We thought taking our kids to a nearby state park to go trick-or-treating would be a unique experience. Our 30-person extended family set up on 10 sites. We knew we’d have fun but lamented that the kids would only have 10 stops to get candy.
But something completely unexpected happened. As the kids—dressed as a skeleton, a gnome, a witch, a phantom, and a reaper—romped around, we discovered that many of the other sites had bowls of candy and decorations, with some transformed into ghoulish masterpieces. Suddenly the kids were having a full-fledged evening of trick-or-treating. By night’s end, they had a haul of sugary treats that rivaled a “regular” Halloween at home.
“I love the idea of bringing along a skeleton, putting them in a camp chair and enjoying the outdoors.”
We’d stumbled upon a growing trend: Halloween is a huge deal at many campsites.
“We definitely now have two key seasons,” notes Trent Hershenson, Vice President of Marketing at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. “Obviously summer is the biggest but over the past several years, fall has become a huge second season. Parks once had one or two Halloween-themed weekends but now it’s not unusual for a location to have five or six, even up to eight.”
Camping on Halloween edges you closer to the prospect of any possible spooks or spirits in a location that’s probably a little more sinister than your average, well-lit suburban street. It also immerses you into the original roots of the holiday, when Celtic peoples lit bonfires and wore costumes to scare away ghosts (and carved the original jack o’ lanterns out of turnips). And it plunges you further into the season, getting you out into the crisp fall air over multiple nights instead of just one.
“Explore the events page of local tourism board websites to celebrate Halloween like the locals do.”
Some locations go all out with haunted trails or wagon rides, costume contests, prizes for the best decorated site or golf cart, pumpkin decorating, corn mazes, and even “magic” pumpkin patches where kids utter a magical incantation over a pumpkin seed in the morning, plant it, and return that afternoon to a fully-grown pumpkin.
But Hershenson advises you to book early if you want to get in on this October action. He says, “Even before COVID-19, some of the camps were selling out their Halloween weekends in July. Now they’re booking up even sooner.”
Here’s a roundup of some popular campgrounds that celebrate Halloween.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, Alabama
This campground is the site of the annual Tannehill Halloween Fairyland. The “non-scary” event attracts more than 6,000 visitors per year, most of them children who can trick-or-treat at more than 200 campsites. They offer moonwalks, face painting stations, balloon animals, train rides, and campground site decorations that are “extensive, creative, and surreal.”
Calico Ghost Town Regional Park, California
This campground is located in an actual ghost town, so it’s already one spooky step ahead of the competition. Abandoned by permanent residents since the 1890s, it now holds Halloween costume contests for dogs and humans, pumpkin decorating events, storefront and campsite decorating competitions, haunted attractions, and a truly chilling nighttime “street scare” with costumed creatures lurching down Main Street.
Suwannee Music Park’s Hulaween, Florida
For three days over Halloween, the 800-acre campground transforms for the Hulaween music festival. This adults-only event presents big-name bands like The String Cheese Incident and My Morning Jacket. Festival goers wear intricate costumes and dance among elaborate art installations, fire dancers, aerial silks, acrobats on sway-poles, and more.
Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, Indiana
This generally Christmas-themed, lakeside resort transforms over seven weekends during the Halloween season. There are haunted hayrides, site and costume decorating contests (pets included), bonfire ghost stories, fun for “Hallow-teens,” a bike decorating contest, the “Ghostly Golf Cart Glow Parade,” and, of course, trick-or-treating.
Bear Run Campground, Pennsylvania
With two heme weekends for Halloween and tons of nearby attractions, Bear Run is a kid-friendly campground 35 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While the nearby fall Cheeseman Pumpkin Festival is pleasant enough with hayrides, pumpkin picking, a hay maze, petting zoo, and more, things take a spooky turn when the Cheeseman Fright Farm opens. More than 100 actors hide in a corn maze, on the haunted hayride, and walk-through attractions. The fright-filled attraction is geared toward adults and teens.
Don’t even think of putting your RV up this fall. There’s plenty of great fall camping to be had. It’s another good excuse to get out and camp more, and you might just fall (back?) in love with the true spirit of Halloween, turnips and all.