Halloween in Chicago is so much more than just trick-or-treating. There are magical nighttime parades, authentic Day of the Dead celebrations, spine-tingling ghost tours, and more — plus many of the events don’t cost a dime. Here are just a few of the free events and celebrations in Chicago for Halloween this year.

Check our Halloween guide for more things to do around the city.

Arts in the Dark

Arts in the Dark parade
Arts in the Dark; James Richard IV Photography

Arts in the Dark brings together artists from around the city for a surreal procession filled with spectacle, puppetry, legions of masked entities, luminous lanterns, and mesmerizing performances. World-renowned institutions, including the likes of the Art Institute of Chicago and Lookingglass Theatre Company, get involved each year. 

Back by popular demand, Arts in the Dark will also host an “Upside Down Parade” in the Washington Park neighborhood. The reverse parade, which will feature 20+ local performers and visual artists, is an immersive experience that families can walk through a tree-lined stretch of Washington Park.

Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo

Looking for free fall fun? Fall Fest is back at historic Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the country’s oldest free zoos. Enjoy autumnal activities, like strolling through a pumpkin patch, sipping seasonal drinks, and watching live pumpkin carvers. There’s also face painting, animal chats, carousel rides, musical entertainment, a festive pop-up bar and grill, and so much more.

Day Of The Dead Xicágo

The National Museum of Mexican Art’s exterior and the surrounding area will be hosting their annual Day of the Dead celebration in Pilsen. The nearby Harrison Park will be transforming into a festive community gathering place, where visitors will create and view ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars) just like those you would see in Mexico on Día de los Muertos. There will also be altar demonstrations, live musical performances, face painting, and art activities. You can also head inside the free museum to see their annual exhibit dedicated to Day of the Dead customs and traditions, Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember.

Halloween events at Navy Pier

Navy Pier's Pumpkin Lights;
Navy Pier’s Pumpkin Lights; photo by James Richards IV

Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most family-friendly attraction, with rides, games, and boat cruises that will delight visitors of all ages. This October, the lakefront attraction will feature an experiential fall spectacle during Pier Pumpkin Lights. The whole family can marvel at pumpkin pop-up installations that come to life after dark.

Northalsted Halloween Parade

Northalsted Business Alliance Halloween Parade
© Northalsted Business Alliance

The Northalsted Halloween Parade is ranked as one of the 10 Best Halloween Celebrations in the US by Fodor’s Travel Guide. At this annual event, an exuberant crowd lines the streets of Northalsted (also known as Boystown), one of the nation’s oldest LGBTQ+ communities, to check out fantastical outfits during an evening parade. A costume contest judged by a panel of drag queens and Halloween food and drink specials at restaurants and bars along North Halsted Street are a few of the parade highlights.

Halloween events in Chicago parks

Movies in the Park at Northerly Island
Movies in the Park at Northerly Island; photo courtesy Chicago Park District

The Chicago Park District will be hosting special Halloween pop-up events in parks across Chicago’s many neighborhoods throughout the month of October. Check out free, family-friendly Halloween parties with themed games, treats, costumes, arts and crafts, dancing face painting, inflatables, and more.