It may seem a bit early to be planning your Halloween activities, but for many historic sites the season of pumpkins, ghouls and creepy fun means special programs that sell out quickly.
You can’t really talk spooky without including sites from the Hudson Valley, the land of the headless horseman. But if you want to stay closer to home we’ve included two sites within the five boroughs. If you aren’t a fan of the season, these historic houses are all well worth a visit anyway before they get decked out in their creepy finery or once the ghoulish season ends.
1. Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, Irvington
You can’t beat the home of the author behind such characters as Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman for some seasonal spirit. Irving purchased land in the Hudson Valley in 1835 and transformed a house on the property into a picturesque stone cottage. The house remained in the Irving family until 1945 and opened to the public in 1947.
The site transforms into a ghoulish delight during the month of October, with themed house tours, spooky walks and a special puppet show. The activities take place on weekends from September 29 to October 28. For more information or to snap up tickets, visit the event page here.
2. Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz
If you like your Halloween laced with scary stories of a more historic nature, this historic settlement is offering tales of infection, disease and painful 18th century medical treatments. First settled in the 1670s by Hugenots looking for religious freedom, New Paltz still retains 30 historic stone buildings, including some from the early 18th century. Historic Hugenot Street was founded in 1894 by descendants of the first settlers and the organization continues to preserve the houses and collections as well as run educational programs.
From October 12 to 28 you can experience “Haunted Hugenot Street,” a special evening tour through the houses for spine-tingling tales of historic deaths. For full info on tour dates, times and admission, as well as background on the historic site, check out their website here.
3. Lyndhurst, Tarrytown
Constructed in 1838, Lyndhurst already has a bit of dramatic Halloween flair with its Gothic Revival style, designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, a giant of early 19th century American architecture.
The site has been increasing their scary events and this year has an October full of tours, an immersive 1920s-themed production of “The Mystery of the Pharoah’s Curse” and a special installation of futuristic sculptures on the grounds. The first floor of the house will also be decked out with autumn and Halloween vignettes and there’s a special showing of some of the original Gothic style furnishings. For more details on their offerings, check out the Lyndhurst event page here.
4. Queens County Farm Museum, Floral Park
This historic farm in Queens offers a range of family-friendly activities themed for the fall season. Farming began on the site in 1697 and it is believed to be the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. There’s a historic farmhouse, barns, animals to visit and fields to explore on the 47-acre farm.
Fall brings hayrides, a pumpkin patch, a children’s festival, a haunted house and a fall kick-off event with apples, cider and the all-important cider donuts. The big attraction each year is their three-acre corn maze with clues to find and puzzles to solve in order to make your way out. If you want to increase the difficulty you can opt for a night-time visit, with only the stars and a flashlight to help you navigate. The maze is open from September 22 through October 27. For the full details on all the programs, times and admission prices visit the farm website here.
5. Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan
Lived in by just one family for almost 100 years, the elegant brick house on East 4th Street, also known as the Seabury Tredwell House, is preserved intact, inside and out. Ghost tours and seances are held through the year at what is sometimes called the most haunted site in New York City, but it has a special series of “spirited events” during the month of October.
This season there’s a new exhibition, “A Good Death: 19th Century Lessons in Dying Well,” an Edgar Allan Poe themed walking tour of Greenwich Village, an evening of creepy songs and stories, an illustrated talk with Elizabeth A. Burns of the Burns Archive on postmortem and memorial photography and more. On October 14, there’s also the return of a popular annual event — a somber reenactment of the 1865 funeral of Seabury Tredwell, complete with a procession to the Marble Cemetery and period costumes. All of these programs sell out quickly. For more information on all the offerings and admission prices, visit their event page here.
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