Ever since 1820, when Washington Irving published The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman rode into the imaginations of people everywhere, the Hudson Valley has been known around the globe for its ghostly activities. So it’s no wonder that, all these years later, this region remains a one-of-a-kind destination for top-notch Halloween hoopla. After all, the Valley really has it all: from nationally ranked scream parks (think the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park) to popular pumpkin pastimes like Van Cortlandt Manor’s Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, to (alleged) real-life haunted houses that are ready to be explored. Here are five reasons why it’s great to be in the Hudson Valley around Halloween.
In what is certainly the tri-state area’s biggest and most spectacular Halloween event, the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze returns for another 30-day run in 2015. In addition to thousands of individually carved jack-o’-lanterns, this showstopper features three new attractions this year. First up: the Pumpkin Planetarium, which features stars and constellations crafted entirely of — you guessed it — jack-o’-lanterns; a circus train with colorful clowns and cute animals; and finally, the flying pumpkin ghosts. (We don’t know what they are either, but we sure want to find out!) Make sure to get your tickets early; last year’s Blaze was sold out every night. October 2-4, 9-12, 15-18, 21-31; November 1, 5-8, 13-15. $20 ($25 on Saturdays), $16 children 3-17 ($20 on Saturdays), free for children under 3 and members.
Prehistoric pumpkin fun at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and a “scare-acter” from Kevin McCurdy’s Haunted Mansion. Photographs by Tom Nycz (left) and courtesy of Kevin McCurdy (right)
Year after year, haunted mansions in the Valley are earning high praise as the best and most creative in the entire country. Kevin McCurdy has been transforming Dutchess County’s beautiful Bowdoin Park into the terrifying Haunted Mansion for nearly 40 years. Known as one of the most interactive scream parks around, this season it’s featuring The Reunion, a celebration hosted by mascot Uncle Creepy that includes popular “scare-acters” from the past. Also this year: Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster County, continually ranked among the nation’s best scream parks by the likes of HauntWorld Magazine and MTV, is also getting in on the interactive experience. In addition to nine attractions, it’s added the Great Room Escape, where you and your teammates have an hour to escape one of its two rooms before time runs out.
The Valley’s also home to several historic houses that are believed to be haunted, making them go-to spots for paranormal investigators, historians, and the general public. At the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro, strange voices have been detected and closet doors have opened by themselves. And if you think the upcoming presidential election seems scary, you might want to visit the Lindenwald Mansion in Kinderhook, the home of our eighth president, Martin Van Buren. Both sites are offering haunted-house tours.
Sure, you can hop on a train and head to Greenwich Village to partake in the world’s largest Halloween parade. Or you can just skip over to the beautiful town of New Paltz and be part of the Valley’s largest Halloween parade. Known for its giant puppets, the parade has been going strong for 40 years. It starts on Main Street and ends at the firehouse, where the Lion’s Club doles out apples and candy for kids in costume. Smaller parades pop up all over the place, too, so keep an eye out.
Lots of local places (think: Brotherhood Winery’s Halloween Ball in Washingtonville) organize parties and events for a ghostly night out with friends. Rock radio station WRRV hosts its annual Boo Ball at Mid-Hudson Civic Center — all decked out in spooky displays, courtesy of Kevin McCurdy’s Haunted Mansion — on October 31. Guests nosh on barbecue from Handsome Devil BBQ, compete for $1,000 in the always-wild costume contests, and rock out to the deejays and live music by local band Breaking Crazy. Across the river, Mix97 presents its first annual Headless Bangers Costume Ball at Newburgh’s Motorcylepedia Museum. Dress up in your most creative costume for a chance to win cash prizes. There will be live rock bands, a cash bar, food, a photo booth, and Halloween-themed vendors offering psychic readings, Halloween treats, jewelry, leather clothing, and more.