Tis the season: as the calendar flips over to October, Halloween hoopla is in full swing. In some ways, Halloween hasn’t changed all that much in the last couple of decades. We still get dressed up in costumes and kids go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and collect gobs of candy. I may be dating myself, but when I was a kid in Westchester County, we also got orange Unicef boxes where we collected pennies at every house and brought them back to school the following day.
I can remember trying to juggle the candy bag (the number one item, of course) the Unicef box and whatever bits and pieces of the costume were coming undone as the night wore on. I always blamed the fact that my mother was British, and hence not as attached to this American holiday, (and please, I did not want to hear about Guy Fawkes Day) that I had to be stuffed into a winter coat underneath my costume almost every single year, while my friends seemed to mostly avoid this fate. I loved coming home, collapsing on the living room floor, and dumping the candy bag. Then the sorting began. The good stuff—Snickers, Bath Ruths, Kit Kats and Almond Joys—went into the premium pile and then the trading could commence.
The Halloween fun continued into adulthood; the holiday was huge in college. While I’ve always hated those nasty little candy corns (I’ll admit they are cute) I was proud when, during senior year, me and my roomies created a much-buzzed about Candy Corn martini.
My first experience at a haunted house was in elementary school. In this ill-fated adventure, I was completely terrified and lost one of my new sneakers (never to be recovered) scrambling out of the window behind my older sister. This left a bad taste in my mouth for “live” or walk-through” haunted houses. I was perfectly happy to go to Rye Playland and hop on the ride-on Flying Witch. This way, when I felt spooked, I could simply squeeze my eyes shut—and nobody knew the difference. (The renowned 1971 ride was recently sold and relocated to Niagara Amusement Park & Splash World in Niagara Falls.)
In the 1980s lots of amusement parks started offering special Halloween events. These days, huge Halloween attractions are big business—and big fun. The pressure is on to create new sideshows and attractions each year; for example, the recent rise of Halloween Escape Rooms. Some haunted attractions show movies or have bonfires, others focus just on scary rooms. Many have spooky actors wandering the premises. At most of them, tickets go fast, so make your plans soon.
And what’s scarier than going to a big haunted halloween show or attraction? Driving there! Take Amtrak to one of these infamous Halloween attraction in New York State. You’ll be scared silly, can stay overnight in a cozy lodging, and can safely relax on your way home. Happy Halloween travels.
Ulster Park, NY
14 miles from the Poughkeepsie Train Station (POU).
A 250-year-old farm in Ulster Park, NY is the perfect setting for the award-winning Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses. Get ready to walk—you’ll need at least two hours—to get through seven major haunted attractions, plus the haunted hayride. All along the way, live actors will interact with you to make sure you remain scared silly. New this year at one of the most popular haunted sights in the Hudson Valley, is “Death is the Only Cure.” (Here’s a brief description: Thriving on dead earth and rotting matter, the Crow’s Claw mushroom has quickly spread through these woods and into every corner of this once quiet town. Attracted to the airborne spores and growth of the Crow’s Claw erupting from his unholy resting place, the horseman’s body beckons him closer.)
You’ll also want to check into the creepy Lunar Motel or visit the Glutton’s Diner & Slaughter House, The Horseman’s Tomb Dark Harvest Corn Maze, Night Shade Nursery & Greenhouse, Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Circus Sideshow, The Feeding presents “The Pain Killer” Two Raven’s Manor, and Magic-illusion side show.
General Admission Dates: Sept. 30, Oct. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 27, 28, 29.
Buy online tickets here. $64.95. On-site tickets if available: $78.90
The Scream Pass: On busy nights you pay an extra $30 to bypass lines.
In general, this attraction is not recommended for children under the age of 13, but there are two Children’s Day—Oct. 7 & 21. Buy online tickets here. $21.95. On-site tickets if available: $29.95.
