Labor Day weekend may mark the end of the traditional summer camping season, but for the growing numbers of campgrounds that offer Halloween-themed activities, their busiest season is just beginning.
“We’re just now getting into our busiest time of the year,” said Dana Gabriel, co-owner of the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Swansea, S.C., adding that her park offers five consecutive Halloween themed weekends that include carnival games as well as costume contests for adults, children and pets; campsite decorating contests; and trick or treating.
Halloween-themed activities have gotten to be so popular, Gabriel said, that the park ratchets up the scariness, with “no scare” Halloween events on the last weekend of September and first weekend of October, followed by three full-on scary weekends for older children and adults that also include a haunted house, which Gabriel and her family created out of an old barn.
“We’re already booked for the last three weekends of October,” Gabriel said.
“Across the country, growing numbers of campgrounds now offer Halloween themed weekend activities in September and October,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Denver, Colo.
Parks offering Halloween themed activities include independently owned and operated family campgrounds as well as parks affiliated with the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort Kampgrounds of America (KOA) chains.
In fact, most Jellystone Parks now offer Halloween themed activities, while more than a third of KOA’s nearly 500 campgrounds offer Halloween themed activities, according to representatives of both campground networks.
Bambei said Halloween themed activities that typically include campsite decorating and costume contests as well as trick or treating and, in some cases, haunted houses and spooky nighttime walks in the forest.
Marjorie Gibson, a manager at Shenandoah Valley Campground in Verona, Va., said the popularity of Halloween-themed weekends has increased in recent years. “We’ve had to expand the number of nights we offer these activities because we’ve had so many people on our waiting list,” she said, adding that some Halloween enthusiasts book their campsites a year in advance.
Here’s a sampling of the Halloween-themed events at campgrounds across the country:
Baraboo Hills Campground in Baraboo, Wis.: This park has Halloween activities scheduled for the weekends of Sept. 16th to 18th and Sept. 23rd to 25th. Activities include trick or treating, caramel apples and haunted wagon rides. www.baraboohillscampground.com
Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth, Calif.: This park’s Halloween themed events include a “best scream” contest. Families also create haunted campsites. The campground also invites drama students from neighboring Amador High School to come over and read scary stories to the younger campers. www.49ervillage.com
Four Paws Kingdom, Rutherfordton, N.C.: Halloween themed events at this park include a costume contest for dogs and a “bark or treat” event on Saturday, Oct. 29th.
Gettysburg Campground in Gettysburg, Penn.: This park has three consecutive Halloween-themed weekends Oct. 14th to 16th, Oct. 21st to 23rd and Oct. 28th to 30th. Activities include crafts; ceramics; a pumpkin carving contest; costume contests for adults and children; trick or treating; haunted hayrides; a Halloween dance; and a haunted house. www.gettysburgcampground.com
Green Acres Family Campground, Williamston, N.C.: This park features Halloween themed activities on the weekend of Oct. 14th to 16th and Oct. 21st to 23rd, including sack races and a pumpkin roll as well as jack-o-lantern and costume contests; a Halloween parade, campsite decorating; trick or treating; ghost stories and a ghost walk through a haunted corn field. A Halloween carnival will also be provided. www.greenacresnc.com
Hershey Highmeadow Campground in Hummelstown, Penn.: This park features trick-or-treating as well as costume, campsite and pumpkin decorating contests on the weekends of Oct. 16th and 17th, 21st to 23rd and 28th to 30th. Neighboring Hershey Park also takes on a Halloween theme.
Lake in Wood Campground in Narvon, Penn.: This park features pumpkin decorating and a scarecrow dinner costume party on Oct. 29th with prizes for the best costume. www.lakeinwoodcampground.com
Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort in Santa Claus, Ind.: This park has seven consecutive Halloween themed weekends starting Sept. 16th and 17th. Activities include campsite decorating contests; Halloween themed campfire ghost stories with professional storytellers; haunted hayrides; and several costume contests as well as scary movies. “Five of our seven weekends are completely booked and we are close to completely booking the sixth,” said Dave Lovell, the resort’s director of marketing. He added that the park is already booking up its Halloween themed weekends in 2012. www.lakerudolph.com
Land-O-Pines Family Campground, Covington, La.: This park offers a wide range of activities and entertainment for Halloween, including a “Kiddie Halloween Bash” for kids 12 and under on Oct. 14th to 16th with nighttime candy hunt, trick or treating, a costume contest, apple bobbing, a coloring contest, music, a hayride and kids only bingo. Activities for older kids and adults will take place Oct. 21st to 23rd and Oct. 28th to 30th and will include evening dances. www.camplop.com
Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins, Summersville, W.V.: This park will celebrate Halloween with costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating on the weekends of Sept. 30th, Oct. 2nd and Oct. 21st. The weekend of Oct. 2nd will also include a “Monster Mash Dance,” while a spooky haunted trail walk is being planned for the weekend of Oct. 21st. www.mountainlakecampground.com
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in Newport Beach: Special activities this fall include a Halloween party on Oct. 29th and 30th, with a costume contest, music, games and dancing for people of all ages.
Sea Pirate Campground, West Creek, N.J.: This park will celebrate an early Halloween on Oct. 1st with a costume parade, trick or treating, a Halloween hayride and cupcakes and refreshments.
Sky High Camping Resort in Portage, Wis.: This park features trick or treating, a haunted trail and Halloween themed dancing on the weekends of Sept. 9th to 11th and Sept. 23rd to 25th.
South Haven Family Campground in South Haven, Mich.: This campground has three consecutive weekends of Halloween themed activities planned for Oct. 7th to 9th, Oct. 14th to 16th and Oct. 21st to 23rd.
Tall Pines Campground in Bainbridge, N.Y.: This park has Halloween-themed weekends Sept. 30 to Oct. 2nd and Oct. 7 to 10th with a costume parade for people and pets as well as a spookiest campsite contest and plaster crafts. The first weekend also features a flashlight candy and bone hunt while the second weekend features a Halloween murder mystery. www.tallpinescampground-ny.com
Winston-Salem KOA in Statesville, N.C.: This park has generated a huge following with its “Midway Wicked Woods,” a frightening walk in the woods that is open to campers as well as the general public during the month of October. www.koa.com and www.midwaywickedwoods.com
Of course, these are just a sampling of some the activities and special events taking place at campgrounds and RV parks across the country in the coming weeks. Consumers can find private campgrounds in their area by checking www.GoCampingAmerica.com, the travel planning website of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Denver, Colo. The site includes links to RV parks and campgrounds, which provide their own “activities” or event calendars, which can help you figure out which parks have activities your family will enjoy.