Admit it, you're jealous. While kids go careening through your neighborhood in wizard hats and vampire fangs, you're stuck behind the door dispensing candy. This year, leave a basket of goodies on your porch and celebrate Halloween out of town.
* Salem, Mass.: In this charming New England town, famous as the site of witch trials in 1692, you can immerse yourself in Halloween themes year-round. Salem's bewitching sights include the Salem Witch Village, the Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers and four other witch-related sites. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, one of the largest in New England, has the original papers from the colonial trials among its vast collection.
All month long, Salem gets into the spirit of the Oct. 31 holiday with a host of events: Enter the House of the Seven Gables to visit the world of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, sample a variety of beers at the Hawthorne Hotel's Harvest Moon Brew Nights (in the hotel tavern, no cover charge), and mark the end of Salem's 21st annual Haunted Happenings Festival with a bunch of all-ages activities on Halloween night.
Salem has several bed-and-breakfasts, but many are booked for the Halloween festivities (and require lengthy stays). For other lodging options, refer to the Destination Salem Web site, http://www.salem.org, of the Salem Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, or the Salem City Guide at http://www.salemweb.com. Regional accommodations are probably a better bet, but it never hurts to call around.
An even better bet is to stay in Boston. Salem is easily accessible from Beantown via commuter rail (30 minutes) or bus (one hour); for information, call MBTA at (617) 222-5000 or go online at http://www.mbta.com.
The Buckminster, 645 Beacon St., Boston, telephone (800) 727-2825, gets rave reviews without frightening bank accounts; rates for a double on Halloween night start at $139.
The Bed and Breakfast Agency of Boston, tel. (800) CITY-BNB (248-9262), Internet http://www.boston-bnbagency.com, can help you find a suitable B&B.;
Basing your holiday in Boston means you're only a short trip away from Spookyworld in Foxboro, Mass., an October-only horror theme park; admission $23.50. For information, call its 24-hour hot line, (978) 838-0200, or check out http://www.spookyworld.com.
For more details on Salem's Halloween events, area attractions or lodging, contact Destination Salem, Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, 59 Wharf St., Salem, MA 01970; tel. (877) SALEM MA (725-3662).
* New Orleans: As the voodoo capital of the country and home of vampire goddess Anne Rice, New Orleans knows how to scare up some good times. VoodooFest 2001 is an authentic celebration of the mystical practice, ending with a voodoo ritual at dusk; free admission; call (504) 914-8970 for details.
The city is also home to a variety of Halloween celebrations: the Ghostly Galavant tour of French Quarter ghosts, $15, tel. (504) 523-3939; and the second annual Voodoo Music Festival (Oct. 27), featuring the Stone Temple Pilots, Eminem, Counting Crows, Cypress Hill, Blues Traveler and more; tickets $25 to $28. For information on the festival, call the local Ticketmaster outlet, (504) 522-5555.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans, LA 70112, tel. (504) 566-5011, http://www.neworleanscvb.com, can help you navigate your schedule.
Unless you have the power of voodoo at your disposal, make reservations soon. For a well-located hotel at good prices, try Chateau Hotel, 1001 Chartres St., tel. (504) 524-9636. The weekend before Halloween--it falls on a Wednesday this year--a double costs $145 to $165 per night. You also can try Le Pavillon Hotel, 833 Poydras St., tel. (800) 535-9095, $159, and Pontchartrain Hotel, 2031 St. Charles Ave., tel. (800) 777-6193, $119; rates at both may be slightly higher for the holiday.
B&Bs; often require multiple-night stays, but the lower prices are well worth it. Bed & Breakfast Inc., tel. (800) 729-4640, Internet http://www.historiclodging.com, books reservations for dozens of properties in the city. One of its offerings, Gentry Quarters, has rooms in the French Quarter starting at $86.
* New York City: Last year, New York's 27th annual Village Halloween Parade (in Greenwich Village) attracted a crowd of more than 1 million. The event has become so huge that the city's already high prices skyrocket even more for those final October days.
Luckily for visitors, New York is so big and has so many hotels that it's still possible to see the free parade and take part in other holiday festivities, like the trick-or-treating at the American Museum of Natural History. A double on Halloween night at the clean but basic Park View Hotel, 55 Central Park North (110th Street), tel. (212) 369-3340, is a bargain at $85 (plus tax). The Larchmont Hotel, tel. (212) 989-9333, a cute brownstone in Greenwich Village (27 W. 11th St.), has rooms with shared bath for $90 a night. Another good choice is Chelsea Lodge, 318 W. 20th St., tel. (800) 373-1116, which has doubles for $105.