I’m a big fan of Halloween and love to scare myself silly! Do you have any good ideas for haunted holidays or destinations that go bump in the night?
If you’re the scary movie and ghost story type, why not take it one step further by indulging in a spooky holiday? Personally, I jump at my own shadow, but if you really want to scare yourself silly on holiday, I’ve got a few ideas for you here – from haunted hotels to creepy festivals – perfect for a Halloween break.
I’ll start with Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, or El Día de Muertos. It celebrates the same All Saint’s Day that Christian and Catholic calendars recognise, but the festival lasts for two days or more around November 1, rather than October 31, or Halloween. It’s all about celebrating dead friends and relatives, and having some fun too.
The festival is celebrated in varying degrees across the country, including the Mayan town of Pomuch in the Yucatán peninsula, where relatives exhume the bones of dead relatives, and Oaxaca, where street art goes macabre during the festival.
If you’re not going beyond Mexico City, you can still find plenty of spine-tingling activities. Wonder at the intricate altars set up by families to guide the spirits of the dead back to earth, the markets filled with flowers, decorated bread and sugar skulls, and the cemeteries brought to life, as it were, by raucous picnics and parties.
If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay in Mexico City, try Habita in Polcano, a stylish minimalist hotel with fascinating architecture and a rooftop pool. You can get a room there for £100 a night.
Another place where it really kicks off over All Saints’ Day is the Philippines, where Day of the Dead, or Araw ng mga Patay make November 1 one of the biggest events in the national calendar. Families join for picnics and drinking around the graves of dead relatives. Some cemeteries even host overnight stays, supplying running water and electricity to the visitors.
If you want some pool-time with your stay, the Edsa Shangri-La Manila hotel has a resort feel, given it’s a city centre property in Manila, and has rooms from £84 a night.
Speaking of cemeteries, a wonderful one to visit is Père Lachaise, the largest burial ground in Paris. With the evenings drawing in earlier around Halloween, a dusk visit is sure to put the wind up you.
If, however you’d like to learn a bit more about the dead that reside there, it’s probably best to visit, or at least arrive, in clear daylight. You won’t be alone – it’s reputedly the world’s most visited cemetery, but there’s plenty of space for visitors, and at this time of year it tends to be quieter. As well as the war memorials, there are countless graves of various French and international famous, and infamous, citizens.
One of the most visited graves is that of Oscar Wilde, but popular graves also include Jim Morrison, Victor Hugo, Proust, Chopin and Edith Piaf.
The cemetery is in 20th arrondisement on Boulevard de Ménilmontant, and the closest metro stations are Philippe Auguste on line 2 and Père Lachaise on line 3. It is open 7:30am-6pm weekdays and from 9am weekends and Bank Holidays, although opening hours change during November, so check before you go.
If you want to stay on the right side of the city centre for accessing the cemetery, check out Appartement Blanc on the edge of the Marais. It’s a two-bedroom apartment in a fashionable area with a roof terrace and trendy décor. Great fun and good value for a family or two couples, at around £110 per night for a three-night stay.
If you want to find a place that takes Halloween seriously, try the US. The shops are overflowing with costumes, food, toys and games, themed for the big night. Adults and children alike go to town on outfits and throw parties to remember.
If you want to meet some fellow Halloween enthusiasts (the kind that celebrate year-round), then the spookiest spot in the country is Salem, in Massachusetts. Thousands of ghoul-spotters convene there every October for a witchcraft exhibition, giant zombie ball, mass séance, and more. Check out salem.org for the overwhelming calendar of events.
If you want to enjoy some good old-fashioned American hospitality and a touch of Martha Stewart chintz, check out Northey Street House B&B. It was built around 1809 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, but even better, you’ll get a huge American breakfast to set you up for a day of witch-hunting. Rates start at £130 a night at this time of year, and you’ll need to book early to bag a room.
Finally, that spooky hotel I mentioned. Staying in the US, how about booking a room at the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s movie, The Shining? The Stanley Hotel in Colorado is in a remote spot in the Rocky Mountain National Park. You can relive the movie fright-fest with a ghost tour (£10, booked in advance), and you might even be “lucky” enough to get room 217, where King stayed and allegedly came up with the idea for the movie.
Alongside ghoulish adventures, there’s a spa and outdoor pool as well as countless hiking trails, although many will be closed over the winter. There’s always the option to take a seat by an open fire and curl up with a good book… horror, of course. Rooms start at around £100 a night.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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