a bar onsite to enjoy before or after, and there are options to skip the line and get a fast pass. Tickets start at $25-30, depending on the day, plus any add-ons.
The other haunted house in the New Orleans area that has been able to re-open for the holiday by following new strict COVID guidelines, Mortuary Mansion is at the end of the Canal Street streetcar line with several old, small, rundown Catholic and Jewish cemeteries surrounding it. Tickets must be purchased in advance, which cuts down on waiting in line significantly (called the virtual queue). Once inside, get your face scared and screaming and fight off zombies and suchlike. You can also donate blood (in a separate location than the actual haunted area) for VIP access. Tickets are $25-30 for general admission and $50 for VIP admission.
These escape room experiences are all private bookings (no combining with other, unknown guests) and those who like a little brain bending along with being spooked, check out the Voodoo Cemetery, Revenge on the Bayou, or the Vampire Hunter Room. Admission is $28 per person, and slots are still available for Halloween weekend.
Celebrated vegan restaurant Vegan Wit a Twist has an upstairs event space and will be hosting a Halloween night costume party from 8pm-2am. Expect music, hookah, good times, and a $500 cash prize for best ladies’ costume.
Not exactly a Halloween event, but a good time nonetheless. This beautiful outdoor event features entertainment from three local drag queens, drinks from Turning Tables NOLA, and food from Marjie’s Grill, Addis Ethiopian Kitchen, 2Brothers1Love, and Chef Adolfo Garcia. Only 60 guests per socially distance-friendly session, so get tickets before it’s too late. There are two shows on Thursday October 29, one at 6:30pm and one at 9pm and tickets are $50.
A genteel way to interact with the spirits, Bottom of the Cup has been reading tea leaves and tarot cards for almost a century and will be happy to tell your fortune over a cup of nice tea (included in the reading). There are, of course, resident ghosts but they don’t often make themselves known to customers, but the staff will be happy to tell you the legends. They also have a wide selection of tarot cards and other metaphysical gifts for purchase, along with lots of different tea, the largest selection in New Orleans.
It’s like trick or treating, but from your car in a socially distanced environment. It’s a free event so you’re gonna want to get there earlier rather than later before they run out of candy. Also, it’s really just for kids—they ain’t gonna give you anything without one there in the car with you. The event is Tuesday, October 27 from 5-8pm, rain or shine, with costumed local celebs.
Hit the Lafitte Greenway for a drive- (or bike- or walk-) through on Friday, October 30 from 6-8pm. The outdoor area will be decorated haunted house-style, there’ll be places to pick up snoballs and candy, and it’ll be a fun time. It’s sponsored by the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) and there are other Spooktaculars on the West Bank and in New Orleans East.
Halloween is also All Souls Eve as celebrated by Mexican culture, a crucial part of the Day of the Dead tradition. Hugo Montero, owner of Casa Borrega, one of the city’s premier Mexican restaurants, is hosting a Day of the Dead dinner on Saturday, October 31, from 6-9pm. Casa Borrega is providing traditional food for the holiday and Montero himself is creating a Day of the Dead altar for all to enjoy in the Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden.
The aptly named pop-up snoball stand’s last day of operation is November 1. It’s open Friday through Sunday from 3-6pm and is a worthwhile pursuit, especially when you factor in original, seasonal flavors like Cranberry Sage Cream, Ginger Basil Plum, and a pumpkin spice concoction called The Basic B. If the Honey Roasted Fig is still available when you get there, get on that.
Sunday brunch is even more special when it’s on All Souls Day. Espiritu Mezcaleria has you covered with socially distanced seating, outdoor options, live music by Raíces, pomegranate mimosas, and traditional dishes not usually on the menu—like a sope with pork chile verde and poached eggs. The traditional ofrenda (altar) for Día de los Muertos will be set up inside. Capacity will be limited, so reservations are strongly recommended.
For some spooky shopping, check out Orphan Souls in two locations. Warning: if dolls freak you out already, these will give you nightmares. But if you’re into the creepy doll thing, get your freak on with these guys. Also, the antique malls where Orphan Souls await you have a bunch of other cool local art up for grabs.
If you’re interested in genuine African hoodoo traditions, Crescent City Conjure is the best place to check out in the city. From gris gris to readings to all sorts of charms, oils, and advice, the folks here are invested in making sure their customers understand the history and usage of all items and services offered. It’s a small shop, but filled with really interesting stuff just waiting for you to check it all out.
This place could fall into kitsch so easily, but the quality of spooky gifty goods and the subdued creepy overall vibe add a certain credibility to its claim that this is where the vampires shop. There are spirit traps explained, so you learn a little something about how to repel unwanted spectres and the staff are coolly competent and informative. From custom fangs to coffin jewelry, this place has you covered for Halloween all year long.
Probably the most fun gallery on Royal Street— well the most unique for sure—Galerie Vinsantos was formerly known as the Funeral Gallery. The art displayed here includes unique dolls, often created on a commission basis. They’re more eerie and fascinating than macabre and will give you something to think about.
Every year for Halloween, this stately manor on St. Charles Avenue puts up a hell of a topical, satirical display with dozens of skeletons, which attracts quite a crowd. This year, not wanting to encourage non-social distanced congregation, but still unable to quit altogether, Louellen Berger only has three skeletons on display: Lazy Bones, telling fans that most bones are taking the year off; and two Hamilton-themed characters, Skelilton and King GOREge holding a sign saying “They’ll be back” and encouraging fans to check out a YouTube video with a Halloween parody of the musical’s “You’ll Be Back” set to photos of past displays. It’s not quite the same, but it’s a nice reminder of years past and hope for future years.
This is the opportunity to try some cheese (and wine) that’s a little off the beaten path, touted as weird and wild (but also with the caveat that it’s not Fear Factor-esque in its craziness.) This Zoom class on October 29 at 7pm is moderated by resident cheesemonger Molly Bourg and attendees pick up their cheese at the Uptown location that same afternoon. Fun and funky cheese tasting all in the safety of your own home, what’s not to love?
Do you know what the Shrunken Skull tiki drink is? Well, if you sign up for the Sazerac House’s virtual tasting for October 28 at 5pm, you’ll find out and make one yourself with the special cocktail kit that can be picked up safely at the Sazerac House museum/distillery/booze shop downtown prior to the online event. Sign up for the tasting—it’s free and limited to the first 50 people who sign up—and purchase a Shrunken Skull cocktail kit for $55, to pick up the day of the event. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the cocktail kit go to support the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. Costumes encouraged!
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