Top Halloween Happenings
Hayrides, spooky soirees, historical frights and top haunted houses
Thrill-seeking families, couples and friends continue their Halloween excursion with the hayrides, parties, festivals—and more haunted houses, of course—that transform one of the country’s most historic regions into a Halloween destination sure to scare, surprise and entertain.
From devilish dance parties and peculiar pumpkin patches to eerie explorations through some of the region’s most historic sites, there’s something spooky and spectacular for the whole family this Halloween. Here’s a look at what lies ahead:
Terrifying Tours & Haunted Houses
Dates: September 21 – November 10 (select nights)
Unnerving any time of year, the nation’s first prison becomes downright horrifying every fall as it transforms into Terror Behind the Walls, rated the “#1 Haunted House in America” by AOL City Guide. Hollywood-quality sets, 200 actors, custom-designed props, animatronics and digital sound effects fill the abandoned—and reportedly haunted—Eastern State Penitentiary, a National Historic Landmark, for more than a month of terrifying tours. The fright is heightened at the very beginning and end of tours thanks to “The Gauntlet” and “Breakout,” two new attractions for 2011. True fear-seekers can take scary to the next level during the ESP After Dark VIP Tour, which includes a rare view of the cell blocks at night, followed by Terror Behind the Walls.
Dates: September 28 – November 3 (select nights)
Bucks County’s spookiest ghouls and goblins surprise and startle those who dare to ride the Original Haunted Hayride deep into the woods, sneak around two terrifying haunted houses and walk the dark maze of Scary Tales Haunted Forest Walk, with moonlight as the only guide
Dates: September 28 – November 4 (select nights)
There’s no escaping the fear at the horrifically haunted Bates Motel at Arasapha Farm, rated one of America’s scariest haunts by Hauntworld Magazine, USA Today and the Travel Channel. If the mayhem and terror inside aren’t enough, a heart-pounding hayride and haunted corn maze with lurking zombies and creatures will do the trick.
Dates: October 26-27
The centuries-old Keith House in historic Graeme Park is said to be haunted by the ghost of Elizabeth, Dr. Graeme’s youngest daughter who was forced to sell the park after a slew of tragedies in her life. During this year’s chilling Haunted Moonlight Tours of the Keith House, where the past comes back to haunt the present within the cold stone walls, fear-seekers can experience the true spirit of the season.
Dates: October 26-27, 30
Meet some restless spirits during the Halloween Flashlight Tours, where you’ll wind through a maze of gravestones and sculptures scattered throughout the elaborate Victorian-era cemetery.
The 75-minute Spirits of ‘76 Ghost Tour winds walkers down a spine-chilling path of cobblestone streets to visit Historic Philadelphia’s 20 most haunted attractions such as Carpenters’ Hall, Old Pine Street Church and Cemetery and the Benjamin Rush House.
When night falls, the secrets of America’s most historic and most supernatural city are revealed in the shadows on The Ghost Tour of Philadelphia, a candlelight walk through Independence National Historical Park and Society Hill.
Ninety minutes on a Victorian-style, narrated trolley ride is all it takes to unearth the undead secrets of the city. On the Haunted Trolley Tour, passengers visit close to 20 locations around the city and stop off at three particularly peculiar sites.
Dates: October 13, 19, and 26
Historic Germantown in conjunction with the Museum of the Macabre present Ghosts of the Great Road on October 13, 19 and 26. These interactive, walking ghost tours explore the allegedly haunted cultural sites on the streets of Germantown. You can be a part of the real, live paranormal investigation and get a slice of history from the historically-dressed guide. On October 26, don’t miss the special Halloween version called Colonial Compound, named after one of Philadelphia’s most haunted neighborhoods, beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. at Upsala Mansion.
Dates: October 27
The Frankford CDC wants you to embark on a walking tour of the haunted halls of Frankford’s historic buildings on Saturday, October 27. Park at Frankford Friends Meeting House at 4 p.m. and enjoy refreshments before and after the horrifying history lesson — they promise it’s going to be even better than last year.
Frightening Festivals & Fun-Size Treats
Dates: September 10 – October 28
Visitors to Peddler’s Village gain a whole new appreciation for hay when they check out the larger-than-life scarecrows at the 33rd annual Scarecrow Competition and Display, where crafty contestants compete for cash prizes (September 5 – October 30). During the Scarecrow Festival, amateurs show off their own creative talents while enjoying live entertainment, pumpkin painting and pie-eating contests (September 17-18).
Dates: September 8 – November 4
Things go bump in the day and night at Linvilla Orchards, and ghoulish family-friendly activities abound. During the Pumpkinland Harvest Festival, pick-your-own apples and pumpkins and pie-eating contests comprise the treats, while a jack-o’-lantern exhibit, an annual costume parade for little visitors, face painting, music and pony rides make up the tricks (September 10 – November 6). In the evening, bonfires, marshmallow roasting and apple cider follow the Autumn Moon Hayrides while treats and storytelling fill the Hayrides to the Witches’ House, where only friendly witches live (September 30 – October 2, 7-9 14-30).
