The Village Halloween Parade might be New York City’s biggest party. Millions of people show up to join the spooky jamboree: 60,000 march while a whopping 2 million watch from the sidelines. Ralph Lee started the event in 1974 as a puppet parade for his kids and their friends in the far West Village. The route has changed a number of times as the parade has grown from a community event into an institution; in 1982, artist Jeanne Fleming took the reins—officially becoming the organizer in 1986, after Lee departed—and still runs it today.
Each year large puppets, costumed folks, musicians and dancers proceed up Sixth Avenue, all loosely organized around a theme (2017’s is a P. T. Barnum–inspired “Cabinet of Curiosities”). It’s a chance to see all kinds of New Yorkers and visitors express their creativity, which is why it’s gained a reputation as an event you have to experience to believe.
Interested? Keep reading to learn how to make the most of your time there.
When: Halloween night (October 31), from 7pm to 11pm.
Where: Starts on Sixth Avenue and Spring Street and marches up the avenue to 16th Street.
How to get there: If you’re just planning to watch somewhere along the route, take the C or E to Spring St.; A, B, C, D, E, F or M to West 4th St.; 1 to Houston St. or Christopher St.; or 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, F or M to 14th St.
Who participates? Anyone in costume can take part. There is no registration, so just show up. Marchers dress to impress, so don’t slap on cat ears and call it a night.
How? Arrive at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue between 6:30 and 8:30pm. Participants can only enter from the east and south sides. Visit the parade website for a diagram and more specific instructions.
Who watches? Anyone willing to brave the crowds and celebrate Halloween with that NYC spirit.
How? Line up on either side of Sixth Avenue (between Spring and 16th Streets) from 7pm to 10:30pm to view the spectacle.
Anything else I should know? Don’t plan on crossing Sixth Avenue anywhere along the route during the parade, as authorities barricade the thoroughfare. The parade is intended to be kid-friendly, but some costumes may be NSFW or scary for children. Finally, if you can’t make the parade, watch it on local channel NY1 from 7:30 to 9:30pm.