Replete with frights, thrills and folklore, Westchester County is the kind of Halloween destination that legends are made of. Where ghost stories abound and jack-o’-lanterns light the way to the very real village of Sleepy Hollow, this region comes alive in the twilight of the year.
Here are eight of the county’s most spellbinding autumn experiences.
See the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor
From the storybook village of Croton-on-Hudson, a dazzling spectacle of more than 7,000 glowing pumpkins come to the grounds of the historic Van Cortlandt Manor each year. The pumpkins on display aren’t just any old jack o’ lanterns either – they’re hand-carved on site by a team of artists with themes such as the New York City skyline and the ocean. An original soundtrack and synchronized lights round out the Halloween fun.
Every year, tickets for the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze sell like hotcakes. Snag a spot if you can. It’s the perfect family-friendly Halloween destination, sure to wow friends and family of all ages.
Take a Walk in the Woods
“Hansel and Gretel.” “Little Red Riding Hood.” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” So many old fairy tales take place in the woods. Now you can get your spook on with a foliage-filled amble through the twists and turns of the Colonial Greenway, Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway or Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Let your imagination run wild as you crunch the leaves, feel the cool breeze on your skin and hear the whistle of a ghostly breeze through the trees.
Spend a Night in Sleepy Hollow
A trip to Westchester isn’t complete without a stop in Sleepy Hollow. But this is especially true in October when the ghost of Washington Irving stirs up old legends and lore.
In this enchanted New York village, you can explore the Old Dutch Church, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse and the Headless Horseman Bridge.
And there’s no better time to visit Washington Irving’s historic home, Sunnyside. Every Friday through Sunday in October, visitors have the chance to see “Irving’s Legend,” a dramatic outdoor performance by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk, complete with live music by Jim Keyes. Keep your eyes peeled for the Headless Horseman – though decapitated around Halloween of 1776, there are rumors that he still makes an appearance.
Once you’ve been thoroughly spooked, retreat to the warm glow of Castle Hotel and Spa. You’ll feel like you’ve ascended into a gothic fairy tale for the night.
Get Spooked by Mentalist & Magician Ken Salaz
You’ll get chills as celebrity magician Ken Salaz plucks information from your mind, makes you doubt your own eyes and satisfies your taste for the supernatural.
But there’s more beyond the walls of the performance. Salaz’s world-class events will take place within the walls of Lyndhurst, a Gothic revival mansion planted on the banks of the Hudson. Lyndhurst landed on USA Today’s “10 Best Historic Home Tours” for a reason. Fall under its spell as you get a peek at its 67 perfectly manicured acres in the chilly October air. From Sept. 27-Oct. 31 visitors are invited to explore spooky displays in and outside of the mansion.
Note: Ken Salaz’s performances are not appropriate for children younger than 12.
Some Halloween experiences are too chilling for the youngest members of the family, but you can depend on local farms like Stuart’s Fruit Farm for family-friendly seasonal activities like apple picking, pumpkin picking and hayrides.
Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard, the oldest orchard in Westchester County, has also become a popular place for families to return and make new memories each fall.
For a laidback day filled with u-pick fruits, fresh apple cider and apple cider donuts, head to Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm. Shop their market and gift shop or take on the massive corn maze. Then, wind down in the tasting room at Wilkens’ White Hill Vineyard, located on-site.
Myths and Mysteries Tour
The Armour-Stiner (Octagon) House is an architectural marvel near Sleepy Hollow. Offered every Friday through Monday in October, the seasonal Myths and Mysteries Tour explores the house’s connections to the spirit world. What mystifying events have transpired within its walls? What stories can only be explained by spirits and magic?
Keep in mind that the one-hour tour is best suited for teens and adults because of its complex historical content. Also note that masks are required throughout the 2021 Halloween season.
Start planning your spooky trip to Westchester County today.