The Haunted Pumpkin Garden at the New York Botanical Garden: Halloween Fun for Kids
The Halloween season is filled with family-friendly fun all over the tri-state area, and a favorite fall destination is our sponsor, the New York Botanical Garden. NYBG is famous for its art installations throughout the grounds, and its annual Halloween exhibit of pumpkins and gourds in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is particularly awesome. In addition to tons of kids' activities to enjoy, you can check out unbelievable pumpkin carving creations the weekend of October 18 and 19, followed by a display of North America's largest pumpkins on October 25 and 26.
My son and I are frequent visitors to the New York Botanical Garden, and we decided to mark the changing season by checking out the Haunted Pumpkin Garden on its opening day back in 2011. He kept squealing, "Hey Mom, look over here!" and "Dad, you have to see this!" as he came across caterpillar, black widow and giant scorpion pumpkin statues, and grinning gourds perched on fence posts and the Discovery Center's roof. He loved it so much that visiting the Haunted Pumpkin Garden has now become an annual fall family tradition.
In addition to the display, which is on view now through Friday, October 31, NYBG has scheduled a slew of related programing, like a special pumpkin carving weekend (October 18 and 19) when visitors can watch Master Carver Ray Villafane create intricate pumpkin sculptures. You can even learn how to make your own pumpkin masterpieces during a one-day workshop with Villafane on Thursday, October 16, where participants learn his signature carving techniques. Then on the weekend of October 25 and 26, the largest pumpkins in North America will once again call NYBG home (pose your little ones next to these giant pumpkins for great photos).
Children are encouraged to wear their costumes to the garden for the weekend Halloween parades, romp in the pumpkin playhouse and hit the Discovery Center for seasonal nature explorations. Check out our slide show for a peek at the pumpkin sights, and read on for additional details about the Haunted Pumpkin Garden.
As you stroll through the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, you can marvel at rare and unusual pumpkins and gourds. As soon as you walk through the decorated gates, you'll spot flies, bugs, caterpillars and a giant scorpion, all made from pumpkins and gourds. Over in the children's hedge maze, there's a giant cobweb guarded by a giant white spider, and several other insects fashioned from various squashes. The waterfall even has a bunch of pumpkins bobbing around.
Over by the Discovery Center, there's an adorable, kid-size pumpkin playhouse—my son really enjoyed that one when he was younger—and a puppet theater designed from pumpkins. Inside the center, families can enjoy educational programing with garden educators. During our visit, my son got to dissect owl pellets (yucky as it sounds, it was kind of cool), examine pine cones and fall leaves under a microscope, chart the changing colors of the leaves and plant seasonal greenery to take home. Kids can also get up close and personal with live bats (eek!), as well as other creepy Halloween creatures.
Of course, kids love showing off their costumes in the Halloween parades, which take place on weekends as well as Halloween. The kids march from the Children’s Adventure Garden to the wetlands and other nearby spots, shaking bells and maracas, and making educational pit stops.
The Haunted Pumpkin Garden is open daily (except Mondays when NYBG is closed) through Friday, October 31, but it's best to stop by on a weekend when special activities are planned.
Pumpkin Carving Weekend with Ray Villafane
Saturday, October 18-Sunday, October 19 10am-6pm
Watch Food Network Challenge winner Ray Villafane transform giant pumpkins into zombies and other creepy creatures.
Spooky Nighttime Adventures
Saturday, October 18, Friday, October 24, Saturday, October 25 and Friday, October 31 6:30-8:30pm
Grab a flashlight so you can explore the Haunted Pumpkin Garden in the evening. Listen for critters of the night, sit in on a spooky ghost story, and pose for pics with skeletons and costumed characters. There are plenty of edible treats, too. Advance tickets recommended. $20 per person.
Creepy Creatures of Halloween
Saturdays and Sundays through October 27 at noon and 2pm
Some animals that make us scream are actually pretty cool creatures. Meet a few new critters from NYBG's big backyard and beyond during this live presentation.
Award-Winning Giant Pumpkin Display
Saturday, October 25-Sunday, October 26 10am-6pm
Take advantage of this great photo op with your family, and see how you measure up!
The Haunted Pumpkin Garden is on view through Friday, October 31 (closed Mondays) at the New York Botanical Garden. On weekends: $25 for adults, $22 for students, $10 for children ages 2-12; on weekdays: $20 for adults, $18 for students, $8 for children ages 2-12.
This post is sponsored by the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden and was originally published in September 2011.