Halloween is quickly approaching, which means that themed activities and events are emerging across the country. Many of these events are designed specifically for adults, but what if you’re looking for child-friendly activities? Family travel expert and contributing writer Kerri Zane shares her favorite destinations for Halloween 2014.
I just purchased my first giant pumpkin of the season and promptly placed it outside my front door. The sight of these bright orange orbs, along with the sweet scent of spiced latte and the taste of a crisp red apple fill my senses with the delight of the season. They are the sure first signs that the rush of the holiday season will soon be upon us. Of course, there is nothing better to start off the fall than a significant All Hallows Eve fright. This year, all across the country, cities and towns everywhere are gearing up to give you and your family the scare of your life. Here are my top 15 favorites for your ghoulish consideration!
1. Wilmington, North Carolina & Island Beaches
With over a dozen Halloween-themed events, Wilmington is one of the best family destinations. There events such as a festival, ghost walk, horse-drawn carriage tours to the haunted barn, a zombie walk, cemetery tour (some with Civil War history, some with film/TV credit), and Trick or Treat Under the Sea (at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher). Also known as Wilmywood, Wilmington has LOTS of scary movies and TV credits (including Fox’s Sleepy Hollow).
2. Flintstone, Georgia
From October 4 through November 1, every Friday and Saturday night at dusk, Blowing Springs Farm scares up the night. The venue is rich with strange, unearthly figures moving through the nearby woods and inexplicable flashes of light emanating from the dilapidated ruins of the old BSF Global labs. Now, cryptic runes have appeared in the cornfield. You and your family can take a journey through cursed woods and dark passages guaranteed to provide a host of delighted screams.
3. Chattanooga, Tennessee
For the 11th consecutive year, Ruby Falls is again playing host to the annual Haunted Cavern. Themed “The Dark Legacy,” the story goes that Elder Shaw has been peddling his miracle Legacy Tonic, which is actually a mutilating potion. Now, 64 years later, the massacred town of Carrion Ridge comes back to life—and they are coming for any trespassers. Now through November 1, this intense event takes place after dark, both above and below ground.
4. Fort Myers & Sanibel, Florida
On October 18, 2014, this Florida hot spot will transform itself into Zombicon. Yep. The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, which once set the scene for the classic horror movie Day of the Dead, play host to this zombie-themed music and art fest. Everyone from infants to elders can enjoy this event. Plus, a portion of the proceeds goes to Pushing DaiZies, a not-for-profit charitable organization focusing on giving all children the opportunity to explore the arts.
5. Panama City Beach, Florida
Race City Panama City Beach (PCB) hosts a very unique haunted house. Not only do the organizers use the traditional spooky sound effects, such as loud noises, and eerie silences, they have live actors placed within the house that really amp up the fear factor. Don’t be surprised if some of them show up as part of your group! The scare masters gauge the intensity of the fear they’ll inflict by the demographic of your group. So if you come with your little ones, the scare will be age appropriate. The venue also changes the layout of the house throughout the year, making it a new experience every time you visit. Other activities you can enjoy there include the Go Kart tracks, Backlight Mini Golf, Fairground Rides, and an Indoor arcade.
6. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is a city rich with spooky stories and haunted lore. Neil Tobin, Necromancer’s interactive solo theatre show, has been making the most of it. Halloween Night is an intimate (limited to 50 audience guests) interactive experience that promises an extra dose of spookiness. The show will be expanded to include a special Houdini Séance assisted by members of the Society of American Magicians.
The show is best suited for adults and high school-age children. It takes place in a landmark building reputed to be one of the city’s most haunted. It also operates as Castle nightclub, so if you are minus your minors, you can party till 4 a.m. The show is every Friday and Saturday evening through October and starts at 7:30 p.m. Entry is $30, which includes two beverages and the cover charge to Castle for the evening.
7. Sandusky, Ohio
This Halloween season the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center in Sandusky, Ohio has a killer haunted house. Using the latest and greatest scare technology, the manor features highly detailed sets, live actors, and a variety of special effects. Open year-round, the center also offers family fun with seven different attractions including an XD 4D theater, a roller skating facility, 3D black light mini golf, bounce houses, a three-story jungle gym, and an arcade. Want more? Make your way over to the annual Lake Eerie Fearfest for the most unique, most feared haunted destination in all of Ohio. They’ve got an all-new haunted encounters brought in from around the world including Darkmare, Caged, Quarantine, & Eerie Chateau!
8. Mountville, Pennsylvania
If it’s award-winning scary you want, Mountville is your destination for the nationally ranked Field of Screams. It’s got four major attractions, and you can do all four, or just try one and see how it goes. The haunted hayride features slithery snakes and psycho clowns. The nocturnal wasteland has you traversing through overgrown woods filled with muffled cries of strange inhabitants. There is also the den of darkness, a three story 170-year-old barn and the fright asylum, which was an actual insane asylum that was condemned in mid-1900. You can buy the whole package for $33 during the week or $35 on Saturdays. Field of Screams is open through November 9. But, if that all seems just a bit too scary for your children, not to worry, there is lots of Halloween frolicking fun on the property at Corn Cob Acres, which is open through November 2. They have haystacks to play on, a giant bag of candy corn to explore, and more.
