The best Halloween attractions in NYC – 2013 guide to haunted houses, parades and theater

Halloween is a magical time to be in New York City. From haunted houses to Off-Broadway theater, there are plenty of creepy attractions to excite tourists and locals alike.

It’s a chance for New Yorkers to unleash our creativity by donning homemade costumes (heavy on the gore and short on the hemlines). Our exhibitionism comes out as we parade down 6th Avenue, waving to the cameras and snapping photos with total strangers. We even summon the courage to visit America’s scariest haunted houses, where we are poked and prodded by ‘serial killers’.

Halloween is my favorite holiday and each year I make it my goal to visit the city’s major Halloween attractions. Read on for my top 6 picks, which range from tame to downright horrifying!

1. Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade

Tompkins Park Halloween Dog Parade_Pomeranian in Lady Gaga costume

A pomeranian dressed as Lady Gaga at the 2011 Tompkins parade.

This may be an unconventional choice for the top Halloween attraction in New York City, but I stand by it. Where else can you see adorable dogs wearing outrageous, homemade Halloween costumes? You haven’t experienced the joy of the season until you’ve seen a pug dressed as Scarlet O’ Hara or a Pomeranian outfitted as Tron. Trust me. The best part? This parade is FREE and provides amazing photo ops. Make sure to bring your camera and don’t be afraid to get down on the ground for the perfect photo of canine Lady Gaga.

>> Click here for photos of the cutest dog costumes at the Halloween Dog Parade

What: Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade
Where: Tompkins Square Park, the East Village, Manhattan
When: Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 12-3PM
Cost: FREE to gawk at the dogs outside the judging area; $5 suggested donation (comes with raffle ticket) to register a dog in the costume contest or to visit the show area
Tickets: Sold at the door. For more info, visit the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade Facebook page.

2. Village Halloween Parade

NYC Village Halloween Parade 2011_The Joker and friends

Revelers at the 2013 Village Halloween Parade.

Costume lovers, fans of public drunkenness and New Yorkers with holiday spirit have looked forward to the Village Halloween Parade for 40 years. In a heart-breaking development, the parade may be cancelled this year due to lack of funds. The organizers are soliciting donations via Kickstarter but, at press time, faced a shortfall of $15,000. I’ve just donated to the cause, since it’s hard to imagine Halloween in Manhattan without this historic parade. It’s the closest thing New Yorkers have to Mardi Gras (well, except for the Gay Pride Parade, which bears some striking similarities).

>> Click here for photos of the most creative costumes at the Village Halloween Parade

Where: West side of Manhattan, straight up 6th Ave from Spring Street to 16th Street
When: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 7PM
Cost: FREE to all! Anyone is welcome to join the parade– as long as they are wearing a costume (and don’t mind arriving insanely early to wait on line). Participants should head to Sixth Ave between Spring & Canal Streets as close to 7PM as possible, if not before. There are best costume prizes.
For more info: Visit the official website of the Village Halloween Parade.

3. Blackout Haunted House

Survivor of Blackout NYC Haunted House

The writer after experiencing Blackout haunted house-- wet and (fake) bloody!

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be the victim of a deranged killer? How would you react– would you sit there and take the abuse? How quickly would you break? These are questions you’ll ask yourself as you experience Blackout, arguably NYC’s scariest haunted house. This is not an ordinary haunt; you have to go through alone, there is performer nudity and you will be shouted at and even touched. Blackout isn’t for everyone, but it is unlike any other Halloween attraction in the five boroughs of NYC. Before you go, read our 2013 review for survival tips.

>> Click here for a review of the 2013 Blackout haunted house in New York City

What: Blackout Haunted House
Where: The Vortex Theater, 164 Eleventh Avenue (Ground Floor), Manhattan, NY
When: Open now through November 5, 2013. See website for show times.
Cost: $65
Tickets: Purchase advance tickets on the Blackout website.

4. Nightmare Haunted House

2013 Nightmare Haunted House serial killers

Portraits of serial killers at Nightmare haunted house.

So, you want a scary Halloween attraction but aren’t ready to go through a haunted house alone? Then Nightmare is for you. This theatrically-produced haunt features creepy sets and America’s most notorious serial killers. Small groups go through a maze of rooms, and you can opt to be “touched” by the intense performers. This is a top-notch haunted house that may give you nightmares, but won’t activate your PTSD. Check out our review before visiting.

>> Click here for a review of the 2013 Nightmare “Killers” haunted house

What: Nightmare Killers 2 Haunted House
When: September 27- November 2, 2013
Where: Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, Manhattan
Tickets: $30 online or $35 at the door. VIP and student tickets available. To purchase, visit

5. Blood Manor Haunted House

Performer at Blood Manor haunted house

A hatchet-wielding performer at Blood Manor haunted house.

Are you attracted to campy horror movies featuring blood, gore and big-breasted zombies? Does your taste in movies range from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Elvira? If so, you need to purchase a ticket to Blood Manor haunted house immediately. It’s one of the city’s most popular Halloween haunted houses and attracts a steady stream of tipsy clubgoers, Halloween enthusiasts and horror fans. I’m always impressed by the enthusiasm of the performers, who are as committed as Method actors to their gruesome roles and often help develop their own characters. Read our 2013 review for more info on this Halloween classic.

>> Click here for a review of the 2013 Blood Manor haunted house

What: Blood Manor Haunted House
When: Oct. 4- Nov. 2, 2013
Where: 163 Varick Street, Manhattan
Tickets: $30 plus $3.50 fee online; $35 at the door. VIP tickets also available. To purchase, visit

6. The Dead Dream Machine

Dead Dream Machine Bushwick

A businessman pays for his crimes at Dead Dream Machine.

Do you prefer Halloween attractions with a hipster edge? Then head to Bushwick, Brooklyn– one of NYC’s trendiest neighborhoods– for a performance of Dead Dream Machine. This off, off, off-Broadway show features a talented cast of young actors sending up horror movie cliches. When a creepy magician who looks like Nosferatu appears and goads an innocent girl into a ‘dream machine,’ you know you are in for a wild ride! The show also features aerial performances and guest musicians. Check out our review for additional details.

>> Click here for a review of the Dead Dream Machine 

What: Dead Dream Machine
Where: La Luna Theater, 135 Thames St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Open now through October 13, 2013.
Cost: $22.09
Tickets: Purchase advance tickets on the Dead Dream Machine eventbrite website.

Other Attractions:

I have not personally attended these attractions (yet) so cannot vouch for their creepiness factor. If you have experienced them, please share your thoughts in the comments field.

Times Scare

Green-Wood Cemetery Tours

Coney Island’s Luna Park (hosts Halloween activities in October)

What’s Your Favorite Halloween Haunt?

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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.