Ready for a Halloween road trip? Grab the kids, put on your best costumes, and check out these pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and haunted houses perfect for spook-seeking families.

By Erin Gifford
Updated September 05, 2019
Tom Nycz for Historic Hudson

If your family loves going door-to-door for tricks and treats, why not extend the scary-fun feeling by discovering some haunted happenings during a Halloween-themed road trip before October 31? Dozens of cities across America don disguises, light jack o' lanterns, and celebrate all that's spooky throughout October. Here are seven spooky sites the whole gang can scream about.

(Bonus: You'll get to amortize those overpriced kids' costumes that would otherwise be worn just once!)

1. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze: Hudson Valley, New York

There’s nothing like the “Pumpkin Planetarium” at The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, on select dates from September 20 to November 30. Pumpkins with star-shaped carvings cover the ceiling of an old barn. “The lighting effects makes them look like shooting stars,” says Lisa Cameron, a blogger at AdventuresInFamilyhood.com and mom of two. More bewitching features along the trail: a Sleepy Hollow walk-through bridge, a carousel made of pumpkins, and a 25-foot-tall Jack O’Lantern Statue of Liberty holding her torch high in the sky. Grab hot cider for the kids (and beer or wine for parents), and take your time walking around. “We buy apple-cider donuts and eat them on the way,” says Cameron.

Make it a weekend: At Washington Irving’s cottage, dubbed Sunnyside, kiddos can pose in Rip Van Winkle cutouts and play classic 19th-century children’s games like hoop and stick. Then head over to Nyack Beach State Park. The crushed-pebble trail meanders along the river, flaunting foliage in all directions. Break for a snack and a scramble onto the small beach to look for fossils. Stay at The Time Nyack, which has a cool (yet kid-friendly) vibe, bike rentals, and free breakfast. Before you head home, have lunch at True Food, which serves local organic ingredients.

Courtesy of Cool Patch Pumpkins

2. Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze: Dixon, California

Your family can conquer the World’s Largest Corn Maze (according to Guinness World Records) from September 21 to October 31 at Cool Patch Pumpkins. The maze’s theme changes annually, but it’s always at least 33 acres. Families receive a map upon entering, and the whole experience usually takes two hours. “My kids, who were around 7 and 10 on our first visit, celebrate when they get the whole family out using their map-reading skills,” says Kirsten Vitrikas, of Vacaville, California. Up for more? The kids can play in a giant pit of corn kernels—Halloween’s version of a sandbox.

Make it a weekend: Head to nearby Sacramento, where your mini crafters will be in their element at Art Beast Children’s Art Studio, a drop-in center for drawing and painting. Stay at The Sawyer hotel. You can walk to the Sacramento Kings arena, a movie theater, and a slew of cute shops in two minutes. That is, if you can get the kids out of the hotel pool.

Courtesy of Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival

3. Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival: Scottsdale, Arizona

Do your kids look forward to trunk-or-treating? Then they’ll lose their mind at the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, on October 25 and 26. More than 20 parked hot-air balloons are filled with two tons of candy. Costumed kids go from balloon to balloon picking up treats. “What makes the festival so magical is the roar of the hot-air balloons as their fires spark and their balloons start to glow,” says Erica McBeth, of Mesa, Arizona. After kids score their candy haul, they can watch the fireworks show, play in bounce houses, or, if they’re feeling brave, navigate a haunted trail.

Make it a weekend: Spend a few hours at Desert Botanical Garden’s new Cocoon playspace. There, your kids can dress up like animals and build homes from sticks. Continue the Halloween fun at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, where kids can trick or treat, make “spooky s’mores,” hop on a hayride, and get their face painted on Halloween weekend. Parents are not left out of the fun: Book special pumpkin-themed “Trick or Treatments” at the resort’s spa while your little ones enjoy the kids’ club.

