By Mara Surrage
As soon as October hits, my daughter starts getting excited for Halloween. Dressing up, trick-or-treating, and carving jack-o-lanterns are all on her must-do list. This year, we got to check out something new for Halloween – The Glow: A Jack-o-Lantern Experience in Reston, VA.
The Glow offers an immersive Halloween experience as you walk through over 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins. And these are not the usual jack-o-lanterns that you see in your neighborhood on Halloween. The master carvers have offered up some of the most amazing Halloween displays ever. As soon as we entered, we realized just how incredible this was going to be. Large pumpkins were put together to create huge jaw-dropping displays.
From dinosaurs to a giant skeleton band, there was something for everyone. My daughter’s favorite were the dragons, especially the one that appeared to be swimming through the park. She also loved the Harry Potter display, complete with a Hogwarts Express made out of pumpkins. And the dinosaurs and giant skeleton band were a huge hit with all of the families around us.
In between the large themed displays are smaller displays with the most detailed jack-o-lanterns I’ve ever seen. We loved the Disney characters and the pumpkins carved into Washington DC landmarks. At the end of the trail there’s a chance to talk to one of the master carvers and watch some of the pumpkin creations being made. That’s where we learned that it takes a master carver almost 2 hours to carve one of the pumpkins. That’s right – TWO HOURS. We also learned that while there’s a mix of real and artificial pumpkins on display, all 5,000 were carved by hand. There’s also some singing pumpkins at the end that my daughter couldn’t get enough of. The Glow is about 1/3 of a mile long. We walked through VERY slowly, taking the time to really enjoy each of the displays. At our snail’s pace, it took us about 30 minutes to enjoy the entire trail.
The Glow is not at all scary and perfect for families. The path is mostly gravel, so it might be tricky to navigate with a small stroller. As you leave, you exit through a pumpkin patch with pumpkins for sale ($3 for small, $5 for the larger ones) so you can make your own creation at home. You can also purchase a carved pumpkin for $20 This was our second year attending The Glow and were worried that it would be exactly the same as last year. While the dinosaurs and dragons were back for a second year, most of the large displays were completely new. We did notice, however, that there were far fewer of the smaller displays with single pumpkins this year. My daughter prefers the bigger displays anyways (and said she liked this year’s better) but my husband and I were missing some of the intricate individual pumpkins from last year. That being said, we still thoroughly enjoyed our evening at The Glow. While the price of tickets seemed high, once we were there we completely understood WHY. The number of hours that went into creating the trail alone justified the cost. And the displays were nothing short of incredible – pictures don’t really do them justice. The Glow was a really special way for our family to get in the Halloween spirit. Some things to know before you go: The Glow is open evenings Thursday Sunday through October 28. Tickets are available online for advanced purchase ONLY at https://www.tixr.com/groups/glowdc. There was not a ticket booth at the event. Admission starts at $22.99 for adults and $16.99 for children. Tickets are timed entry, and many time slots have already sold out. You can also buy an “any time” ticket for $35. This is a very popularevent – almost 25,000 people attended last year. It was quite crowded the night we went – we were told that nearly 1,000 tickets had been sold for the 7:30 time slot alone and there was a massive line of traffic waiting to get in when we left. Crowds thin as the evening goes on – either get there early for the first time slot of the night or, if your children are night owls, go to one of the last showings of the evening.
You can sign up for Jack’s emails which will get you a discount code, and we have seen some other discounts online through sites like Certifikid.
Be sure to bring your camera – you will want to capture the show for sure. But be courteous of those around you. We had to stop a couple of times because people were attempting to photograph the jack-o-
lanterns with high powered flashes (which didn’t actually work) or were snapchatting every pumpkin they saw.
The website says that seasonal treats are available but we didn’t see much of that. Though, to be fair, it was quite warm the night we went so hot apple cider wouldn’t have been a good choice. There were three
food trucks available if you want to eat something while you’re there and a small table selling Halloween cake pops. It’s probably best to eat dinner before you arrive. They also have battery-powered light up necklaces, swords, and wands available for purchase, along with souvenir tshirts. New this year was a photo booth at the entrance where staff takes your picture before you walk to the pumpkins. You can purchase prints of these pictures as you exit, or you can save your card and view and share them online for free when you get home.
The Glow is located at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA. There is plenty of parking available, though the night we were there the staff seemed to be having trouble getting cars in in a timely fashion and traffic was backed up for quite a distance. Hopefully they will work out the kinks before the second weekend. It can be a bit of a walk from the parking to the entrance and from the entrance to the pumpkins, so give yourself a little extra time. Port a-potties are available at the entrance as well as a bathroom closer to the pumpkins. Be aware that you will go through security and then wait in another line for your timed group to be admitted. While our group only waited a few minutes, I heard from friends that some groups waited up to 30 minutes at the entrance.
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