Experience Halloween in Chicago with these spooky, spectacular, and supernatural events. The city is packed with haunted happenings every autumn, from frightening to family friendly activities. Celebrate the spookiest time of year with nighttime parades, haunted locations, spooky movies, ghost tours, pumpkin picking, and beyond. Here are a few of the best things to do for Halloween in Chicago.

See a nighttime arts parade

Arts in the Dark
Photo by Suzanne Tennant

Arts in the Dark, a beloved family-friendly event each October, celebrates the artistic side of Halloween. This enchanted nighttime parade features large-scale puppets, costumed performers, elaborate floats, and luminous lanterns. The city’s creative community, including renowned institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and Lookingglass Theatre Company, combine forces to create this surreal evening in downtown Chicago.

Explore more: Dare to explore some of Chicago’s most haunted places.

The Arts in the Dark parade takes over State Street between Lake and Van Buren. There will also be an Upside Down Arts in the Dark event (a “reverse” parade with more than 20 performance groups in Washington Park, where costumed families can walk through the route). Parade-goers can admire 20-25 performance groups stationed along Russell Drive, a beautiful tree-lined stretch that crosses through the heart of Washington Park.

 

Experience Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns

Night of 1,000 Pumpkins at Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

This popular event lights up the night with hundreds of intricately hand-carved pumpkins each October. During Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden, visitors can wander the gorgeous grounds at night and admire the impressive jack-o’-lanterns, each handcrafted for hours by expert artists. There will also be plenty of fall snacks and sips, like spiked cider and seasonal beer.

Explore more: Check out all the things to do during fall in Chicago.

Party at the Northalsted Halloween Parade

Northalsted Halloween Parade
Northalsted Halloween Parade ©Northalsted Business Alliance

TheNorthalsted Halloween Parade, ranked one of the 10 Best Halloween Celebrations in the U.S. by Fodor’s Travel, is held in the heart of the Northalsted (also known as Boystown) neighborhood. The raucous procession kicks off on Halsted Street at Belmont Avenue with the Chicago Thriller flash mob, when a troupe of ghoulish zombies performs the famous dance routine. Join in the dancing or follow the parade route north, where a panel of drag queens will award prizes for the best costumes.

Take a Halloween ghost tour of Chicago

Chicago, Seadog, Haunted Tour, Halloween

The Congress Plaza Hotel, Lincoln Park Zoo, the former site of H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle — these are just a few of most (allegedly) haunted sites in Chicago. Decide for yourself on these haunted and ghost tours of the city.

Explore our full guide to haunted Chicago tours. Or create your own DIY walking tour with our list of Chicago’s most haunted places.

Celebrate Day of the Dead

National Museum of Mexican Art
© National Museum of Mexican Art

Day of the Dead may coincide with Halloween, but the beloved Mexican holiday is a one-of-a-kind celebration. The National Museum of Mexican Art is the perfect place to experience it, with an annual exhibit dedicated to Day of the Dead customs and traditions. Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember, typically opens in September and runs through December.

The museum also hosts their annual Day of the Dead Xicágo event, when they transform the museum and surrounding grounds into a community-wide cultural celebration. They’ll also be hosting their Día de los Muertos: Love Never Dies Ball. Enjoy an evening of cocktail-making, live music, face painting, and more.

And don’t miss the Día de los Muertos Celebration at Maxwell Street Market featuring music, a sugar skull workshop, pumpkin decorating and more.

Explore more: Find the best spots for autumn views with our guide to fall colors in Chicago.

Catch a scary movie

Movie marathons, outdoor movie theatres, and drive-in movies are popping up all around Chicago, and you can expect plenty of spooky screenings this season. Check out the top spots to catch Halloween movies this October.

  • The Music Box of Horrors is back with a month of horror movie madness at the historic Music Box Theatre in Lakeview. Get your tickets now for horror classics, cult favorites, and so-bad-it’s-good flicks.
  • Chi-Town Movies Drive-In will be featuring a full line-up of spooky movies in Pilsen. Get your tickets for Friday night double features, serial killer Sundays, and more.
  • Horror Movie Madness at The Logan Theatre is a month-long series that features a set of classic horror films, a costume contest, free family matinees, and more.

Celebrate spooky season at Navy Pier

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

Iconic Chicago attraction Navy Pier goes all out for Halloween! Pier Pumpkin Lightswill transform the Pier’s outdoor areas into a glowing fall spectacle. Guests will find pumpkin pop-up installations and enjoy Pier-wide deals during the month-long seasonal celebration.

Looking for more things to do in Chicago this Halloween?