Within a few hours of well-lit Manhattan, the dark dreary forests, fog-shrouded bogs and upstate New York haunts come to life for a spooky Halloween. This tranquil region along the Hudson River and farther upstate New York in Westchester, Dutchess, Orange and Ulster Counties is bursting with fun things themed to the holiday.
First, you should know that if you’re up for a road trip, the entire state of New York has a Haunted History Trail featuring nearly 100 of the sickest attractions on a tour across the state. It’s open year round but gets extra traffic during October. So, whether you just enjoy the fun, festive occasion for its pumpkins, candy and costumes, or if you prefer a more fearful celebration, New York state has a frightening weekend getaway option for everyone.
And New York state is not alone; for more haunted house options, visit our Haunted House and Halloween Weekend Breaks Directory.
Finding New York Halloween Fun
Like everything else, when demanding New Yorkers want a haunted house, they want a good haunted house. Forget about Manhattan, where scary things happen all the time. If your kids and teens want a candy-collecting weekend away, with a fun, scary haunted house, a real haunted house, or a haunted house tour, an upstate New York Halloween can supply it.
From Tarrytown to Woodstock to New Paltz, there are lots of other autumn attractions for a New York Halloween including hayrides, museums, nature hikes, leaf peeking, corn mazes, PYO apple and pumpkin farms and much, much more.
Once you’ve spooked yourself to tears, you can calm down at one of the many hotels in the Tarrytown area; several fall getaway packages include breakfast and Wi-Fi with a double room, as well as local shuttles for the car-less. The Westchester County Tourism Office has a listing of what’s available.
Low Freak Out Factor: Hudson Valley’s Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
The great Blaze at Van Cortland Manor is Hudson Valley’s biggest Halloween event, taking place over 45 nights this fall. Visitors get to experience the sight of over 10,000 hand-carved jack o’ lanterns and wander through the historic property which is all decked-out for Halloween. In past years, the pumpkins have been astonishing: dinosaurs roam the earth and pirates set sail for buried treasure along Pumpkin Promenade and giant spiders create monstrous webs. Snakes, sea creatures and ghosts entwined in special lighting, effects and haunting music have entertained visitors. Visit Jack O’ Lantern Blaze or call 914/366-6900 to purchase tickets and, remember, if they are sold out, there’s still a possibility that local hotels featured on their website have tickets if you book a room with them.
Sleepy Hollow Becomes Horseman’s Hollow
In Tarrytown, Philipsburg Manor transforms into a haunted landscape in celebration of the annual Hudson Valley Horseman’s Hollow. This year, there are 15 nights of fun for ages 10+ that honor the Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during our early Dutch colonial days. To see him ride, heed the warning (isn’t this neat?): “This event is NOT suitable for small children and it is not suitable for adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions.” Anyone tough enough to take it can wander through the candle-lit surroundings and spooky grounds associated with this demonic fable, while avoiding confrontations with witches, vampires, undead soldiers, ghouls and goblins. The Hollow boasts state-of-the-art special effects and professional actors, so you’re sure to get a quality fright.
And the Real Sleepy Hollow Is?
Fans of Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” can tour Westchester County’s actual village and drop in (or drop out) at the famous, 85-acre Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It’s known for burying the very rich and very famous, including beauty magnate Elizabeth Arden; NY Public Library benefactors Brooke Astor and Andrew Carnegie; car scion Walter Chrysler and his later nemesis, labor leader and AF of L founder Samuel Gompers; author of “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Washington Irving himself; and the local baron William Rockefeller. There are day and evening guided tours, but the popular New York Halloween storytelling tour done several times in October is not advisable for kids. Get tickets in advance.
Orange County Has High Freak Out Hauntings
What about Pure Terror Screampark? Honestly, images of The Crypt and The Coven, among their nine haunted houses, made us jump when their website loaded. Located at 1010 State Route 17M, Monroe, NY 10950 in who-knows-where Orange County, it is just 3 miles from the Woodbury Commons shopping outlet, where you can really freak out spending money. This Catskills scare-atorium has nine separately themed fright zones, including our favorite “Evil Harvest.”
By the way, their website says you cannot carry babies through the exhibits, nor are exhibits recommended for pregnant women.
New York’s Headless Horseman Attraction
When it comes to New York Halloween scares, however, farther north in Ulster is the place to be — whether you want to scream all night or just enjoy some Halloween activities. The Headless Horseman at 778 Broadway, Route 9W in Ulster Park, NY 12487, has been named the #1 Haunted Attraction in the country by Hauntworld.com. Expect eight haunted attrations in 65 acres of foreboding woods and surreal ponds, with a theatrical mile-long hayride, corn maze and new escape room style frights.
There are ghoulish performers and plenty of shops for candied apples, scary gifts and yummy pumpkin pie. Older kids can go on the hayride and tour the haunted houses, while the little ones enjoy sweet treats and entertaining shows. In fact, two Saturday mornings in October are dedicated to “Children’s Day.”
It’s Less Scary in New Paltz
The city of New Paltz turns a bit scary, too. And we don’t mean how spooky the old Mohonk Mountain House looks under a full moon.
Not only are the leaves gorgeous during autumn in this part of upstate New York, but there are also plenty of other family-friendly activities. Kelder’s Farm has a 100-acre Pick-Your-Own field with pumpkins and a corn maze that everyone can get lost in. The farm is open daily for pumpkin, sweet corn and squash picking (apples are mostly gone by Halloween); mini-golf, a jumping pillow and other seasonal fun. For a bit of spookiness, check out the Harvest Nights the last two Fridays before Halloween.
Ulster County hosts animal sanctuaries where you can learn how to protect animals. The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, for example, offers an educational experience on how to help our furry friends and our environment. Each October, Hallowoodstock is the place to meet animals, pick pumpkins and enjoy hayrides the last weekend before Halloween. There’s no better weekend base than the Emerson Resort & Spa, a rural New York Halloween getaway that hosts a famous kaleidoscope and lots of fun family activities and adventures. If you want to play in the outdoors, this may be a better choice for a Halloween weekend for your family than staying in Tarrytown.
Adirondacks Boasts a Ghostly Lake
How far north will you go for a good scare?
When Mabel Smith Douglass disappeared on Lake Placid in 1933, no one knew she would become a Halloween tourist attraction. The story goes that the former dean of Rutger’s Womens College disappeared while rowing on the lake near to an outcropping known as Pulpit Rock. Her corpse, perfectly preserved and with an anchor line around her neck, was found 30 years later by scuba divers. Today you can take a boat tour of the site, admire the fall foliage and hear more details. It’s said that campers and boaters have reported seeing a ghostly figure of a woman hovering near Pulpit Rock. These sightings keep the legend of “the Lady in the Lake” alive to this day.
Trick or treat anyone?
Get haunted house for kids options, Halloween fun and more by visiting our Haunted House and Halloween Weekend Breaks Directory.
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