What’s this! Your cheeks sense chill air, crisply scented with leafy decay as a slow creeping sensation causes the hairs on the back of your neck to rise… it’s Halloween!! State parks are the best year-round, but are also the SP🎃🎃KIEST way to get a taste of nature as the days shorten. We thought we’d list prime, kooky ways to get your heart rate up!
Trains and Treats in California
There’s festive fun aplenty to get your autumn on track at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Park goers should prepare themselves for a freight–er.. fright! on the Spookomotive Ride, leaving the station hourly this Saturday and Sunday, the 29th and 30th, from noon to 4 p.m. The 45-minute, 6-mile (round-trip) train ride is $15 for adults, $8 for young people aged 2-17, and free for children two years old and younger. A mad scientist will be on board to startle and delight passengers, as well as to field questions regarding how to reanimate sewn-together people, or use lightning as a renewable energy source for your own secret laboratories!
The theme for the weekend is Witches & Wizards, but if you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal your zombie train conductor costume with all its bells and whistles (overalls are back in a big way this fall, after all), the CSRM would probably be it. There’s trick-or-treating at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 29th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with plenty of sweets and knowledge to be had for magic folk and ghost engineers alike.
Chugging right along…If you can’t make the Halloween events at the CSRM and find yourself in southern California, you can check out the Día de los Muertos celebrations at Old Town San Diego SHP. On November 1st and 2nd, there will be historical and modern altars set up around the park to commemorate the inhabitants of Old Town. Visitors can take an altar tour to learn about this tradition, and themselves contribute to the “Tributes & Sentiments” chalk graveyard to remember their own loved ones.
Wicked Woods in New YorkIn keeping with the haunted themes of the season, Green Lakes State Park in Central New York is welcoming one and all to their event, Wicked Woods. On October 29th, from 4 to 8 p.m., admission to the park is free. There will be beachside mini-golf and costumed trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, crafts, a photo booth, and a large bonfire to cap it all off. You can learn more about the event here. As an added bonus, you can work some feel good magic into your eerie festivities by bringing along a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food bank.
Owl-O-Ween in Tennessee
Owls have long been as much a part of Halloween imagery as pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It’s possible this is because of their domination of the nocturnal world, which they survey with their piercing eyes and well-informed demeanor. If you’ve ever taken a break from personifying these mighty nighttime hunters and wondered about the distant hollow hoots one occasionally hears on dusky hikes, Owl-O-Ween at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tennessee is just the ticket. For $3 per individual, or $5 per family, hikers can explore nature after sundown, while learning about the Barred Owl and its unique night-song from a knowledgeable ranger! October 29th, 7:30-8:30 p.m., guests are encouraged to make a reservation by calling 615-885-2422 or visiting the Long Hunter State Park website, here.
Whether you’re looking to take on Halloween fully costumed, or simply enjoy the smells of autumn, there is an inexpensive or free way to satisfy your Halloween cravings at a state park near you. There’s no time like the present to download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and explore what’s going on!