Wondering if Canada’s largest outdoor drive-thru Halloween event is for you? Read on to find out what to expect, my honest review of the event, and my thoughts on whether Pumpkins After Dark is kid-friendly or not.
September always signifies the beginning of the fall season for me. I think years of going back to school in September trained my brain to believe that summer ends in August.
So when the invitation to the media preview of Pumpkins After Dark landed in my inbox earlier this month, I didn't think twice about attending. What a great way to kick off the spooky season!
What is Pumpkins After Dark?
Boasting 8,000 hard-carved Jack-O-Lanterns lined up along a 2.5 km drive-thru trail, this award-winning Halloween display is a must-visit for anyone living near the area. This outdoor event in Milton, Ontario is in the drive-through format again this year (like last year) and is completely contactless.
There are over 200 displays are made from a combination of real pumpkins and craft pumpkins, and it takes several weeks to create the art pieces for the event.
Pumpkins After Dark runs from September 17th to November 7th, after dark, Thursday to Sunday nights, and 2 weeks leading up to Halloween (7 days/week).
The event is being held at Country Heritage Park, 8560 Tremaine Rd. Milton, Ontario, L9T 2X3.
All tickets have to be purchased in advance as there isn't a ticket booth onsite. The organizers are anticipating having over 150,000 visitors from across Ontario, including Halton, Hamilton, the GTA and surrounding areas, and say that tickets are likely to sell out again this year, so be sure to book your tickets early if you want to go.
My Experience at the Event
When we arrived at Country Heritage Park there were several attendants ushering cars into the parking lot. You have to pull up to the ticket check area (roll your window down), and then the attendants will point to which lane you should enter.
After we drove out of the parking lot area, another attendant approached the car to say she needed to cover our headlights (I think they just taped cardboard over the lights). Once she had covered them, we were ushered to move along towards the actual exhibit.
We spent about an hour driving along the path of the exhibit, taking in the impressive works of pumpkin artistry. I love all things pumpkin and I've seen some cool pumpkin sculptures in the time, but nothing comes close to what I was at Pumpkins After Dark! The exhibit reminded me of the lantern festival that sometimes runs at the Canadian National Exhibition, except that these lantern sculptures are made out of pumpkins.
There were classic spooky Jack-O-Lanterns of every size, and tiny pumpkins carved with simple patterns like flowers and leaves (lots of inspiration for your own pumpkins!), but most of the art installments are giant masterpieces made from a combination of real and craft pumpkins.
We saw the classic pumpkins after dark pieces including King Kong, the headless horseman, and a 40 foot long fire-breathing dragon, but there were several new scenes too including a Carnival theme, Egyptian theme and Fairytale theme.
I really enjoyed this outdoor art exhibit and was tremendously impressed by the detail of the carvings and all of the extra special effects that were built into the experience. I won't go into detail about those so that I don't ruin any surprises!
The only part of the event that I personally found underwhelming was the live carving demonstrations. There were two artists working on new pieces situated in the middle of the exhibit, but you can't really hang around to see what they're doing when there's a line of cars waiting behind you. It's definitely nice to see the faces behind some of the work, but don't expect to see much live carving as you can't linger on that spot for too long.
Is Pumpkins After Dark Scary?
Honestly, no. While some of the sculptures are on the creepy side, most adults and teens will find that this isn't a scary event. That being said, it could be scary or overwhelming to some small children.
Pumpkins After Dark markets the event as being appropriate for the whole family, and says that while "there are a few displays with zombies and classic horror monsters...there is no blood or gore, and nothing jumps out". That is absolutely true. However, some of the displays could be frightening to little ones who don't like spooky things and there was someone walking along the path with a pumpkin head which might upset some kiddies.
Is Pumpkins After Dark Kid-Friendly?
Generally speaking, yes. Most kids and young teens will probably appreciate the fun and spooky exhibits, especially since many of them are based on popular characters from pop culture.
Also, there is a bathroom on-site before you enter the exhibit, in case that's important for planning your trip.
It's important to remember that this is a nighttime event where you drive through dark roads and admire giant sculptures that glow under the night sky. I definitely know a few kids who would find that atmosphere uncomfortable, overwhelming or scary.
If you're trying to decide whether or not this event will be suitable for your child, consider factors like Are they afraid of the dark? Do they like spooky Halloween decorations? Do they get easily overwhelmed by large displays at theme parks?
While I don't have kids of my own, I have worked with children in several of my past jobs. Out of all the kids I've worked with, I can think of one 4-year-old who would LOVE Pumpkins After Dark, and another 4-year-old who would absolutely cry through the whole thing.
It really depends on the personality of the kid.
Can You Take Photos of the Exhibits?
You are allowed to take photos but there are also signs that tell you to avoid stopping, so try not to stay in one place for too long.
Since the event is held at night, when it's dark, you may find it difficult to get good shots.
If you have a "night" mode on your phone, I'd recommend using it for this event. All of my photos shot in night mode turned out well, so long as I held my hand steady until the shot saved. This does, unfortunately, take about 10 seconds (as opposed to instantly being able to take a shot), but the images should turn out clear.
I would avoid using flash as it may disrupt the experience for other patrons at the event, and the carvings won't look as nice in your shots.
How to Buy Tickets
All tickets must be purchased in advance online at pumpkinsafterdark.com/ontario/buy-tickets.
Tickets are sold in 15-minute time slots (to avoid having too many people enter at the same time) and the price ranges from $39 for a car with 2 passengers, to $89 for a car with 7 passengers. Kids 3 years of age and under can enter for free. Please check out the ticket page on the Pumpkins After Dark website for full details.
A portion of this year’s proceeds will go to Joseph Brant Hospital in support of our frontline healthcare workers and Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Last year the event raised over $25,000 ($20,000 to Country Heritage Park, including $5,000 to CHP food bank), as well as $3,000 to Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Pumpkins After Dark Promo Code for September 2021
Use the promo code September15 to get 15% off all September dates. EXPIRED.