Goblins, ghosts, haunted houses, hayrides, pumpkin picking and more. As autumn arrives and leaves start to turn a brilliant, natural hue, the region abounds with activities galore. For those seeking the spine-chilling thrill of haunted houses to the family-friendly hayride to explore a pumpkin patch or apple orchard, it’s all at your doorstep.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Inside the walls of this once operational 10-acre prison, a National Historic Landmark, those seeking the thrill of a fright, can find it at during Halloween Nights. Described as a “Halloween Festival of Epic Proportions,” it was reimagined in 2021.
Halloween Nights, offered on select evenings through November 11, features five haunted houses, live entertainment, themed bars and tours of the long-abandoned cell blocks and yards. Haunted houses include Delirium, Big Top Terror, Machine Shop, Nightmares and The Crypt.
“We’re thrilled to bring visitors another year of festive fun,” said Erin Davis, director of Halloween Nights. “This year, we’re adding more scare zones and photo opportunities, enhancing our characters and sets and increasing the number of performers throughout the festival.”
Visitors who prefer to spice up their night of terror with a bit of history can tour the museum and special exhibits. Award-winning exhibits about mass incarceration and its history in the United States include The Big Graph and Prisons Today. There’s also an audio tour “The Voices of Eastern State,” featuring the voices of people who were incarcerated at the prison and those who worked there.
The penitentiary, with vaulted, skylit cells, was closed as an active prison in 1971. According to easternstate.org, the prison, “known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, was the world’s first penitentiary, designed to inspire penitence, or true regret in the hearts of prisoners.” Eastern State imprisoned nearly 85,000 inmates in its long history, including “Scarface” Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton.
All proceeds from Halloween Night ticket sales will support the preservation of the Eastern State Penitentiary.
For information or to purchase tickets, visit www.halloweennights.org. And you can learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary at www.easternstate.org
Creamy Acres Night of Terror
Mullica Hill, NJ
According to nightofterror.com, the haunted houses at this Mullica Hill, New Jersey farm are among the Northeast’s scariest Halloween destinations. Located on a 100-acre park, participants will come face-to-face with zombies, attack dogs, chainsaw-wielding maniacs and killer clowns. There’s also a haunted paintball hayride.
Night of Terror was named by HGTV as one of the scariest destinations for haunted houses, second only to the home of the famous witch trials of the 1690s in Salem, Massachusetts.
The farm’s fall activities, offered through November 4, also include the more traditional, such as pumpkin picking.
Springdale Farm Market
Cherry Hill, NJ
The last and only operating farm in Cherry Hill, NJ, their popular pumpkin-picking hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through October. This autumn activity, a go-to for more than 20 years, continues to attract people of all ages: school groups, teenagers and adults. The farm also hosts birthday parties, special events and private campfire hayrides, to name a few.
The family-owned business was established in 1949 at a time when the surrounding community was sprawling with farms, orchards and pastures – a stark contrast to what exists today.
Michala Jarvis, a third-generation co-owner, works in the farm’s market and oversees the bakery and seasonal departments. The family business includes her parents, Mary Ann and Tom Jarvis, brothers Clayton and Alan Jarvis and her uncle, John Ebert. It’s not unusual to find Jarvis in the fields as well, driving a tractor. She explained that everyone in the family helps out wherever needed.
Jarvis noted that some farms tend to focus more on entertainment. Although Springdale Farm Market offers this as well, their primary concentration is their crops. Jersey Fresh remains a priority. “First and foremost, we are a production farm,” said Jarvis. “We grow tons of fruits and vegetables. Anything we can grow, we do grow. We also sell wholesale to restaurants.”
The farm is also well known for its homemade pies made fresh daily, as well as muffins, cakes, breads and other specialty items. They also have an extensive plant nursery and an array of novelty gift items for the home and garden.
Jarvis points out that their pumpkin-picking hayride is not only fun but also educational. It gives people a chance to see the farm’s crops and sprawling fields. A tractor with an attached wagon brings people to the large pumpkin patch, where they can select from a wide variety of pumpkins, often snapping some memorable photos. The pumpkins are grown in many shapes, sizes and colors: the traditional orange, along with white and blue.
With 100 acres of land, the farm produces an array of seasonal fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, sweet corn, yellow and green squash, eggplant, apples and cole crops. Cole crops, explained Jarvis, are those that thrive in the cold. These include leafy greens, such as lettuce, brussels sprouts, collards, broccoli, Swiss chard, cabbage and cauliflower. Although corn and tomatoes are at their peak in the summer, they are usually still available through mid-October.
Tickets for hayrides and other activities can be purchased online at www.springdalefarms.com.
Johnson’s Corner Farm
With the fall harvest at its peak, Johnson’s Corner Farm continues its annual family tradition of hayrides to pick pumpkins, gourds and apples. Their Harvest Festivals, held every weekend through October, include live music, a food tent with freshly grilled fare, a corn maze, sunflower picking, a Discovery Barnyard animal farm and playground. Visitors can feed (not pet) the animals, such as sheep, goats, chickens and cows.
“We have a really great apple harvest this year,” said Gil Johnson, who runs the farm with his father, Eric. There are 10 varieties this season, with apple picking in full swing through October. Some of the most popular, noted Johnson, include Pink Lady, Stayman and Fuji.
The family-owned and operated farm is celebrating its 70th year. The farm was purchased in 1953 by Johnson’s grandparents, Bill and Bette.
A long-standing tradition is for school groups to visit every year. Johnson noted that class trips come from schools throughout South Jersey, North Jersey and Philadelphia
The farm’s 110 acres of land is also known for its sprawling sunflower fields and three-acre corn maze. “The sunflower fields are really beautiful,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s Corner Farm is also home to a market with a variety of produce, including seasonals such as apples, sweet corn and tomatoes. They also have a bakery, with a full line of pies and breads. “Right now, our specialty is apple pie, pumpkin pie, apple bread and pumpkin bread,” said Johnson. “We always have our famous apple cider donuts.”
Tickets for hayrides, sunflower picking and family-friendly scavenger hunts in the Corn Maze, should be purchased online at www.johnsonsfarm.com.