If you and your crew love amusement parks, but not the mile-long lines and sweltering days that come along with visiting in the summer, we’ve got good news—there are plenty of spots that do something special once the cooler weather rolls around. From Mickey’s Halloween Party to LEGOLAND and Knott’s Berry Farm, read on to discover the best amusement parks to visit in the fall. Is there one near you on the list?
Howl-O-Ween at Great Wolf Lodge–Locations Across the US
The Great Wolf Lodge, your favorite indoor waterpark, kicks it up a notch during the month of October with a variety of additional activities and decor in celebration of Howl-O-Ween. Think Monster Bash Dance Party, a Costume Parade, a Trick-or-Treat Trail, Spooktacular Story Time, Critter Cartoons, and Paws On Projects with a silly, not-so scary twist. There’s also a Candy Corn Guessing Contest and–in most locations–cupcake decorating, Thriller Flash Mob and Moonlit movies.
Book your stay now, Howl-O-Ween is running from Oct. 1-31, 2018. Rates vary.
Autumn at Oz - Beech Mountain, NC
Join Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the TinMan and the Cowardly Lion at the Land of Oz for the Annual Autumn at Oz Festival (the largest Wizard of Oz event in the world!). Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum, Oz is complete with the Gale’s Kansas farm, twister, and an actual Yellow Brick Road. Along the way, the Munchkins, Flying Monkeys and even Toto will greet you, too! Autumn at Oz features all of the characters from the beloved story, petting zoo, museum exhibit, performances in Kansas, new Emerald City layout, vendors selling Oz collectibles and much more!
Dates: Sept. 9-11, 2018.
Tickets: $40; Free for children age 2 and under.
Happy Halloween Weekends - Santa Claus, IN
Everything you love about Holiday World is included during these special events plus a lot including 12 acres of corn mazes, hayrides, Holidog’s 3D Halloween walk-through adventure, a hilarious Halloween Magic Show, popular songs “spookified” in the “Lights Out” show, Carnival Chaos (a ghostly barker invites you in to explore this abandoned carnival, filled with clowns … or are they only reflections? This series of mazes and “startles” is for older children and adults; it includes strobe lights and occasional loud noises.), Mummy’s Treasure Maze and a Costume Dance Party hosted by Kitty Claws.
Good to Know: Tickets are cheapest when purchased online.
Dates: Weekends from Sept. 22–Oct. 28
Dollywood Harvest Festival - Pigeon Forge, TN
Dollywood features a unique mix of wholesome entertainment options at the park during the fall including the Great Pumpkin LumiNights (featuring artistic sculptures, whimsical scenes and family-friendly fun throughout Timber Canyon), a variety of visiting artisans sharing their talents through an array of handmade wares and the park's Southern Gospel Jubilee, that features more than 500 free gospel music acts.
Dates: Sept. 28-Nov. 3
Knott's Spooky Farm - Buena Park, CA
Kids 3-11 can go Trick-or-Treating through Ghost Town and interact with spooky (but friendly) shopkeepers, check out the Timber Mountain Log Ride seasonal upgrade: Halloween Hootenanny, watch “The Monsters Are Coming, Charlie Brown” at the Camp Snoopy Theatre, join in the Dia De Los Muertos Celebration in the Fiesta Village, check out the Pumpkin Patch and more fun. The daytime fun event is included with regular admission to the park.
Dates: Weekends Sept. 29-Oct. 28 and Oct. 31
Legoland's Brick or Treat Party Nights – San Diego, CA
Endless LEGO and loads of sweets in the same amazing place? That's what kids can expect when they spend a night at LEGOLAND California's Brick or Treat event, a not-so-spooky extravaganza that turns the San Diego theme park into a monster bash that'll keep them LEGO-loving long past bedtime. Attractions include a Ghost Cruise adventure, special shows, costume contests, dance parties, LEGO pumpkin patch building, live music, costumed entertainers and trick-or-treating stations throughout the park that'll offer kids specialty items and candy.
