NOTE: This experience has been permanently closed as of 2022. There are lots of other great Halloween and Fall events & activities:
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- DC Fall Bucketlist: Free Download
- 21 Haunted Houses in Virginia + Map of Haunted Places
- 33 Best Places for Apple Picking in Virginia + Orchard Map
- 26 Apple Festivals in Virginia: Music, Maze, & Food (+ Map)
- 37 Fall Festivals in Maryland: Fall Festivals & Events
- Best Time to See Fall Colors in Virginia (+ Map of 35 Places)
- 15 Fall Consignment Sales in the DC Metro Area
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 I have ever seen.
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 a 30 foot long pirate ship to 16 foot tall dinosaurs, there was something for everyone. My daughter’s favorite were the dragons, especially the one that appeared to be swimming through the park. The dinosaurs were also a huge hit, as were the motorcycle riding skeletons. And the huge Ferris wheel made out of jack-o-lanterns was incredible! There’s even a winter themed display…complete with actual snow!
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 superheroes, but there were also many pumpkins with athletes, celebrities, presidents, and more. There was even a pumpkin tribute to Tom Petty.
At the end of the trail there’s a chance to talk to one of the master carvers and try some of the carving techniques yourself. 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 joke-cracking 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 45 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 pumpkin to be carved by one of the master carvers in front of you for $20.
We 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.
- THE GLOW is open evenings Thursday to Sunday through October 29. Tickets are available online for advanced purchase ONLY. There was not a ticket booth at the event. Admission starts at $16 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets are timed entry, and many time slots have already sold out.
- It was quite crowded the night we went, though we noticed that the crowds thinned as the evening went on. Go as late as your children can stay awake for. There are also “late night date night” discounted tickets available for the 9:30 & 10:00 p.m. entrance times most nights. You can also sign up for Jack’s emails which will get you a discount code.
- Be sure to bring your camera – you will want to capture this amazing display. 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.
- There were two food trucks and plenty of tables available if you want to eat something while you’re there. You can also bring a picnic to enjoy before you enter. They also have battery-powered light up necklaces, swords, and wands available for purchase for $12 each.
- THE GLOW is located at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA. There is plenty of parking available along with helpful staff to get families in and out. It’s 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.
Photos courtesy of Mara Surridge.