Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns, a fun fall experience

Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns is around the corner! And I feel like it wasn’t that long ago since we attended last year’s event. When we went, I had heard about it but really had no idea what it was. I actually thought it was more of a haunted house kind of thing since it took place leading up to Halloween, but it’s really more of a special fall outdoor art exhibition. It was certainly a unique experience and one that I recommend. For us, it was the perfect low-key, not too time-consuming outing that fit nicely into our fall schedule.

We had tickets for Saturday, November 1, at 6:30pm, at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, which if it wasn’t the very last day of the event, it was certainly near the very end of it. Being a Saturday evening, the drive to La Cañada Flintridge from West LA wasn’t too bad (23 miles, about 30 minutes). Once we arrived, the parking was easy and the crowds were reasonable since it was still early in the evening.

The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns experience consists of a short walk along a path where thousands of hand-carved lit jack o’lanterns are creatively displayed, and there is background music which adds to the ambiance. The event takes place in the evening, and it happens rain or shine!

We began our visit with a stop at the refreshment booth. We bought the boys some hot cider and popcorn before we moved on. Next, we observed a sculptor in action as he was carving a pumpkin. With headphones on and his back to us, he seemed oblivious to all of us watching him work.

Then we walked along the path a bit before we came to the beginning of the jack o’lantern displays. Sometimes it was the wide view that was impressive; others times it was the close-up of carved pumpkins that amazed. You never knew what was coming up around the next bend which made it all the more exciting. Rounding one corner, we particularly enjoyed suddenly seeing the dinosaurs appear.

The jack o’lantern displays were organized into different themes. Last year some of the themes were video games, the solar system, dinosaurs, sports, celebrities, Dia de los Muertos, along with many more.

A note of interest, not all the jack o’lanterns are made from real pumpkins, but that doesn’t diminish the experience. All 5,000 jack o’lanterns are still intricately hand-carved. They use “literally TONS” of real pumpkins, but they also use carvable foam pumpkins (because they last longer). They have no secret trick to keeping the real pumpkins from rotting during the monthlong event. Each week they have to replace the rotting jack o’lanterns with fresh ones.

The 2015 Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns seems like it will be another interesting experience. According to their website, “New themes this year include a safari with larger-than-life animals carved from dozens of jack o’lanterns, an auto show featuring classic cars that have been re-imagined in a gourd-geous new way, and a dragon that’s over 50 feet long and contains hundreds of jacks! You’ll also see our talented artists hand-paint and hand-carve the images of some of your favorite TV and movie stars into giant 100 pound pumpkins at our live carving station!”

Pumpkins in the gardenIf you’re considering going, I recommend searching for discount codes. I’ve been getting emails from The Rise with information on discounted tickets (you can sign up on their site to receive promocodes), and some deal sites like Groupon will also offer deals, if they aren’t already. And remember, fall evenings in Southern California can get chilly. Bring warm clothing so you don’t have to rush through it but instead can enjoy it fully.

And for my readers outside of the Los Angeles area, they also have events in San Diego, CA, and on Long Island, NY. For details on locations and tickets, click here.

Halloween with a Tween

Aquarium costume at schoolFor the first time in my 10 ½ years of parenting I actually made a homemade costume for Halloween. It kind of happened by default. At my kids’ dentist appointment at the beginning of October, the receptionist for some reason started talking about an aquarium costume she’d seen that she thought was cool. It was made out of a box. The idea and vision stuck in my head.

As Halloween approached, Sonny expressed no interest in a Halloween costume. He even said he might not go trick-or-treating, that he was getting too old. He said he would maybe just stay home and help his grandmother pass out candy at our house.

Halloween is big at my kids’ school. He needed a costume. In the morning, they have a Halloween parade with all kids in their costumes. There are always several amazingly creative homemade costumes. Awards are given out by the student council in a variety of categories. My kids have never been close to winning any kind of award. Their costumes have always been store bought and shown little creativity. I’ve always admired the many creative, homemade costumes and thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make a costume one year?”

This year I did it. I googled this aquarium box costume idea and got some ideas of how to start. It turned out I had practically all the necessary supplies already. We recently moved so we had a ton of boxes from which to choose. From being a teacher and a person who has a hard time throwing away potentially-useful-in-the-future toys, I also already had a good collection of plastic, aquarium-themed toys. I had a glue gun and even spare glue sticks, black spray paint, and funky blue cellophane. All I needed to buy was some aquarium greenery. “I can do this,” I thought to myself.

Morph duoWe didn’t win an award at school for the aquarium, but both he and I were proud of our creation. We saw no other aquariums which was fun, and we got some praise. That was enough for us.

Coincidentally, Doobie and a friend did win an award this year. They were given an award for Best Pair dressed in matching morph suits.

Sonny did eventually agree to go trick-or-treating with us. For the evening, I added an extra touch to the aquarium which made a huge difference since it was dark and it would have been hard to see the aquarium scene. I attached glow sticks around the edges of the box opening. It looked like a lit aquarium scene. It attracted a lot of attention along our route. It was pretty cool, if I may so say myself. My tween was happy with his Halloween.

Aquarium costume at night

Our Halloween Season

Halloween is no longer a one-night event that occurs on the last evening of October. It now seems to last all of October with the grand finale happening on October 31. The list of possible things to do in LA in the month leading up to the big night is endless. There are all sorts of possibilities for all ages, such as Halloween-themed events at theme parks, zoos, aquariums, and museums; haunted houses; carnivals and festivals; pumpkin patches, just to name a few. But with full days of school and sports on the weekends, I find it’s hard to find time to do much of it! We still managed to do a few special things this year, though nothing too out of the ordinary. Continue reading