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10 Just-Spooky-Enough Family Ghost Tours In Top U.S. Cities

10 Just-Spooky-Enough Family Ghost Tours In Top U.S. Cities

We’ve begun to make nighttime ghost tours a regular thing we do when we visit U.S. cities. They usually take place in the oldest part of town. They mix history with apocrypha and tall tales, making them an informative and entertaining way to get to know a place. The challenge has been making sure we choose kid-friendly ghost tours, especially when Teen Traveler was younger.

Every kid is different, and you are the best judge of how much spookiness yours can tolerate.

But if you’re not sure how kid-friendly a tour will be, the recommended minimum age is usually a reliable guide. In general, the later they begin, the scarier they’ll be. Anything that starts after 10:00 p.m. is not aimed at families (though older teens might find these appealing).

In general, we prefer walking ghost tours to the ones on trolleys. We get a better feel for the city. And it’s nice when the tour ends near some place that’s good for a late-night snack. If that place has its own ghost story, so much the better. 

Here are some of my favorite kid-friendly ghost tours around the U.S., along with a few that my fellow travel writers highly recommend. I hope you find one near you. Or one that might be worth planning a weekend around.  

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New Orleans’ French Quarter Fiends

New Orleans, LA, is widely considered to be among the most haunted places in the USA, with a dark, twisted history dating back to the earliest days of slavery. From voodoo, colonial occupation, and the Civil War to pirates and an “anything goes” attitude towards excessive behavior, a NOLA ghost tour has its choice of haunting stories of murder, tragedy, sinners and saints. 

new orleans haunted history tours

Taking a nighttime walking New Orleans ghost tour with Haunted History Tours is a great way to hear these macabre stories, which have inspired films and TV shows. Local guides lead small groups through the French Quarter (also known as the Vieux Carré), the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, bringing its most chilling and horrific tales to life. 

From the mysterious massacre of the sultan’s house and the Civil War spirits said to haunt the Beauregard-Keyes House to the witch of the French Opera House and voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s grave at St. Louis Cemetery, each of them is worthy of fireside storytelling. 

The spookiest story of the evening is that of Madame Marie Delphine Lalaurie (played by Kathy Bates on American Horror Story: Coven), a socialite serial killer known for the brutal, inhumane torture and murder of the enslaved Africans she employed.

Some of these true stories might be a bit grisly for younger kids, but my tween-age daughter had a great time. Accordingly, the tour runs fairly late and involves two hours of walking and standing. My tween was very tired by the end.

Still, the tour is a must-do for anyone who loves history and/or horror, offering an entertaining and informative combination of both.

From Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

• Book the Haunted History walking tour.
• If your fellow travelers aren’t up to a two-hour walk, consider the hour-long Haunted History carriage tour as an alternative.
• A French Quarter vacation rental lets you enjoy bon temps like a local.

Savannah’s Witching-Hour Walk

For kid-friendly ghost tours in Savannah, try the Witching Hour Paranormal Tour is a good one to consider! The owner, Brigid, is typically the host, and she has a great sense of humor. She’s also a good storyteller and kids tend to be riveted by the tales she weaves about Savannah’s spookier side. 

spanish moss and old street lamps add a spooky flavor to savannah ghost tours.

The tour group meets in a shop in the Historic District and then heads to Wright Square, one of the most haunted squares in the city. That’s where the guides hand out dowsing rods (also known as divining rods) and teach guests how to use them to communicate with spirits. 

Kids love the hands-on experience and have fun watching the rods move in response to their questions. One of the most memorable moments during my tour was when the host lit a cigarette and set it on an old wall in front of the historic Owens-Thomas House, then invited the spirit who haunts the home to “take a puff.” It’s fascinating to watch as an invisible entity appears to smoke the cigarette!

The tour also winds past Colonial Park Cemetery and to the tavern at 17Hundred90 Inn, where guests can go inside for a bathroom break. Adults can also purchase a drink to go, should you need something to steady your nerves!

Overall, the tour is a great way to delve into the history of the city while keeping kids and adults entertained. It’s more enthralling than it is frightening and kids as young as 8-years-old can definitely enjoy it. 

— From Erin Clarkson of Savannah First Timer’s Guide

• Read about more things to do in Savannah with kids.
• And consider these other nighttime tours of the city.
• Enjoy Savannah charm and style in a beautiful vacation rental

Savannah’s Spooky Cemetery

When you’re ready to explore the greater Savannah area, one of the coolest and spookiest tours to experience is the Bonaventure Cemetery Journey. This easy, informative family-friendly visit isn’t a full-on Savannah ghost tour — it takes place in daylight. But it highlights Bonaventure’s main attractions and shares both ghost stories and the factual history around some of the significant Savannah citizens who are buried here.

bonaventure cemetery in savannah can seem eerie and ghost-ridden even during the day thanks to its live oaks and spanish moss.

