The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


I learned about The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze five years ago when I stumbled across a blog from someone in the Historic Hudson Valley (NY) area.  I always wanted to go, but each fall I always waited too late to get tickets.  (This attraction sells out quickly.)

This September, I made it my mission to get tickets and schedule the trip.  Surprisingly, even when buying the tickets in September, I found myself with limited dates to choose from.  This event is popular.  Nonetheless, I bought tickets for Sunday, Oct. 15th (which was still available) and convinced myself that it would be okay if Lewie missed school the next day.  (Family time is valuable around here, and sometimes it doesn't come to us in neat little weekend packages.)

As the date grew closer, I started researching the Historic Hudson Valley area for things to do and then learned that the town of Sleepy Hollow (the original home of Washington Irving) was right next door to our hotel.  Score!  I bought tickets to go on a daytime graveyard tour of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the site of "The Old Dutch Graveyard" where Irving's story about the Headless Horseman takes place.

Although our trip was a quick two-day jaunt, it was fun!   The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is a walking tour, which has over 7,000 glowing pumpkins on display.  The Jack O'Lanterns are so perfectly carved, I found myself touching a few of them to make sure they were real pumpkins.  I touched the outside and even stuck my fingers in a few of them and learned they are real.  I'm not sure how many people donate their time into carving 7,000 pumpkins (pumpkins they have to replace every few weeks because they rot and need new ones), but I was amazed.  We had a beautiful 66 degree night with light wind.  The tour lasted an hour, but the weather was so comfortable, we could have stayed all night.

We stayed overnight at the Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson (what a beautiful place for weddings), used their indoor pool and treated ourselves to their super-delicious breakfast.  Then, we packed up and left to go to Sleepy Hollow, which was literally the next town over.  

We soon learned many historic places and attractions are closed on Monday, but we did get to book a tour of the cemetery.  We saw Washington Irving's grave and learned about how he used to play at The Old Dutch Cemetery when he was a child.  (Evidently, he was supposed to be in church instead.)  As he played and visited the cemetery regularly, he learned about some of the people buried there, and he used several of their names in his "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" story.  This cemetery was the backdrop for his story and so was the bridge (now dubbed The Headless Horseman bridge).  The real bridge no longer exists, but we saw a replica in the rear of the cemetery.
Breakfast at the Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson. 
Who doesn't like chocolate chips in their oatmeal?

Their indoor pool and Jacuzzi.

I wish we could have stayed longer.  Who wouldn't love chilling with a book and cup of coffee out here?

I'm assuming this is where most of their weddings take place...

I'd like a replica of this patio in my yard please.

Our tour guide in front of Washington Irving's resting place.

Washington Irving's grave.

This is how close we were to the Hudson and the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The Old Dutch Church and the graveyard Washington Irving used to play in...

The replica of the famous Headless Horseman Bridge.
Now that we've learned all about Washington Irving, the Old Dutch Church and Graveyard, and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," we'll be watching the short Disney film and maybe even listening to the audio book.  (We would get the book, but I'm not sure it's Lewie's reading level yet.)  

By the way, they are still selling plots in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (there are 44,000 people buried there with room for more), and you can have your wedding there too.  Our tour guide told us that there were numerous weddings there on this past Friday, October 13th.   I'm sorry we missed them!

Bucket List Item: A Visit to Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond!


This weekend, my sister-in-law, Melissa, and her husband, Moises, invited us to Salem, MA to celebrate her birthday (along with their one-year wedding anniversary).  It was our first time going on an overnight trip without Little Lewie.  (Thankfully, Grammy and my Aunty Kiki spoiled him to death, so he didn't miss us one bit.)

Our trip to Salem included all the typical October activities--highlights were our lunch, dessert at Maria's Sweet Somethings, shopping at the Haunted Street Bizarre Bazaar, and going on a historical ghost tour at night.

Pickering Wharf, Salem, MA

Lunch at Victoria's Station

Hot Chocolate, ice-cream, and chocolate candies at Maria's Sweet Somethings
The next day, we decided to avoid the crowds in Salem again.  We were going to head straight home until a nagging voice in the back of my head suggested I see where Walden Pond was located in relation to Salem.  To my surprise, Henry David Thoreau's beloved birthplace (Concord, MA) and the site of his cabin at Walden Pond were only 25 minutes away from our hotel!

A quick decision was made to take the trip, and even though it was pouring in the morning, the ride from Woburn to Concord was absolutely beautiful.  When we arrived, the sky was overcast, but the rain stopped.  It put a delightfully mysterious spin on our visit.  We walked around Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (burial site to Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne)  and then had a DELICIOUS lunch at the Main Street Market & Cafe where Lew had his very first Lobster Grilled Cheese and I had their signature Acai Sorbet Bowl (complete with layered granola, fresh fruit, honey drizzle, and coconut shavings).

After lunch and a little shopping, the time had come to visit Walden Pond.  If we had more time, we would have visited the homes of Emerson and Alcott (as well as the Concord Museum), but alas, I'll have to wait until we come again.  (Since the area is so beautiful and so close, I will DEFINITELY visit again.)

Walden Pond was bustling.  While half of its visitors were tourists, the other half were locals fishing, canoeing, hanging out on the beach, and even swimming.  (Yes, swimming in Oct!!)  It was a balmy 76 degrees outside with humidity at 90%.  The rain had stopped, and the sun even broke through the clouds a few times.  I had pictured the lake to be this hidden gem in the woods untouched by man, but obviously, I was a little out of touch with reality.

After parking, both the visitor center and the replica of Henry David Thoreau's house were 1/8 th of a mile away.  The visitor center was a beautiful, modern building run on solar power.  The replica of Thoreau's house was just that--a tiny, one-room cabin with a bed, writing desk, chair, and fireplace.  A shed was out back to store wood.  While the replica was not the actual cabin, it made you appreciate the simplicity of Thoreau's two year "experiment" in the woods.  He truly did not have much to do other than to live off the land, study nature, and think/write about the human condition.

Across the street from the visitor center was Walden Pond. Families, children, teenagers, and even the elderly were outside frolicking on the beach.  I found a 1.7 mile trail off to the side that circled the pond and led to the actual log cabin site.  The trail, too, attracted many hikers and tourists, but I took my time, trying to soak in the moment.  Occasionally, I would have a few minutes to myself to study the beauty of the area and to reflect.  My focus turned to old, large trees--trees that may have been there during Thoreau's time.  (If only they could talk.)  I know my experience at Walden wasn't his, but it was fun to try and place myself back in his time.

A "replica" of Thoreau's Cabin in the Woods at Walden

His very simple, one-room cabin.

So clean, you could see the bottom of the lake.

The Visitor Center
 Overall, I was impressed by Concord, MA.  What a beautiful, historical, and artistic town!  Even more, I enjoyed my visit to Walden.  Even though it was much busier than expected, I was happy to see the land hadn't been developed and taken over by real estate.  Besides an old beach house and a train track that runs by the lake, the woods were well protected and pristine.

Thoreau only lived to be 45 years-old.  He never married or had children.  Still, his legacy lives on...

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."