The suburbs think they’ve got a lock on trick-or-treating, but the scariest action is happening on NYC streets. And on Halloween, at least, that’s a good thing!
In compiling our highly subjective list, we considered: 1. Community engagement (does everyone decorate and hand out candy?); 2. Accessibility (apartment buildings can be great fun for the people who live there but aren’t typically open to trick-or-treaters from other nabes; business-heavy areas like midtown and Wall Street are typically dead); and 3. Crowding.
It’s that last factor that knocked out several neighborhoods you might typically expect to find: the West Village and most of the Upper West Side in Manhattan, for example, as well as Park Slope and Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. Nobody wants to wait in line for a Dum Dum. So without further a-boo, here are the best places in NYC to beg for candy this Halloween.
1. Windsor Terrace/Kensington
These neighboring Brooklyn hoods are packed with primo blocks for tricking-or-treating: In Windsor Terrace, the streets east of Prospect Park West and tucked between Prospect Park and the expressway—especially Vanderbilt Street, Reeve Place, Sherman Street, Windsor Place, Howard Place, and Fuller Place—are Halloween gold. In Kensington, the spookiest street is East 4th Street, between Caton and Church Avenues. It’s closed to traffic and all the residents contribute something to the massive block party. Our neighborhood sources say there’s a guy on East 3rd who sets up a steam table every year and hands out free hot dogs so that the kids have something to eat besides candy. Candy and hot dogs? Count us in!
2. Sunnyside Gardens
The charming, tree-lined residential streets of this planned Queens community were made for trick-or-treating, especially since they are now closed to traffic on Halloween; you can stroll at your leisure and admire the cobwebbed houses competing for the best-decorated title.
3. West Chelsea
Our social media director, Molly Borman, used to live on West 22nd Street and can attest to the Halloween-winning vibe of this hood. “I call it Halloween Paradise,” Borman says. “These folks Go. All. Out. When people reminisce about how New York just isn’t the same anymore, they aren’t talking about West 22nd Street on Halloween.” Go to Clement Clarke Moore Park on Tenth Avenue, as the locals do before trick-or-treating, then hit up the brownstones on 21st and 22nd between Eighth and Tenth Avenues.
4. Hamilton Heights/West Harlem
Almost all of the homes on Hamilton Terrace, a three-block stretch between West 141st and 144th Streets, get way into the Halloween spirit, and many of them coordinate to decorate around a theme. Last year it was The Wizard of Oz, and the brownstones and row houses were draped with shiny emerald green streamers. This year, the theme is Marvel comic heroes; if you’ve got an Avengers fan in your family, you know where to go. Since the street is small and has long been a favorite Halloween destination, it does get crowded, but the spillover trick-or-treating scene is decent as a result.
5. Ditmas Park
It’s old-fashioned trick-or-treating at its best here, with residents handing out top-shelf candy from the wraparound porches of their large Victorian homes. The annual Prospect Park South Halloween Parade allows for kiddos to march down Albemarle Road and show off their costumes before they’re sticky with melted Junior Mints and covered in Pixy Stix dust.
This Upper East Side neighborhood is giving Park Slope a run for its money as the NYC settle-down spot for families. And its trick-or-treating scene is heating up, too, since the opening of the Second Avenue Subway. Gather at Carl Shurz Park for some precandy play and photo ops before hitting up the townhouses on East End Avenue—and the entire 20-block radius between 80th and 90th Streets east of First Avenue if you have energy!
7. The Upper West Side’s 69th Street Between Broadway and Central Park West
The West 69th Street Block Association is strong—and so is its Halloween game. Ever since the late 1960s, when homeowners and renters there began celebrating Halloween with sidewalk trick-or-treating in defiance of the nabe’s then-dangerous reputation, the tradition has only grown. Practically every single brownstone is decked in crazy-elaborate decorations (an aerialist was once hired to dress as Spider-Man and repel down from windows) and candy seekers are usually costumed a notch above than in other areas. The two blocks between Broadway and the park are closed to traffic for the Halloween party, and, while they do get very busy (hence the area’s last place on our list), we know many families who return to this street year after year for trick-or-treating—and they say it is always worth it.