Shannon Scott, who leads the tours, is a master storyteller. He shares some of the more bizarre, ghostly and morbid tales of how death was celebrated in Savannah itself and at this famous cemetery. For example, he reminded us that this burial ground also served as a park when the city was dank, filled with sewage and not a very healthy environment.

Bonaventure cemetery is famously eerie, but these are daytime tours, ideal with kids who are too young or too easily spooked for after-dark ghost tours. But they’re only done when the cemetery is open to the public.

— From Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery

• Book Shannon Scott’s Bonaventure Cemetery Journey
• With an outdoor pool and Bay Street location, the Kimpton Brice Hotel offers a family-friendly respite from both ghosts and tourist crowds. We enjoyed our stay with Tiny Traveler.

St. Augustine’s Spirited Side

The Ghosts & Gravestones tour I did in St. Augustine is the exception to my no-trolleys rule. This is largely because one of the stops on the Haunted Trolley Tour is the Old Jail, which is outside of town.

a floating lady welcomes people to the ghosts & gravestones tour in st. augustine

Old jails are creepy and I admit I had to psyche myself up to go inside at night on a ghost tour. I’m glad I did, though, because it was not nearly as creepy as it could have been.

The G&G tour had good local history and stopped at a cemetery, the city gates and an old-fashioned drug store and wax museum. It shouldn’t surprise you if one of the wax “statues” turns out to be restless spirit or if one of the jail’s former residents shows up to explain that he didn’t do it. 

The “living” spirits can be a little surprising but aren’t haunted-house creepy. It’s absolutely a kid-friendly ghost tour, but I’d reserve it for kids old enough to not scare too easily or to at least be able to recover from a surprise and enjoy the act.

• Read more about my experience in St. Augustine.
• Book the Haunted Trolley Tour.
Stay in your own ghost-free historic-quarter cottage in St. Augustine.

Boston Cream Pie with a Side of Specters

We did two walking ghost tours in Boston and I’d say both are great for older kids, tweens and teens. They start after dark, which might be on the late side for kids younger than 8 or 9.

Both tours visited some of the same spots but had very different stories to tell. One focused on the ghosts and the sad stories that have left them unsettled. The other told tales of the unfortunate people who have encountered these troubled specters (is there any other kind)? 

boston's oldest grave yards provide rich fodder for ghost tours in the city.

Boston’s ghost tours usually start at the Common. Over the centuries the Common has been home to a traditional cemetery and mass graves for Revolutionary War soldiers and cholera victims.

It was also home to the tree the city used for local hangings. It’s easy to see that this popular city park has a lot of people who might want to haunt it. 

Most tours wander past a nearby colonial cemetery and the Parker House Hotel, still haunted by its original owner, among other notable ghosts. The Hotel’s Last Hurrah and Parker’s bars are good places to visit after your tour is done. Indulge in a slice of the hotel’s signature Boston Cream Pie. If it’s a chilly night have a glass of very good Irish coffee, too.

• Read more about our experience on Boston’s Ghost Tours.
• Book a Haunted Boston or Boston Ghosts walking tour.
• Book a room at Parker House Hotel to be steps from Boston’s best ghosts

Bewitched Colonial Williamsburg

Our first ghost was in Colonial Williamsburg when Teen Traveler was just out of 3rd grade. There are quite a few walking ghost tours; not all are in the historic center and not all are kid-friendly.

My primary criteria at the time was for it to be fun and a little thrilling without keeping our 7YO awake all night. I decided to go with Colonial Williamsburg’s own walking ghost tour because it seemed likely to be well done. It was exceptionally family friendly.

"liberty or death" written in chalk on the pavement in williamsburg, va

Several families were on the tour with kids as young as 6 or so. And the tour began at 7:00 p.m., which is still daylight in the summer. Our tour guide was in costume and lit a candle lantern when it did eventually grow dark.

We walked do Duke of Gloucester Street and heard tales of thwarted love and heated arguments in the homes and taverns that line it. Lately, the tour has begun going into some of the buildings on the tour, which makes it worth an encore if we ever visit the area again.

If you want to eat dinner at Josiah Chowning’s Tavern before the tour, make a reservation. It’s busy on weekends and every night in the summer. After the tour there was room for us to sit down for drinks and snacks (savory for the parents; sweet for the Tiny Traveler).

