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Island Oktoberfest is just what the name suggests, Put-in-Bay's 19th annual fall beer fest (Oct. 13 &14). But it's not just for adults; it's a family weekend that islanders refer to as "homecoming." Local vendors will be serving up tasty samples from the Heineman Winery, established on the island in 1888. Restaurants will be ready with plenty of German specialties, including sauerbraten, spaetzle, brats, German potato salad, potato pancakes, apple dumplings, German chocolate cake, wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, and sausage. Both days feature live entertainment by the Maxx Band's "Fingers and Sticks German Band."
Go back in time to the pioneer era of the Western Reserve with the 18th Century Festival (Brecksville, Sept. 30). Filled with folk music, storytelling, candle dipping, butter churning, and wood block painting, the festival is perfect for a family outing. Take in the sounds of blacksmiths hammering away and gunfire flying in a re-creation of a 1777 battle between the Redcoats and the Brigade of the American Revolution. Mud in Yer Eye will be playing their danceable beat live. Other performances will demonstrate life of the era, including cooking and clothing, and there will be pony rides, food, and souvenirs.
In "Leaf Country, USA," otherwise known as Bainbridge, what kind of celebration would you expect other than the Fall Festival of Leaves? Held annually on the third weekend of October (19-21 this year), the weekend is packed with arts and crafts, entertainment, flea markets, midways, parades, tractor pulls, and more. The Queen of Paint Valley High will be crowned, a pet show will include both live and stuffed animals. On Sunday, there's a parade.
The most iconic fall food is the focus of Pumpkin Village at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick (weekends through Nov. 3). New this year is one of the entrance options, the Super Slide. The 250-foot slide takes you down the side of the hill and drops you in the middle of the village. There, you can take a tour on the Moo-Lar Express, a cow-themed tractor ride, or a traditional hayride. Kids can jump on a 70-foot pillow in Jump Park, scramble across rope in the Spider Web, climb the Rattlesnake Mountain wall, and crawl through the Snake Belly Tunnel into clubhouses. There's a seven-acre corn maze, which you can experience in the dark on Friday and Saturday nights – so bring a flashlight, or rent one there. And of course, there's the raison d'etre for the festival – a 25-acre pumpkin patch you can wander through to check out all 82 of the known varieties of pumpkin, and pick out some to carve and decorate.
– Nikki Hunt
With baby boomers deep into nostalgia, it's hard to say whether Halloween is for adults or children. Either way, it's become a great excuse for institutions of every stripe to throw costume parties and special events that are fun for the whole family.
The Great Lakes Science Center has a number of Halloween-themed events this year, combining science education with seasonal fun. On Oct. 12 there will be a Fright Night Sleepover, offering families a chance to tour a Halloween-decorated Science Center after dark, then curl up in their sleeping bags. Activities include a tour of the "haunted" steamship William G. Mather and an Omnimax screening of Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. A late-night snack, breakfast, and free admission to the Science Center the next day are included in the admission price. If staying overnight doesn't sound appealing, the Science Center will also be having Spooky Science Nights on Oct. 19, 20, 26 & 27. Along with the Mather tour and Omnimax screening, kids will get an opportunity to experiment with slime, create glow-in-the-dark concoctions, and watch the staff play with electricity.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo hosts one of the most popular events of the season: Boo at the Zoo. From 6 to 9 p.m. on eight nights in October (18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 & 28), the zoo is transformed into a Halloween haven, with decorations all over and costumed characters roaming about. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in their own costumes as well. Activities include a hay maze, Ghostly Golf, a Monster Mash dance party, and a nightly pumpkin feeding for the elephants. Boo at the Zoo usually sells out, so buy your tickets in advance.
And if you're looking to work up an appetite for dinner on Thanksgiving, the zoo is offering free admission for everyone that day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you haven't been to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium yet, the Halloween season offers a good reason to go. On the weekends of Oct. 20 & 21 and 27 & 28, the aquarium is having its first Hauntaquarium. From 6:30 to 9 p.m. on those days, there will be decorations throughout and activities for kids with a pirate theme, including flame-swallowers, sword fights, and pirates telling spooky stories. Children will also be given a map to participate in a treasure hunt. Kids two years old and younger get in free.
The Cleveland Orchestra will be presenting its Halloween Spooktacular program for the third year in a row on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. The program includes Night on Bald Mountain, Danse Macabre, the "Infernal Dance" from Stravinsky's The Firebird, and the tale of Baba Yaga. Free pre-concert activities, including a costume contest, start at 1 p.m.
The IX Center is creating Trick or Treat Street, a giant Halloween event for children 10 and younger, offering kids in costume a chance to trick-or-treat their way through 12 spooky candy stations. Other activities include amusement rides, a 3-D maze, mini-golf, and more. Trick or Treat Street will be open on Oct. 20 & 27 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Oct. 21 & 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Oct. 26 from 3 to 9 p.m.
Even the Cleveland Botanical Gardens are getting in the Halloween spirit, with a Boo-tanical Bash on Oct. 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Kids can go trick-or-treating down a spooky garden path, join in Halloween-themed crafts and games, and enjoy plenty of music and dancing.