Read Red Tricycle's review of the Brick or Treat here.
Dates: Sep. 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27.
Legoland Florida Brick or Treat - Winter Haven, FL
No extra ticket is required to enjoy a brand-new stage show, loads of candy along with a uniquely LEGO® trick-or-treating trail, interactive character meet-and-greet experiences, fireworks spectacular and much more. A pair of curious trick-or-treaters will sing, dance and chant their way through solving “A Candy-Coated Curse,” on the LEGO City Stage. Also, making her Brick or Treat debut, LEGO Spider Lady will be weaving webs of fun inside LEGO Kingdoms. Except for Oct. 31, each event date will conclude with a ghostly show featuring the “Tale of Pirates’ Cove,” and Halloween fireworks in the skies above Lake Eloise. Wear a complimentary pair of viewing glasses for a brick-tastic LEGO twist. Back by popular demand: The Minifigure Costume Shop will be offering over 20 LEGO minifigure costumes and lots of fall-themed snacks will be available as well.
Dates: Weekends Oct. 6-28 and Oct. 31
The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular at Sesame Place – Langhorne, PA
Is your kid a fan of Elmo, Big Bird, or Abby Cadabby? Join the club this Halloween and take her to Sesame Place, a charming Philadelphia-area theme park devoted to all things Sesame Street. For the park's annual Halloween Spooktacular, kids can enjoy special Halloween shows featuring their favorite friendly monsters. In addition, the park's tot-friendly assortment of un-intimidating rides will make your budding coaster aficionado feel like a real daredevil. End the day with the nightly Neighborhood Street Party Halloween Parade, and your kid will be begging you to "tell her how to get to Sesame Street" again and again.
Good to Know: Visit the Sesame Place website for special discounts for this event.
Dates: Sept. 22-Oct. 28 (select dates)
The World’s Largest Halloween Party at the Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Ky
The Louisville Zoo isn't an amusement park (though they do have a carouse!l), but we thought it deserved a mention because it hosts "the world's largest Halloween party" in an effort to give younger kids something "cheery not eery" for the season. The party—now in its 37th year—features costumed meet-and-greet characters in larger-than-life storybook scenes. Themed areas include a zany tea party, a Superhero City, and a fairy-filled "Pirate's Cove." The event also features a hay maze, a sweeping hillside pumpkin display, and a trick-or-treating trail for kids 11 & under.
Tickets: An extra $9 ($10 night of) per person.
Dates: Thurs.-Sun. Oct. 4-28
Halloween Havoc at Nickelodeon Universe – Bloomington, Mn
Minnesotans know how to do trick-or-treating right: They do it inside, where the temperatures are always a constant degree of pleasant. And at Nickelodeon Universe, a seven-acre theme park located inside the sprawling Mall of America, Halloween is celebrated every night during the month of October. The Universe of Light: Fright Lights Halloween Spectacular is an experience that will take visitors on a spooky journey through music and lights. Come together for this nightly light show in celebration of the spookiest most fun holiday–Halloween!
Hint: Go on a Saturdays, the hugely popular Double Dare challenge lets kids see other kids get slimed live on stage (or join in on the fun and try to be a part of the show!).
Dates: Oct. 1-31
Happy Hauntings at Dutch Wonderland – Lancaster, Pa
Families with younger children will love this Lancaster, Pennsylvania theme park, which calls itself "a kingdom for kids" and boasts 34 rides, almost all of which are perfectly safe for kids under six. Its annual "Happy Hauntings" event will keep kids entertained without relying on any of the spooky stuff. Along with re-decorating rides with a more seasonal flare (a swing ride becomes a "bat swing, for instance; the monorail becomes the "Ghost Flight"), the celebration also includes costume contests, special shows, and a Trick-or-Treat Trail that'll load your costumed kid up with gobs of yummy loot.
Dates: Weekends, Oct. 13-28.
Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland – Anaheim, CA
Disney leaves no ghoulish stone unturned for its sweeping Halloween celebration, a whimsically-spooky (but not too spooky!) event that puts seasonal touches all over Disneyland Park. Kids will go wild over the shindig, which features generously-stocked trick-or-treat stations, Halloween parades, costumed villains roaming the park and a massive Halloween fireworks show that'll rival your hometown's Fourth of July. Nearly all of the rides are open—and, insiders say, maybe not as crowded, since Disney only issues a limited number of Halloween Party tickets.
Want to hit the rides before the party starts? Halloween party ticket-holders can enter the park up to three hours before the start of the shindig—get there at 4 p.m. to get your fill of Disney before your kids zero in on the candy-hunt. Your ticket gets you into Disney's adjacent California Adventure park without any extra park-hopper fee—and while California Adventure doesn't have a "party" (i.e. no trick-or-treating), there are magical Halloween touches all over the place, including rides transformed into Halloween attractions (Mater's Junkyard Jamboree becomes "Mater's Graveyard Jamboree" and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters into "Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween).
Check out our insider's guide to the party by clicking here.
Dates: Select nights Sep. 7 to Oct. 31
The Great Pumpkin Fest at Cedar Point – Sandusky, OH
Cedar Point may be the roller coaster capital of the world, but it knows how to treat the littles to a scare-free Halloween. Its Great Pumpkin Fest, offered every weekend from mid-Sept. until the end of Oct., gives costumed kiddos a whole lot of Halloween fun without any of the creepy stuff (that's reserved for its nighttime scare-fest, Haunt, which starts in the evenings and looks totally terrifying). Its calmer and the friendlier daytime events include a Peanuts-themed "Great Pumpkin Parade," Peppermint Patty’s Hay Bale Maze, Woodstock’s Crazy Cornstalks, Linus’ Mummy Pit, and Franklin’s tractor Trek. Besides the roster of Halloween activities, there's still a sprawling amusement park to explore, with more than 20 family-friendly rides and a walk-through animatronic dinosaur exhibit.
Dates: Weekends, Sept. 15 through Oct. 28
Hersheypark In The Dark – Hershey, PA
Where better to go trick-or-treating than a place known as "Chocolatetown, USA?" At Hersheypark, there's plenty of yummy candy to go around. The park's popular Halloween celebration includes a trick-or-treating trail with 13 locations winding across the entire theme park and its adjacent zoo. Got an adrenaline junkie in your brood? Hershey ups the ante on its roller coasters for Halloween, turning the lights off on four of its major coasters so that riders can experience some in-the-dark thrills exclusive to the season. Park tickets also include access to Zoo America, where tiny safari-goers can embark on a special "Creatures Of The Night" tour that'll give them a peek at what goes on after dark at the zoo.
Dates: Oct. 19-21, 26-28 and Nov. 2-4
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – Orlando, FL
Like its West Coast counterpart, Disneyworld does it up, big-time, for Halloween. From the moment you enter through the Magic Kingdom gates, passing through an eerie veil of fog and music, you'll know that you and your costumed brood are in for it—in the best way possible! Disney's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party lives up to its hype, with a roster of events that includes gobs of generously-stocked trick-or-treating stations across the park (Psst: These are open to grown-ups, too!); a "Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular" show featuring Disney's vilest villains; photo ops with costumed characters; themed dining and desserts; a killer fireworks show set to music; and a Halloween parade heralded by a headless horseman and followed by a cheery lineup of Disney standbys waving from atop brightly-lit floats.
On top of the whimsical Halloween mayhem, most of the rides are open during the party, so when your tots are tired of trolling for candy (like that's going to happen), hop on a favorite ride and go for a whirl. You won't have wait long; insiders say ride lines are actually shorter during the Halloween party since Disney sells a limited number of tickets and so many of the kids are busy with the Halloween happenings.
Dates: Select nights now through Nov. 1.
— Jeff Totey & Melissa Heckscher