Van Cortlandt Manor is the BLAZE to be…

Mix a stunning estate with dramatic architecture and about 5,000 hand cut and lit pumpkins, and you have the fanstastical Halloween treat known as the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. It’s the brightest thing around once the sun goes down along the Hudson River town of Croton on Hudson. The line of cars entering the parking lot, just off of Westchester’s Route 9, moved swiftly and the timed ticket entry provided an organized parade of those going in to the event, and those going out.

Meant for all ages, the event is a delight for kids who can walk along a darkened path and see a variety of pumpkins, some just projecting a scary or silly face, or connected to form an animal, dinosaur, or superhero. There’s even a walking pumpkin, if you can imagine that. Fun for parents who will marvel at the work involved to create such a collection of beautifully carved gourds, and for those in between, it’s a great Halloween event to get you in the “spirit.”

The Van Cortlandts were one of New York’s most prominent families, and their home is a tourist destination during the rest of the year for its beautiful gardens and architecture, and the designers of the Blaze take advantage of the lines and contours of the home and front porch to create a dramatic light show that is worth the price of admission. It’s truly a “wow” kind of experience.

Besides ooogling the pumpkins, there’s coffee and drinks along with snacks under the big tent. There’s also a pumpkin carver creating a carved pumpkin and quite a mess on the floor. (But don’t worry, she’s behind a healthy collection of hay stacks.) There is a pumpkin-themed gift shop for all things orange and Halloweeny including a CD with more than 60 minutes of original music from, about, and inspired by The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze by recording artist, radio personality, and Halloween fanatic Richard Christy.

In just seven years of its existence, the attendance at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze has grown from 18,000 visitors (in 2005) to last year’s 80,000! But while that figure alone is just as scary as some of the pumpkin faces, the staff does a great job in keeping everyone moving, and those who want to take a photo can step off the line and take as many photos as they want. While strollers are allowed, the gravelly path makes the ones with the smaller wheels a challenge. You may want to bring a small flashlight to be able to keep watch on younger walkers.

Visit the blaze website for a taste of what you can see, and get tips taking night photos, even a printable template for carving your own pumpkin.

The event runs through the second weekend of November with tickets still available for the week of Halloween and thereafter.

About MJ Hanley-Goff (77 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff was a frequent contributor to Long Island’s Newsday for ten years before moving to upstate New York in 2000. She immediately began contributing to the Times Herald-Record where she continues to write on health and area events. Her work has appeared in many publications including Hudson Valley Magazine, AAA’s Car & Travel magazine, and Orange Magazine. In 2007, she self-published "The Bench," her first novel. She recently ended a stint as editor of a parenting magazine as she realized her true calling: writer. Having founded MJWRITES, INC, she is now at work on two books, “How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times: No Experience Necessary,” and “PR Tips and Secrets.” She is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to write for Woman Around Town, and the amazing adventures it offers.