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Halloween typically scares up a major boost in U.S. consumer spending, to the tune of $8.78 billion in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. Though this year’s celebration will be scaled down in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade group still projects that Americans will shell out $8.05 billion on things like candy, costumes, decorations and greeting cards. Despite the fact that many city governments are discouraging trick-or-treating and the CDC is recommending extensive safety guidelines, it’s still possible for families to get in the spirit of the holiday with the proper protocols in place. Whether you’re planning to don costumes and go house to house with your pod or attend a Zoom masquerade, not all locations are equally conducive to enjoying the festivities. That’s why SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate Halloween in 2020.
To do this, we analyzed data for a total of 210 cities. We considered a range of metrics that we grouped into four categories: family friendliness, safety, weather and candy & costumes. For this year’s study, we included metrics like internet connection and recent COVID-19 infection rates to account for the different ways Americans will celebrate the holiday as a result of the pandemic. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s 2020 study on the best places to celebrate Halloween. Read our 2019 study on the best places to trick-or-treat here.
- California cities take a number of hallowed spots at the top. Cities in the Golden State dominate the top 10 of this study. Five California cities – Vacaville, Fremont, Livermore, Oceanside and Menifee – are in the top 10, and there are four more in the top 15. The major factor driving a lot of these California cities to the top is their safety rating. Two of the above cities, Livermore and Fremont, rank in the top five for safety. The three other California cities finish within roughly the top 15% of the study for this category.
- Halloween towns without frightening housing costs. A person who is burdened by housing costs is spending at least 30% of income on housing, with the threshold for “severely housing cost-burdened” at 50%. All the cities in our top 10 have housing costs below that 30% threshold, with residents of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina spending just 17.99% of income on housing costs (ranking first in the top 10 and fifth overall for this metric). The city in the top 10 with the highest housing costs as a percentage of income is Menifee, California, at 28.32% – still coming in below the 30% threshold. The average figure for this metric across all 210 cities in the study is 23.58%, so many families may still have some money left over – no doubt a “boo-n” for their costumes and candy budget.
1. Vacaville, CA
The best place to celebrate Halloween in 2020 is Vacaville, California. There are a study-topping 13.94 candy stores per 10,000 total establishments in Vacaville, which ensures trick-or-treaters will have plenty of sweet options to stick in their pumpkin pails and pillowcases. This, combined with a ranking of 38th out of 210 for the 34.84 costume shops per 10,000 total establishments (a top-quintile ranking), puts Vacaville at ninth in the candy & costumes index for this study. The city also finishes 32nd overall for the safety index, which includes a daily COVID-19 infection rate of 8.27 per 100,000 residents, 58th out of 210.
2. Sparks, NV
Trick-or-treaters who don’t have warm or waterproof costumes can rejoice: Sparks, Nevada has the fifth-best ranking for the weather category in this study. That includes a precipitation probability of just 1.0% on Halloween (ranking ninth out of 210) and an average temperature that is just 3.4 degrees off the ideal Halloween temperature of 60 (ranking 44th out of 210). Nearly 22% of the population in Sparks is younger than 14, the 33rd-highest percentage for this metric in the study and an indication that youngsters will have many in their demographic available to participate in some spooky fun.
3. Fremont, CA
Fremont, California ranks fourth in our study for the safety category. It is tied for the third-lowest rate of new COVID-19 infections in the study, at 3.31 each day per 100,000 residents. Fremont also finishes 24th out of 210 in terms of its relatively low violent crime rate, with just 211 cases per 100,000 residents each year. What’s more, the city finishes 16th in the family friendliness index, buoyed by a population where 95.07% of homes have internet access, seventh-best in this study and helpful for those who want to take their Monster Mash online.
4. Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach, Virginia also scores well in the safety category – ninth-best in the study out of all 210 cities. The violent crime rate in Virginia Beach is particularly low, ranking eighth overall, with just 117 incidents per 100,000 residents each year. In terms of COVID-19 cases, Virginia Beach falls just outside the top quartile, finishing 55th, with 8.16 new cases per 100,000 residents each day. The city also ranks 37th of 210 for its relatively large concentration of costume shops, at almost 35 per 10,000 total establishments.
