Whether it’s live jazz and Blues in cool downtown bars, or impromptu parties on the streets of the French Quarter, you’re never far from the action in New Orleans. This is also a city soaked in dark history, occult magic and bizarre legends – a “paranormal gumbo” – meaning New Orleans ranks among the top places in the world to spend Halloween.
From outlandish costume balls to paranormal parades, ancient cemeteries known as “Cities of the Dead” to seriously creepy haunted houses – forget about trick-or-treating around your neighborhood in an old bed sheet. In New Orleans, it’s go big or go home.
If this is your first time celebrating Halloween New Orleans-style, you naturally want to know the best bars to drink in, the best places to stay, and the events you can’t afford to miss. So drink a toast to the ghosts, and laissez les bon temps roulez, with our ultimate guide to Halloween 2016 in New Orleans!
Halloween events in New Orleans
It’s near-impossible not to have a good time in New Orleans at Halloween – you’re rarely more than a five-minute walk from some kind of spook-themed party. Dozens of exciting events across the city span several days and nights, but the ones that draw the biggest crowds have often been running for years and established a revolting reputation.
The Vampire Ball
This year sees the 28th annual Vampire Ball dedicated to author Anne Rice, whose vampire novels have a loyal worldwide following. Their fan-club organized Gothic party is usually a sell-out, and the dress code is 18th century formal, with sumptuous ball gowns, lace cravats and extravagant headdresses de rigueur.
When: 28 October.
Where: The Republic, 828 South Peters Street
Probably the biggest Halloween event in New Orleans, the Voodoo Festival is a musical gumbo with 65 acts, including Arcade Fire, Foals, Die Antwoord and Tool, on stage this year playing everything from EDM to metal. Thrill seekers dressed as skeletons, voodoo goddesses and psycho killers wander around dozens of pop-up foodie stalls – serving everything from shrimp po’boys to fried duck quesadillas – and many cool immersive art installations. An experience not to be missed.
When: 28-30 October.
Where: City Park, 1 Palm Dr
One of the most enduringly popular Halloween events in New Orleans is this vampire-themed burlesque masquerade, reminiscent of Venetian or Parisian costume balls. The dress code ranges from Lestat to Beetlejuice, with cyberpunk, pagan and drag outfits all showing up regularly. Endless Night is held at the famous House of Blues, the perfect venue for such an elegantly sinister affair.
When: 28 – 30 October.
Where: House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.
Samhain, the Feast of the Dead, is the Pagan equivalent of Halloween, and the Witches Ball, held in support of the New Orleans Black Hat Society, is a hedonistic evening of music, dance and ritual held at a historic mansion in the Garden District. Get down in the Grand Ballroom, or get cozy on the secluded lawns, have your palm read or a special spell cast, and don’t miss the prize-giving for the best witch’s hat!
When: 29 October.
Where: Elms Mansion, 3029 St Charles Ave.
House of Shock
A little way out of the city, but definitely worth a visit, if you like your blood, guts and gore, the House of Shock has a solid reputation for its outrageous horror shows, where the intensity of the performances will chill you to the bone. Childhood fears and your worst nightmares come to life here, so it’s lucky there’s a well-stocked bar.
When: September 30 – Oktober 29
Where: 319 Butterworth St.
Located in an actual former mortuary for that extra air of authenticity, this haunted house has been terrifying visitors for 10 years now. Enter at your own risk, exit only if you can. Fear stalks you down every passageway, as you try to escape the bizarre inhabitants of the Mortuary.
When: September – November
Where: 4800 Canal St
Halloween New Orleans
The LGBT scene in New Orleans is huge, and one of the most popular dates on the social calendar is Halloween. A number of high-profile events, from black-tie balls to wild neon raves are on the schedule for Halloween 2016, all centered around the theme of legendary pirate Jean Lafitte. His booty was never found, but you can shake yours for a good cause, because proceeds from Halloween New Orleans go to Project Lazarus, a charity helping men and women in the city with HIV/Aids.
When: 27-30 October.
Where: various locations
Best New Orleans Bars for Halloween
The spirits don’t just come in shot glasses at these haunted New Orleans bars. If you want atmosphere you’ll find plenty, just don’t be surprised if you encounter a headless horseman or a blood-soaked vamp in the restroom.
Once one of the famous Antoine’s Dining Rooms, Hermes Bar is a cool and crowded venue lining up classic New Orleans cocktails alongside traditional bar food like Creole gumbo, crawfish bisque, po’boys and oysters Rockefeller. If you’re (un)lucky, your food may be brought by the “ghost server” who is said to haunt these premises after an unnatural demise.