– Sam Mendez
If you're serious about your Halloween thrills, you're in the right place. There may be more haunted houses in Ohio than anywhere else in the nation. Some have been around for only a few years, while others have been scaring people for decades. And a number of haunted houses in northeast Ohio have won awards and garnered national attention.
One of the most extraordinary haunted attractions in Ohio is the Ohio State Reformatory's Haunted Prison Experience, which takes place inside the 124-year old reformatory in Mansfield that was closed in 1990. This is the same prison that was used for location shots in The Shawshank Redemption, and it has developed a reputation as one of the scariest places in the world. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the setting alone is enough to give you chills. Complete with actors, visual effects and props, the Haunted Prison Experience has won multiple awards for being genuinely frightening. You must be 13 or older to enter, and if there's any doubt, you will be asked to provide proof of a birth date. (100 Reformatory Rd., Mansfield; hauntedx.com)
Named one of the scariest haunted attractions in the country, 7 Floors of Hell in Cleveland is back for another horrifying year. Spread among seven different houses, it's never the same two years in a row. (19191 Bagley Rd., Middleburg Heights; 7floorsofhell.com).
Voted one of the best haunted attractions in Ohio last year, The Fear Experience is back with not only three haunted houses, but a coffin ride where you can experience how it would feel to be buried alive. In addition, The Fear Experience also offers highly entertaining Zombie Paintball – because who wants to wait for the actual zombie apocalypse to shoot some zombies? No need to bring your own equipment or guns, The Fear Experience has got you covered. This is also the only "full-contact" haunted house in northeast Ohio; whereas every other haunted house has monsters that will not touch you, the monsters at The Fear Experience don't play by those rules. If you don't like the idea of getting touched by strangers in scary costumes, maybe you'd feel better if you knew that Stitch and Waylon from Cleveland's own Mushroomhead will be acting at The Fear Experience, so this may be your opportunity for some hands-on contact with Cleveland icons. (10701 Brookpark Road, Parma; thefearexperience.com)
What makes the Factory of Terror in Canton so notable? Perhaps it's the fact that it's held the Guinness Book of World Records title for Longest Walk-Through Horror House for two years. Set in an actual abandoned factory, the Factory of Terror offers four different attractions, including a mirror maze and a 3D-experience. (4125 Mahoning Rd., NE Canton; fotohio.com)
The same folks who put together the Factory of Terror have a haunted house in Mentor – The Forsaken Haunted House. This 30,000-square foot attraction is based on a fictional tragedy of a pesticide turning an entire town into flesh-eating zombies. (8200 Tyler Blvd., Mentor; forsakenhaunt.com)
For 32 years, Bloodview has been a familiar name among haunted attractions in Northeast Ohio. Created by the Legion of Terror, the world's oldest improvisational horror production company, Bloodview offers three attractions for one price, including the Gorehouse, billed as Bloodview's goriest attraction ever. Bloodview's actors also stage spontaneous performances in the outdoor lot, with a new theme every weekend. (1010 Towpath Trail, Broadview Heights; bloodview.net)
Along with Ghostly Manor, an award-winning haunted house, the Lake Eerie Fear Fest is offering a number of attractions this year tied to legends of Lake Erie and other aquatic haunts. Eerie Chateau is a lakeside manor with a notorious history; Darkmare plumbs the depths of a sunken freighter; and Caged dredges up unspeakable organisms from the deadliest sea in the world. There's also 3-D blacklight mini-golf, and an XD 4-D motion theater showing four different films. (3319 US Rt. 250, Sandusky; lakeeeriefearfest.com)
Blossom Music Center, a sweet concert facility during the summer, has turned into a Carnival of Horrors for Halloween ever since 2003. This year's attractions include the Insane Asylum Cage Maze, The Fun House, The Freakshow in 3-D Terrorvision, and The Wicked Woods. (1145 West Steels Corners, Cuyahoga Falls; carnivalofhorrors.com)
The Spooky Ranch is back for its 22nd year with five different attractions, including the Extreme Nightmares Haunted House (which children under 11 are not allowed to enter), Crazy Clowns in 3-D, and the famous Haunted Hayride. (19066 Mallet Creek Bay Vil, Columbia Station; spookyranch.com)
If a haunted hayride doesn't give you the adrenaline rush you're looking for, Mapleside Farms will be having a hayride where you get to shoot paintballs at zombies. (294 Pearl Rd., Brunswick; lightupthelivingdead.com).
Cornstalkers offer a one-acre cornfield and five-acre forest where scary actors will be lurking around, waiting for a chance to frighten you when you least expect it. (423 Ridge Rd., Hinckley; cornstalkers.com)
The Haunted Forest of Carousel has been around for 31 years, offering a half-mile trail walk through a dark, creepy forest. (1451 Lake Breeze Rd., Sheffield; forestofterror.com)
Hauntville offers an interactive fright experience, with 3-D glasses and new technology to create eye-popping visual effects, and professional actors ready to lock you in prison or worse. (1579 West River Rd., Elyria; hauntville.net)
The Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory has been around for more than 30 years, perennially making "Top 10 Best Haunted Houses" lists. This year you can get your chills on seven floors of terror. (1300 Triplett Blvd., Akron; hshlab.com)
– Sam Mendez