After dressing my older son on past Halloweens as Buzz Lightyear, Elvis Presley and -- my personal favorite -- James Bond, this year he had something else in mind. A decomposing zombie. A sickle-toting ghoul. Anything that might require the liberal application of fake blood.
As many kids eventually do, my two boys have embraced the macabre side of Halloween, and that’s included visits to some of Long Island’s numerous haunted attractions. This is where some important parenting decisions come in.
Most parents have a feel for how much, if any, gore their kids can take before the nightmares kick in. And, for sure, there are some attractions that should be way off-limits for the elementary school crowd. But I’ve found that there are plenty of opportunities for younger kids to get some Halloween thrills without any unnecessary trauma.
First, parents should know that some of Long Island’s most terrifying haunts offer less-frightening daytime options for the younger crowd. Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. are “Not-So-Scary Days” at Bayville Scream Park. The park’s haunted houses feature “less scary effects” and none of the actors that terrorize visitors during the nighttime hours. Bayville Scream Park also features other kid-friendly attractions, including the Halloween Express Train Ride, a pumpkin-themed bounce house, and Halloween arts and crafts.
Similarly, F & W Schmitt’s Family Farm in Melville offers a tamed-down tour of its Haunted Mansion on certain days from noon to 5 p.m. Be warned: Even without actors jumping out at you, there’s still a fair amount of blood and gore inside the Haunted Mansion during daytime hours. But my kids, who are approaching their sixth and fourth birthdays, respectively, got through it mostly fine. (My little one was holding my hand pretty tightly through a few corners.)
My boys also thoroughly enjoyed the second annual Valley Scream Haunted Hayride at Hendrickson Park last Saturday. Although the wait was quite long (two hours, and we were among the first in line), the hayride is quickly earning a reputation as one of the best Halloween attractions on Long Island. Visitors ride around the darkened park, as werewolves, horror movie characters and even a headless horseman approach their pickup truck — and sometimes hop in. This one is certainly not for the squeamish, but the actors — many of them volunteering high school students — knew not to overstep their bounds.
And, of course, there are plenty of completely fright-free Halloween activities throughout the Island. Tanglewood Preserve’s Spooky Fest, going on this weekend and next in Rockville Centre, has a “Not-So-Spooky” walking trail for kids that should be fine even for the smallest of children. There’s also face painting, friendly monsters posing for photos, and arts and crafts. Some of the braver kids may be up for checking out the Scary Walk through the woods, and the Maze of Zombies.
Hicks Nursery in Westbury also offers family-friendly Halloween Fun, with none of the screams. That includes a walk-through animated attraction featuring the story of Otto the Ghost, a hayride, and a showroom filled with inflatable Halloween decorations.
As for my older son: I finally got him to settle for a Dracula costume, which I think strikes an acceptable balance between adorable and scary. And, yes, I did buy a tube of fake blood.