13 Spooktacular Halloween Events
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Village Halloween Parade: New York
A Big Apple tradition since 1974, the Village Halloween Parade claims the title of the country's largest public Halloween celebration. Each year, thousands of costumed marchers, more than 50 bands, hundreds of giant puppets and dozens of performers strut down a one-mile stretch of New York's Greenwich Village, dazzling more than 2 million spectators.
The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze: Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Each October, tens of thousands of visitors flock to Van Cortlandt Manor in New York's historic Hudson Valley to feast their eyes on more than 4,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack-o'-lanterns. Dozens of pumpkins are grouped together to create elaborate scenes: 10-foot dinosaurs, giant spider webs and an undersea aquarium, just to name a few. Sound effects and synchronized lighting complete the ethereal atmosphere.
Run for Your Lives: Darlington, Md.
Want to test your survival skills this Halloween? Then start training for Run for Your Lives, a 5K obstacle course pitting you against the undead. Participants crawl, climb, duck and dive through a variety of obstacles – all while dodging brain-hungry zombies trying to steal their health (represented by three flags). Those who make it to the finish line with at least one flag intact receive a medal to signify their survival. The first Run for Your Lives race was held outside Baltimore in October 2011, but in 2012, the event invaded 12 cities across North America, with dates ranging from September through December.
Dent Schoolhouse: Cincinnati
A real school from 1894 to the 1950s, the Dent Schoolhouse's history is truly spine-chilling. After several students mysteriously vanished in the '40s and '50s, parents stormed the building and discovered that the school's janitor, Charlie McFree, had killed the children and hidden their bodies in the basement. Though Charlie was never found, he supposedly still haunts the schoolhouse – now a Halloween attraction visited by more than 30,000 people each year. Full of fiendish teachers, sinister students and creepy classrooms, this 18,000-square-foot attraction takes its brave guests on a tour of a school gone horribly wrong.
Dell'Osso Farms Corn Maze: Lathrop, Calif.
Nothing says autumn fun quite like a stroll through a corn maze, and this family-owned farm in California boasts one of the most colossal labyrinths in America. Sprawling across more than 25 acres, the Dell'Osso maze is roughly the size of the Pentagon, and just as complex. Each year's maze is different from the last, with past designs including a grinning jack-o'-lantern, a witch on a broomstick and a scarecrow pushing a wagon (pictured). About 100,000 fearless souls brave the maze every year, which takes about an hour to complete – unless you lose your way.
Emma Crawford Coffin Race: Manitou Springs, Colo.
Every October since 1994, locals of this mountain town have raced meticulously customized coffins down Main Street in front of thousands of cheering fans. Prizes are awarded to the teams with the speediest sarcophagus, the most creative casket and the best coffin rider. The race pays homage to former Manitou Springs resident Emma Crawford, who died in 1890 at age 19. According to local legend, torrential rain washed her coffin down the side of Red Mountain, where her ghost still lingers today.
Queen Mary Dark Harbor: Long Beach, Calif.
The RMS Queen Mary – a retired ocean liner that now serves as a hotel and museum – is transformed into a nautical nightmare each October. To enter the attraction, visitors must maneuver through a fog-filled tunnel of cargo containers, which leads to a series of spooky ship-themed mazes. When you've had your fill of frights, Dark Harbor also features a dance floor with live music – though there may be a ghoul or two lurking here as well.
Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off: Topsfield, Mass.
Want to see the biggest and baddest pumpkins in the world? Head to Topsfield Fair for the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off, where pumpkin growers put their most super-sized squash side by side. Just to be eligible to enter, a pumpkin must weigh at least 350 pounds – and those are the babies. In 2007, champion Joe Jutras won the weigh-off with his 1,689-pound pumpkin, simultaneously smashing the world record by nearly 200 pounds.
13th Gate and Necropolis 13: Baton Rouge, La.
Sprawling across two city blocks, 13th Gate Haunted House isn't afraid to deliver in-your-face shocks. Visitors of this 40,000-square-foot attraction get up close and personal with terrifyingly realistic sets, from crawling through a creepy crematory oven to staggering over a rickety bridge suspended over hundreds of live snakes. If you make it through the haunted house, you still have to survive a half-mile, cemetery-themed maze infested with more than 50 zombies. The only escape: Run!
Keene Pumpkin Festival: Keene, N.H.
Since its inception in 1991, the Keene Pumpkin Festival has set eight world records for amassing the largest number of lit of jack-o'-lanterns in one location. Close to 1,000 volunteers labor for three days to carve more than 28,000 pumpkins, which line the streets and tower 50 feet above the town center.
Headless Horseman Hayride: Ulster, N.Y.
Just a short car ride from Sleepy Hollow – the inspiration for Washington Irving's famous story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" – this small town in New York puts a terrifying twist on the traditional hayride. The one-mile journey winds through acres of gloomy woods, full of sinister scenes and creepy characters lurking behind the bushes. The hair-raising ride culminates with an appearance from the Headless Horseman himself. If you can handle another scare after finishing the hayride, this 45-acre attraction also features a corn maze and six haunted houses.
Pumpkinfest and Regatta: Damariscotta, Maine
Every October, the town of Damariscotta hosts Pumpkinfest, a week of squash-centric madness with events ranging from pie-eating contests to a pumpkin catapult. The highlight of the festival is the Pumpkin Regatta, in which participants craft boats from hollowed-out pumpkins and race them across the Damariscotta River. The regatta features two divisions – paddleboat and powerboat – and participants compete for a coveted "Golden Gourd" trophy.
The Darkness Haunted House: St. Louis
Since opening its horror-filled halls in 1994, this multimillion-dollar attraction has spared no expense to make your skin crawl. A single room in this 36,000-square-foot fear factory can cost up to $100,000 to create, and they've got more than 30 -- each with a unique theme, terrifyingly realistic props and Hollywood-caliber animatronic monsters. Filled with slithering snakes, giant spiders, killer clowns and creepy undead creatures, every inch of this haunted house is designed to push your panic button.