The country's best cities for efficient candy-scoringSean Locke Photography/Shutterstock
One of the best things about being a parent is getting to relive Halloween all over again. In fact, who among us can (honestly) claim they never dressed their infant as a peapod, a pumpkin, a puppy, or basically anything that doubled as a onesie and made for an adorable photo opp (check out these adorably funny baby pictures and try not to laugh)? Of course, things get a bit more complicated once the kiddies develop their own ideas about what they want to "be" and with whom they want to trick-or-treat. But one thing they all want: the most candy with the least effort. And one thing you want: the safest trick-or-treating experience. So, here are some tips on how to trick-or-treat safely, and here are the top 20 cities for scoring the best Halloween goodies, according to Zillow's annual survey (based on home values, local crime data, how close each house is to its neighbor, and the age of the residents who live there):
- San Jose
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- Las Vegas
- San Diego
- Washington, D.C.
For each city, Zillow also identified the top five neighborhoods. But maybe you don't live in one of those neighborhoods or cities, or even one of those states. Have no fear! We've conducted our own mini-study of the best places to spend Halloween with your kids. What it lacks in terms of scientific method, we promise it makes up for in genuine enthusiasm.
Come on over to the Sunnyside... of Queens
Dan Callister/REX/Shutterstock"Hey, Zillow, don't think we didn't notice that not one of your best trick-or-treating cities is in New York State," said working mom, Ruthy Kirwan of Queens, who claims that her neighborhood of Sunnyside is the BEST neighborhood for trick-or-treating. "Trick-or-treating is a huge deal in Sunnyside," Kirwan tells Reader's Digest. "Every neighbor competes for a better house decoration, and it's so popular that kids take the subway from Manhattan to trick-or-treat here. Trick-or-treating in Manhattan usually means going door-to-door in an apartment building, so Sunnyside is one of the closest neighborhoods that is full of houses, huge trees, and wide, safe streets. It's a traditional, safe, and fantastic trick-or-treat experience."
Speaking of traditions, here are the stories behind 14 Halloween traditions.
But I'll take Manhattan
SINITAR/ShutterstockHere's a little secret the gracious Halloween hosts out in Sunnyside may not realize: Manhattan is a phenomenal place to trick-or-treat. I can tell you that as someone who actually lived in Manhattan for 20 years, the first three of which were in Greenwich Village—home of the raucous and creative Village Halloween Parade. Granted, the parade may not be precisely what parents of young kids are looking for when it comes to trick-or-treating. But Manhattan has that covered on the Upper East Side.
Halloween on the Upper East Side is all about children under the age of 10. Most people live in apartment buildings, and many, if not most, apartment buildings have sign-up sheets for trick-or-treating. If you live in a particularly large building or have a friend who can invite you in, you'll be able to quickly cover 15 to 20 floors, each with upwards of 10 to 12 apartments. That's some super-efficient candy-collecting, and one bag per person is seldom enough.
For a more "traditional" trick-or-treating experience on the Upper East Side, you can go door-to-door at the townhouses on 78th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, which is reputed to be the Upper East Side's go-to block for that. Rumor has it that while there aren't that many houses on the block, the candy-giving at each house is quite generous. These are the mind-blowing facts you didn't know about Halloween candy.
Julie Jacobson/AP/REX/ShutterstockWestchester County, New York, is one of the most affluent counties in the country, which is both good news and bad news in terms of Halloween. Many of the homes sit on large properties, particularly in Northern Westchester, where two-acre zoning is not uncommon. That makes trick-or-treating challenging, if not impossible. That said, Westchester is chock full of towns that have designated certain streets as Halloween enclaves.
In one such town (we can't give you the name or you'll definitely want to show up there, so say the residents to whom we spoke), parents from all over town drop off huge bags of candy for the residents to give out on Halloween, and volunteer to help the residents decorate their homes and man the candy bowls. On Halloween night, kids of all ages from everywhere in town descend on the street with their parents and schoolmates and pick up ridiculous amounts of candy.
Don't feel like dressing up when you take your kids out for Halloween? You can compromise by using these easy Halloween makeup tricks.
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Let's not forget New Jersey
Sean Pavone/ShutterstockSomehow, New Jersey didn't end up on Zillow list, but try telling that to the folks who live in or near Alpine, a small but admirable Halloween workhorse, according to Zaida Khaze, mom, owner of a small business (Wiggletot) and resident of nearby Fort Lee. "I was having a hard time trying to make Halloween fun for my kids since many homes in Fort Lee no longer follow Halloween protocol—not having decorations and not answering the door," she told Reader's Digest, but then "word of mom," Khaze was told to drive to Alpine—a 15- to 20-minute drive from her house.
