Grown-ups enjoy Halloween just as much as kids. And whether you get your kicks on tricks or treats, this All Hallows’ Eve, there are plenty of options beyond the annual Village Halloween Parade or requisite office costume contest. From ghastly ghost and witch tours to thrilling amusement park rides and horror-filled haunted houses, here are a few frightening festivities and attractions just a short drive from New York City.
The legend of Sleepy Hollow
Hudson Valley is Headless Horseman country, and superstition has it that Washington Irving’s sinister character still prowls the woods at night. To get in the spirit, on weekend mornings in October hear about the legend behind the “Legend” in a tour of Sunnyside — Irving’s historic home — where guests are frightened and delighted with ghost stories and magic and puppet shows (adults $14, children 3-17 $8 online; 3 W. Sunnyside Lane, Tarrytown, 914-631-8200), while the grounds of nearby Phillipsburg Manor is the perfect evening setting for Horseman’s Hollow, a walking trail through a town terrorized by the Headless Horseman so scary that it’s not suitable for small children or the faint at heart ($20-$25; 100 Continental St. Sleepy Hollow, 914-366-6900).
If you dare, you can also visit the Headless Horseman
Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, a mile-long theatrical hayride journey not recommended for children under age 10 (adults $25-$45.95, children 10-15, $11-$13; 778 Broadway, Route 9W, 845-339-2666). For a less spooky fright night, opt for the popular The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, an illuminated, lantern-lit walk-through display of more than 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins and eerie sound effects (adults $20, children 3-17 $16-$20; 525 S. Riverside, 914-366-6900).
Double, double, toil and trouble
A stop in Salem, Massachusetts, is a must on your Halloween travel agenda. Infamous for the Salem Witch Trials, the seafaring town's month-long Halloween celebration features parades, costume events and horror movie nights, as well as macabre museums like The House of the Seven Gables (115 Derby St., 978-744-0991) that are open year-round and become particularly bewitching during the Halloween season. With a Grave Hopper pass ($14 for adults, $8 for children), you gain entrance to two top attractions for the price of one: Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery (285 Derby St., 978-740-0500), Salem's only monster museum, and Gallows Hill, The Witchcraft & Ghost Experience (7 Lynde St., 978-825-0222).
Where orange really is the new black
If you like to be scared straight, then Terror Behind the Walls, America's largest haunted house located inside the massive, castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is right up your alley (adults $14, children $10; 2027 Fairmount Ave., 215-236-3300). Formerly the most famous and expensive prison in the world, though Nov. 8 this abandoned and crumbling gothic landmark is the setting for this terrifying, Hollywood-caliber theatrical production that includes hundreds of actors and six long attractions. Brave souls who opt for a close encounter may be grabbed, sent into hidden passageways, removed from their group, or even incorporated into the show.
Go batty in upstate New York
Although it's known as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown also has a haunted past. On the "Things That Go Bump In The Night" tour at the Farmers' Museum ($10 ages 3 and up; 5775 State Highway 80, 607-547-1452), museum guides will lead you around the shadowy grounds of the 19th-century village and recount ghost stories and mysterious happenings, some adapted from the Louis C. Jones "Things That Go Bump in the Night," a classic record of paranormal history in New York State. And if you crave a real haunted house experience, book a room at the nearby 105-year-old Otesaga Resort Hotel (60 Lake St., 607-547-9931), a former all-girls school that became a hotel in 1909. As seen on SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters," guests and staff have reported hearing voices and children playing in the halls when no one is around and apparitions have been spotted in different areas of the hotel.
A sweet Halloween getaway
Let your little pirate or princess roam free at Hersheypark, dubbed "the sweetest place on earth" ($23-$34 for one-day admission tickets; 100 W. Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, Pennsylvania, 800-437-7439). From Oct. 17-Nov. 2, the park's seasonal attraction, Hersheypark In The Dark, offers thriller "roller ghosters," spooky attractions and good-natured holiday-themed entertainment. Kids 12 and younger will also enjoy Hershey's Trick-or-Treat Adventure, starting at Hershey's Chocolate World and continuing into Treatville, the park's hometown village of sweets and treats. Plus, the entire clan can ride a free Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour, which depicts through sight, sound and smell how Hershey's famous chocolate is made.