Headless Horseman Escape Rooms are a separate attraction. There are three rooms to choose from: Cypher’s Funeral Home, Ichabod’s Revenge, and Death Row. Room reservations are required; players must be in the same group of family or friends and requires a minimum of six players.
Buy online tickets here: $31.95.
29 miles from the Syracuse Station (SYR)
Now in its 11th year, Frightmare Farms Haunted Scream Park continues to upgrade its attractions. Last year they added a new gift shop and there is a midway area with campfires, concessions, and movie screenings to hang out at while you wait for your group to be called. The show is designed for groups of up to five people. (You can also snap photos with your friends, or just warm up by the fire and listen to the screams!)
But it’s the the four major attractions that bring in the return guests in Central New York. The Bog; Overgrowth: the Gourd Lords; the Reckoning: the return of Miriam Whitaker, and Frightmare Forest Haunted Hayride. The show is not recommended for children 8 and under.
Frightmare Farms will be open every Friday & Saturday in October, as well as Sunday, Oct. 8th, 22, & 29.
Buy online tickets here. General admission for all four attractions: $44; VIP Admission: $64; Choose just three attractions: $37; Choose two attractions: $30.
22 miles from the Albany-Rensselaer Station (ALB)
One of the capital region’s most popular Halloween attractions, Nightmares at Liberty Ridge Farm, has five major attractions: The Farmer’s Haunted House, Underground Tunnel, the Field of Screams, Forest of Fear, and 3-D McCobb Manor. While there you can check out the Psychic Sideshow, which aims to bring “the thrill and excitement of the carnival midway.” You can also stop by the Barnyard Grill for a selection of BBQ bites; the Sweet Shop serves up fried dough, cider slushes and more. For an additional price you can also book a 3-hour cabin rental where your group can hang out at the campfire or have food brought in.
Buy online tickets here. All five attractions for $29.95. (At the gate tickets are $34.95.)
22 Miles to Buffalo
Everhaunt Haunted House, a popular walk-through haunted theme park, has a major new attraction this year. The Delaware Creek Pumpkin Spectacular gives every guest a chance to find the key and be rewarded. Have fun and be freaked out by thousands of hand carved and unique pumpkins, giant talking characters, games, photo ops and more.
The Delaware Creek Estate & The Sort has also been updated for 2023 with new effects and new giant monsters. The Rosewood County Asylum & the Chambers also has some new twists and turns for guests. Escape from Frankenstein: a Virtual Reality Experience was the first of its kind in Western New York when it opened in 2021. The price is lowered to just $5 this year! Escape from Holland Road, a five-minute escape game, sells out quickly every year! Other attractions include the Scream Booth—take a haunted photo with your family and friends; the Awakening Public Library, and more.
Buy your online tickets here. Prices vary and there are special evenings for children, teachers and more. Everhaunt Total Terror VIP Fast Pass Ticket: $39.99; General Admission: $29.99.
2 miles from the Rome Station (ROM)
Now in its 23rd season, this walkthrough haunted house—the theme is a post-apocalypse—is found inside an industrial warehouse in Rome, NY. Cayo Industrial Horror Realm also has a walk-through maze and a one-room escape room. Devoted fans claim that Cayo has an incredibly talented cast of actors, with a favorite of the zombie bride in the church.
Tickets can only be purchased directly at the attraction. Cash only; there is an ATM on site. Children under 12 are not recommended.
Lake George, NY
22 miles from the Fort Edward-Glens Falls Station (FED)
While not technically a Halloween attraction, the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum, which is open much of the year, is a perfect place to visit come the fall. Located right on Lake George’s main strip, the wax museum is based on classic literature, with some scenes of violence. You will be walking be through a darkened environment. Fan favorites include The “Tourist Trap” and “Black Hole” are especially fun. Don’t forget to take your picture with Frankenstein before leaving.
Buy tickets on site. Adults: $13.08; students 13-17: $12.15; children 6-12: $8.41.