Celebrating Halloween in L.A. ranges from upscale soirees to outrageously flamboyant bashes, but no event stands out like the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval. The event melds hot music, live entertainment, great food and some of the most mind-blowing costumes you’ll see anywhere. Whether you live in L.A. or just like to visit, put the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval on your agenda.
What Is Halloween Carnaval?
When you talk about Halloween in West Hollywood, the only festival to mention is Halloween Carnaval. The world-famous event draws huge crowds, causing the city with a modest population of 35,000 to swell almost 15 times its size
with 500,000 attendees at the annual event.
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval is the world’s largest Halloween street party, according to the event organizers. The event is full of costumed partiers and loads of entertainment that expands beyond the confines of the event itself. Nearby businesses join the party, making it an all-night party.
The event is free to the public and is considered an all-ages event, although some costumes are risqué, and the overall party vibe leans more toward the adult side of Halloween. Some guests show a lot of skin, so it might be best to leave the kids at home for this Halloween event.
History of Halloween Carnaval
West Hollywood’s Halloween Carnaval dates back to 1987, when the event first took place. West Hollywood hosted the event only three years after becoming an official city. The event was popular in the early years, but it wasn’t until 2001 when the event expanded and attendance dramatically increased. That year, about 350,000 people attended.
In recent years, estimated attendance is approximately 500,000 people, making it one of the largest annual events in the Los Angeles area. Only the Tournament of Roses Parade beats the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval in terms of size. With attendance numbers like that, it’s clear that the Carnaval is the place to be on Halloween night.
When Halloween Carnaval Is Held
The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval always takes place on Halloween Day, October 31, no matter what day of the week it is. If that date falls during the week, you may want to schedule a vacation day for November 1 to recover from the excitement of the event.
The official Halloween Carnaval event runs from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Halloween Day, but that doesn’t mean everyone heads home at 11. Bars, clubs and lounges stretching along Santa Monica Boulevard continue cranking out Halloween fun long after the official event shuts down. The street remains packed with people seeking out after-hours fun at other local establishments.
Halloween Carnaval Location
The street festival takes place along Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and La Cienaga Boulevard, which shuts down for the event. This eclectic, popular street runs through the heart of West Hollywood and provides the perfect spot for the festivities, with activities spread along the stretch of Santa Monica. Several other streets in the area also closed to prepare for the festivities and to keep event-goers safe.
Activities at the Event
This West Hollywood Halloween festival serves up a variety of Halloween entertainment. People watching is perhaps one of the best activities at Halloween Carnaval. Expect to see plenty of crazy Halloween costumes all night long. The event actually includes a showcase of the very best costumes. Some costumes get attention for the amazing detail and creativity that goes into them. Others grab attention for the risqué display of skin or mature theme. Either way, have your camera ready to capture all of the outrageous costumes you will see.
Music plays a big part of the Halloween entertainment at the West Hollywood event. Organizers set up several stages along the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard to keep the crowd pumped. Head to the La Cienega end of Santa Monica Boulevard to find the main stage. A mix of live bands and DJs create the festival vibe as they play on the various stages. Dancers, painters and artists also get into the entertainment action throughout the festival area.
Another highly anticipated moment during Halloween Carnaval is the Carnaval King or Queen crowning. Each year, a celebrity — local or worldwide — serves as the king or queen. Past honorees include West Hollywood businesswoman Lisa Vanderpump, Queen Latifah and Rihanna.
Food booths and food trucks keep you nourished as you celebrate Halloween West Hollywood style. Alcoholic beverages are not served at the official Halloween Carnaval event, but nearby bars and lounges offer drink options.
What to Wear
Prepare to go overboard when designing your West Hollywood Halloween costumes. You won’t find run-of-the-mill designs along Santa Monica Boulevard. While costumes aren’t required, most people go all out and show up in creative and outrageous outfits.
Here are some tips to make your Halloween costume fit for the craziness that is the Halloween Carnaval:
- Go big: Costumes are often elaborate and highly creative at this West Hollywood event. Grabbing a random costume off the rack won’t do. Don’t be afraid to get ambitious. You definitely won’t be overdressed, no matter how over-the-top you go.
- Think pop culture: Costumes that play on pop culture or current events always go over well. Browse celebrity gossip or the latest news to find inspiration for your costume.
- Don’t be shy: Many of the costumes fall under the sexy category, with many leaning into risqué. Don’t be afraid to show a little skin if that’s your style. At the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, almost anything goes.
- Team up: A themed group costume is a great way to get noticed. Gather all of your fellow Halloween Carnaval partiers to decide on a group theme.
- Make up your face: A killer make-up job puts any costume over the top. If you’re not confident in your Halloween make-up skills, enlist the help of a make-up artist to stand out in a sea of costumed attendees.
- Treat your feet: Shoes are often an overlooked part of the perfect Halloween costume, but you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet, so make sure your footwear is comfortable. Those stiletto heels that look cute with your costume will kill your feet by the end of the night. Sturdy shoes are also important to avoid injuries.
- Stay mobile: Test your costume before heading to Santa Monica Boulevard. You want to stand out, but you also want to be able to stand — and sit, walk and dance. Make sure your costume allows you to move freely without requiring annoying adjustments all night long. You’ll be able to enjoy your time more if your costume is carefree.