Where: 725 St Louis St.
While “Miss Charming”, the resident mixologist, will be happy to tell you what goes into her craft cocktails at the Bourbon “O”, this stylish, Bacchanalian bar has a few macabre secrets of its own. Built on the site of a former convent and girl’s school that was badly affected by an epidemic of yellow fever, it’s said that you can sometimes see a ghostly little girl rolling her ball down a corridor in the hotel above.
Where: 730 Bourbon St.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Once a dreaded pirate hangout, Lafitte’s is a historic bar with a big reputation for spooky goings-on. Many photographs have been developed over the years that seem to show paranormal presences, and even the likeness of Jean Lafitte himself, smoking a cigar in the bar. Always crowded on Halloween night with folks getting their freak on.
Where: 941 Bourbon Street
Molly’s at the Market
A New Orleans institution, Molly’s is where you’ll find locals and tourists, fishermen, journalists and jazz trumpeters sitting side-by-side, throwing down frozen Irish coffees and Bloody Marys, often raising a toast to Jim Monaghan, the founder and an undisputed New Orleans icon. The annual parades that bear his name always depart from here. Halloween is always jumping at Molly’s, and while you’re not likely to be troubled by any bogeymen here, that don’t mean Jim’s not watching – so be sure you’re having fun.
Where: 1107 Decatur St.
Halloween Parades in New Orleans
If you only do one thing in New Orleans this Halloween, make it a parade. These chilling carnivals feature local marching bands, dance troupes and musicians, and are followed by thousands of revellers dressed in their bloodcurdling Halloween finest. Toss back a few drinks, polish your fangs and get ready for a gruesomely good time.
Krewe of Boo
The spooktacular official New Orleans Halloween parade is a terrifying spectacle – floats carrying gigantic 3D sculptures crafted from papier-mache and fiberglass by the world-famous Kern Studios are accompanied by merrymakers throwing beads, candy and other Halloween treats into the crowds along the Boo Carre. The parade finishes up with a Monster Mash costume party at the Howlin’ Wolf concert hall.
When: October 22.
Where: departs 18.30, Elysian Fields
Jim Monaghan’s 20th Annual Halloween Parade
Named for a genuine New Orleans legend, the Jim Monaghan’s Halloween Parade runs through the French Quarter, with costumed partygoers atop horse drawn carriages followed by jubilant crowds of spectators waving for a fistful of beads. Just watching costs nothing, but if you want to catch a ride on one of the carriages it will set you back $125.
When: October 31.
Where: departs 18.00, Molly’s at the Market
Where to stay for Halloween in New Orleans
The Frenchmen Hotel
This lively hotel is conveniently located just on the edge of the French Quarter. Stay here and you’re just a few blocks from the action on Bourbon Street, with cool bars, great restaurants and swinging music venues right on your doorstep, but the streets aren’t thronged with too many tourists. Before heading out to sample the best Halloween parties in New Orleans, you can chill in the old-style courtyard, relax in a heated spa or even take a dip in the courtyard pool.
Where: 417 Frenchmen St
Tel: +1 504-945-5453
Book your stay at The Fenchmen Hotel (rates start at $170 per room, per night)
International House Hotel
The past meets the present in this stylish historic hotel, where the latest technology and luxury amenities are combined with beautiful architectural features. All Souls’ Day, celebrating the victory of life over death, and its vigil, Halloween, are commemorated with decorations and artworks from local artists.
Where: 221 Camp St
Tel: +1 504-553-9550
Book your stay at International House Hotel (rates start at $212 per room, per night)
Dauphine Orleans Hotel
A boutique French Quarter hotel full of history (John James Audubon painted his famous Birds of America series here), the Dauphine also has the honor of being considered one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans, making it the perfect base for a Halloween stay – that’s if you don’t mind things that go bump in the night. An infamous bordello was once sited here, and it’s said some of the 18th century characters that gave the place its reputation still walk the corridors at night.
Where: 415 Dauphine St
Tel: +1 504-586-1800
Book your stay at Dauphine Orleans Hotel (rates start at $212 per room, per night)
While we’ve tried to give you the lowdown on the best activities in New Orleans for Halloween 2016, this guide is by no means exhaustive – from family events to ghost walks and live music, the fang-tastic fun never stops in the Big Easy.