The Hudson Valley is the setting for many a scary Halloween happening—parents be warned! There's traditional fall fun like pumpkin picking, fall festivals, and corn mazes, but the area celebrates Halloween in a big way with attractions for all ages (and all levels of bravery). Even if you don't live in the Hudson Valley, these are totally worth the schlep and blowing the kids' bedtimes—at least once.
While the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze is perhaps the top Halloween event in the area, there are other cool happenings just next door: the haunted attraction Horseman’s Hollow, a live retelling of Irving's Legend ,and the little-kid-friendly Legend Behind the Legend. Head a little further north to Somers to check out the Halloween Train Show at Lasdon Park, and put the Wappingers Falls and Nyack parades on your calendar.
Our best advice: Start planning now. Nearly all require advance tickets and most sell out.
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The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze - Croton-on-Hudson
Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 S Riverside Avenue
Select evenings Friday, September 30 - Sunday, November 13, 2016; times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
Saturdays: $25 for adults, $20 for children ages 3-17. Other nights: $20 for adults, $16 for children ages 3-17. Children under 3 are are free. Advance tickets are a must.
For 32 nights this fall, families can marvel at more than 7,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack-o'-lanterns displayed all over the 18th-century grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor. In addition to traditional pumpkin heads, there are huge dinosaurs, snakes, giant spiderwebs, the Pumpkin Zee Bridge, creatures from Greek and Roman mythology and a menagerie of life-size animals, all cleverly assembled from carved pumpkins (both organic and synthetic). Eerie sound effects and mood lighting enhance the experience. Although the carvers spend months creating these sights, you only need about 45 minutes to take it all in. For more info, check out our in-depth review.
Want to make a day of it? Pack a picnic and head out in the afternoon to nearby Croton Point County Park, a huge, grassy peninsula on the east shore of the Hudson River. NYC families should know you can take Metro-North or Amtrak to the Croton-Harmon station, and then it's about a five-minute cab ride away.
Horseman's Hollow is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Horseman's Hollow - Sleepy Hollow
Philipsburg Manor, 381 N Broadway
Select evenings Friday, October 7 - Monday, October, 31, 2016; times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$25 on Saturdays, $20 all other nights
This eerie attraction runs for 14 nights in 2016, but it's definitely not for preschoolers or scaredy-cats. Take a terrifying walk through the grounds of a haunted village full of vampires, rotting corpses and other creepy creatures driven mad by the Headless Horseman, and then try to survive the horrors of Ichabod’s Schoolhouse. Professional actors, high-tech special effects, elaborate costumes and gory makeup help create the spine-chilling experience. Horseman's Hollow isn't recommended for children under age 10, or people with claustrophobia, heart or respiratory issues. Timed tickets are only sold in advance. New this year: Spend an extra $15 for a "Fast Track" ticket and skip the lines.
Irving's Legend - Sleepy Hollow
Old Dutch Church, 430 N Broadway
Select evenings Friday, October 7 - Monday, October 31, 2016; times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$27 for adults, $22 for children under 18
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes to life in a dramatic 45-minute performance by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk. He portrays Ichabod Crane in the real-life church where the fictional school teacher served as choir master, as well as all of the other characters. Appropriate for children ages 10 and up. Tickets are sold in advance.
The Legend Behind the Legend - Irvington
Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, 3 W Sunnyside Lane
Weekends Saturday, October 1 - Sunday, October 30; times vary. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$16 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children ages 3-17, children under 3 are free
After the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze, this is the best Historic Hudson Valley Halloween event for younger children. Plus, it takes place during the day so it can even be a prelude to the Blaze. Tour Washington Irving's beautiful riverside home and examine artifacts related to the 19th-century author's famous tale. Families can also enjoy a shadow puppet performance and a not-too-spooky walk through the woods. Timed tickets are sold in advance.
Looking to combine more than one Historic Hudson Valley event? They map it out for you.
Halloween Train Show - Somers
Lasdon Park & Arboretum, 2610 Amawalk Road
Weekends Saturday, October 1 - Sunday, October 30, 2016, and Columbus Day; 11am - 3:30pm
$5 for 12 and up, $3 for ages 3-12, children under 3 are free
This Halloween event is suitable for all ages. In addition to Lionel train display inside the main house with a Harry Potter Express and Hogwarts castle, the annual Halloween Train Show will include a storyteller and live music (on select days), a children's activity tent and wagon rides for an extra $5. New this year will be a dinosaur garden with a "resident T-Rex" for photo opps. Food and pumpkins are available for purchase. See our full write-up for everything you need to know.
Halloween Parade & Festival - Wappingers Falls
Saturday, October 15, 2016, 11am-4pm
Now in its third year (and growing!), this Halloween event kicks off with a parade down Elm Street that concludes at Mesier Park. The park will be filled with vendors, live music and crafts, and there will be a costume contest for all ages. This is a great pre-Halloween happening if you still need to pick up some finishing touches for your costume. (Want to march in the parade? You’ll have to register beforehand.)
Halloween Parade - Nyack
Saturday, October 29, 2016, 3-8pm
Billed as the largest Halloween parade outside of the one in NYC, the Nyack event is expected to draw more than 20,000 spectators. Expect elaborately decorated floats and marchers at this family-friendly parade, which lines up at 3pm and steps off around 5pm. It concludes with a costume contest with a cash prize. Rain date is Sunday, October 30, 2016.
This article was first published in 2010 but is updated annually.
Top photo: The Blaze is ideal for the entire family. All photos courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley.