Halloween in Chicago is so much more than just trick-or-treating. There’s magical nighttime parades, authentic Day of the Dead celebrations, ghosts tours, and more — plus many of the events are free. Here are just a few of the free things to do in Chicago for Halloween.

1. Arts in the Dark

Arts in the Dark ©mollymemisi/Dreamstime

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. 

2. Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo

Looking for free fall fun? Fall Fest is back at historic Lincoln Park Zoo! Enjoy autumnal activities, like strolling through a pumpkin patch, sipping seasonal drinks, and watching live pumpkin carvers. There’s also face painting, musical entertainment, a festive pop-up bar and grill, and so much more. The event will run on weekends from Oct. 8 through Oct. 31.

3. Day Of The Dead Xicágo

Light, projection and visual displays will transform the National Museum of Mexican Art’s exterior and the surrounding area for this annual Day of the Dead celebration in Pilsen. What’s more, in Harrison Park, visitors will create their own ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars), transforming the soccer field into a festive community gathering place, just like those you would see in Mexico on Día de los Muertos. Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread), altar demonstrations, live musical performances, face painting, and art activities will round out the evening.

4. North Halsted Halloween Parade

Northalsted Business Alliance Halloween Parade
© Northalsted Business Alliance

The Northalsted Halloween Parade is ranked one of the 10 Best Halloweens 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 leading 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 Halsted Street are a few of the parade highlights.

5. Pier Pumpkin Lights 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 be transformed into an experiential fall spectacle during Pier Pumpkin Lights. The whole family can marvel at pumpkin pop-up installations, Pier-wide deals, and more Halloween festivities throughout the month.