New Orleans has a dark side. There’s no denying that alongside the Garden District splendor and Southern charm, there’s an eerie city where ghost stories are whispered in the shadow of mansions with unsettling pasts. The city is home to voodoo shops and cemeteries turned tourist destinations, and creepy tales of ghosts slinking through the French Quarter. There’s no place like The Big Easy, particularly on Halloween when its flamboyance and revelry are paired with its love of a good ghost story.
Halloween is second only to Mardi Gras for wild and crazy fun and remember that dressing up in costumes isn’t just for kids.
There are plenty of ways to explore the deep, dark secrets of New Orleans. Wander the streets like one of the characters from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire or simply haunt the antique stores of Magazine Street in the Garden District. If you dare, try staying in a supposedly haunted hotel, like The Provincial (a former hospital), The Andrew Jackson Hotel (a former boarding school), or the Omni Royal Orleans, built on the site of a former slave market.
The best place to start your exploration of New Orleans’ creepy side is at Lafayette Cemetery, where the above-ground tombs show off antebellum architecture for the after life. In fact, you could spend a whole day (or night, if you dare) at New Orleans cemeteries, traipsing from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city’s oldest graveyard, St. Roch Cemetery No. 1, whose Gothic Revival chapel is filled with gifts and notes for the dead.
To learn more about voodoo (or top pick up a voodoo doll for the kids back home) head to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo in the city’s historic French Quarter. Laveau was the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, in the 19th century and her tomb is now a tourist destination. The shop that bears her name peddles good-luck charms and gris gris bags, as well as books on the history of voodoo.
The city’s dark past is on display right from the sidewalk during one of the many ghost (or voodoo, vampires, or the undead tours) that take place across the city. Pair your love of architecture with spooky stories on a tour that will tell the tale of regal homes with dark pasts. Like the Sultan’s Palace, the Gardette-LaPrete mansion that was home to debauched and deadly parties, and the LaLaurie mansion, where an 1834 house fire led to the discovery of a secret torture chamber rumored to be the domain of Madame LaLaurie.
If you want to lighten the mood (or just impress the kids), head to Voodoo Festival, where bands of every genre help fans celebrate the holiday over three raucous days of music, art, community, and good food.
Celebrate the season in true New Orleans style with the Krewe of Boo, the city’s Halloween parade, which pairs Mardi Gras madness with good creepy fun. Or head to one of the city’s biggest Halloween celebrations that takes over Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny ever year. Or, because it’s New Orleans on Halloween, go ahead and do both!
To pair your fun with a good cause, Halloween New Orleans started in 1983 as a party with a mission. Now it’s raised more than $4.5 million for Project Lazarus and had a good time doing it with balls, brunches, and plenty of spooky fun.
Cap off the night with a trip to the annual Endless Night New Orleans Vampire’s Ball, a massive party filled with fun and frights.
In short: If you want to have a scary good time, head to New Orleans for Halloween and laissez les bon temps roulez.
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