The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze Rises in Hudson Valley Again

There are some experiences every family should try once. Then there are annual events that, after you try them, you vow to do every year forevermore. The Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson,  a Hudson Valley Halloween staple with thousands of hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns, falls firmly in the latter category.

The downside of the Blaze is that tickets start selling out way in advance ... like early September. The 2017 shows begin Friday, September 29, and run through Saturday, November 25—a longer run than planned in years past. They are not held every day, so start checking the calendar now. Our NYC readers should know that the Blaze is definitely worth splurging on, even if you need to rent a Zipcar. It's also accessible via public transportation.

Read on for what you need to know about this Halloween spectacle, including details about this year's installations (including the timely Pumpkin Zee Bridge). Looking for more fall and Halloween fun? Sign up for our newsletters

Weekday Picks for Westchester Kids: Greek Festival, Bingo, Garlic Wow

True, the days of summer vacation are dwindling for Westchester families, but it’s not too late to squeeze in some family-oriented summer fun!

If your kids are dreading the return to school, psych them up at Back-to-School Bingo. One of next weekend’s headliners gets a jump start mid-week, giving you additional time to work the Holy Trinity Greek Festival into your schedule (opa!). And we’d be remiss if we didn’t alert you to The Ultimate Garlic Experience—a cinematic, culinary and virtual-reality sensation.

These are just a few of our top picks for the coming week—but don't stop there! The fun doesn't end, and neither does our search for the best family events in Westchester. Be sure to peruse our Event Calendar for more of our great finds and check out our monthly GoList to plan all of September!

Enjoy Labor Day and the return to school!

Best Places for Apple Picking with Kids in Westchester and Rockland

Apple picking season is here! I used to look forward to apple picking every year as a child, and now I have just as much fun watching my little ones run through the orchards—not to mention the fresh-pressed apple cider and hot, delicious cider doughnuts! Many farms also have family-friendly entertainment and activities including live music, corn mazes and more. Apple picking is also a great farm-to-table teaching opportunity and a wonderful way to ease out of summer.

So get your apple recipes ready and read on for our top picks for apple picking with kids in Westchester and Rockland County. (Remember to contact the farms before heading out. Many are family owned and operated, and hours may change with little or no notice.)

Also see our top picks for apple picking in Dutchess and Orange and sign up for our newsletters.

Labor Day Weekend with Kids: CORNucopia, Harvest Fest, Fireworks

It's hard to believe Labor Day Weekend is already upon us (sniff, sniff). If you, too, are feeling a bit nostalgic about another summer gone by, don't start singing the blues just yet. There are great ways for families to celebrate the unofficial end of summer in Westchester and the Hudson Valley.

The headline event is the return of CORNucopia, loaded with corn-y fun of assorted varieties, as well as the return of the New York International Children’s Film Festival, featuring imports from around the world for all ages. Families can also support a good cause and work off that summer ice cream at the Mini-Dash Race, and for alternatives to the customary barbecue, ways to honor Labor Day include Labor Day Celebration and the Labor Day Commemoration

These are just a few of our top picks—read on for all this and more. Be sure to check out our Event Calendar for more fun activities, and follow us on Facebook! Have a fun Labor Day Weekend!

After Hurricane Harvey: How to Help & Get Help After the Storm

You don't need us to tell you Hurricane Harvey has devastated Houston. The Bayou City has quickly become just that—a submerged metropolis where people have been pushed from their homes, from hospitals, and from entire communities. While this historic storm has wrecked our home, good Samaritans have emerged from all corners of the Greater Houston area to help those in need.

Here are some ways anyone can help families and individuals affected by the storm, as well as ways for locals to search for help. Send us a note at houstoneditor@mommypoppins.com if you have any resources we do not have listed, and we can add them here. Stay safe, Houston. Together, we will pull through. #HoustonStrong

AMC Returns Favorite Disney Princess Movies to Theaters

Disney and AMC Theatres have joined forces to return some of the most popular princess-themed movies of years past to the theater this fall, including the original Beauty and the Beast from (gasp) 1991, and slightly more recent faves like the fiery, bow-and-arrow wielding redhead from Brave (2012).

If you have a gown-loving, but rambunctious little kid in your life, she or he may already know these flicks inside and out, but they were probably too young to catch them on the big screen. Tickets are already on sale for this princess movie fest featuring a diverse set of heroines, which will play in September and October at select AMC theaters across the country, so grab them while you can.

Read on for more info on how you can catch these six fairy tale heroes this fall. 

Fly Back in Time at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

No trip to the Rhinebeck area is complete without a visit to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, a museum and performance arena celebrating aviation from a century ago. My family has been three times and will surely go again. The static exhibits, period enhancements and airborne theatrics offer an entertaining experience and provide amusement suitable for all ages.

Read on for a first-hand review, and be sure to consult our guides to nearby Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie to round out a great family visit to Dutchess County!

Family Weekend Getaway: River Rafting with Kids in the Catskills

I've wanted to take my kids river rafting since my teenage son was a toddler, yet we never managed to get around to it—until this summer. After spending a wonderful day on the Delaware River in the Sullivan Catskills, my only regret is that we didn't go sooner.

With three kids ranging from 8 to 13, finding an outing we can all enjoy is sometimes a challenge. River rafting hit the mark beautifully, providing a completely unplugged experience that's fun for all ages. Plus, clocking in at just under two hours from New York City (and even less for Westchester residents), rafting in the Catskills is an easy day trip or a quick weekend getaway. We opted to make a weekend out of it, so we've got the scoop on where to go rafting and what to expect, plus where to stay overnight.

For more weekend getaway ideas, consult our Day Trips & Getaways Guide and sign up for our newsletters.

Weekday Picks for Westchester Kids: Colonial Games (No Device Required!), Kid Flicks

Though summer break is winding down, summertime fun still abounds for Westchester families!

Several recurring activities that were offered weekly throughout most of the summer conclude this week, so hesitate no longer: Alamo Kids Camp features rotating kids movies for a pittance plus the opportunity to munch on a snack or entire meal during the show. Both Colonial Games Day and From a Child's Perspective show kids how to have fun without relying on electronic devices (you’re welcome!).

So don’t go singing the summer’s-over blues; just read on for these and other top picks for the week and head to our Event Calendar for even more great options to choose from!

Panama City Beach with Kids: Florida Family Vacation on the Gulf

You may have spent a spring break (or two) in Panama Beach City, Florida, or lived vicariously through the revelry broadcast on MTV Spring Break, which drew thousands of college kids to this beach town for a decade. But now that you’ve traded shot glasses for strollers, this classic spring break locale has luckily grown up right with you.

Today, families with young children flock to its sandy shore, and with an international airport just 20 minutes away, it’s easy to get to. We visited this 27-mile stretch of beach along the Gulf of Mexico this summer with a toddler in tow and were impressed with the entertainment options. Read on for 25 things to do with kids in this Florida haven, including where to eat and play on your family’s next vacation.


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