9. Providence, Rhode Island
Providence offers scary and non-scary events for the whole family. On the mild side is the city’s most famed fall happening, the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo. It’s a cool display of 5,000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns artistically carved and displayed in scenes to play out the annual theme. The event begins October 2 and runs through November 2. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $9 for children ages 3 to 12, with children under three admitted for free. Weekend rates are slightly higher.
For those wanting a more non-stop heart-pounding thrill, there is the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival. The event runs from October 20 through the 26. This year’s festival includes a two-day expansion of its popular H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour, aptly called, a Date-Night of Horror. You can also catch a sneak peek behind the scenes of making horror films. General admission for screenings is $10 per person and festival six-packs of tickets are available at $40.
10. Boise, Idaho
About 20 minutes outside of downtown Boise is the Haunted World. It is the largest outdoor haunt in the entire Northwest. The world is divided into three separate areas; a 30-acre outdoor haunt, Skullvania, an asylum gone wrong, and a 15-acre corn maze. If the Haunted World feels a bit overwhelming, opt to visit The Maize, Idaho’s original corn maze. It’s part of The Farmstead, a corn maze and pumpkin festival that takes place from September 19 to November 1.
11. Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania
Every Halloween, Eastern State Penitentiary’s cell block is transformed into one of America’s scariest Halloween attractions, Terror Behind the Walls. It is a massive haunted house in a real prison, featuring Hollywood-quality sets, animatronics, and custom-designed soundtracks. When you arrive you must decide if you want to explore the prison and watch the action, or interact with the denizens of the cell blocks. Those who opt in for true interactivity may be grabbed, held back, sent into hidden passageways, removed from their group, and even occasionally incorporated into the show. Sunday nights before 7:30 are Family Nights, where kids too scared can say “Monster Be Good” and the zombies will back away. Children under seven will not be admitted. Prices vary between $13 and $39 based on date and time you choose to visit.
12. Sequoia National Park, California
Descend into the depths of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park on the weekend of October 24 to 26. You and your kids will be creeped out at the Halloween cave tour led by the Sequoia Natural History Association. You will tiptoe through its marble walls; duck the icicle-like stalactites and keep an eye out for bats. The temperature down below is a spine-tingling 48 degrees. Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance at the Foothills or Lodgepole Visitors Center. Plus, on Saturday October 25, there is a family pumpkin carving session and lesson on the history of Halloween at John Muir Lodge.
13. Settle, Kentucky
First, take your family on the Scary Driving Tour to visit all the John Carpenter Reel Sites. You’ll find 17 locations in the area that are either referenced in the horror master’s films or relevant to when he lived in this city. The tour includes local street names and townships used in his films, the log cabin where Carpenter lived as a boy, and other places important to his childhood. Then, head over to Skeleton’s Lair Scream Park. It’s an outdoor haunted house with a high-energy haunted hayride, haunted woods, Skeletal Visions 3D and all new in 2014—the Doll Museum.
14. Lexington, South Carolina
Deceased Farm in Lexington, South Carolina features, not one, but two complete haunted houses. Conveniently located next to the corn maze at Clinton Sease Farm, you and your family can spend the day wandering the corn maze, and when darkness falls, go over to test your bravery in one or both attractions. The main haunt encompasses three buildings that are crammed full of state-of-the-art props and sets inhabited by over 30 live characters surrounded by a two-acre haunted corn maze. 3D-ceased is a unique experience where the terror surrounds you. You wear a pair of 3D glasses just like you get at the movies, but that’s where the comparison ends. Tickets cost $40 per person, which includes food, beverage, and entertainment. The farm recommends that children 12 years or older attend, and younger children should be accompanied by an adult.
15. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Truly getting into the spirit of Halloween, the city of Albuquerque revises its name to Albucreepy. All around town there are great activities for you and your family to explore. Old Town Albuquerque has a rich and diverse creepy history, and is considered one of the most actively haunted locations in North America, with reports of actual sightings of apparitions, disembodied voices, and objects mysteriously moving on their own. The town holds a variety of ghost tours and ghost hunting lessons year round. There is a 90-minute professionally-led ghost tour, a haunted hearse tour, or you can use your peddle power for the haunted bike tour or the Albucreepy Trolley of Terror Tour. You can also scare up some Halloween family entertainment at the New Mexico Fright Fest, Creepy Comet Simulated Space Mission, and even a creeping, crawling, and carnivorous show. Or, watch the underwater pumpkin carving demo at BioPark in the shark tank.
For more information about activities for fall, check out:
- The Best Places to See Fall Foliage Around the Country
- Celebrate Harvest Season With Fall Festivals
- Apps & Websites to Help You Track Fall Foliage
By Kerri Zane for PeterGreenberg.com. Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at KerriZane.com.