Now that I have kids, Halloween might be my favorite holiday. No, I'm not one of those old folks who still loves to get dressed up. But I think it is so much fun watching the kiddies get so excited to pick their costumes and later, to run around like crazy persons in pursuit of free candy. As they get a bit older, it'll be cool to add some haunted houses to our Halloween rotation. Gotta take it all in before they learn that Halloween means sexy costumes and keg stands.
On that note, here are some do not miss Halloween celebrations happening in the tri-state area!
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
I love this event! Through November 24 in Croton on Hudson, New York, Van Cortlandt Manor is transformed into a stunning Jack O’Lantern wonderland called the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. It’s all so pretty and magical - everyone from the youngest to the oldest in your group will be blown away.
Visitors walk along a path filled with thousands of hand-carved, lit up pumpkins in all kinds of gorgeous shapes and arrangements. There’s calm but somewhat spooky music playing as you walk. For those with babies, it’s best to leave your stroller at home and instead use a baby carrier, as the walking path can be narrow and crowded. At the end of the path, guests are lead into a large tented gift shop with all kinds of cute Halloween themed mementos and fall snack treats like popcorn and cider doughnuts for sale.
The event is very popular and early times (it’s a timed entry event) sell out first. Tickets went on sale beginning September 4th, so get on it ASAP if you haven't yet bought. Tickets are $22 per adult for weekdays ($27 on weekends) and children ages 3-17 are $16 on weekdays and $20 on weekends.
A similar event called Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns has popped up in Westbury Gardens on Long Island.
Halloween means scary, haunted houses and spooky ghost stories. If you have older kids, be sure to check out some of the area’s top frightening adventures.
In the Lower Hudson Valley, not far from the Blaze, Washington Irving’s the Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes alive at Philipsburg Manor with the ultra frightening Horseman’s Hollow, a haunted house recommended for ages 10 and up. From the videos I’ve seen online, this one looks sick and I swear, as soon as my older one turns 10 we’re hitting it!
In Norwalk, CT, the Historical Society puts on A Haunting at Mill Hill, a lantern lit tour around a graveyard that includes scary stories and ghosts along the way. The suggested age for this one is 8 and up and it happens on Fridays and Saturdays in October.
A little further up north in CT, on the last two Friday and Saturday nights in October, Wilton’s Ambler Farm will host a drop-off Fright Night for kids in grades 3-5. It includes some ghost storytelling and a moonlight hayride. Scary good times!
And on Long Island, don’t miss Spooky Fest, a 7 day long Halloween extravaganza in mid to late October at the Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Center. A quarter mile wooden path is turned into a spooky, scary walk (there’s also a non-spooky version for the littler ones). A Maze of Zombies is also part of the festivities!
Pick Pumpkins, Paint Pumpkins, Build a Scarecrow and Visit a Corn Maze and a Wine Barn
Pretty sure you’re legally required to pick pumpkins in October. Everyone has her local favorite farm or nursery for this.
A few weekends ago, I ran into virtually everyone I know from Westchester at North Salem’s Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard. Beyond a pumpkin patch and apple picking, you can find everything from bungee jumping, bounce castles, pony rides and face painting here.
Right in my neck of the woods, Sam Bridge, a beautiful nursery in Mid-Country Greenwich is great for Halloween. Activities include a themed hayride, a small playground on site and a pumpkin patch that contains large haystacks to jump around on and a stationary tractor to “drive.”
On Saturdays in October, kids can paint a pumpkin for $10 any time between 10am - 2pm and older kids can compete in a scarecrow building competition during the same hours ($39 per scarecrow).
Eden Farms in nearby Stamford is another local nursery that does a great job with Halloween. It has a small haunted house, a hayride, pony rides (for a fee) and a large pumpkin patch on site.
As previously discussed here, the Long Island North Fork’s Harbes Farm is super awesome for pumpkin picking and kid entertaining. Their Jamesport location is home to Pumpkinland, a huge 5 acre interactive (with actors!) corn maze and a pick from the vine pumpkin patch.
Also on Long Island, don't miss Otto the Ghost at Hick's Nursery in Westbury. But don’t worry, this ghost is friendly and cute! Hick’s has all kinds of Halloween and fall themed programming in the month of October, from Pumpkin Decorating to a Pet Parade and Costume Competition!
Stew Leonard's Weird Halloween Hayride
If your kids aren't quite old enough for a haunted house experience but you still feel like testing their limits when it comes to Halloween scares, check out the Stew Leonard's Halloween Hayride Spooktacular happening at the Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, CT and Yonkers, NY daily during the month of October.
Billed as a family friendly 15 minute hayride through over 20 Halloween themed vignettes, this hayride is so weird and objectively creepy that, if this is what Stew finds family friendly, I'd hate to see what he thinks is scary. Seriously though, roughly 14 of the 20 vignettes feature horror scenes from the 80s and earlier, all of which take place in a dark, dank basement level, vacant parking garage. It's nightmare fuel if you ask me, but I don't think my kids grasped it well enough as the hayride whizzed by to be scared by anything. That said, I've gone the past two years and will probably go again.
See your local Stew Leonard’s website for other Halloween festivities (none of which will beat the abject terror of the Hayride Spooktacular). One particularly cool one that’s coming up - on October 7th, Lenny Calvin the Pumpkin Carver will be at the Norwalk Stew’s location from 10am-4pm intricately carving pumpkins.
I might as well just live in the Lower Hudson Valley for the month of October. Tarrytown's Lyndhurst Castle will be doing its fair share of Halloween revelry. Through Halloween, the Gothic Revival Mansion will be decked in Halloween decor. Guests of all ages can tour the mansion (advanced tickets suggested) and swoon over the gorgeous detail mixed with the Halloween trimmings. We already have our tickets for a visit in mid-October!
If you're a fan of theater, consider instead visiting Lyndhurst at night for Jay Ghoul's House of Curiosities: The Mystery of the Pharaoh's Curse. This 40 minute immersive theater experience will happen nightly from October 19 through Halloween.
From October 8 through Halloween, guests can also catch sculptor Malcolm MacDougall III's Futurescape Sculpture Exhibit on the property grounds. Lyndhurst suggests visiting Futurescape after dark when the sculptures are lit up. Entrance to the grounds is included with the above two Lyndhurst mansion events or $5 per person separately.
The Bronx Zoo and the Botanic Gardens
I previously posted about the New York Botanic Garden being wonderful to visit in warm weather. A particularly nice time to visit NYBG is in fall for Halloween when the Everett Children's Garden becomes “Spooky Pumpkin Garden” and and is filled with carved pumpkin statutes, scarecrows and record breaking large pumpkins from around the country! The weather is usually still warm and the children's programming at the Botanic Garden is always impressive.
Each weekend until Halloween, there will be pumpkin carving demonstrations and Halloween themed art projects and live shows. And from 6:30pm to 8:30m (timed entries at 6:30pm and 7:15pm) on October 26 and 27, don’t miss the Spooky Pumpkin Nights, where kids can come dressed in costume for an evening of even more fun, including a trip down the Trick-or-Treat Trail.
If NYBG isn’t enough for you, just around the corner is the world famous Bronx Zoo. In the fall, the Zoo puts on its Boo at the Zoo events happening on weekends through October 28th. In addition to the usual zoo activities, Boo at the Zoo offers extra fun family friendly stuff like haunted pirate hayrides, magic shows, an extinct animal graveyard, arts and crafts, and costume parades!
We’re going next weekend and will be sure to report back with details!