My nine year-old daughter and I kicked-off the Halloween season with a visit to the fun and affordable Haunted Train and Creepy Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park. This annual event includes a train ride, a carousel ride, and free movies. The decorations in front of the train station, three zombie cut-outs for photo opportunities and a graveyard immediately put us in the Halloween mood. An inflatable train with skeletons advertises the ride ahead.
The train rides are around 20 minutes and trains depart every half hour from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. We arrived at the train station at 5:45 p.m., the recommended fifteen minutes before the 6 p.m. departure time. Make sure you arrive at the train at the time designated on your ticket. A family in front of us was asked to leave the train because they had gotten in a half hour early, and another legitimate family was waiting.
The train goes through the woods, over a bridge, and finally through a darkened tunnel. On the way, you will see a toxic waste site, Dracula’s castle, a gory car accident, and a coffin. Skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, and tarantulas abound. Costumed actors jump out at the riders with knives and chain saws. My daughter was not at all scared and greeted each character with a cheery “Hello.” Some younger children on the train were frightened of the costumed characters though and I must admit I do not like people jumping out at me. I strongly recommend that you go after dusk for a more spooky experience. The characters seemed to mainly jump out at the front and back of the train, so plan according to the degree of scariness your children can handle. There are strobe lights, mainly in the tunnel.
You can ride the Creepy Carousel once at anytime throughout the evening. We were greeted by a person dressed as “The Scream.” The normally open air carousel is enclosed for this event. As you enter, you will see a clown in a coffin. The mood is set with eerie laughter and strange noises, darkness, creepy music, strobe lighting and skeletons. The carousel takes about 10 minutes. A man dressed as the Joker walked among the riders. Again, my fearless daughter cheerfully greeted him, while a number of adults and children screamed.
Inside the Train Station party room, Halloween films such as Harry Potter, Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride, Coraline, Night Before Christmas, and Beetlejuice are shown continuously on a large sheet. As the evening progresses shorter Goosebumps movies replace the longer ones. There is plenty of bench seating. The room is decorated with skeletons, ghosts, and jack-o-lanterns. Outside the restrooms, there are holographic scary portraits and a life-size skeleton with light-up eyes. Even then bathrooms were decorated with messages written in blood and weapons. One little girl screamed as I entered the ladies room.
Eat dinner before you go. The only refreshments for sale in the party room are drinks, candy $1, popcorn $1.50, and a few other snacks.
Cabin John has a tamer “Eye Spy” Halloween Train for ages 8 and under. Although the Wheaton Train is recommended for ages 8 and up, there were many younger riders. My daughter has enjoyed it since she was 6 but our mailman’s 9 year-old was terrified by the train and carousel. Some kids might be especially freaked out by the characters with chain saws. Also, some people may be bothered by the strobe lights at the carousel and train.
Note: If the weather is wet, the train cannot run. If the weather is iffy, check Wheaton Regional’s Facebook page or call the train station at 301-942-6703. We had planned to visit a week earlier but the train was cancelled.
- Admission is $6 per person (includes one train ride, one carousel ride, and creepy movies) Children under 2 are free with a paying adult. Tickets can be bought in advance online or bought the day of the event at the Train Station party room beginning at 5:30 p.m. Canned food donations for Metropolitan United Ministries are encouraged and can be placed in the bin in the party room.
- The event runs during the month of October. Remaining dates for 2013 are: Thursday, October 24, through Wednesday, October 30. All activities begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. The last train departs at 9:30 p.m.
- Restrooms: changing table in Ladies Room; long table that can be used as changing table in Men’s Room.
Photos by Beth Meyer.