October is just a day away and the season of Instagram-worthy apple orchards, haunted attractions, and corn mazes are officially upon us. October has always been one of my favorite months, but let’s be honest, most Halloween events in New York City are not only overpriced but generally underwhelming. Instead, I usually choose to spend my October planning haunted little day trips and spooky little getaways; because everybody needs some autumn plans to distract them from watching the Halloweentown series on repeat, every weekend.
Historic Hudson Valley (approx. 1 hour from NYC)
This spot has become an annual tradition for me, and offers an array of activities to take part in. One of the most popular Hudson Valley Halloween time experiences is The Great Jack’O’Lantern Blaze, a walkthrough of various pumpkin carved arrangements from Jurassic Park to a fully-functioning pumpkin carousel. Visitors can visit an assortment of historic buildings, purchase tickets to variously themed graveyard tours, and experience Irving’s Legend, a dramatic storytelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk. But one of my all time favorite experiences is Horseman’s Hollow. While you wait, grab some hot chocolate and be alert as you may spot the headless ghoul himself; but the real haunts come during the almost 30-minute walkthrough which passes through historic locations like Philipsburg Manor and Ichabod’s Schoolhouse. While this haunted walk is done at various times, I highly recommend checking the sundown time and purchasing tickets after dark for a way more thrilling experience.
Warning, tickets for each of these events often sellout and typically days before you plan to go so plan on grabbing yours at least a week in advance.
During our annual Hudson Valley day trip, we usually plan to head to the area early to make a stop at Wilken’s Fruit & Fir Farm. September is prime apple-picking season and December is when the Christmas trees are ready for picking, but October is all about the pumpkins. Disclaimer: you won’t actually be picking pumpkins off of a vine, but the assortment of pumpkins you can find scattered throughout the pumpkin patch are perfect for all of your carving needs. And if you happen to visit during the first week of October, you may be able to grab a few good apples along the way.
But if I’m being honest, the Bakery and Apple Farm Market are easily the two best reasons for going. Repeat after me, “apple cider donuts.” Between jams, marmalades, cider, pastries, and Holiday decorations, you may not want to forget your wallet in the car.
Eastern State Penitentiary (Approx. 2 hours from NYC)
Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison turned historic site, but during the Halloween Season the site opens up as ‘Terror Behind the Walls’, a chilling walk through six different attractions within the cell blocks. When you enter the attraction, you have the option for a spooky experience or a totally haunting experience, your choice of which will be represented by a specific colored glowing necklace. If you choose the spooky experience, you will experience a typical walk through. However, the other options allows the actors to touch you and essentially add you to the show. No, you will not be hurt or locked anywhere you do not want to be. But you may get placed on a girny in the ‘infirmary’ or directed towards a tunnel away from the crowd in ‘the machine shop’. Great actors, outstanding detail, and a hell of a good value.
I highly recommend arriving to Philly a bit earlier and doing the non-spooky day tour of Eastern State Penitentiary. If you’re a history buff, like me, you’ll get a kick out of exploring the cellblocks, seeing art installations, and exploring the area all while learning more about the past through your provided audio guide. You’ll even get a chance to see Al Capone’s outlandishly decorated cell. Visitors can also take part in short, interactive experience through the hospital, dining hall, punishment cells and other areas.
Canobie Lake Park (Approx. 4 hours from NYC)
After 6PM during the month of October, Canobie Lake Park becomes a Screeemfest. Visitors can expect monsters and zombies, zombie paintball, shows, and five different themed haunted houses: The Culling, The Canobie Lake Hotel, Carnivus, The Village, and Black Hollow Cove. The spook level is high, and the attention to details is even higher; at one point while nervously walking through the Village, you even began getting chased by zombies with what sound like real chainsaws. (Spoiler alert: they’re most likely not real chainsaws.) And should you need to step back from the haunts, head on over to Rocktoberfest! for some cover band rock music which runs the same month as Screemfest.
If you don’t mind a 40 minute drive, head on over into Massachusetts and visit Salem, the town most infamously known for the 1692 witch trials. Between historic landmarks like the Witch House, the former home of a trial judge; the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Musuem, and an array of other attractions, this town makes for an authentic, chilling, and historic October trip.
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