Dates: Weekends through October 30
Sesame Place gets even more fun during The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular, when costumed kids trick-or-treat throughout the park, catch special Halloween-themed shows, wind through an interactive maze and enjoy hayrides and story time with the Sesame Street gang (weekends, September 24 – October 30). For even more of the Halloween-loving character, families can sign up for The Count’s Dine With Me dinner party, including a buffet, character appearances and sing-alongs (October 8-9, 29-30).
Dates: Weekends in October
The perfectly picturesque Franklin Square gets an overhaul when the 18-hole golf course transforms into Spooky Mini Golf, with eerie lights, music and surprises at dusk (every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October). Pumpkin picking and decorating (October 22-23), the Trick-Or-Treat Trail (October 29-30) and train rides on the Lightning Bolt Express (October 15-16, 22-23, 29-30) round out the seasonal action. Plus the ticketed PumpkinFest fundraiser (October 29) includes pumpkin and face painting, cupcake decorating, a costume parade, spooky carnival games and more
Dates: September 17 – November 1
Longwood Gardens’ Pumpkin Playground gives young visitors the chance to play with—and in and on—pumpkins and gourds inside the Idea Garden. Nearby, the Curious Cucurbits display showcases unusual pumpkins and gourds in a wide range of shapes, colors and sizes.
Dates: October 6-21
The Morris Arboretum gets spooky this Halloween season when more than 30 designer scarecrows, all in the running to be voted Scarecrow King or Queen by visitors, line Oak Allée for the Scarecrow Walk.
Dates: October 19-21, 26-28, November 2-4
During Hersheypark in the Dark, thrill-seekers hop on roller-ghosters—all renamed for the season—under the dark cloak of night. Spooktacular attractions, glowing pumpkins and live entertainment await, and sweet adventures for younger visitors include trick-or-treating in Hersheypark’s village of treats.
Dates: October 20-21, 27-28
The Philadelphia Zoo invites the whole family to Boo at the Zoo, a masquerade party and wild trick-or-treat adventure around the cages and tanks. Games, crafts, music and storytelling add to the festivities.
Dates: October 25-27
Local artists take on a patch of monster-sized pumpkins at The Great Pumpkin Carve as they carve and decorate the giant gourds into massive masterpieces. Along with live music, food and hayrides, the displays create a spooky-fun atmosphere.
Date: October 29
A bewitching afternoon tea party awaits costumed little ones at the Radnor Hotel’s Howl-i-day Tea, which also includes arts and crafts, storytelling and special character appearances between sips.
Dates: October 27-28
The 42st annual Thomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta lands just before Halloween this year, and the elite rowing competition embraces the holiday with rowers in masks, family-friendly activities, food and music.
Date: October 29
Little ghosts and witches get a real treat at the annual Rittenhouse Row Halloween Celebration, featuring trick-or-treating at participating restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as activity stations dotting the route.
Monster Bashes & Spooky Shows
Date: September 24
Donning their best zombie attire, the undead dance the night away at the Trocadero to the sounds of live horror-themed rock and DJ-spun music at the Philly Zombie Prom. Partygoers can expect to look their worst with the help of on-site makeup artists, and then pose for their prom photos.
Date: October 26
Dressed-up party people dance to live DJ music at the Society Hill Dance Academy’s yearly Halloween Party. The bring-your-own-bottle soiree includes costume contests, games and a putrid potluck with all sorts of gross-enough-to-eat goodies (sautéed brains, anyone?), plus a Thriller dance lesson.
Date: October 27
Spirit of Philadelphia is holding its annual “Boo Moonlight Cruise” the Saturday before Halloween. This late-night cruise on the Delaware River features “spooktacular” nighttime views of Philly, plus a costume contest, DJ and dancing, and a light buffet of Philly pub-fare favorites like cheese steaks, chicken wings and soft pretzels. Boarding starts at 11:30pm with the cruise from Midnight – 2:00am. Price: $39.90 per adult (must be 21 or older with valid ID). Click here or call (866) 455-3866 for reservations.
Date: October 27
The annual Halloween Party show at Hedgerow Theatre adds more fun to the performance of Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee with intermission treats and prizes awarded to audience members wearing the funniest, scariest, best couple and most creative costumes.
Date: October 29
After the kids get their daytime treats, grownups get their tricks and treats at Rittenhouse Row’s Whisper nightclub, where a Halloween masquerade ball includes costume contests, creepy cocktails and deadly dancing.
Henri David Ball
Date: October 31
For more than 40 years, party animals, celebrities and dignitaries have flocked to the annual Henri David Ball at the Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel for a night of costumed mirth. The host, eccentric owner of jewelry shop Halloween, promises to “pull out all the stops” and offers a discount for attendees who dress up.