Tips for Your Visit to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

Tips for Your Visit to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

Great Jack o'Lantern Blaze tips guide

If you’re a New Yorker, you had to have heard of the Great Jack O’lantern Blaze by now. And if you haven't then you need 1) read this post in full then 2) make it part of your fall itinerary!

Here's the short summary- Every year at Van Cortlandt Manor, volunteers help scoop, carve, and light over thousands of pumpkins. They are then carved into spooky designs by professional artists, and arranged into fantastical sculptures. Some move around (the carousel), some perform light shows. Some are just BIG (a 25 foot tall Statue of Liberty.) In a word, it's awesome.

I’ve been dying to go for years, ever since I saw a writeup about it in Time Out NY. Last year I finally scored tickets, but sadly something came up. We ended up not being able to make it and it broke my heart a little bit. This year I knew the ropes, picked dates, booked the tickets and was determined to make it work. Then it turned out we had to fly across the country the next day 🤦‍♀️

We’re lazy travelers, so we usually end up packing at midnight the night before a trip, so it was a little stressful getting everything together in the daytime, then driving up to the Blaze at night. We thought about scrapping the event AGAIN for the second year in a row, but the thought of doing that just made me sad. So we ended up pulling it together and going. And I’m sooooo glad we did! 

So I decided to do a little writeup of my experience, as well as put together a list of tips for anyone interested in going! Read on to find out more...

Great Jack o'Lantern Blaze price

So over 7,000 pumpkins are prepped and carved by members of the town and local artisans. If you can believe it, they start carving in JUNE. But as you might guess, a lot of the pumpkins that make up the sculptures are not actually real pumpkins. You’ll see why when you go in. The sheer amount of pumpkins it would take would make it impossible.

All the real pumpkins they use need to be frequently replaced and re-carved. So you can imagine how often the ones spinning through the air on a pumpkin windmill would need to be replaced if they used real ones. Probably daily!

Great Jack O'lantern Blaze

When You First Go In

There’s a little area to get drinks and snacks, and there's also a shop selling spooky accessories and event t-shirts. For next year, I think it would be fun to get there a little early and have a hot drink beforehand! It seems like a great place to go with friends, and even better for families. But since we were there right at 7, we just grabbed some hard cider, and went straight in. (Tip- you’re allowed to bring your drinks in!)

You then check in with a volunteer who scans your tickets. There’s rows of hand-carved pumpkins leading you towards the main attractions. As you keep walking, you'll notice all the trees in the surrounding area are lit up with spooky purple, blue, and red lights making it look like a haunted forest. There’s foreboding music playing at each sculpture, and pumpkins lit in every direction as far as the eye can see!

I loved snapping away at every opportunity and took soooo many Instagram stories. It was completely magical and gave me those special Halloween feels.

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Get Your Tickets Early

And I mean EARLY. The resale starts at the end of August (For Historic Hudson Valley members- more on that later) and general tickets go on sale in the beginning of September. For the first couple of years I missed out because I didn’t realize how fast the tickets would sell out. The prime times sell out in a matter of days- That is Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after dark. The closer to Halloween you get, the more desirable the slot is. 

Tip- If you can make it on a weeknight, or don’t mind going during daylight hours, or don’t mind seeing the Blaze after Halloween,  you don’t have to act as quickly!

Double Check Your Dates

I mentioned earlier the dilemma of possibly skipping out on the Blaze when we first discovered we'd be flying the next day for a business trip. That's because there are no refunds and no switching out your dates. When you book, be sure you're available on those dates or be prepared to forfeit your money! 😭 That's what happened to us the first year we booked. Don't be like us! Double check!! Haha.

The great pumpkin blaze New York
Great Jack o'Lantern Blaze location

Get on the Historic Hudson Valley Mailing List

Historic Hudson Valley is a non-profit organization that promotes historic landmarks in the Hudson Valley. This is the organization that runs the event. If you get on their mailing list, you'll be in the loop of exactly when the tickets go on sale. For the first couple of years, when fall started I would just randomly remember "Oh yeah! That Pumpkin Blaze thing is happening."  Then when I hopped on the site, the tickets would all be sold out. When I was on the mailing list, I got reminders.

Trust me, it's easier to get a notification so you can pounce right when they get released! 

Become a Historic Hudson Valley Member

This organization has a program where you become a member and get free access to the Jack O'lantern Blaze, access to the presale, plus discounts and other perks. I did this year just so that I’d have access to the presale!

Tickets are $28 per person normally We paid $100 for a family of two, which obviously adds up to more than a general ticket would cost per person. However, keep in mind that you're supporting a historical organization. Plus you get free admission to other events like their annual corn maze, and to their historic sites including Van Cortlandt Manor. You also get discounts on events like the Sleepy Hollow Experience and A Christmas Carol.

In my opinion access to the presale is worth it alone! 

Make a Spooky Day of it

If you're in town for the day, it might be fun to plan all your spooky activities at once! The same organization also runs an outdoor immersive theatrical performance- The Sleepy Hollow Experience. There are also two other Sleepy Hollow themed shows called Irving's Legend and Horseman's Hollow.

Actually at first, I thought that the Pumpkin Blaze took place in the town of Sleepy Hollow, but it's a half hour away. So if you do choose to book two shows on the same day, they recommend doing them 2 hours apart. So if you get a 7:30pm Blaze ticket, you should pair that with a 9:30pm Horseman’s Hollow ticket. Etc.

We didn't do the Sleepy Hollow/ Blaze combo this year, but we will next year for sure!!

Great Jack o'Lantern Blaze guide

Leave with Plenty of Time

I REALLY hate being late to things, and we didn’t realize how heavy the traffic would be getting into the town. This is a very popular event, and we probably sat in gridlock traffic for about 20 minutes waiting just to enter the parking lot.

We thought we might be late, but luckily we rolled in right at 7. They don't penalize you for arriving late either... as in, you don't spend less time in the event. So if you DO get stuck in traffic, don't worry about it too much. Still... better safe than sorry. 

Take your time

You've planned, you've anticipated, and now you're here. Time to enjoy your experience!

So when you get your tickets, you sign up for a specific time slot. We thought there might be a time limit to how long you are allowed to spend there, but no worries. There is no one keeping track of how much time you spend in the experience. You can’t go in earlier than your allotted time, but there was no one checking people out. It’ll take about 30 minutes to an hour to go through the whole thing, but I suggest savoring it for as long as you can! 

If You’re a Photographer Go at Dusk

Or bring a camera with a very high F-stop. I didn’t mind taking photos in the dark, but as you can imagine it’s very low lighting conditions. A lot of mine came out blurry. It’s obviously a better experience in the complete dark, but if you can find that in-between line where there’s juuuust enough light to shoot, you’ll get some amazing shots!

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Are you planning your Great Pumpkin Blaze trip soon? 

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