Most grown-ups remember a time when Halloween was a one-night affair. Nowadays, the spooky season stretches from mid-September through October, much to the delight of boos and ghouls of all ages. Throughout the lead-up to Halloween, theme parks are pulling out the stops with special evening events, ranging from gentle hayrides for small fries to jump-out-of-your-skin scare zones for teens. Keep in mind that everything seems scarier in the dark, so choose wisely with your children’s ages and sensibilities in mind. Here are some of the many Halloween events going on at theme parks around the country:
Sesame Place: Langhorne, Pa.
When: Weekends only, September 26 to October 31
What to expect: Little ones can go trick-or-treating in their costumes, take a hayride, walk through Count von Count’s castle, see the “Countdown to Halloween” musical show featuring their favorite characters, and more.Best for: 2 to 10
Idlewild: Ligonier, Pa.
When: Weekends only, September 26 to October 25What to expect: This gentlest intro to Halloween includes trick-or-treating through Storybook Forest, meeting Ricky Raccoon and other characters, specially themed rides and attractions, games and a walk-through maze, favorite fall foods. Best for: 2 to 8
Wild Adventures: Valdosta, Ga.
When: Weekends only, October 3-31What to expect: Children can trick or treat in the park, explore a kooky maze created out of hay bales, hop on the sing-a-long train ride, boogie in their costumes at the Monster Mash Dance Party, and stop at craft stations to create take-home souvenirs. Best for: 2 to 8
Disneyland: Anaheim, Calif.
When: Select dates, October 2-31What to expect: The frightfully fun evening includes meeting with Disney characters at treat stations, doing arts and crafts, going on rides, and enjoying live entertainment. Best for: 3 to 8
LEGOLAND: Carlsbad, Calif.
When: Weekends only, October 3-31What to expect: Festivities include trick-or-treating on the kid-sized Brick-or-Treat Trail, entertainment from “the Boo Crew” and a costume contest with prizes for the winners in three themed categories. A free souvenir bag includes collectible commemorative LEGO bricks and other surprises. Best for: 3 to 10
Kings Island: Cincinnati, Ohio
When: Weekends only, noon-5:30 p.m., September 27 to November 1What to expect: This afternoon G-rated event is expanding in its second year to offer more family-friendly fare, including a giant indoor maze, petting zoo, mask painting, trick-or-treating and a kids-only dance party. Best for: 3 to 9
Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney World, Fla.
When: September 4 to November 1What to expect: Arrive in costume for trick-or-treating with your favorite Disney characters (they’ll be wearing their Halloween outfits, too), and don’t miss the expanded Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade, featuring the “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks spectacular. Best for: 3 to 11
Hersheypark: Hershey, Pa.
When: Weekends only, October 16 to November 1What to expect: It’s off to Hersheypark for exciting rides, entertainment, favorite fall foods, and storytelling. Best for: 4 to 12
Screams Halloween Theme Park: Waxahachie, Texas
When: Friday and Saturday nights, October 2 to 31What to expect: Billed as “The World’s Largest Halloween Theme Park,” this Dallas-area park delivers five haunted attractions including a maze of the macabre, ghoulish graveyard, and trail of terror. For younger kids, Spooky Hollow children’s area has games, rides, face painters and fortune tellers. Best for: 7 to 14
Six Flags Theme Parks: Nationwide
When: Weekends in OctoberWhat to expect: The entire park is transformed with creepy scenes and scare-actors that lurk in the shadows. Rides are spookier thanks to special effects in the darkness. Best for: 12 and up
Universal Orlando Resort: Orlando, Fla.
When: Select dates, September 25 to October 31What to expect: Now in its 17th year, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is promising to be the most frightening ever, with eight—count ’em, eight—chilling haunted houses, six scare zones with no escape, and a host of demented fiends such as The Storyteller, Jack the Clown, and The Caretaker. Best for: 16 and up
Universal Studios: Universal City, Calif.
When: Select dates, October 2 to 31What to expect: Haunted walk-through attractions, roaming scare-actors, and nightmare-inducing rides, shows and attractions. Heed the warning: “No kids, no costumes, no wusses.” Best for: 16 and up
Kings Island: Cincinnati, Ohio
When: Thursday to Sunday nights, 7 p.m.-1 a.m., September 25 to October 31What to expect: Billed as “the most immersive horror experience in the Midwest,” this after-dark attraction features 500 ghostly creatures and 13 haunted attractions, including the blood-filled slaughter house, a pirate-themed “Cut Throat Cove” maze, and a vampire-populated stage show. There’s nowhere to hide, with “roamers and creepers” jumping out from the dark recesses of the park. Best for: 16 and up
Knott’s Berry Farm: Buena Park, Calif.
When: Select dates, September 24 to October 31What to expect: Now in its 37th year, this 160-acre living horror movie is filled with 12 chilling mazes, six hair-raising shows, three horrific scare zones, and a cast of a thousand monsters roaming for their next victim. This one is for grown-ups, folks. Best for: 16 and up
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