Every Halloween, my family loves to go pumpkin picking and then turn our finds into little works of art (at least we consider them works of art), as well as check out other people's creations for inspiration. While I have always wanted to drive out to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in Westchester, we've never managed to do it. So when Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns arrived on Long Island, I knew we would have to pay it a visit. My kids were a little too young to really appreciate it last year, but when tickets went on sale for this fall's event, I didn't hesitate. And I'm so glad we went because this show is sure to become an annual tradition for us.
Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns, running on select dated through Sunday, October 25, features more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o'-lanterns created by professional artists and master carvers. Located at Old Westbury Gardens, this unique walk-through experience takes visitors past a quarter mile of amazing displays that will delight both adults and kids.
When we first arrived, I was a bit nervous because we were late (to be honest, we rarely make it anywhere on time). A friendly employee told me not to worry—even though timed tickets are required, they don't mind if you're running a bit behind schedule because of traffic. Visitors are grouped according to the planned arrival time, so we were simply directed to the line we would have been standing on anyway. Our wait time to get into the exhibit was less than 10 minutes.
As you approach the entry to Rise, you're greeted by semi-spooky music. It's not as creepy as the theme music to Halloween, but my sensitive six-year-old did get a little scared (my three-year-old loved it—go figure). Once we reassured my older boy, it was time to take in the display.
The most popular sights included the Disney princesses, with Anna and Elsa of Frozen front and center. And my younger son's head almost exploded when he saw the dinosaur exhibit, complete with a T. rex, triceratops and more. My older son really loved the Super Mario Bros. pumpkin that was part of a tribute to popular video games.
For the adults, there are tributes to Broadway (Jersey Boys, Les Miz and more), gangsters (The Sopranos, The Godfather and Scarface) and the cast of Modern Family. There was also a sweet display of notable people who have passed away this year, including Maya Angelou and Robin Williams.
After a short journey through the Ghost Walk (trust me, the only thing scary about it is the name), we walked through an under the sea exhibit that was out of this world. There was a school of fish, giant lobsters and crabs, an anchor, shark's teeth and more.
It isn't always easy to find activities that we all enjoy, but Rise is definitely one of those events that my entire family loved. There is a lot to see in just that ¼ mile, with displays on both sides of the path. And the details are so intricate that I would have liked more time to really look at each display, but that's hard with two little ones with short attention spans.
It took us about an hour to walk through the entire exhibit, mainly due to waiting our turn to check out the more popular displays. The pathway is paved, so feel free to bring a stroller if needed. We were lucky enough to get a great night with the weather, but if it's chilly, be sure to bundle up as this event is completely outdoors. It also takes place rain or shine. And here's a big FYI: The only bathrooms available are Porta-Potties in the parking lot, so keep that in mind before leaving the house.
There are still tickets available. Adults are $26 and children ages 3 to 12 are $22 (kids 2 and under are free). Refunds and exchanges are not available.
For more seasonal fun, check out our Halloween Guides on Long Island.
Photos by the author except the lead image, which was taken by Mike Pollock/courtesy the Rise.
Originally posted in 2014.