• Read more about our summer fun Williamsburg.
• Book a stay at Williamsburg Woodlands Resort. It’s ideal for families and we enjoyed our stay.

Louisville’s Macabre Mansions

Louisville Historic Tours’ Old Town Walking Ghost Tour is an excellent and family-oriented way to explore one of the “most haunted neighborhoods in America,” the lovely Belgravia area. We learned fascinating pieces of the city’s history on this ghost tour and got to admire some beautiful Victorian architecture.

st. louis ghost tours focus on the city's pretty and historic belgravia neighborhood.

This kid-friendly ghost tour takes place nightly in and includes stops at churches, courtyards and parks to tell the spooky stories that happened here over the centuries.

A few of the stories are truly macabre and creepy and there are a few “surprising” moments, but there wasn’t anything troubling enough to give our kids bad dreams.

With nearly two hours of walking, the tour isn’t ideal for those with mobility challenges. The minimum age is 6 years old, and our 7YO and 10-YO kids had a great time. It was one of our favorite things to do in Louisville with kids!

— From Melissa Conn of The Family Voyage

• Book the Old Town Walking Ghost Tour.
• Book your own Victorian home in Old Louisville.

You Might Also read about Key West and Bermuda ghost tours.

Philadelphia’s Founding Phantoms

The latest ghost tour we tried was in Philadelphia. I chose the Spirits of ’76 walking tour, partly because I can’t resist a good pun. And mostly because they promise a small group.

We were about ten people, which makes it easier to hear the guide and have casual conversation as you stroll. And with fewer people to herd the guide can lead the group from one stop to the next more easily.  

a church steeple lit up at night as seen through a cemetary gate in philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s Old City streets are lined with colonial-era buildings, churches and row houses. As you walk around you wonder what they all are. Our tour guide told us as much about the people who lived and worked in these building as about the people who died in them and are still hanging about. 

• Read more about our many weekends in Philadelphia with our daughter at various ages.
• Book the Haunted Philadelphia Spirits of ’76 tour.
• We liked the Doubletree by Hilton Center City because it’s central to everything and has a pool.

Newport’s Haunted Harbor

follow this fellow on a shost tour around newport's spooky backstreets

The Ghosts of Newport, in Rhode Island, leads a very kid-friendly Olde Town Ghost Walk, a lantern-lit stroll along this harbor town’s more shadowy lanes.

Your guide will tell you tales of ghost ships, lively graveyard crypts, tavern brawls that ended badly and perhaps of Gilded-Age ghosts who have yet to move out of their famous summer “cottages.” 

This is a seasonal tour, but the season is long: Tours depart on most nights from May into November. Sometimes they offer tours in December, too, so you can happen upon ghosts of Newport’s Christmases past.

• Fun Ideas for a Weekend in Newport 
• An indoor pool and outdoor fire pits overlooking the harbor make the Harbor View Hotel ideal for a fall getaway. 

New York City’s Ghostly Greenwich Village

I always encourage families visiting New York to get out of midtown and explore the city’s oldest neighborhoods, which are all south of 14th street.  Greenwich Village was once a bucolic village, far from the walls of the bustling city streets at the tip of Manhattan island.

some believe some of the victims of the triange shirtwaist factory fire still haunt the nyu building that stands in its place.

It has been home to one of the worst disasters of the Industrial Revolution in 1911; to brownstones that housed the City’s elite; and to bohemians, artists and the gay and lesbian community. Now NYU’s open campus sits surrounds the Village’s epicenter, Washington Square Park. 

This is the neighborhood most ripe for a NYC ghost tour and the Greenwich Village Haunted Ghost tour is ideal because it caps the group at 20 people. Trying to navigate the busy and narrow Village streets in a group any larger would be unwieldy.

The tour begins and ends at Washington Square Park, which has a wealth of history and ghosts all on its own, and makes engaging stops in between.

• Lighten the mood after your tour at one of NYC’s top dessert spots.
• Book the Greenwich Village small group Haunted Ghost Tour
• Trade in touristy midtown for your own charming Greenwich Village flat.

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Photos: Sleepy Hollow (Paul Brennan/Pixabay) Olde Town Ghost Walk (Ghosts of Newport); New Orleans (Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide); Savannah (Savannah First-Timers Guide); Bonaventure Cemetery (Travel Photo Discovery); Louisville (the Family Voyage); Boston, Williamsburg, St. Augustine (FamiliesGo!©); Philadelphia (Teen Traveler/FamiliesGo!©).