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!
Note: General information about the Blaze is included in this article. For COVID-19 restrictions applicable during the 2020 event, check the Historic Hudson Valley website. During my visit, all of the guests and workers wore masks and social distancing of 10′ was recommended.
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton, NY, is THE Halloween event in NY’s Hudson Valley. 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.
Ticket Info for the 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 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.
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.
By Car or By 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.
Food Options in the Area
If you want something more substantial, there are a number of restaurants in and around Croton, including pizzarias, 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.
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!