Looking for the ultimate in Halloween travel? Head to the Village of Sleepy Hollow, the town in New York’s Hudson Valley that is the setting for the great “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” story of the headless horseman (now a TV show). You can visit a haunted house, take a cemetery tour after dark or go on a haunted hayride. There’s something for all ages in Sleepy Hollow and lots of activities to choose from, for a day or a weekend filled with Halloween-related events.
Our two girls are 9 and 2 so we chose to do the daytime Sleepy Hollow Cemetery tour (during my little one’s naptime) and the Great Jack O Lantern Pumpkin Blaze in the evening.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Tour
There are a few cemetery tours to choose from – some are offered during the day and some are by lantern in the evening. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is quite large with many gravestones dating back to the Revolutionary War and the late 1600s. Also on the property is The Old Dutch Church, which is a beautiful stone church with a smaller cemetery on its grounds. The tour doesn’t include the Church, but you can visit it on your own while you wait for the tour to begin.
So who’s buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery? Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Elizabeth Arden and, of course, the best-known inhabitant: Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Although we had come to see the grave of Washington Irving, we discovered one of the most interesting graves was that of Andrew Carnegie.
Our guide told the story of how Carnegie accumulated his wealth and became a famous philanthropist. We couldn’t help noticing the many coins – quarters, nickels, dimes – that seemed to be placed carefully on and around the impressive Celtic stone. It turns out, over the last several years as the economy has fluctuated, visitors looked upon Carnegie’s grave as a sort of “wishing well.” Coins are left in the hopes that the spirit of Carnegie will deliver prosperity and good fortune. It’s a bonus for the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery too, which uses the donations to care for the grounds.
Sleep Hollow Cemetery Tips
- Two hours of walking up hills along paved and unpaved roads means that comfy walking shoes are a must!
- Bring bottled water. I sure wish we had. It was unusually warm the day we went.
- Use the restroom before you arrive. There are port-a-potties there, but ewww…
- Strollers are fine, but be prepared for hills and bumpy terrain (Note: we had a jogging stroller. Our 2-year-old fell asleep midway and didn’t mind the bumps.)
- Visitors in wheelchairs might find this tour a bit difficult, though not impossible.
- Parking is tight and limited – get there early to avoid the rush.
- This is a popular attraction that often sells out! Buy your tickets early and online.
- The tour is great for adults and teens and children older than say 9 or 10. My 9-year-old was fascinated by the older gravestones and she enjoyed learning about the architecture.
- Also, keep in mind this is a still a working cemetery with active burials. So there will be visitors driving and walking around.
Pictures cannot do this phenomenal event justice; you really have to see it in person. Get a taste of it on this video from Martha Stewart: Martha Stewart YouTube video on the Great Jack O’Lantern Pumpkin Blaze (see video at end of post)
The “Blaze,” as it’s called, is a remarkable display of more than 4,000 hand-carved pumpkins. You’ll see intricately carved pumpkins depicting underwater scenes, dinosaur families, optical illusions, fairytales, and even a sea dragon!
You’ll walk under pumpkin arches and past an historic mansion where pumpkins glow and glimmer in the moonlight. It’s my favorite thing to do at Halloween…it’s really amazing!
Jack O Lantern Blaze Tips
- Buy your tickets early – this event runs many nights but often sells out.
- Parking is free.
- You need to wait in a long, but quickly moving queue line when you arrive. It winds through a tent where you can purchase hot beverages, light snacks and souvenirs.
- Dress warmly and wear good shoes – you’ll be walking along a narrow, gravel pathway with hundreds of other visitors. You can go at your own pace and although there are small lanterns to light the path, expect near darkness.
- There are no restrooms along the way, so be sure you’re ready to go before hopping in line.
- SCARE FACTOR: Nothing jumps out at you and there are really no scary pumpkin scenes. My 2-year-old enjoyed it as much as my 9-year-old.
Kim Court is a writer and blogger from New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @court0516 and at her personal blog These Are The Days.