Fall is in the air and with it comes one of the brightest events in New Jersey – THE GLOW: A Jack O’ Lantern Experience. My daughter and I visited this glowing gallery of jack o’lanterns joy last weekend at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport. Showcasing more than 5,000 illuminated, hand-carved jack o’lanterns, THE GLOW brings to life a spectacular Halloween pumpkin wonderland.

Katniss Everdeen carved into a jack o'lantern.

Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom

THE GLOW Brings Halloween to Life

On weekends in October, you can be dazzled by the magic of THE GLOW, an enchanting and unforgettable walk-through event featuring more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated Jack O’Lanterns displayed in elaborate detail.

As you enter, you’ll quickly note the aroma of classic fall favorites coming from the snack shack. Say hello to apple cider, hot chocolate, apple crisp, and candy apples, plus burgers, fries, chicken tenders, and more.

For the non-driving adults at their full-service bar, order a shot of Fireball to add to that apple cider (try it – it’s delicious!).

Ready for some Halloween themed shopping?  Step into the gift shop tent stocked with all sorts of glowing, blinking, Halloween toys.

Grab some drinks, snacks, and lights and head down the magical landscape where you’ll experience everything from artistically detailed, single pumpkin carvings to amazing, larger than life structures reaching high into the sky.

Sixteen-foot tall dinosaurs made from carved pumpkins at THE GLOW NJ.

Dinosaurs – made entirely from carved pumpkins! Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom.

You Gotta See This: Trump and Hillary Jack O’Lanterns

The jack o’lantern art features iconic characters from American pop culture, including movies, sports, and politics, as well as multi-pumpkin artistic structures like life-sized dinosaurs.

The first section of the quarter-mile jack o’lantern trail is called the “Jersey Jaunt.” Here you’ll find some of New Jersey’s most famous – from landmarks and rock stars to movie stars, political figures and maybe even a few gangsters.

You’ll be glowing with Jersey pride!

Amazing detail in the jack o'lanterns at THE GLOW NJ.

Check out the detail in the letters! Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom.

Then you’ll wander into Prehistoric Park, where pumpkins are stacked and carved into sixteen-foot tall dinosaurs. You’ll also spend some time with the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow, Ana and Elsa, Tinkerbell, David Bowie, and Katniss Everdeen.

But you’ve really gotta see Trump and Hillary in pumpkin form! I thought it might be fun to have a “smash the candidate” feature, but, alas, that was not part of the experience.

Trump and Hillary in jack o'lantern form at THE GLOW NJ.

Our candidates, as jack o’lanterns! Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom.

THE GLOW is an outdoor event, so come ready for the weather. It was raining steadily during our visit, but we brought our umbrellas and it didn’t dampen our spirits one bit.

5,000 hand-carved jack o'lanterns at THE GLOW in NJ.

Pin for later! Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom

Learning the Right Way to Carve a Pumpkin

There are also live carving stations where you can watch an artist in action. This will give you some ideas for your own pumpkin carving at home.

I noticed that the pumpkins were not open at the top, which is how we have always carved. You cut around the stem and then hollow it out, right? Wrong!

The artist at THE GLOW explained to me that the stump “feeds” the pumpkin and cutting it off is like decapitating the pumpkin. If you want your jack o’lantern to last long into the season, carve a hole in the bottom, near the back to hollow it out.  Who knew?

Live pumpkin carvings at THE GLOW NJ.

Live pumpkin carvings at THE GLOW NJ. Photo credit: Shannon Entin / Roadschooling TravelingMom.

More Glowing Goodness at RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns

For those living in northern New Jersey, RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns is another enchanting event that will be closer to home. RISE will bring out the Halloween spirit in visitors of all ages, indoors at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ.

RISE also provides a unique and memorable, family-friendly experience with over 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o’lanterns creatively arranged along a scenic walking path and set to music. This event is indoors.

If you love holiday houses decked to the halls with lights, THE GLOW and RISE will give you a brilliant light fix to jump-start your holiday spirit.

THE GLOW takes place weekends in October: Fridays and Saturdays 6:30p – 10p; Sundays 6:30p – 9:30p at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ.

RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns takes place on October 27 – 30, 10a – 10:30p at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ.