When a sleek, gleaming tower appears to sprout from the earth every week in New York City, it’s easy to forget that this is in many ways a ghost town — quite literally. Centuries of New Yorkers have lived (and died) here, from the earliest indigenous Algonquians to the 17th century Dutch fur traders that deemed these parts Nieuw Amsterdam.

We rounded up the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween, whether you want to just indulge in some innocent family fun (pumpkin photo shoots are as required in October as pie is on Thanksgiving) or ride a broomstick to the ghosts and goblins of our cringe-inducing past

“Before I had a kid, I didn’t really care about Halloween, but after having my daughter we find the neighborhoods that have brownstones and stoops,” says Julia Joseph Romero, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson for Cantor & Pecorella, Inc. and a StreetEasy Expert. “They are really fun for Halloween because oftentimes the owners of those houses will decorate their stoop, sit out and hand out candy.”

Halloween decorations in front of brick NYC townhouse.

Here, the most boo-tiful spots that make up the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween.

Table of Contents

    6 Frightful-Yet-Delightful NYC Halloween Neighborhoods

    Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn

    If you always (ahem) creep it real, you can’t NOT visit Green-Wood — a sprawling 478-acre cemetery set on the site of a 1776 Revolutionary War battle. Edging Greenwood Heights, this is one of the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween because it’s every bit as eerie as it is legendary, with the graves of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Leonard Bernstein on the premises.

    But we’d wager that one of the most important graves here is one that reminds us war is ghastly for all ages: the final resting place of 12-year-old Clarence David McKenzie, a drummer who became the first Brooklyn resident to die in the Civil War. He enlisted against his mother’s wishes, innocently telling her: “I am only a little boy — they will not want to shoot me.”

    a tree surrounded by gravestones on a fall day in Green-Wood cemetery - NYC halloween neighborhoods
    Colorful foliage at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

    The adjacent Greenwood Heights neighborhood is expectedly chockablock with history, including many prewar apartments. 

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    Upper East Side, Manhattan

    “One of my favorite streets at Halloween is 76th between Fifth and Madison,” says Jacqueline Clair, an Upper East Side based photographer that documents Halloween charm on her much-loved Instagram account. “There are several houses on the block that are gorgeous at any time of year, and lucky for us, they also go all out for spooky season. One of the houses (which I think is actually a school) does decorations all the way up their steps and they even include animatronic figures chattering and cackling — which kids seem to love!”

    Jack-o-lantern window decoration on the Upper East Side.

    Another of Clair’s favorites this time of year is 70th Street, between Lexington and Park. “A few of the houses decorate, but the star of the block is this one house that every year has what I can only describe as the most chic of Halloween decorations. One year they did black and white painted pumpkins that were truly unforgettable. Their decor is often somewhat understated, yet elaborate and unique—always something you won’t see at any other house.” We’re under their spell!

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    Ellis Island: Battery Park, Manhattan

    You could call it Eerie Island. You just might get “the creeps” the minute you step foot in Ellis Island’s circa 1900 structures, which processed upwards of 12 million immigrants in the shadow of Lady Liberty between 1892 to 1954. Whether you’re wandering the vaulted ceiling registry room or taking in the stacks of baggage that your tired, your poor, your huddled masses once schlepped to NYC, the aura of ghosts feels like it is everywhere.

    Ellis Island stairwell - NYC halloween neighborhoods
    Historic stairwell at Ellis Island in New York City.

    If you really want to have a bone-chilling experience, book a hard hat tour of the former Ellis Island hospital, which once housed people suffering from everything from the flu to tuberculosis and which lays in a state of eerie disrepair, including broken windows at every turn.

    Back on mainland Manhattan, tony Battery Park City, too, is one of the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween, because it’s among the “oldest”: it took its name in the 17th century when you would find a “battery” of protective cannons fronting the water.

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    Roosevelt Island, Manhattan

    Before Roosevelt Island became a New York secret enclave for gleaming glass-walled apartments, it was renowned for something else: an 1834 mental health hospital (or what previous generations might have called a lunatic asylum), a smallpox hospital that treated 7,000 patients a year (and buried hundreds), and a science lab that reportedly performed menacing and dangerous experiments on unwitting patients.

    Ruins of the smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island - NYC Halloween neighborhoods
    Ruins of the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island.

    When she voluntarily stayed in the asylum in 1887, enterprising female journalist Nellie Bly deemed it a “human rat trap…easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out.” Now, it’s one of the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween — and a great place for a truly hair-raising tour of the ruins.

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    Greenwich Village, Manhattan

    Musicians and skeletons fill the streets during the Village Halloween Parade - NYC halloween neighborhoods
    The Village Halloween Parade in Manhattan.

    Greenwich Village is already a legend, but the Village Halloween Parade? That, darlings, is iconic. Heidi Klum herself would stand in awe of the costumes dreamt up by revelers at this annual “carnival,” which has been turning heads since 1974. The theme for the 2023 event, which also happens to be the 50th annual parade here: Upside/Down, Inside/Out. To take in the free parade on time, you’ll want to arrive by 7 p.m. — and wearing an extravagant homemade costume to proudly roam the surrounding leafy neighborhood in, natch.

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    Fordham and Knightsbridge, The Bronx

    You can kill two birds with one creepy, crawly stone in The Bronx, where blood-curdling history makes the area one of the best NYC neighborhoods for Halloween. For one thing, Poe — yes, Edgar Allen Poe — author of eternally spine tingling poems like “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” lived in a rented circa 1812 cottage in Fordham that is perfectly preserved and open for tours today. (That he lived there with his cousin he married at age 13 who died in the house, well — we won’t dwell on that.)

    Bronx Homes Under $750K On StreetEasy Article continues below

    For further dips into petrifying waters, head north to Van Cortlandt Park, an enormous 1,146-acre spread founded in 1888 where a reported 40 indigenous people (largely of the Mohican, Wappinger, and Munsee tribes) were massacred by British Loyalist forces during the Revolutionary War. When you’re in the park, don’t miss stopping by the Van Cortlandt House Museum, a circa 1748 structure where the Van Cortlandt family enslaved people for three generations, from 1698 to 1823 — and where paranormal activity is reportedly a frequent occurrence.

    A black-and-white photo of the Van Cortlandt House Museum, also known as the Frederick Van Cortlandt Mansion.
    A black-and-white photo of the Van Cortlandt House Museum, also known as the Frederick Van Cortlandt Mansion.

    What can we say — ghouls just want to have fun!

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