The origin of Halloween dates back to the Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago mostly in Ireland, UK and northern France and who celebrated their New Year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the beginning of the cold winter months, when the world of light and the world of darkness would change watch. They also believed that on the night before the New Year, on October 31st the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth to damage the crops and create havoc; to ward the spirits off, the Celts lit up bonfires and wore costumes.
Over time, Halloween has evolved into a modernized day of fun, family-oriented activities like trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats. This year we have selected for you some fun and spooky activities to do outdoors in some of America’s most beautiful parks. Boo!
Guided Spooky Cave Tours
Onondaga Cave State Park, Missouri
Towering stalagmites, dripping stalactites, and active flowstones are the perfect backdrop to a spooky tour into the underground wonderland. Though most of the tour takes place just below surface level and you don’t need to be an expert explorer, are you brave enough to share the space with some cute cave dwelling bats?
One Eyed Zed’s Zombie Games
Caledon State Park, Virginia
This fun and energizing event offers visitors a chance to go up against a horde of (fake) zombies as they navigate a military-style obstacle course. Competitors outrun zombie actors and avoid getting tagged in the process. If you have the guts (and the stamina) to run for your life in a beautiful outdoor setting, this is the right Halloween activity for you.
Yosemite National Park, California
While taking a walk in the Yosemite Cemetery, you will probably hear and feel the echoes of Yosemite’s past. For American Indians the origins of these echoes reach back many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The echoes of non-Indians go back only to the mid-nineteenth century. A visit to the Yosemite Cemetery will bring you closer to many of the personalities that began the development of what we now call Yosemite National Park.
Haunted Lighthouse Tour
Leelanau State Park, Michigan
Every year the Leelanau State Park hosts a haunted experience in the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, located over the breathtaking Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, featuring the haunted experience in conjunction with a family-friendly Halloween festival at the park. Equipped with courage and camera, visitors can wander around the lighthouse’s decorated interior and keeper’s quarters, venture into the truly frightening haunted basement and enjoy the surrounding festivities.
Wild West Fright Fest
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
This kid-friendly Halloween fest can be found in the charming town of Medora, right outside North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The historic location has the perfect backdrop for hayrides, haunted houses, costume dinners, including Halloween movie screenings at the Old Town Hall Theater - a perfect spot for a spooky adventure!
The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze
Hudson Valley, New York
Meander through an 18th-century landscape and discover a breathtaking display of more than 7,000 illuminated Jack O’ Lanterns—all designed and hand-carved on-site by a team of artisans. Guests are greeted by a fire truck—making a special rescue—and witches stirring up a spell. You can tour the Museum of Pumpkin Art, where classic paintings get the gourd treatment, see who let the (pumpkin) dogs out, or listen for the Headless Horseman. Watch out for the swooping Jack O’lantern bats.
Please check with each official National Park before traveling to these locations as openings are subject to change due to COVID-19.