5. Livermore, CA
The third California city in our top 10 is Livermore, located on the Bay Area’s eastern edge. Livermore ranks third in the safety category, on the strength of being tied for third-fewest new COVID-19 infections, at just 3.31 per 100,000 residents each day. Livermore also has the 21st-lowest rate of violent crime overall (ranking in the best 10% of the study), at 203 incidents per 100,000 residents each year. Furthermore, the city has the 14th-best family friendliness index in the study, powered by an eighth-place ranking for the percentage of homes with internet access, at 95.00%, making it that much easier to use the World Wide Web to show off that homespun spider web decor.
6. Elgin, IL
Elgin, Illinois ranks 11th out of 210 in the family friendliness category of our study. Housing costs represent just 19.87% of income on average, the 24th-best percentage for this metric overall. The population is 22.61% children under the age of 14, ranking 26th out of 210. Elgin is also a fairly festive place for Halloween. There are 12.29 candy stores per 10,000 establishments, the fourth-highest rate for this metric in the study.
7. Mount Pleasant, SC
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina ranks 12th overall for the candy & costumes category out of all 210 cities we analyzed. That includes having 52.93 costume shops per 10,000 establishments, the sixth-highest rate in the study for this metric. Mount Pleasant is also a relatively affordable place to live, having the fifth-lowest housing costs as a percentage of income overall, at just 17.99%.
8. Oceanside, CA
Although housing costs in Oceanside, California make up 28.02% of income (ranking 193rd out of 210), this coastal city near San Diego has the 14th-best weather index score in the study, which is great news for trick-or-treaters who don’t want to be soaked and shivering while they’re participating in contactless candy pickup. There is just a 1.4% chance of precipitation on Halloween in Oceanside (ranking 19th of 210). Plus, the average temperature there, at 8.2 degrees away from 60 degrees, ranks in the top half of the study.
9. Dearborn, MI
Dearborn, Michigan finishes in the top 45 for all four data categories we considered, including ranking 33rd of 210 (a top-quintile ranking) for the candy & costumes category. There are 34.57 costume shops for every 10,000 establishments, the 40th-best rate for this metric in the study. Dearborn is also a very young city: It has the fifth-highest percentage of residents younger than age 14, at 24.87%, which might help costumed kiddos feel a little less like the pandemic’s gotten everyone stuck in a real ghost town.
10. Menifee, CA
Menifee, California ranks 22nd out of 210 for the candy & costumes category. It has 6.78 candy stores per 10,000 establishments, ranking 32nd overall for this metric. It’s also unlikely your Halloween will be rained on in Menifee – there is a 0.6% chance of precipitation on Oct. 31, the best rate for this metric across all the cities we examined.
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities to celebrate Halloween in 2020, we analyzed 210 cities in 10 metrics across four categories:
Family Friendliness Metrics
- Percentage of residents 14 years or younger. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Housing costs as a percentage of income. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Percentage of households with internet access. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Violent crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Reporting database as well as NeighborhoodScout.com.
- Property crime rate. This is the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Reporting database as well as NeighborhoodScout.com.
- Daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. This is the seven-day moving average of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 17. Data comes from Halloween2020.org.
Halloween Weather Metrics
- Precipitation probability. This is the chance it rains 0.5 inches or snows 0.1 inches on Halloween. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Average temperature. This is the average maximum temperature on Oct. 31, from 1981 to 2010. We compared the average maximum temperature to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which we think is the perfect temperature for trick-or-treating. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Candy & Costumes Metrics
- Concentration of candy stores. The number of candy stores (including confectionary and nut stores) per 10,000 establishments. Data comes from the 2018 County Business Patterns survey
- Concentration of costume shops. The number of costume shops (including clothing accessory stores, other clothing stores and formal wear and costume rental stores) per 10,000 establishments. Data comes from the 2018 County Business Patterns survey.
First, we ranked each city in each metric, assigning equal weight to every metric except for the two crime metrics, which each received a half-weight. Then we averaged the rankings across the four categories listed above. For each category, the city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0. We created our final ranking by calculating each city’s average score for all three categories.
Tips for Managing Your Money to Avoid Spooky Surprises
- Save yourself the toil and trouble. Organizing your finances doesn’t need to be a nightmare. A financial advisor can help make your life much easier. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Make sure your mortgage doesn’t haunt you. If you want to buy a home in one of these great Halloween cities, which are also fantastic locations to lay down roots as a family, consider using SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payment might be.
- Budgets don’t have to be blood-sucking. A budget can help you get on track to be able to spend a bit extra in October to enjoy Halloween properly. Use SmartAsset’s budget calculator to avoid vampiric bites to your savings account.
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