Why Philly Is a Great Place for Trick-or-Treating

Zillow named Philadelphia the best place to go trick-or-treating. We can't help but agree.

Dan McQuade, in various Halloween costumes

Photos of the author dressed up for Halloween as a child and as an adult.

Halloween is the best holiday. Kids dress up in cute costumes and go around door-to-door telling people to give them candy or else. Then adults in slutty, clever or lazy costumes come out later and get blackout drunk. Everyone has a good time. “The pre-schoolers dressed as scarecrows and superheroes march door-to-door at twilight in occult solidarity with the lingerie-clad vampires and sleazy popes who work the late shift,” Ken Layne once wrote. “Everybody who wants something from Halloween gets it.”

You can make your own Halloween fun. Throwing on an Eagles jersey at the last minute for your costume is just as valid as spending months perfecting your outfit. There’s so much pressure to have a good time on New Year’s Eve. Christmas and Thanksgiving can lead to family arguments. The only expectation for Halloween is to laugh in the face of the macabre, the spooky and the scary.

Philadelphia is full of Halloween traditions. My mom told me she used to go to the Merben Theater on Saturdays for a kids’ movie matinee. Around Halloween, the kids would get to march across the theater stage, and those with the best costumes would win tickets to the next Saturday matinee. One year, my mom dressed as a nurse — and won the contest! Yes, her prize was a 25-cent ticket to the next matinee. But it’s a memory nonetheless.

The Merben closed before my time, but going out around Halloween remained a tradition for me. My mom says I was too timid to go very far from the house trick-or-treating as a little kid, but once I was a little older I remember going all over the neighborhood. Despite parental fears and the yearly influx of needles in candy hoax stories, we still send kids out to collect candy from their neighbors now. I trick-or-treated until my senior year of high school, when we dressed up as our female friends and walked around a development in Holland, Pennsylvania, to questions of: “Aren’t you a little old for this?”

No, sir. I will never be too old for Halloween, though that was my last year trick-or-treating. I don’t even really like candy, but I have fond memories of going around my Far Northeast Philly neighborhood and collecting it. Apparently, I’m not the only one to be a big fan of trick-or-treating: Zillow released its annual list of best cities for trick-or-treating earlier this week, and Philadelphia topped the list.

This is not the first time Philadelphia has been named a top city for tricks and treats. In 2011, we were the ninth-best city. Two years ago, we were the fourth-best city for trick-or-treating. Last year, we’d fallen to 13th!

Philadelphia magazine asked Zillow how we moved up to the No. 1 spot on this list. “This year, we looked at single-family home density only, instead of the overall home density,” Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell said in an email. “Philadelphia has the highest density of single-family homes, which pushed it to the top of the list this year. It also has a fairly high share of its population being under 10 years old — the perfect age for trick-or-treating.”

Zillow also named the top neighborhoods for trick-or-treating, which were (in order) Cobbs Creek, Frankford, Logan, Germantown East and Fairmount.

I can’t speak much about those neighborhoods; Zillow says “the same variables go into the neighborhood rankings as the national, city-level rankings.” But I do have a neighborhood not on the last that is nonetheless a great place to trick or treat. It’s called Crestmont Farms, and it’s a small neighborhood that borders Bensalem in the Far Northeast.

We used to go there to trick-or-treat. I lived about a half-mile away from the section, which was once a 40-acre farm and is now dotted with single homes that rich people live in. It was the best place to trick-or-treat. Some houses gave out full-size candy bars. Everyone was incredibly nice — even when we’d switch costumes and go through the neighborhood again, which is when I created a “Wolfman Eric Lindros” costume.

But it wasn’t just the rich neighborhood we trick-or-treated in. People all over the Far Northeast got into it. Some people turned their garages into haunted houses, while others sat on the front step and handed out candy. The part of Zillow’s rankings that make the most sense to me are this: There are a lot of kids in Philadelphia. Of course it’s a great place to go trick-or-treating.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.