How to Get to Halloween Carnaval
With such a large number of attendees each year, the Halloween Carnaval area gets very busy. If you choose to drive yourself to the event, West Hollywood has several public parking structures and lots available for a fee. The following parking areas offer parking for the event:
- Kings Road Parking Structure: 8383 Santa Monica Boulevard
- La Jolla/Havenhurst Lot: 1046 Havenhurst Drive
- Orange Grove Lot: 1114 North Orange Grove Avenue
- Pacific Design Center: 8687 Melrose Avenue
- Queens Road Parking Lot: 8459 Sunset Boulevard
- Spaulding Lot: 7718 Santa Monica Boulevard
- Sunset Lot: 8775 Sunset Boulevard
- Hancock Parking Structure: 901 Hancock Avenue
- Palm Lot: 815 Palm Avenue
- West Hollywood Gateway: 7100 Santa Monica Boulevard
Arrive early if you want a prime spot close to the action. The city usually suspends permit-parking restrictions during the event for greater parking flexibility, but watch boundaries carefully. Bordering cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills still enforce all parking restrictions.
If you plan to drive, familiarize yourself with the road closures in the area. The following streets typically close starting at 12:01 a.m. on October 31:
- Santa Monica Boulevard from Doheny Drive to La Cienega Street
- San Vicente Boulevard from Melrose Avenue to Cynthia Street
- La Peer Drive from Melrose Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard
- Almont Drive from Melrose Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard
- Robertson Boulevard from Melrose Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard
Streets closing at 4:00 p.m. on October 31 include:
- Santa Monica Boulevard from La Cienega Boulevard to Holloway Drive
- La Cienega Boulevard from Holloway Drive to Melrose Avenue
- Southbound Sunset Boulevard lanes turning onto La Cienega Boulevard
Street closures are subject to change at any time and from year to year. Be prepared for street closures if you plan to drive to the festivities. Even with multiple parking areas and suspended permit parking, the parking situation is not easy.
Eliminate the headache of navigating the West Hollywood Halloween street closures and heavy traffic by taking Cityline, a small bus line serving West Hollywood. The shuttle runs on a modified route and schedule during Halloween Carnaval to account for the road closures.
A similar option is The PickUp, a trolley service that runs a special route to serve Halloween Carnaval. This option is free and is a safe way to get around West Hollywood for easy access to the festivities.
A taxi or Uber is an easy way to get to the festival. A taxi zone along Santa Monica Boulevard between Alfred Street and Croft Avenue and another on Doheny Drive between Santa Monica Boulevard and Nemo Street gets you close to the action without dealing with parking.
Another option is to book a hotel room in West Hollywood, so you can walk to the event. Ramada Plaza Hotel and Suites West Hollywood sits right along Santa Monica Boulevard, giving you easy access to the festivities — and easy access to your hotel room at the end of the night. If you plan to sleep that night, book a hotel with a little more distance from the actual festivities.
The London West Hollywood offers an elegant, upscale option just a short distance from the action on San Vicente Boulevard. This option gives you easy walking access to all of the Carnaval events without being right in the heart of it.
Another luxury hotel option for Halloween Carnaval is the Sunset Marquis. This option rests just off Sunset Boulevard slightly north of Santa Monica Boulevard, keeping you very close to the action while offering upscale amenities.
Chamberlain West Hollywood offers accommodations just down the street from the Sunset Marquis. The hotel identifies as a sophisticated urban oasis with oversized suites for spacious accommodations.
Yet another luxury hotel option in the area is Mondrian LA. The luxury boutique hotel sits along the Sunset Strip, giving you easy access to the Halloween festivities and other nightlife options. Head to the Skybar, an open-air nightspot with sweeping views of Los Angeles, before or after the Carnaval. The poolside bar often hosts Halloween parties, giving you another option to continue the Halloween fun.
Other Nearby Activity Options
The official Halloween Carnaval activities aren’t the only option for entertainment. Several local establishments host Halloween parties or Halloween-themed activities in conjunction with Halloween Carnaval. Check out local bars for special Halloween-themed drinks.
The schedule changes each year, but common events at nearby establishments include:
- Special DJ performances
- Live bands
- Halloween-themed karaoke
- Costume contests
- Drink specials
How to Stay Safe at Halloween Carnaval
Halloween Carnaval is a time to let your hair down and have a great time, but the large crowds, party atmosphere and access to alcohol also mean your personal safety should be a concern. Plan ahead to keep the memories of Halloween Carnaval positive.
Keep yourself safe at Halloween Carnaval with these Halloween safety tips:
- Follow the rules: The event does not serve alcohol. Sneaking in your own alcohol is a risky move, especially because police monitor the event. Stick to drinks in the nearby bars and lounges.
- Be prepared for crowds: With so many people in such a compact area, Halloween Carnaval means you will encounter crowds. Prepare yourself for the large crowds. Keep track of your party, so you don’t get separated or lost. Designate a meeting spot if you get separated.
- Stay aware: Despite police presence, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings. West Hollywood is a relatively safe city, but don’t let that reputation lull you into a false sense of security. Stay with your group. Stick to well-lit areas and safe modes of public transportation when traveling to and from the festival area. Stay aware of what is going on around you.
- Watch out for your friends: Safety in numbers comes into play at an event like Halloween Carnaval. Keep an eye on everyone in your party to ensure you all get home safely.
- Secure your belongings: Limit what you bring to Halloween Carnaval to minimize the risk of losing things. Leave valuables at home. Keep your phone close and secure, so you always have a way to communicate if you run into trouble.
- Dress appropriately: We already covered the need to go all-out when you choose your costume, but safety is also an issue. Choose a costume that allows you to see well to help maintain your visual awareness.
- Drink responsibly: The party atmosphere of Halloween Carnaval and the easy access to local bars makes it easy to have a little too much to drink. Keep your drinking under control, so you’re aware of things going on around you. If you plan to drink, arrange for transportation instead of driving yourself.
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval tops the list of Halloween festivals. With plenty of upscale hotels within walking distance, Halloween Carnaval fits into your luxury lifestyle.
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