Halloween is the season for letting your imagination run wild. Whether that happens in the kitchen with spooky cute treats or the craft department with one-of-a-kind children’s costumes, there’s always some extra creativity floating in the air around this time. This year, we’re excited about all the ways that a classic symbol of Halloween—the humble pumpkin—is being transformed into extravagant and sometimes record-breaking displays.
You may consider pumpkin carving a fun activity for the kids rather than a medium for serious artistry, but these grand displays are sure to impress even the toughest critic. From highly-detailed carving designs to huge moving structures, these pumpkin exhibitions are designed to bring communities together for some seasonal magic. See our top picks to find a pumpkin festival near you.
Image courtesy of Angie Gaul for Historic Hudson Valley.
The Great Jack-O’-Lantern Blaze, Hudson Valley, NY
Skyscraping structures, bright lights, and a new spectacle around every corner make this pumpkin experience reminiscent of a trip to New York City. Sights to see include the pumpkin carousel, giant sea serpent, color-changing star show at the Pumpkin Planetarium, and a replica of Lady Liberty herself. But don’t miss out on the small details amid the large-scale spectacles—a team of artisans design and hand carve over 7,000 jack-o’-lanterns on-site for the display. Tickets start at $23 for adults and $17 for children, but members and children under 2 years old get in free. All the proceeds from The Great Jack-O’-Lantern Blaze support the programs of Historic Hudson Valley, a non-profit education organization.
When to visit: September through November.
Image courtesy of Dallas Arboretum.
Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, TX
With the colorful Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden setting the scene, this pumpkin village uses all the elements of seasonal beauty. More than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds, and squash, become elaborate houses and whimsical structures that seem to be pulled straight out of a fairy tale—because sometimes that’s exactly the inspiration. Each year debuts a new theme for the village, with past years including Cinderella, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Adventures in Neverland. This year’s theme—"It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"—feels particularly charming and timeless. Bring your family for a visit to catch Snoopy and Woodstock atop the dog house, Charlie Brown and friends behind the brick wall, and of course, the Great Pumpkin filled with marigolds. Tickets for the Arboretum start at $15.
When to visit: September 21 through October 31.
Image courtesy of Roger Williams Park Zoo.
Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI
The view of the Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular is exactly that—especially if your vantage point is from up above. The Soaring Eagle Zip Ride is a thrilling way to explore the beauty of the Roger Williams Park Zoo and the thousands of illuminated pumpkins displayed throughout the Wetlands trails. Then you’ll want to return to the ground for a closer look at the intricate, professionally carved designs. The zoo also offers special evenings designed for those with sensory processing differences and their families so that everyone can enjoy the magic. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children.
When to visit: October 3 through November 3.
Image courtesy of Celebrate Highwood.
Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival, Highwood, IL
A walk through the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival is like navigating through an orange metropolis. With the help of eager volunteers, thousands of hand-carved pumpkins are stacked sky-high on scaffolding. The event organizers set a goal this year to break the City of Keene’s Guinness World Record, but the main purpose of the festival is to bring the community together and help raise money for Make-A-Wish Illinois. Tickets run at $3 per day or $5 for the whole weekend. To keep this objective central to the festivities, a local Make-A-Wish family will host the ceremonial pumpkin wall lighting each night.
When to visit: October 11 through 13.
Image courtesy of Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular.
Louisville Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular, Louisville, KY
This walk through the park is like a Halloween-themed fairy tale—but not the Brothers Grimm version. The Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular is an “art show” and this year’s gallery space is Iroquois Park in Louisville, KY. A ⅓ mile walking trail will be lined with 5,000 carved and illuminated pumpkins at night for an enchanting experience. The park also offers a sensory-friendly night. Tickets start at $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for children. Kids under 3 years old get in free!
When to visit: October 8 through November 3.
Image courtesy of Long Creative.
C-K AutumnFest, Ceredo and Kenova, WV
What started as a house with only four carved pumpkins on display in 1978 has turned into a tourist attraction appropriately dubbed the “Pumpkin House” with 3,000 hand-carved pumpkins decorating the exterior. The no longer modest display is now said to attract 30,000 visitors every year during the Halloween season. The Pumpkin House is the centerpiece of the C-K AutumnFest which takes place in the small towns of Ceredo and Kenova, West Virginia. The festival also offers other family-friendly activities to enjoy like an old-fashioned bake-off, arts and crafts fair, and tractor show. Most events are free, but there is a small admission fee ($5 for adults and $3 for students K-12) for the Haunted Trail.
When to visit: October 25 and 26.
Image courtesy of Shaundi Brown.
Keene Pumpkin Festival, Keene, NH
The quaint New England town of Keene is characterized by things like old-fashioned candy shops, a retro movie theater, and the world record for the most lit jack-o’-lanterns on display. In addition to the record-breaking display of over 30,000 pumpkins, the free Pumpkin Festival offers family fun in the way of music and dance performances, arts and crafts, and activities like pumpkin bowling.
When to visit: October 27.
Image courtesy of Jack's Pumpkin Glow.
Jack’s Pumpkin Glow, Various Locations
The triangle-eyed, squiggle-smiled jack-o’-lanterns are a well-loved classic, but these pumpkin structures turn up the volume. Strategically designed, arranged, and hand-carved pumpkins transform into fire-breathing dragons, dueling dinosaurs, motorcycle-riding skeletons, and more. You’ll also find a pumpkin patch and live pumpkin-carving demonstrations at the event. Jack’s Pumpkin Glow has a wide reach across four different locations in Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, and Nashville, TN. Tickets are $23 for adults and $17 for kids.
When to visit: Dates vary by location.