Courtesy of Dallas Arboretum

4. Dallas Arboretum’s Pumpkin Village: Dallas, Texas

Your “Peanuts” fan will go wild for the Dallas Arboretum’s Pumpkin Village, open from September 22 through Halloween. Designers use pumpkins, squashes, and gourds to construct Snoopy’s House, Lucy’s Advice Hut, and a giant topiary. Kids receive a Pumpkin Search Card to help them ID the different varieties of pumpkins. Don’t leave without the ultimate photo op: your kiddo sitting on a “Big Mac”—a 300-plus-pound pumpkin.

Make it a weekend: Time your visit to the State Fair of Texas (September 27 to October 20) so your family can ride on the Texas Star Ferris Wheel, test their skills in pedal-tractor pull races, and nosh on a Fletcher’s Corny Dog. Stay at the Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Grapevine, where you’ll enjoy costume parades and Boo Bingo. Your kids will also love sliding and splashing on repeat at its indoor water park. End your visit with an hour-long ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.

Courtesy of Roger Williams Park Zoo

5. Roger Williams Park Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular: Providence, Rhode Island

“Boo at the zoo” is a thing at zoos all over the country, but arguably no place does Halloween better than Roger Williams Park Zoo. Its Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, running from October 3 to November 3, will wow your fam with 5,000 intricately carved, glowing pumpkins along a two-mile trail. The carvings range from historical figures (think Abe Lincoln and JFK) to pop-culture icons (like Marvel superheroes and characters from Stranger Things). “At the end of the trail, the sight of hundreds of silly-faced pumpkins hanging off a giant tree is overwhelmingly cool,” says Sara Beatrice, of Wakefield, Rhode Island, who has visited annually since her 10-year-old was in a baby carrier. Walking through the experience takes 60 to 90 minutes. Afterward, kids who are at least 42 inches tall can see the enchanting glow from a different vantage point—riding on a chairlift 115 feet in the air.

Make it a weekend: Providence’s food scene rivals a big city’s, so make that your focus—between trips to the Providence Children’s Museum and Roger Williams Park. Local parents love the lunch spot Waffle (a pizza waffle will entice the kids!) and Peruvian restaurant Los Andes (request a booth by the fish tank and your children will be entertained for the whole meal). Stay at the Omni Providence Hotel, which has an indoor heated pool.

Ryan Ebert

6. Terror on the Fox Haunted House: Green Bay, Wisconsin

For older kids who like spooky fun, Terror on the Fox has it all: ghoulish creatures, a haunted antique passenger train, optical illusions, and hallways that are like a labyrinth. It’s open on select days from September 13 to Halloween, with lights-on, not-scary matinees for families with littles on October 6 and 27.

Make it a weekend: Green Bay has an amazing city park with family-friendly trails, a wildlife refuge, and a nature center chock-full of hands-on activities. Kids can even crawl through tunnels as they learn about animals that burrow. Stay at the Comfort Suites Green Bay for its indoor water park with a wading pool and dumping buckets.

Courtesy of the Bryson City/Swain County NC Chamber of Commerce

7. Great Pumpkin Patch Express: Bryson City, North Carolina

Hop on the Great Pumpkin Patch Express on select dates from October 4 to 27 for an afternoon of Halloween fun. The steam locomotive chugs along for a half hour (peep out the window at those colorful leaves) before arriving at a pumpkin patch. Kids will roast marshmallows, take a hayride, and pick their own great pumpkin before you all head back 90 minutes later. “Dress the kids in their Halloween costumes,” says Tabby Bailey, of Atlanta. “There are so many fun photo ops.”

Make it a weekend: Your train ticket includes free same-day admission to the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, behind the historic train depot. Littles will be awed by the collection of 7,000 model-train engines and railcars. Take in vibrant fall colors at Deep Creek, one of the best areas for leaf peeping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A stroller-friendly path leads to two cascading waterfalls. Book a cabin at Watershed Resort to enjoy yard games, a community fire pit, a playground, and a trout pond. Many have a kitchen, and some offer three or four bedrooms, so you could vacay with extended family.

Courtesy of the Bryson City/Swain County NC Chamber of Commerce
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