"I had no idea where to park, but it was so worth it," Khaze says. "Homes were giving out full-size candy bars and not the trial Halloween size. CC Sabathia (the Yankees player) lives there, and he had hired a hot dog stand, popcorn stand, live DJ, bouncy house, and had a limo with a coffin in it, as well as a chance to enter his home and meet his mom. Everyone knew where he lived by following the sound of the music."
Want to be part of the neighborhood Halloween fun without breaking the bank? Here are some great but cheap Halloween decor ideas.
Head south to Fleming Island, Florida
FamVeld/ShutterstockAnother state that was left out of Zillow's top 20 is Florida. According to one realtor we spoke to: Big mistake.
"I sell real estate on Fleming Island, and my kids live there too," Michael Boyle tells Reader's Digest, "and it's an amazing place for Halloween. It's a planned community with small neighborhoods, so on Halloween night, there's almost no traffic at all, and there are tons of kids walking up and down the streets. And on almost every block, someone takes it upon themselves to make a haunted house, and some of them are absolutely incredible—complete with actors and chainsaws, the whole nine yards! Very good stuff."
Make Halloween a win-win by visiting Fleming Island and DIY-ing your kids' Halloween costumes.
Even further south, there's Key Biscayne
Fotoluminate LLC/ShutterstockFor a tiny little island—it takes up about one-mile square—there's seriously a lot to do in Key Biscayne on Halloween. Not only is there an annual Howl-O-Ween party for humans and their canine companions, but there's also an annual zombie crawl that invites zombies of all ages to descend from all different directions to create an ominous feel of the undead being lured to the location.
But those are just the "pre-game" events, taking place, as they do, in the days before Halloween. On Halloween, itself, Key Biscayne is considered "epic" for its beach-side trick-or-treating and its festival vibe (it is described by some as feeling a bit like the nightly sunset party at Key West).
Coosaw Creek in Charleston, SC
Sean Pavone/ShutterstockLynn Maggio, mom of six (including three current trick-or-treaters), moved to this gated community this year, but is already up on all the buzz surrounding the Halloween traditions. These include themed activities at each house, golf carts to get from house to house, and special activities for the younger kids at the community clubhouse. "It's truly a unique experience that only a tight-knit southern community can offer," says Maggio, "and people plan for months in advance." Maggio plans on having a palm reader (who will invariably tell the kids, "stay off your iPad because it's rotting your brain,") at her house, along with a popcorn machine, bobbing-for-apples, and, of course, "candy, scares, laughs, and chills!"
We wonder if Maggio is going to give out the vintage-but-still-available-on-a-limited-basis-candy, Charleston Chews?
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A haunted jaunt to Dallas
f11photo/ShutterstockAlthough Dallas actually made Zillow's top-20 trick-or-treat cities, former Dallas City Council member, Ann Margolin, says that Dallas is also known for having some of the best haunted houses around. One of them, the Cutting Edge, is consistently ranked one of the largest and most terrifying haunted houses in the country. Located in an abandoned meatpacking plant, it boasts an "unnervingly realistic setup" that combines live actors with lifelike mannequins and special effects. "When my kids were little, we just did the walking the block trick-or-treat thing," Margolin notes, but things have definitely changed since then. Here are some of the many other Halloween activities you can do in Dallas.
If haunted houses are your thing, we've got more of the country's best haunted houses for you right here.
Columbus for costuming
f11photo/ShutterstockColumbus also made Zillow's top 20, and Columbus resident and professor Rebecca Haidt, couldn't agree more with that ranking. "What we see here is a lot of upscale suburbs hosting trick-or-treaters from less-than-fortunate neighborhoods. It's only partly about the candy. It's also about the super-safe and welcoming community feel."
Haidt also recommends the legendary HighBall Halloween, which is billed as "the nation's most elaborate costume party." "Staged in the fashion capital of Columbus," the website states, "this yearly event for the Halloween season bridges runway style with the culture of the Short North Arts District. Be a part of the HighBall Halloween street spectacle and model yourself on High Street. At HighBall Halloween, you are what you wear."
There's also the amazing Circleville Pumpkin Show, which features some impressively enormous gourds. One of Haidt's students requested an absence for it "because she grew one whose enormity merited entry into the show."
For a complete change of pace, these "witches rides" blend Halloween, fundraising, and fitness into seamless perfection!
