Experience Halloween in Chicago with these spooky, spectacular, and supernatural events. The city is packed with haunted happenings each October, from frightening to family friendly. Celebrate the spookiest time of year with nighttime parades, haunted houses, spooky movies, ghost tours, pumpkin picking, and beyond. Here’s 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.

This year, the Arts in the Dark parade will take over State Street between Lake and Van Buren on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 6 – 8 p.m. This year will also feature 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) on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 12 – 3 p.m.

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. 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.

This year’s event will take place Oct. 13 – 17 and 20 – 24, 2021. Tickets go on sale to the public on Aug. 27.

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 Sunday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. 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. The exhibit, Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember, will run from Sept. 10 to Dec. 12, 2021.

On Oct. 30, the museum will be hosting 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 on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. 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 on Oct. 31.

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 on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 with 24 hours 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 hosting “Music Box of Horrors: Dawn of the Drive-in”, featuring a full month of spooky movies in Pilsen. Get your tickets for Friday night double features, serial killer Sundays, and more.
  • Movies on the Lawn: The Davis Theater, a beloved fixture in Lincoln Square, is hosting outdoor movie screenings at Lincoln Yards. Bundle up and come see Halloween favorites like Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Celebrate spooky season at Navy Pier

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

Iconic Navy Pier is going all out for Halloween this year! Check out what’s happening this October on the lakefront:

  • Slightly Spooky Saturdays are free themed events where you might find magicians, movie screenings, costume parties, trick-or-treating, and more on Saturdays from Oct. 9 – 30.
  • Pier Pumpkin Lightswill transform the Pier’s outdoor areas into a glowing fall spectacle.
  • Offshore, the world’s largest rooftop bar, is hosting two Halloween events: a Paint and Sip party on Oct. 20 and a Halloween costume party on Oct. 30.
Looking for more things to do in Chicago this Halloween?