If you’re the type who starts a Halloween countdown the second you feel a cool autumn breeze, you’re going to want to make your holiday plans in New York State. From the seriously scary haunted houses to Jack O’Lantern wonderlands, choose the right level of fright for you (none at all is an option!). Read on and find something fun that will get you into the holiday spirit—no tricks, all treats!
Masks are encouraged, but optional in most settings per New York State guidelines. Individual businesses or attractions may require mask wearing. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available.
1. New York has horrifically exciting haunted houses
If you’re a person who enjoys being frightened, we know just where to go. Head to the 65-acre Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in the Hudson Valley and put your scare tolerance to the test. Explore six different haunted houses, each with its own backstory and unique characters, such as a motel, a greenhouse, a tomb, a slaughterhouse/diner (good luck enjoying your next burger), and two dilapidated mansions. You can also go on a cemetery walk, dare to enter a swamp shack, try to survive the four-acre corn maze (also haunted, of course), and enjoy a totally creepy circus sideshow. Normally, these attractions are no place for kids but on Saturday, October 8 and 22, the manor holds Children’s Days with only “a tiny taste of terror.” The day includes a Magic Moon Maze, Dino Zone, a Halloween house, and entertainment.
2. New York is packed with history—and lots of ghosts
Credit: Haunted History Trail of New York State
What’s one of the best parts of being a really, really old state? All the ghosts we’ve accumulated over time! Okay, that’s a bit macabre, but New York is basically heaven for anyone who loves history, ghosts, and historical ghosts. You can take advantage of that thanks to the Haunted History Trail of New York State. Many different locations and events, each creepier than the next, are awaiting your discovery. Check out ghost hunts, cemetery tours, haunted hotels, and more. You can research the background of all the participating locations on the website, just remember to plan ahead. Certain events book up faster than you can say boo!
3. Long Island Jack O' Lantern Blaze is back!
This extremely popular Halloween event features more than 7,000 hand-carved jack o'lanterns illuminating the night! The Old Bethpage Village Restoration returns as host in 2022 and will allow Long Islanders to walk through the artfully arranged and decorated pumpkins. In the Hudson Valley, keep an eye out for new glowing bees at The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor.
4. New York pumpkins make the perfect blank canvas
Now that you’re inspired, head on over to Pumpkinville in Great Valley to select your Jack O’Lantern-to-be! Not only is pumpkin-picking super fun, but when you get to choose from literally thousands of options, your imagination is free to roam wild. It’s almost like cloud-gazing—one pumpkin might look like Frankenstein, another might look like a minion, or even a brain-eating zombie (pumpkin innards make for a great brain-like effect). Pumpkinville also has ten varieties of winter squash for sale and you can use a wheelbarrow so you can dream big. This popular festival also has a beer garden, farm animals, cider, farm fresh treats, and baked goodies.
5. Even the nature in New York gets sinister
Ready to face your fear of heights AND zombies? Mountain Ridge Adventure in Schenectady has an extra special way to get into the scaring spirit with its Zombie Zip. It starts with a tour of the grounds led by a corpse—beware, the woods are filled with (fake) serial killers. Once you’re strapped in, you’ll be zipping through the trees in complete darkness, left to the mercy of roaming zombies hungry for your brain! This is not for young children or the faint of heart, ages 14 and up only.
6. New York animals are ferocious—but also really cute
Let’s ease up from the extreme fright for a moment, because Halloween is not just about giving yourself the heebie-jeebies. It’s also about funny costumes and eating massive amounts of candy! Mix things up this year by heading at the annual Halloweekend at the campus of Ross Park at the Ross Park Zoo and The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier in Binghamton, where kids and parents can celebrate Halloween along with all animals. The park will be dressed up with fall and Halloween decorations, and will feature a scavenger hunt for kids around the zoo and the Discovery Center, along with crafts, a DJ, a bounce house, a costume contest, pumpkin painting, and more.
7. In fact, Halloween was made for New York dogs in costumes
Credit: Fort Greene PUPS
Turning the “cute” dial ALL the way up, get into the festive mood at the 24th Annual Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest! Organized by PUPS, the Fort Greene Park Users and Pets Society, the contest will be judged by an online audience, and prizes will be awarded to a number of winners. Hundreds of costumed pooches will also delight crowds at the Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade on October 22.
8. New York is the pump-king of fun
Half an hour outside of Buffalo, the Great Pumpkin Farm isn’t a Halloween-exclusive attraction, but it is a perfect place to celebrate. Not only do they sell pumpkins and fresh-baked pumpkin and apple pies, they also offer a ton of fun and unusual activities that will get the family having a blast outside in the crisp autumn weather. Conquer the corn or hay mazes as a team, make some festive fall crafts, or try your hand at the apple cannons.
9. In New York, the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down
Movies like The Shining and the 2010 slasher flick The Maze certainly reflect the fact that there is something creepy about mazes. And trying to solve a maze in the dark? Even better! Long Acre Farms in the Finger Lakes offers an incredible, intricate Moonlight Maze open for exploring on Friday nights in October. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, but it’s okay if you’re not looking to be scared silly; there won’t be anything jumping out at you. Just bring a flashlight and your wits about you!
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