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One of the more memorable Halloween experiences we had last year was attending the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze event at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-On-Hudson, NY. There are thousands of hand carved jack o’lanterns lit up in very creative ways and many of them will delight your kids. This year’s theme is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow so the Headless Horseman takes center stage amidst intricate pumpkin portraits of other Irving characters. A birthday cake will be lit in honor of the event’s 10th anniversary. PLUS, new dinosaurs, witches, cats, and much more!

If you are considering buying tickets or have already bought them, here are some tips from my experience last year. Note, all the October weekends are sold out but November dates are still available. Didn’t score tickets? Join our email list so you don’t miss our Thursday Newsletters! We tipped off our readers to buy tickets on October 1st when tickets first went on sale. If you join our email list you won’t miss out on great events like this!

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1. Do we have to get there at our assigned time? While it is a good idea to get there when your group departs the main gate (to manage the crowds that come), your ticket is still good until closing time.

2. Is it a long walk? Will it be too much for a pregnant woman? Should we bring a stroller? I don’t think it’s too long of a walk for a pregnant woman to handle (unless she’s really into her 9th month!). However, there ARE a lot of people and there is usually a “traffic jam” near the haunted house. We were loitering there for what seemed like 10 to 20 minutes until the jam cleared. So, all that standing around time might be tough for the preggers.

As for strollers, a very narrow MacLaren would be nice to have if your child really is not a walker (and you’d have to hold him/her). A side by side double stroller would be really unwieldy and a pain to use in the crowd. A sit and stand might be better.

My kids are usually not big walkers and they didn’t have a problem—there are lots to see so it’s distracting for them. However, my 3 year old liked to pretend he was “scared” so he wanted to be held (thanks hubby!).

3. Is it too scary? There were some scary looking zombies in the graveyard section. But, besides that they have really cute depictions like animals and dragons that were really cool for the kids at the end. You can always have them bury their heads in your shoulder for comfort!

4. What are the bathrooms like? When you are on line to get in you will smell the porta potties—gross, huh? I would go before you arrive if at all possible!

5. Anything else we can bring to make it better? We were in a group with about 10 kids. I would bring glow sticks for them to wear or flashlights so they can see where they are going and stay together. It was a bit hard to keep them contained as the older kids wanted to rush ahead and the little ones were taking their sweet time. It is quite dark on the path and you would not want to lose a little one!

6. Where can we eat beforehand? There are lots of cute restaurants in Croton-on Hudson but we were in a rush so we ordered from Mex-to-Go, which is just down the street from Blaze. I ordered ahead and we ate outside on the picnic tables. It wasn’t the best Mexican I’ve ever had but it was good enough for the job! However, this town is right on the water so if you decide to go without the kids, it would be a nice place to have a leisurely meal and then head over to Blaze.

7. Any last words of advice? Bundle up because it’s outdoors and can get cold! Make sure you know how to take night pictures! On the iPhone you have to turn off the flash and even with my point and shoot, I had to turn off the flash. Most of all, enjoy! It’s obviously a popular event so I think many families make it a yearly tradition!

Photo credit: MiraBest