When cooler temperatures and blustery winds of autumn sweep through New England, ghouls, ghosts, zombies, and other frights come to life. Even the landscape may appear to be haunted as trees wave their spindly branches at the darkening evening sky. With the approach of Halloween, a celebration dating to festivals of the dead and harvest rituals, illuminated jack-o-lanterns leer from porches, and children of all ages don costumes designed to frighten and delight. Prepare to be spooked — a little or a lot — at these seasonally inspired destinations.
EAST HAVEN, CONN.
Hop aboard a trolley and be transported to a gate at the edge of the woods for the Haunted Isle Tour at the Shore Line Trolley Museum (through Oct. 26, Fri. and Sat. only, 7-10 p.m.). Walking shoes are recommended for the wooded paths where you’ll be ambushed at every turn by ghoulish frights, scary clowns, and costumed freaks. Parental discretion advised for children ages 13 and under, though younger children will not be refused. Trolleys operate frequently throughout the evening; last car boards at 10 p.m. $10-$20. 203-467-6927, www.shorelinetrolley.com
Take the kids to the Roger Williams Park Zoo for two days of not-too-scary events dubbed Spooky Zoo (Oct. 26-27, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). Activities include roaming costumed characters; trick or treat stations; pumpkin-carving demonstrations; pumpkin treats for the animals; creepy, crawly animal encounters; live music; games tent; and more. All activities are free with zoo admission. Adults $14.95, 3-12 $9.95. Come in a costume (under age 12) and get in for half price. Or plan an evening visit to the zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular (through Nov. 3, 6-11 p.m.) and experience thousands of glowing, artfully carved pumpkins — on the ground and in the trees — depicting people, places, and scenes set amid fog and music. Adults $12-$15, ages 3-12 $9-$12. 401-941-4998, www.rwpzoo.org
Don your most ghoulish outfit and join the crowds in Stearns Square for the start of the Springfield Zombie Walk (Oct. 19, 3-6 p.m.), an afternoon festival with costume contests, zombie games, live bands, and more. Participants are asked to bring a can of “blood” — a.k.a. tomato sauce — to support Friends of the Homeless. The event is part of a monthlong series of zombie activities sponsored by a three-county region in the Pioneer Valley. Other events include zombie zip lining at Zoar Outdoor (Oct. 13); candlelight tours at the historic Wistariahurst Museum (Oct. 26); a Witches Ball at Chandler’s Restaurant (Oct. 31), and more. Zombie calendar: www.zombiepioneervalley.com
Scary campfire stories come to life on the Dark Walk Haunted Camp Tour (Oct. 18-19, 6:30-10:30 p.m.) at the Channel 3 Kids Camp. This intimate event, best described as “Halloween Theater,” takes visitors on a lantern-lighted walk through woods “haunted” by a strange cast of characters, ultimately leading to a final Vespers assembly. Tours are scheduled every 15 minutes; allow 1½-2 hours for the event. Attendance is limited; advanced ticket purchases are recommended ($22 in advance; $25 at door, if available). Not appropriate for very young children; recommended for ages 8 and over. 860-742-2267, www.darkwalk.net
VERGENNES AND BRATTLEBORO, VT.
Haunted Highways explores haunted sites along Vermont’s historic roads from the southwest to the northern border where it’s said that ghosts ride horses, boats mysteriously row themselves across lakes, and boots may be heard tap dancing in empty rooms. In Vergennes, stay at the Strong House Inn and enjoy a complimentary Halloween party with Mexican food to scare ghosts and goblins away. From $140, Oct. 31-Nov.1. 802-877-3337, www.stronghouseinn.com
Or head to the Forty Putney Road Bed & Breakfast and investigate the spooky side of Brattleboro, including the Retreat Cemetery where ghost hunters have reported sightings of figures leaping from the tower built by patients of the Vermont Asylum in 1887. From $159, through Nov. 30. 800-941-2413, www.fortyputneyroad.com
More Haunted Highways packages are featured on the state’s tourism website: vermonttravelplanner.org/TravelPlanner/VacationPackagesByGroup.aspx?themeid=25
The New Bedford Whaling Museum hosts its first ever Haunted Whaling Ship adventure (Oct. 26, 4:30-7:30 p.m.). Children accompanied by parents can tour the museum when the lights are dimmed and hear scary stories; meet ghosts from New Bedford’s maritime past; participate in a Haunted Scavenger Hunt; enjoy arts and crafts activities; and win a prize for the best costume. Adults $5, ages 12 and under $3. 508-997-0046, www.whalingmuseum.org
Confreda Greenhouses & Farms is transformed into “Scary Acres” four nights a week (through Oct. 27, Thu-Sun., dusk-10 p.m.) when it offers two haunted attractions for one price. First, clamber aboard a rickety wagon for a hayride in dark woods where zombies and bloodthirsty werewolves prowl. Then walk though a corn maze — over four football fields in size — navigating by the light of the moon and flashlights. Along a complex series of trails you’ll encounter more than 40 costumed actors dressed as gory chainsaw guys, ghouls, clowns, and more, all waiting to frighten you. Recommended for ages 16 and over, though younger children may join the fun when accompanied by parents. No costumes are allowed. $20. 401-827-5000, scaryacresri.com
Wear your costume to the Silly Spooky Halloween celebration at Santa’s Village where the entire park, including rides such as the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and roller coaster, are transformed into family-friendly Halloween adventures (Oct. 19 and 26, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.). There are spooky areas for older children, less scary ones for younger goblins, and shops that cater to trick-or-treaters. You won’t see Santa, but you may encounter the Silly Nilly Witch of the North. $23, age 3 and under free. 603-586-4445, www.santasvillage.com
Portland Ballet offers Halloween-themed performances on two Saturdays, Oct. 19 and 26. The Halloween Spooktacular is a program of family-friendly dance set to “a little fright music” featuring Saint-Saëns’s “Danse Macabre,” Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” and Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.” (3 p.m.) Wear a costume and join the children’s parade at intermission. Advance tickets: Adult $18, student $12; day of show $23/$17. Or attend “Jack the Ripper,” about the man who terrorized London in the 1800s. Not for children. (8 p.m.) $20/$25. 207-772-9671, www.portlandballet.org