Embrace the Spooky Side of October with these Fall Family Travel Ideas

The kids are back in school, the air grows crisp, and leaves are starting to change, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for the family to hibernate.  There are plenty of things to do that would make great weekend getaways or vacations.  Continue reading for a few fall family travel ideas focused on ghosts, bats, and witches that embrace the spooky side of October.

Ghosts

Ford's Theatre Washington DC

Washington DC, Ford’s Theatre

The site where John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln houses a museum containing the gun Booth used; it’s also a working theater staging many performances throughout the year.  Many report Ford’s Theatre is also haunted – is it Lincoln’s ghost haunting the presidential box?  John Wilkes Booth’s apparition running across the stage?  Or perhaps Mary Todd Lincoln’s spirit calling for help… visit the historic site and find out for yourself.  Click here for a recap of our tour of Ford’s Theatre.

San Francisco, California

Alcatraz Island was one of the most infamous prisons in the country.  “The Rock” served as a high security federal penitentiary for 29 years, prior to closing in 1963, housing a number of the most notorious criminals in America.  To this day, visitors to the island report paranormal activity at the site.  Take a tour and listen for sobbing or moans and be aware of sudden chills and temperature drops.

Village of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Author Washington Irving immortalized New York’s Village of Sleepy Hollow with his tale of the Headless Horseman.  The Hudson Valley region fully embraces the legend with a host of activities including an appearance of the headless one himself.  The most elaborate celebration is the Great Jack-O-Lantern Blaze featuring over 5,000 hand carved pumpkins igniting the night.

Bats

Howe Caverns

Cobleskill, New York

Take an elevator into the underworld of Howe Caverns for a 90 minute guided tour through a subterranean maze filled with rock formations called Godzilla Head, Witches of the Grottoes, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Chinese Pagoda, Pipe Organ, and more.  Of course no Halloween celebration is complete without candy, and Howe Caverns has some fantastic fudge!  Click here for our family’s visit to Howe Caverns.

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Home to millions of bats, Mammoth Cave National Park is a “Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar Place.”  It’s also the longest known cave system in the world – encompassing 400 miles explored.  The cave is a World Heritage Site and conservationists are working to preserve and restore the endangered population of bats.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Cavern National Park, contains massive, swarming groups of Mexican free-tailed bats that emerge from the cave at sunset, twisting into the air to feed.  The cavern celebrates and protects its winged mammal celebrities with a nightly “Bat Flight Program” led by park rangers.

Witches

Colonial Williamsburg

Salem, Massachusetts

Salem is the notorious home of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials where nearly 20 women and men were found guilty of practicing witchcraft and executed by hanging over three successive days.  The Salem Witch Museum helps guests understand the perceptions of witchcraft in the 17th Century, the interpretation of witches, and the phenomenon of “witch hunting” that continues to this day.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Salem wasn’t the only area of the new world afflicted with witches, and Colonial Williamsburg had their share of witch trials as well.  During the “Cry Witch” program, families can sit in the jury during the candlelit trial of Grace Sherwood, charged with witchcraft in 1706.  Based on the laws of the time, it’s up to you to decide whether the “Virginia Witch” is innocent or guilty.  Note: during the program our family attended, Grace Sherwood was found guilty.

Burkittsville, Maryland

“In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary… A year later their footage was found.  Everything you’ve heard is true…” well, kinda.  That was the description of the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project.  While the movie was fiction, Burkittsville, Maryland does exist, and film/witch fans flock to the town to try to find evidence of the witch themselves.

Fantastic Fall Getaways

Those are just a few ideas for how your family could embrace the spooky side of October.  Of course there are plenty of museums full of skeletons and haunted houses overflowing with zombies and monsters.  What are some of your family’s favorite activities for the month?  Please share your suggestions in the comments below.  For even more ideas, check out this article from our friends at “Taking the Kids” with Great Ideas for a Fall Family Vacation or Getaway.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.