What has thousands of jack o’lanterns, a haunted house and enough Halloween fun to light up the whole family? The annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton is worth the trip from New York City and, once you go, you’ll definitely add it to your annual must-do list! Here’s what you need to know and what’s new for 2021.
Note: General information about the Blaze is included in this article. For COVID-19 restrictions applicable during the 2021 event, check the Historic Hudson Valley website.
Pumpkins Galore in the Hudson Valley!
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton, NY, is THE Halloween event in NY’s Hudson Valley and one of the most popular fall festivals in the country. Over 7,000 pumpkins are carved, stacked and lit up in different scenes. There are dragons and the Statue of Liberty and a working carousel! It’s rumored that the orange glow can be seen from space!
The event organizer, Historic Hudson Valley, engages an army of 1,000 volunteers to assemble the pumpkins on the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, a post-Revolutionary War estate. The site’s manor and ferry houses are spooky sets for the pumpkins in the dark. Contributing to the eerie atmosphere is the piped in soundtrack.
In 2021, Long Islanders won’t have to trek north to feed their craving for pumpkins. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze will be staged at a second location this year – the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
Ticket Info for the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
Purchase your tickets to the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in advance on the event website. Admission times begin at sundown and continue in 1/2 hour blocks. The final entry time is 9:00. The organizers offered a FLEX ticket option in 2021, permitting to ticket holders to attend any day or time session, even those that were sold out. The FLEX ticket also included a complimentary snack and drink of choice. However, the FLEX tickets sold out immediately. Next year, I’ll definitely try this option. Or at least I hope I’ll be on top of my pumpkin game.
The Blaze is a rain or shine event. So, you can buy your tickets well in advance and hope the weather’s nice. Or, wait to see the forecast and then take a chance that tickets will still be available online. No tickets are sold on site at either the Hudson Valley or Long Island locations.
I’ve gone in the rain, the bitter cold and on perfect Indian summer evenings. It’s definitely better when the weather’s good and tickets are almost always available at the last minute for later, mid-week sessions.
Guests attending the Blaze file in a one-way loop through the exhibits. I’ve always found that the crowd moves fairly quickly.
The event is very popular and dates in and around Halloween sell out quickly. The Blaze runs from late September until early November, though, so there are plenty of sessions available. The Croton Blaze is open 7 days a week most of the season. However, the Long Island Blaze is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Getting to the Blaze by Car or Train
Parking for the Blaze is free. Have your tickets available when you approach the parking attendants. They’ll check your admission time before they let you park. Don’t bother arriving too early; there’s not enough to do prior to entering the event to keep little ones entertained.
I prefer to go through the Blaze first and then consider food, bevvies and souvenirs.
The Blaze is a quick, well-lit walk from the Metro North train station in Croton. The trip to Croton from Grand Central takes about 45 minutes.
Cider, Hot Cocoa and … BEER!
If you attend a late night session, you might want to cap off your Blaze experience with a warm beverage. Hot apple cider and cocoa are available. And (drumroll) the Hudson Valley’s largest craft brewery, Captain Lawrence, is a featured vendor.
Restaurants near the Blaze
If you want something more substantial, there are a number of restaurants in and around Croton, including pizzerias, diners and fine dining spots. As mentioned, the Blaze is popular. Make a reservation at sit-down spots well in advance and give yourself enough time to eat and get to the Blaze for your ticketed admission time.
My top suggestion for pre-Blaze dining is DD’s Diner. It’s a bright, cheery spot right on Route 9A just south of the exit for the Blaze. The food’s reliably good and the service is efficient. Want something a little extra? The Tavern has a small interior but added a large outdoor patio in 2021. I expect they’ll have heaters for the fall. I’d eat here post-Blaze so you can linger over a drink (or two!) and not feel stressed about getting to the Blaze for your entry time.
There’s a large tent with souvenirs at the Blaze. Pick up a pumpkin Christmas ornament so you can remember the trip each year. There are also copies of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You can tour Washington Irving’s mansion, Sunnyside, in nearby Irvington. Or, head to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the fictional site of Ichabod Crane’s wild flight from the Headless Horseman!