Grayhawk in Scottsdale, AZ
Tim Roberts Photography/ShutterstockWith Phoenix on Zillow's top-20 list, Scottsdale mom Vanessa Gorelkin wonders how Scottsdale didn't make the cut, particularly when the Grayhawk neighborhood (where she lives) is renowned for its massive Halloween block parties. "There are bouncy houses, scary decorations, and really amazing lighting," Gorelkin says. "People really go all out with the hospitality, handing out regular-size candy bars and adult beverages for the grown-ups." Even the streets have spooky names.
Take your pumpkin carving to the next level (or just make it seem like you did) by using one of these 31 free Jack-o-Lantern stencils.
A Hollywood Halloween
f11photo/ShutterstockActor and celebrity Ian Ziering, of Beverly Hills 90210 and the Sharknado series, lives in Hollywood with his wife and two daughters. Although he's fiercely loyal to his New Jersey roots, he confessed that "Hollywood is the best place to trick-or-treat." It makes sense, he says, considering "the entire town is devoted to all things theatrical. And people living here don't have to go too far out of their way to make their homes look spooky!"
"Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, Ziering adds. "Having my own kids makes it even better."
We feel you, Ian, and in that spirit, here are 16 kiddie movies that will appeal to grownups as well.
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Don't pass on South Pasadena, CA
Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock"South Pasadena, California is one of the best places to trick-or-treat in Southern California," says South Pasadena resident Noelle Brown, who is originally from Connecticut. "Because there are so few neighborhoods that are safe and the homes are close together, South Pasadena is THE place for Halloween," Brown says. "Many people decorate their homes complete with spooky soundtracks, and it's a safe, festive atmosphere. Families usually park on Mission Street and walk south on Marengo Avenue down to Huntington Drive, cross the street and head north. The majority of the neighbors pass out candy, so by the time kids do the six-block loop, their bags are full. The youngest kids and parents usually start around 4:30 p.m. That's when you see the more adorable babies all dressed up. From 5 to 8 p.m. the street is packed. One year someone passed out 2,000 candy apples. I can give away $100 of candy in under two hours."
South Pasadena's small-town charm is ideal, Brown adds. "Places like Brentwood and Beverly Hills are fine for trick-or-treaters, but many of those residents have gates, security, or houses that aren't close together, so it can be hit or miss."
Know what else you can find in Pasadena? The first newly-renamed Dunkin store (which used to be called Dunkin Donuts).
Candy in San Jose; thrills and chills in Fremont
Uladzik Kryhin/ShutterstockSan Jose, California, is on Zillow's top-20 trick-or-treat locales list, but nearby Fremont has the amazing Candelighters Ghost House, says resident Lisa Stambaugh, and it's the thing to do in Fremont. The Ghost House is a huge fundraiser for Candelighters, a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to raising funds for non-profit groups and community-based projects in the Tri-City Community of Fremont, Newark, and Union City, California. The Candelighters work on it for months, getting sponsors, creating the sets and props, which Stambaugh says is "amazing." Many of the "actors" in the house are local teens.
"The tour itself is pretty scary, but there is a good witch tour at various times during the day where the lights are on, the actors don't scream, which makes it perfect for younger kids: you get there and a witch takes you in, but you line up on the side for the Good Witch non-scary tour," Stambaugh says. "I used to take my kids when they were small, they loved it."
Did you ever go to a haunted house that was so scary that afterward, you wanted to bring a lawsuit? Well, this man did.
Lit up in Highland Park, Illinois
Sean Locke Photography/ShutterstockHeading back to the Midwest, Chicago is on Zillow's list, so then why not Highland Park? That's what Steven Goldberg, a New York attorney who grew up in the neighborhood, and his sister, Melanie, who still lives there today, want to know.
Steven remembers pulling in full-size candy bars and silver dollars as loot, as well as "star showers," which he describes as lights, lights, lights, and more lights on the trees. Melanie says that "kids get bused in now because the houses are so close together, and the kids get tons of candy, quickly." But that's not all that attracts the crowds to Highland Park, she says. There's the "shaving cream fights, and this show called splatter theater, which is a riot to see because every person in the show 'dies' a bloody 'death.'" Melanie would also like it to be known that she did not steal a full bowl of candy from a doorstep. Not last year. Not ever. OK, Melanie!
Ultimately, no matter where you live, you can find great trick-or-treating somewhere nearby, promises Trulia's lifestyle expert, Lynnette Bruno. "If you're looking for a place to take the kids, use a tool like Trulia's map layers to look at crime and busy streets. If you can, check out the area for yourself. See how many homes have Halloween decorations, how close they are to each other, and watch out for steep hills!"
Once we get through Halloween, guess what time of year it is? Holiday season! Here are 32 things you didn't know about the holiday season—you can use them to make small talk at your office holiday party.