Minnesota’s own Halloweentown

Who knew that Anoka, which is only about an hour from Sartell, was the Halloween Capital of the World??

Grace Radeke

Who knew that Anoka, which is only about an hour from Sartell, was the Halloween Capital of the World??

If we told you that real-life-Halloweentown was less than 80 miles away, would you think we’re crazy?

Anoka, Minnesota is the unsuspecting Halloween capital of the world, credited with the first modern Halloween celebration way back in 1920. Many Minnesotans have no idea about this southern-state-gem and the wonderful Halloween attractions it sports.

Anoka may look like your run-of-the-mill small town, but it holds an interesting history. This year was special to Anoka residents, because this will be the hundredth year anniversary of the first Halloween parade. The town’s website boasts a downtown block that’s chock-full of boutiques and shops for perusal, along with Halloween events like a glow-in-the-dark 5K run, and of course, the annual parade that started it all.

Grace Radeke

Arguably the most intriguing piece of Anoka is the truly haunted history. A quick google search conjures pictures of a supposedly haunted two-story, an abandoned asylum built in the early 20th century. Town lore warns of the implications of snapping a picture of the asylum without asking permission. The town itself is bordered by acres of sinister-looking cemetery. 

So is Anoka really all it’s spooked up to be? We decided to find out. 

Checking out the Halloween Capital of the World was reason enough for a good road trip.

Those walking into downtown Anoka, the Halloween epicenter and oldest part of town, will be greeted with banners on every lamppost, along with various monuments and signs proclaiming the town’s credibility.

The town radiates festive, yet mysterious energy. All the buildings are dated with the original year of construction, many before 1940. 

The walkable downtown had many boutique type shops and antique stores, all with the same Halloween aesthetic, which likely stemmed from the antiques, fall weather, and overall, spooky vibe. 

Although Anoka wasn’t too busy on a Tuesday afternoon, everyone was very friendly and surprisingly willing to talk to strangers. 

We talked to a resident, named Abby, in one of the shops.  She was a former teen Anoka ambassador, and she shared what she knew of the town’s history. Her eyes widened with excitement as she spoke.

Pullquote Photo

There are a lot of things scattered all around town that you can go see. There’s the medallion by city hall and the pumpkin monument … the haunted Halloween walk at the historical center, and you know things like that… the old asylum and everything.  The biggest thing is that this place has been around forever.  People here get really into it.”

— Abby, Anoka Resident

They certainly do. Every shop was fronted with ghosts, cobwebs, skeletons and the like. 

We visited a coffee shop made popular on Tik Tok; it was a good sized shop that was Halloween from head to toe.

Grace Radeke

The Halloween theme permeated everything from the chairs in the restaurants to the potion-themed decor at the brewing house. 

Grace Radeke

Evidently, Anoka is a town full of artists. There were murals on almost every wall downtown, many Halloween themed, including a tunnel under the main bridge with murals spanning the length of the block. Our personal favorite was the tiny pumpkin painted on the face of the dam. 

Aside from the shopping and the art, the other attraction mentioned by our liaison was the haunted asylum that was also featured online, which proved to be just as spooky as expected.

The asylum, which was in operation for almost a century, only just closed in the late 90’s. We were able to snap a picture after loudly asking for permission, as described on the website. 

Grace Radeke

We would like to add here that the building was nearly impossible to find on google maps or in real life…. A little too ghost-like for our taste. 

Overall, we thought Anoka was the perfect haunt for someone looking for a fun day filled with art, shopping, and a bit of spooky history. We’d highly recommend making the trip, as long as you don’t mind the occasional fear of a ghost on your tail.