Written by Karen Graham
Halloween is only a week away. Before you indulge in a night of trick-or-treating with a bevy of ghost, goblins and ghouls, make time for your family to enjoy these great Halloween-themed day trips:
Heather Hill Gardens
8111 Ox Road
Fairfax Station, VA
This family-friendly nursery and farm market in Fairfax has been operating for 20 years. Heather Hill's “homey, smaller feel” is perfect for families with young children who want to experience pumpkin patches.
Make sure to check out their famous swing. “We are known for our 25-foot rope swing,” says Bonnie, owner of Heather Hill Gardens.
Visit the goats, lambs, ducks, bunnies and chickens. Ride the zip line, which is exciting for kids, but is close to the ground, explains Bonnie. There is also a tumbling tube that is kid-propelled. “You get in the tube and push it down the hill,” she says. “Kids also enjoy the pumpkin fort.” Heather Hill offers local cider and apples, local produce, pumpkins and gourds.
The Fine Print
Admission is $6 per person for adults and children. Kids under 2 are free.
Hours Monday to Friday are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Loudon Museum
16 Loudoun Street, SW
This is the 22nd year for the spooky Hauntings Tours in Leesburg. The walking tour takes about 90 minutes and takes you through the Historic Downtown area. The tours run this weekend on Friday and Saturday. While the sites change from year to year, a couple of them always stay the same. Visitors will be led to historic homes and businesses in Leesburg, where storytellers dressed in period costumes will relate the history and the ghostly tales of each site. “The tour is special because it is the only one that actually gets you into some of the private homes and businesses that are haunted,” says Alana Blumenthal, curator of the Loudoun Museum.
Make reservations ahead of time, spaces do fill up. Plan to make an evening of it. People almost always stay to have dinner and enjoy the shops around downtown Leesburg, Blumenthal says.
While on the tour, watch for the Glenfiddich House on King Street, which used to be called Harrison Hall. There you will find the ghost of Colonel Erasmus Burt, who is a very “friendly ghost,” says Blumenthal. “He will sometimes show up as he was in life, which was a very flamboyant person. This is the same home where Robert E. Lee met with his three generals to plan the invasion of Maryland.”
What has been the spookiest experience on the tour over the years? “One of the spookiest things occurred at Blossom and Bloom, where there are some not-as-friendly ghosts. There was one tour where everyone heard them moving upstairs and moving things around, making their presence known. Our previously skeptical tour guides were no longer skeptics after that,” Blumenthal recalls.
The Fine Print
Due to how much material is covered and its 90-minute length, the tour is recommended for ages 12 and up. Tours leave every 15 minutes from Leesburg Town Hall between 6 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 by phone, mail or at the door. Online tickets are $15.
4501 Old Tavern Road
The Plains, VA
Spend an afternoon at the Corn Maze in the Plains. “We offer family, fall, traditional and healthy fun,” says Tate Knott, one of the founders of the Corn Maze in the Plains. The Knott family opened the maze 14 years ago and built it from the ground up. “For the first four years we cut the maze by hand with a garden hoe,” Knott said. “It took a full week to create.” The Corn Maze in the Plains is the first one in the Northern Virginia area. “The neat part is that no one knew what a corn maze was and now it is what people do in the fall,” Knott said.
A walk through the Corn Maze takes about an hour. It begins with a “stalk talk” orientation and participants are given a game board, survival guide and a flag to wave in case anyone gets stuck. In addition to the maze, there are barn animals, a goat walk, giant slides, obstacle courses, tires filled with corn, hayrides through the countryside and fresh apple cider. If you go on a Sunday, Knott suggests, visit the local farmer's market, which has delicious BBQ and produce for sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Check out the pumpkin slingshot and the 670-pound pumpkin named Penelope, which is “great for photos,” Knott said. Another popular event is the Night Maze, which is open this weekend. “Come with a flashlight and enjoy the campfire and s'mores,” Knott says.
The Fine Print
General admission is $10/person. Kids under 12 are $8, 3 and under, free. Pumpkins are for sale at 49 cents a pound. Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Nov. 3.
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
Mt. Vernon, VA
Mount Vernon is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year, and this weekend’s Fall Harvest Family Days are a good time to go to see the end of season activities on the farm. There are plenty of fall activities for the whole family to enjoy, while learning about and experiencing history at the same time.
Admission to Mount Vernon allows you to visit the Fall Harvest Family Days as well as the estate and museum, says Rebecca Aloisi, vice president for marketing. Aloisi also recommends driving three miles down the road to see the Distillery and Grist Mill, included with your admission, which will close for the season at the end of October. In addition, the Potomac River sightseeing cruises are half-price the fall harvest weekend only.
Check out the horse-drawn carriage rides, hay bale maze, apple roasting and outdoor cooking demonstrations, meet “Gen. Washington” and much more. A new exhibition, “Take Note! George Washington the Reader,” runs through January, Aloisi says, and shows the collection of books from Washington's library at Mount Vernon.
The Fine Print
Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Family Days is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $17 for ages 12 to 61, $8 for 6 to 11, $16 for seniors. Children under 5 are free. The general admission ticket allows you to visit the Mount Vernon Estate and Museum as well as the Fall Harvest Family Days activities.
1621 Braddock Road
Now in its 41st year, the Cox Farms Fall Festival is Northern Virginia’s and the D.C. area’s largest fall festival with over 90 acres of fun. The Fields of Fear are open on weekends from 7:30 to 11 p.m. and feature Dark Side Hayrides, Corn Nightmare and the Firegrounds.
There is so much to do, arrive early to allow time to take advantage of all of the activities. “I love this place! It is a must to get in the Halloween spirit,” says the Clarendon Moms blog. If you are short on time, visit Cox Farms Market, which sells a wide selection of pumpkins, fresh apples, and pies from Mom's Apple Pie Co., cider and kettle corn. “For the best “value visit,” come on weekday afternoons. With the Weekday Afternoon Value Card, admission is less than $6.50 per person. Plus, on most days you'll practically have the place to yourself, so you get to skip the lines and crowds,” says Aaron Cox, owner of Cox Farms.
Cox says the most popular slide is the 144-foot long Dino slide, which has recently been refinished. Also check out the hayrides, straw tunnels, rope swings, farm animals, haunted rides and houses, cornundrum cornfield adventure, concessions and more. Don't forget your free pumpkin from the pumpkin patch on the way out.
The Fine Print
Open every day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Fields of Fear are open 7:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Weekday admission is $9. Weekend admission ranges from $14 to $17.