It's the middle of August, which, in my world, means I'm starting to hear about Halloween events (and, soon, Thanksgiving and Christmas ones too).
First up, of course, is Halloween. We are in the process of updating our Halloween and fall fun event database. But I wanted to share details about a few Halloween train events.
Tickets are now available for New Hope Valley Railway's Halloween Express, which is Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. The railway offers hour-long rides through southwestern Wake County starting at 4 p.m. The last train leaves at 7:45 p.m.
Mike MacLean, president of New Hope Valley Railway, tells me that they do their best to make sure the Halloween rides are suitable for all ages with an emphasis on hokey and fun antics while avoiding anything gory. However, some of it may be a bit scary for kids under 4. MacLean said kids ages 4 to 8 seem to enjoy it the best.
"We encourage parents with very young children to come to one of the first two trains (4:00 or 5:15) since they run in daylight," MacLean wrote in an email. "The 6:30 train is at dusk and the 7:45 train is totally at night, so they are better for older children (4 and up) or children at heart. None of the scenes actually change at night, but the darkness adds another scary element to the experience."
Tickets are $7 for kids ages 2 to 12 and $10 for adults. Click here for details and to get your tickets.
In western North Carolina, Tweetsie Railroad will host its 23rd annual Ghost Train Halloween Festival. This very popular event runs every Friday and Saturday from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27. Gates open at 7:30 p.m. each night. Many nights will sell out.
The Ghost Train takes riders on a trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains. You'll also find a 3D maze, a Freaky Forest, Creepy Carnival, something called The Boneyard and a haunted house, among many other activities. Tweetsie does not recommend that children under the age of 8 go through the haunted house or Freaky Forest or ride the Ghost Train.
But there are other activities designed for all ages, including a black light show at The Haunted Palace Saloon; amusement rides at the Creepy Carnival; live music from The Spice Ghouls and emcee Darkus Night; and trick-or-treating throughout the park.
Admission is $28 for adults and kids. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Click here for details and to get tickets. Tweetsie Railroad is between Boone and Blowing Rock about 3.5 hours from Raleigh.
One tip from Tweetsie: If you visit in October and plan to stay overnight, be sure to book a hotel now as many fill up with fall foliage visitors.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad will start running its Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express starting the weekend of Oct. 6. The train departs from the railroad's Bryson City Depot, which is about five hours from the Triangle. This is designed for all ages and includes all kinds of special activities including campfire marshmallows, a coloring station, bouncy house, hayrides and, according to a mom I spoke with about the event the other day, a lot of trick or treating (so kids should wear their Halloween costumes). Tickets are $53 for adults and $31 for kids ages 2 to 12. Kids under two ride for free.
And, finally, mark your calendars for Sept. 7. That's when tickets will go on sale to the general public for the Museum of Life and Science's Pumpkin Patch Express, featuring rides on its kiddie train, pumpkins, crafts and other activities.