ABOVE PHOTO: Great Pocono Pumpkin Festival.
By Renée Gordon
“From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!”
–Traditional Scottish Prayer
When I was a child one of the most anticipated times of the year was Halloween. We cared little about its origins, our major concerns were what we would dress up as and how much candy we could accrue before our parents grew weary and hauled us home.
The list of costume options was either short or I seriously lacked imagination because I only remember being an Indian princess, a fairytale princess and Heidi. All of these characterizations required headgear that would never stay attached to the mandatory hairstyle. My fondest memory is of the kiddie grapevine that magically materialized October 31st. As you encountered your friends you gave a quick candy count, told them the streets you worked and, most importantly, traded lists of which houses yielded the best treats.
Then there were a limited number of haunted houses to visit, organized parties and perhaps a few horror movies at neighborhood theaters. My how times have changed. This fall event now brings in millions of dollars in candy, party supply and costume sales. It has also become an opportunity to experience familiar destinations in a different, and exciting, way and make new memories. I have compiled a list of nearby destinations with unique family offerings that reflect the season all within 100 miles of Philadelphia. Websites are included so please check for times and prices. Have fun and beware of things that go bump in the night!
You can always depend on the Lehigh Valley for adventure. “Autumn Adventures & Frightening Frolics” is a promotion that extends through October 31st. It includes coupons, giveaways and discount admission to festivals and ghost tours. www.LehighValleyFall.com and www.DiscoverLehighValley.com
The Mountain Harvest Festival at Blue Mountain Ski Area takes place on weekends in October. The two mile “Amazing Maize Corn Maze,” replicates the original, 46-mile, Lehigh Canal. Other activities include a hayride to the pumpkin patch and inflatable amusements. This is old-fashioned, family-oriented, Halloween fun. www.BlueMountainHarvestFestival.com.
For five weekends beginning September 28th visitors can experience Terror on the Mountain. Zombies have broken through to Blue Mountain and you are certain to encounter them on the Haunted Hayride or at the Haunted Lodge. A zombie butcher shop is a “highlight” of the terror. This attraction opens at 7 PM in the evening. www.terroronthemountain
Lehighton, PA is the home of the Great Pocono Pumpkin Festival, a series of events including pumpkin chuckin, a scarecrow contest, the Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel, unlimited hayrides, vendors, etc. One of the most amazing things is the $8.00 admission fee. The festival runs from September 28th until October 28th. www.countryjunction.com
It seems no one is immune to Halloween happenings and there are even hauntings at Dutch Wonderland weekends from October 13-28th. Family-oriented treats such as magic shows and themed rides are available. www.dutchwonderland.com
Lancaster, PA’s Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum celebrates fall with a series of events including Harvest Days on October 13-14. The activities are family-oriented and are designed to highlight Pennsylvania German traditions including wagon rides, demonstrations and pick-your-own pumpkin. This living history farm village was the film site of some scenes in both the Color Purple and Beloved. www.landisvalleymuseum.org
Halloween Daze and Spooky Knights takes place at the Renaissance Faire three weekends in October, 13th-28th. There will be shows, trick or treating, treasure hunts, entertainment, children and adult costume contests and loads of medieval All Hallows Eve fun. www.parenfaire.com
In 2011 SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” filmed a Christmas special in Bethlehem’s 1758 Sun Inn and Hanoverville Roadhouse, just one of the area’s historic American locations. A “Stay and Investigate” package has been created to allow visitors to spend the night in area accommodations and participate in paranormal investigations based on hauntings and ghost stories. For a list of participating venues and a video visit the websites. www.Lehighvalleyhaunt.com and
Bucks County has scheduled a series of eerie activities designed to delight and excite you. www.visitbuckscounty.com .
Sesame Place’s “Spooktacular” allows you to join the Sesame Street characters on a not too scary Halloween jaunt that encompasses the Count’s UN-Haunted Castle Maze, costume contests, Howl-O-Ween Radio Show and the Neighborhood Street Party. September 29th-October 31st. www.sesameplace.com
Peddler’s Village Scarecrow Competition and Display features larger than life scarecrows from September 10th -October 28th. You can also shop in the 42-acre, 18th-century, shopping village. www.peddlersvillage.com
Take a pedestrian Ghost Tour of New Hope and a ride aboard the New Hope and Ivyland’s Haunted Train or Trick or Treat Train. The lantern-led walking tour shares tales like the phantom hitchhiker as well as stories based on historic characters. www.newhopepennsylvania.com
Historic Fallsington is one of PA’s best-kept secrets but the secret will be out on October 13th, Historic Fallsington Day, and on October 28th with Spirits of the Past Tours. Jugglers, folksingers, puppeteers and craftsmen will help celebrate Fallsington Day. Tours on the 28th will feature ghostly tales and haunted happenings related by lantern light. www.historicfallsington.org
One of the most interesting exhibits a family can take in this season is “Let the Spirit Move You: Ouija® Baltimore’s Mystifying Oracle” on view in Baltimore’s Museum of Science and Industry until January 27, 2013. The Fuld family manufactured boards in the city from 1890-1966, during the time period when it was considered family entertainment. This thoroughly entertaining exhibit showcases Ouija Boards and related-artifacts belonging to collectors and historians, many of which have never been displayed before. www.thebmi.org
In case you didn’t receive the memo, some people believe that according to the Mayan calendar the world will come to an abrupt end in December of 2012. The Penn Museum’s current exhibit, “Maya 2012: Lords of Time,” explores the predictions and the realities of Mayan culture. This September they are launching a series of programs to enhance and expand people’s understanding of the exhibition and the cultural impact of such predictions. Programing includes lectures, an “End of Time” symposium, an “End-of-the-World Countdown” Party and an Apocalypse Film Series that opens on September 26th with Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
On Wed., October 24th there will be a double feature Shaun of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead. Additionally there will be a session on how to combat zombies, a mandatory apocalyptic skill and a zombie costume contest. See if you can tell the real zombies from the impersonators.
Activities are scheduled through January 2013 so survivors will have something to do beside foraging for supplies. 215.898.2680 or www.penn.museum
New York City’s boutique Sanctuary Hotel, recipient of the 2011 International Hotel of the Year, has crafted a really eclectic and unique Haunted Hotel Package. The package is complete with breakfast buffet, a basket of treats from Dylan’s Candy Bar, a screening of a classic horror film in the lobby with popcorn and candy on October 31st and a city tour of haunted places and mobster crime scenes in a hearse. This very special package is only available online and runs from October 29th-November 4th. sanctuaryhotelnyc.com
After a month of gasps you probably need a few giggles and you are right in time for the Second Annual Comedy Week, November 5-11 and the ninth annual New York Comedy Festival, November 7–11. New York City is considered the Comedy Capitol of the US and the funniest, cutting-edge comedians take part in this annual festival. More than 175 comedians perform at venues throughout the city including the Apollo and Madison Square Garden. Access a list of performances at www.nycomedyfestival.com. Comedy Week information is available at www.nycgo.com/comedy.
I wish you smooth travels!
It is time to purchase an updated version of “Drive I-95.” This handy book lists restaurants, sites, attractions and history by exit from Maine to Florida. 888-GUIDE95 or www.driveI95.com