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 by local cultural groups. The free display takes over downtown State Street for a fun, family-friendly evening that’s the perfect way to start the Halloween season.

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.

Día de Muertos at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Dia de los Muertos at the National Museum of Mexican Art
Dia de los Muertos at the National Museum of Mexican Art

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen is celebrating Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) with its annual art exhibit. Now in its 37th year, the ornate display is dedicated to Day of the Dead customs and traditions. The free museum also hosts a huge Day of the Dead celebration in nearby Harrison Park, featuring altar demonstrations, live musical performances, face painting, and art activities. 

Slightly Spooky Saturday 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 attractions, with rides, games, and boat cruises that will delight visitors of all ages. On the weekend before Halloween, the lakefront attraction is hosting Slightly Spooky Saturday. Dress up in your favorite costume and look forward to trick-or-treating and hands-on activities at the pier. 

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 few of the parade highlights include a costume contest judged by a panel of drag queens and Halloween food and drink specials at restaurants and bars along North Halsted Street.

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 is 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.

Ideal for children under age 11, the Halloween happenings at Sauganash Park and Oriole Park will involve lots of themed games, costumes, and refreshments. As for all-ages events, come out to the Halloween party at Commercial Club for crafts, games, and a trick-or-treat parade, or drop by Olympia Park for plenty of kid-friendly activities, treats, and Halloween entertainment.