NEW YORK -- Too old to trick-or-treat? Busy the night of Oct. 31? That's OK, because Halloween has become a seasonal holiday, with attractions and activities for all ages from late September through early November.
Many cities now have local haunted house attractions, community zombie walks and ghost tours. Amusement parks small and large revamp for the month of October with faux graveyards, haunted trails and actors dressed like freaks. Some attractions -- like Universal's Halloween Horror Nights -- are so creepy they are not recommended for guests younger than 13.
Other entertainment venues -- from Disney parks to zoos, museums, aquariums, and even indoor water parks like Great Wolf Lodge resorts -- host Halloween events geared to younger kids.
"Haunted and seasonal theming is growing in popularity not only for theme parks and amusement parks, but also at water parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers and family entertainment centers," said Colleen Mangone, spokeswoman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "So families have a lot of choices for celebrating the Halloween season at parks and attractions."
Here's a sampling of attractions, experiences and events around the country that take place around Halloween or are themed on the holiday.
Pumpkins, parades and zombies
Get ready for the end of the world if you're planning to attend New York City's Village Halloween Parade. This year, the theme for the event is the Mayan calendar, which ends on Dec. 21. The annual parade draws 2 million spectators and 50,000 participants -- many of whose costumes will vary from the official theme -- and stretches from Spring Street to 16th Street along Sixth Avenue, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31.
A few signature events celebrate that hallowed Halloween symbol, the pumpkin. The granddaddy of pumpkin-throwing contests, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, is scheduled for Nov. 2-4, in Bridgeville, Del. And on Saturday, Oct. 20, the streets of Keene, N.H., will be lined with carved, lit jack-o'-lanterns at the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival.
From college campuses to main streets, zombie walks are held year-round, but many of them take place this time of year and are surprisingly family-oriented, with little kids, teens and grown-ups alike donning bloody rags and feigning limps in homage to the living dead. Find one near you: zombiewalk.com/forum/index.php.
Voodoo music experience
New Orleans' annual Voodoo Music Experience -- thevoodooexperience.com -- planned for Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26-28, in City Park, offers a mix of big names like Green Day and Neil Young plus local acts like the Lost Bayou Ramblers. This year for the first time, tent-camping will be available for concertgoers. Tickets start at $90 for one-day admission, $175 for three days, with packages for VIP, parking and camping. Though there's no formal connection between the festival and Halloween, some people dress up and the concert vibe builds on New Orleans' voodoo heritage.
Here are the top 13 haunted attractions from HauntWorld.com: 13th Gate, Baton Rouge, La.; Netherworld, Atlanta; The Darkness, Atlanta; The Beast/Edge of Hell, Kansas City, Mo.; House of Torment, Austin, Texas; Cutting Edge, Austin, Texas; Bates Motel, Philadelphia; Dent Schoolhouse, Cincinnati; The Asylum, Denver; 13th Floor, Phoenix; Headless Horseman, Ulster Park, N.Y.; Erebus, Pontiac, Mich.; and Nightmare on the Bayou, Houston. Many other cities have haunted attractions as well, from Blood Manor in Lower Manhattan to Apocalyptia 3D in Jacksonville, Fla.
Halloween brings crowds to amusement parks that rival those on peak summer days, so be prepared for sold-out tickets and long lines, especially on weekend nights.
Cedar Point has Hallo-Weekends in Sandusky, Ohio; Busch Gardens has Howl-O-Scream in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va.; Six Flags has Fright Fests in 13 parks, Hersheypark in the Dark takes place in Hershey, Pa.; and Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., is featuring Nights of Horror at Luna Park.
Universal theme parks in Florida and California go all out with their Halloween Horror Nights, halloweenhorrornights.com/. This year park guests on both coasts will encounter flesh-eating zombies inspired by the AMC show "The Walking Dead," about a band of humans surviving the zombie apocalypse, with guests at Universal Hollywood Studios dropped off by the park's Terror Tram to wander the ghoul-filled studio back lot. Both parks will also feature demonic beings from the video game and movie "Silent Hill," along with shock-and-horror attractions inspired by heavy metal rocker Alice Cooper.
Also awaiting scare-seekers at Universal Orlando: a Las Vegas wasteland covered with nuclear ooze, designed by the entertainers Penn & Teller; an abandoned house, Dead End; an ancient European cathedral, Gothic, where stone gargoyles come to life; and a House of Horrors featuring classic monsters from Universal films like the Mummy, Frankenstein and Wolfman.
At Universal Studios Hollywood's Horror Night, park-goers can get additional thrills and chills in mazes themed on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and on La Llorona, a Latin American legend about a woman weeping for her dead children.
For younger children, consider Disney World's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween Party in Anaheim, Calif. The events offer trick-or-treating, characters in costume, kids' dance parties, parades and fireworks in orange and green. See disneyland.disney.go.com/special-offers/mickeys-halloween-party/ or disneyworld.com/halloween.
Room with a boo
Historic hotels pride themselves on their pasts, and sometimes that includes a spooky story or two. The Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas, which has been featured on "Ghost Lab" on the Discovery Channel and "Ghost Stories" on the Travel Channel, offers a ghost tour, room for two and dinner at $229 a night Wednesdays and Thursdays through October. For ghost tour packages at other Historic Hotels of America properties, see historichotels.org/hotel-deals/featured-packages.php.