A big ol' Halloween bash is a sure sign of a killer neighborhood.
Holidays don’t get more neighborly than Halloween. For one night a year, half the neighborhood goes knocking on every door, and the other half greets them with treats and smiles. If it weren’t for all the costumes and candy, it might seem like community spirit was the whole point.
For some neighborhoods, it really is. As if the door-to-door candy party wasn’t neighborly enough, these residents get together to build outrageous Halloween lawn displays, throw a week-long Halloween party, and other neighborhood-wide activities that bring the whole hood closer together. We trick-or-treated our way through What Locals Say, our database of residents’ insights on their neighborhoods, to find five of America’s best neighborhood Halloween celebrations.
Broadview Street in Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood is known as “Halloween Street” or “Trick-or-Treat Street” during the month of October. Neighbors here design elaborate Halloween-themed displays on their front lawns, creating what resident Trish Hileman describes as “an idyllic Halloween spectacle.”
Hileman recalls displays ranging from a pirate ship to a recreation of the Byers family’s living room from “Stranger Things,” complete with alphabet lights. Trick-or-treaters turn out in droves to collect their candy in the festive atmosphere. “I get pretty constant traffic starting at 5:30,” Hileman says. “No matter how much candy I buy, I seem to run out by 8:30.”
College Hill is a natural spot for this family-friendly holiday—94 percent of locals say it’s a place where you’re likely to see kids playing. But the effects of the fun reach residents of all ages. Halloween Street is a bonding experience for the neighbors. Hileman recalls meeting one of her neighbors at an estate sale where the neighbor was buying numerous old baby dolls. Hileman asked if the neighbor was a doll collector, but it turned out the dolls were just props for a Halloween Street display. “She said, ‘Unfortunately, these baby dolls are not going to look so great when I’m through with them, but it’s all for fun,’” Hileman says.
Brian Glanville says Halloween festivities in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood are “not an organized deal.” Some neighbors decorate, some host parties, and some create more elaborate scenes in their front yards. But what they may lack in organization, they more than make up for in quantity: The neighborhood attracts thousands of trick-or-treaters every year. No wonder 100 percent of Eastmoreland locals say the ‘hood has serious holiday spirit.
Eastmoreland has become such an attraction for Portland kids that some neighbors have turned it into a game. According to a 2014 Oregonian article, residents Bob and Shirley Grew compete with their neighbors to see who can draw the most ghosts and goblins to their door. Their record? They counted a whopping 1,600 trick-or-treaters with a handheld counter.
Glanville says Eastmoreland’s draw is largely due to the pocket neighborhood’s cozy feel, located in close proximity to Portland’s central business district, but still possessing a safe, suburban feel. The spirit that drives his neighbors’ Halloween fun is, in fact, drove him to live there in the first place. He grew up in Eastmoreland in the ’50s, and although his parents moved away when he was 14, the neighborhood left a lasting impression on him. “When I came back to Portland in the early ’80s, I moved right back in,” he says. “I knew where I wanted to live.”
Halloween festivities in Indianapolis’ Irvington neighborhood got off to a fairly modest start back in 1946 with a simple parade and costume contest. But today the parade is what resident Nancy Tindall-Sponsel describes as “the crowning jewel” in the Historic Irvington Halloween Festival. The festival comprises an entire week’s worth of Halloween-related events including a charity masquerade ball, an organ concert, a coffin race, a “slightly haunted puppet show,” and even a public seance.
Why is Halloween is so big in Irvington? “Irvington is one of the most haunted neighborhoods in Indianapolis,” says Tindall-Sponsel. Can’t argue with that.
And you wouldn’t want to argue with the army of neighbors who pull off the Historic Irvington Halloween Festival, either. More than 240 neighborhood volunteers make the haunting happen each year (good thing 92 percent of locals say finding parking is easy there). “We all just kind of click together and we all help each other out,” Tindall-Sponsel says. Helping out is actually the bottom line for many of the week’s events. Various activities raise money and collect canned goods for causes, and there’s even a blood drive—the creepiest way to help your neighbors.
The Ragamuffin Parade in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood has been going strong since 1966, when a local priest started it to give kids some safe Halloween fun. Back then, they didn’t even wear costumes.
“Kids just wore their parents’ clothes so they looked messy like little ragamuffins,” says resident Joan Curran on the event website. “I marched down Fourth Avenue, leading the whole thing alongside Father McKenna. It was priceless.”
Today, thousands of kids pour into Bay Ridge from surrounding neighborhoods to walk in the parade and participate in the closing costume contest, with the winner in each category taking home a new bicycle.
Ragamuffin Parade Committee president and Bay Ridge resident Arlene Keating stresses that the parade is still all about the kids, but it’s now followed by a more adult-oriented street festival the following Sunday. The entire Ragamuffin Weekend is beloved by Bay Ridge residents young and old, past and present. “It’s their opportunity to catch up with people they haven’t seen in years,” Keating says. “It’s a great community environment.”
The annual Halloween parade in the micro-neighborhood of Morris Cove within New Haven’s East Shore has been going on so long that locals have truly lost count of its history. Salvatore DeCola, the neighborhood’s alderman and a parade organizer, says it’s been going on for “over a quarter century.” A 2016 article in the New Haven Independent said that year’s parade was “the 50th (or the 49th or 47th; nobody could exactly remember).”
In any case, it’s a multi-generational tradition for many families, which explains why 96 percent of locals say East Shore has holiday spirit. “Grandparents are bringing their grandkids and doing the same route they did as a child,” DeCola says. It’s almost too sweet to be scary.
Families frequently dress up together and compete in the costume contest at parade’s end. DeCola fondly remembers when he and his family members dressed up as the cast of “The Wizard of Oz” for his then 8-year-old adopted daughter’s first Halloween in Morris Cove. DeCola says neighbors bond over putting on a good show for the hundreds of parade walkers and trick-or-treaters who swarm the neighborhood.
“It’s just a festive night, and people are honored to do it,” he says.