Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at Old Westbury Gardens

IMG_5444-1-296x300We excitedly walked along the dark path and saw the glowing orbs in the distance. As we got closer, we started seeing the exquisite details of thousands and thousands of incredibly carved pumpkins. All of us started pointing out the different jack o’lanterns. “Look, there’s Starry Night!” “I see Mike and Sully from Monster’s Inc.!” “Look, there’s Yoda!” “I found the solar system!” Walking along the 1/4-mile trail, it really did seem like it was the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at Old Westbury Gardens!

IMG_5461-1-300x218Once the sun sets each evening in October, the month-long, Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns begins. This nighttime Halloween spectacular features over 5,000 jack o’lanterns in an amazing array of themes created by professional artists. There were carvings about everything we could possibly imagine sports, movies, fine art, cartoons, video games, fantasy, science fiction, flowers, astronomy, and of course spooky Halloween-themes – witches, jack o’lanterns, vampires, ghosts, zombies, and even whole sections dedicated to Harry Potter and the Walking Dead (for the grown ups) complete with the accompanying theme music. There were even areas where the pumpkins were put together to create large formations including giants made of jack o-lanterns, Halloween scenes, trees, and pavilions.

Although it’s dark along the trail, it is very family friendly – just be sure to keep track of everyone in your group or make sure you have an agreed upon meeting point in case you get separated. There aren’t any ghouls or creatures jumping out at you like a haunted mansion. The night simply creates a dark canvas from which to enjoy these wonderful pumpkin sculptures, which makes it a great Halloween activity for all ages and all comfort levels.

IMG_5483-1-300x98Our whole family wondered how they made some of the portraits so realistic looking out of pumpkins. We marveled at the intricate carving required to recreate a movie scene. It was incredible to see the difference between what some of the jack o’lanterns looked like in regular lighting versus when they were lit up in the dark. (If none are on display at the event, there are a few examples on their website.) We also tried to figure out the engineering required to light up all of the jack o’lanterns!

We felt like we were walking through a nighttime wonderland. My daughters were so inspired that they wanted to go home and start carving their pumpkins!


  • Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), gross motor (walking along the trails), curiosity
  • Preparation: Dress in appropriate layers for the fall weather and wear comfortable shoes, preferably closed toe since you can’t see where you’re going. You should eat before going.
  • Cost: Admission is $16-28 for adults and $14-22 for children ages 3-12. We had used a promotional code which gave us a rate of $15 for adults and $13.50 for children. There are also Groupon promotions for discounted tickets. Tickets are less expensive if you can go later in the evening or on a weeknight. If you become a member of Old Westbury Gardens, you can get tickets for $15.
  • Time & Energy: It’s a 15-minute drive from our house. We spent about 90 minutes looking at all of the jack o’lanterns.
  • Contact Info: The event has a website (http://www.therise.org)
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