The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze opens its 2020 season Friday, September 18. Photo by Susan Miele
The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze opens its 2020 season Friday, September 18. Photo by Susan Miele

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze Returns for 2020 Season

There are some experiences every family should try once, and the beloved Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is definitely atop the list. But, once you visit the annual spectacle in Croton-on-Hudson, you'll likely vow to visit forevermore. The popular annual event is a go for Halloween 2020, and tickets go on sale to the general public Tuesday, August 18. What's more, organizers tell us a second location has been added for 2020 at Old Bethpage Restoration on Long Island.

In ordinary years, tickets to this annual attraction are hard to come by. With the attendance restrictions planned for this year, they'll be more difficult to snag. In Croton, the season starts early with the first show scheduled for Friday, September 18, and it runs daily through Sunday, November 1. Thereafter, shows are held weekends through Saturday, November 21—extending the Halloween season straight through Thanksgiving. Take note city-dwellers: The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is definitely worth the splurge, even if you need to rent a Zipcar. It's also accessible via public transportation. 

Read on for the lowdown on the event of the fall season, details on how to snag your tickets to the sellout event, its COVID-19 safety precautions, and a sneak peek at the 2020 additions. Bookmark our Fall Fun and Halloween Guides for more seasonal fun.

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The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze comes to life with flickering pumpkins annually and 2020 is no exception. Photo by Susan Miele

The first thing to understand about the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is it's a jaw-dropping original and worth the schlep. Every fall, the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor overflow with more than 7,000 incredibly detailed pumpkin sculptures, with everything from traditional grinning jack-o'-lanterns to massive sculptures of dinosaurs, animals, flowers, scarecrows, totem polls, snakes, giant spiderwebs, creatures from Greek and Roman mythology, and much more. It's truly breathtaking: There are intricately carved pumpkins flickering in the darkness as far as the eye can see.

The Blaze is seasonally spooky but might be too much for very young visitors. Photo by Susan Miele

Beyond pumpkin carving, an added dazzle comes from the special effects, like the Headless Horseman exhibit (you're in Ichabod Crane country, mind you), which looks to be throwing its head. Attractions include a fully functioning Pumpkin Carousel with a 20-foot diameter (sorry, only pumpkins get to ride), a giant Statue of Liberty, the Pumpkin Zee Bridge, a mechanical windmill, the signs of the zodiac, and a medieval castle guarded by jack-o'-lantern owls. The Museum of Pumpkin Art, in which classic paintings are re-imagined with pumpkins, debuted in 2019. New in 2020: pumpkin tributes to first responders.

Jack-o'-lanterns stretch as far as the eye can see. Photo by Susan Miele

While it's not especially scary, it can be overwhelming for some, and creepy music blares from speakers around you. Kids with sensory issues might not enjoy the excitement.

As in years past, tickets are available on a timed-entry schedule, but new this year is the option to change your date or time up to 72 hours before your scheduled reservation. A $2-per-ticket exchange fee is assessed. Note, however, that it may be difficult to find a desirable alternative with availability.

Also new for 2020 are COVID-19 safety measures. Capacity will be reduced by 66%, and masks must be worn by everyone over the age of 2. Ticket-buyers must agree to abide by Historic Hudson Valley's COVID Courtesy Code. Food and beverages will not be sold or allowed on site this year. A limited amount of souvenirs available for purchase. 

Depending on your pace, it takes 30-45 minutes to traverse, in addition to the transitional time of arriving and queuing up. According to the FAQ on the Blaze website, you'll see approximately 7,000 jack-o'-lanterns during your visit. Not all of them are made out of organic pumpkins, though. Some of the most intricate creations were crafted from "art pumpkins" to allow their preservation. It takes more than 1,000 volunteers to help bring the Blaze to life, and their work shows.

While member tickets were released last week, sales to the general public begin Tuesday, August 18. Follow the Historic Hudson Valley on social media to be notified of availability and for your chance to purchase. Although tickets sell out very quickly, in past years, additional dates have been added to meet demand.

Tip: Buy tickets for dusk, so you can watch the jack-o'-lanterns come to life as darkness falls. Photo by Susan Miele

Know Before You Go

  • No tickets will be sold on-site. Be sure to purchase your timed-entry tickets ASAP to ensure you don't miss out.
  • The Blaze is tough to navigate with a stroller (and wide, double strollers may not fit through all the passageways). The grounds sometimes get muddy, so it's best to leave the Elvira heels at home.
  • Visitors experience the Blaze by walking along a trail in a single direction. Those wishing to stop to take pictures are asked to stick to the right to allow others to pass on the left.
  • Try to buy tickets for around dusk. That way you can watch the jack-o'-lanterns come to life as the darkness envelopes them.

The Museum of Pumpkin Art re-imagines classic pieces in pumpkin form and debuted in 2019. Photo by Susan Miele

The Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze takes place at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson on select evenings from Friday, September 18, through Saturday, November 21, 2020. The Long Island Blaze runs Wednesdays through Sundays from Friday, October 2 through Sunday, November 1. We'll bring you more details on the Long Island installation and how you can score tickets as we're able to confirm them.

The Croton Blaze is accessible via public transportation. Take a one-hour train ride from Manhattan on the Metro-North to the Croton-Harmon station. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is a 10-minute walk or five-minute cab ride away.

This was originally published in 2012 and is updated regularly.

Places featured in this article:

Old Bethpage Village Restoration

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