DAY TRIP TO SLEEPY HOLLOW By Joanne Colella
One knows that the quaint Hudson Valley town of Sleepy Hollow – the setting of the classic Headless Horseman tale by author Washington Irving – has embraced its storied reputation when you see the tourism motto that encourages visitors to “Lose Your Head in Sleepy Hollow.” And there is undoubtedly no better time of year than now to make a day trip to this charming and historic venue, where colorful autumn landscapes and spine-tingling Halloween celebrations beckon guests of all ages and interests. Located just 20 miles outside of New York City and bordering Tarrytown, NY – a 90-minute drive, perhaps, from central New Jersey – Sleepy Hollow is easily accessible. During the autumn months, it offers a fabulous array of haunted hayrides, gothic mansions, farmers’ markets, pumpkin patches, historic sites, wooded hikes, festivals, parades, live entertainment, and more – many of them free.
Headless Horseman aficionados will undoubtedly want to see some favorite haunts from the story, including landmarks such as the site of the Van Tassel homestead where schoolmaster Ichabod Crane began his flight from the horseman, the spot where British spy John Andre was captured and exposed the treasonous American general Benedict Arnold, the 17th-century Philipsburg Manor millpond, the Old Dutch Church, the rock formation known as Raven Rock, and the true “sleepy hollow,” located in a secluded valley stream that meanders through the area. Alas, Ichabod Crane’s schoolhouse and the famed bridge where he met up with the scary specter exist no more.
Fascinating activities abound, starting with the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Tours. Stroll among the monuments and mausoleums and visit the final resting place of such notable names as Elizabeth Arden, Brooke Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller, and – of course – Washington Irving. Dating back to 1849, the 90-acre Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is “home” to almost 45,000 souls. You may walk or drive the grounds on your own or try a guided tour. In October and early November, you may particularly enjoy the popular evening lantern tours or themed tours such as The Original Knickerbocker: Washington Irving & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; The Good, The Bad, & The Unusual; or Murder & Mayhem. Times, length of tours, and pricing vary, and advance reservations are needed. The cemetery is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is adjacent to, but separate from, the Old Dutch Church at 430 North Broadway. For tour info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To hear The Legend of Sleepy Hollow come to life, get tickets for master storyteller Jonathan Kruk’s dramatic and captivating performance, accompanied by the spooky strains of a live organist. Evening performances are held at the Old Dutch Church each weekend through November 2. Order tickets ($16 for adults, $12 for children under 18) online at www.hudsonvalley.org or call (914) 631-8200.
For those who enjoy a real frightfest, the annual Horseman’s Hollow provides 13 nights of ominous entertainment on the grounds of the 17th- century Dutch colony of Philipsburg Manor. Visitors who dare to walk along the haunted trail will view terrifying scenes of a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman, with a host of creatures lurking in the shadows. Be forewarned that this event is not suitable for adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions. Philipsburg Manor is located at 381 North Broadway. Scheduled for weekends through November 2, Horseman’s Hollow tickets are $20 each ($25 on Saturdays) and can be reserved online at www.hudsonvalley.org or call (914) 631-8200.
On the tamer side, and geared for the younger set, is Halloween Tales for Tots to Tweens. During these 40-minute performances, actress, musician, and master storyteller April Armstrong, accompanied by musician Jim Keyes, tells not-too-spooky stories to children in the Old Dutch Church and churchyard. Dates include October 19-20 and 26-27 at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $9 per person; $6 for children age 12 and under. For reservations, call (888) 71-TICKETS.
Another not-to-be-missed Halloween event – the biggest in the area — is the hugely popular Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. On 24 nights between October 5 and November 11 from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m., more than 4,000 uniquely hand-carved pumpkins will illuminate the darkness amid the riverside setting of the 18th-century Van Cortlandt Manor. Be sure to look up to see the enormous “King Kong” jack o’ lantern overlooking the crowd from the top of a tall building. Most nights sell out in advance and admission is only by timed ticket; get your tickets early at (914) 631-8200. The price is$16 for adults and $12 for kids age 3 to 17 ($20 and $16, respectively, on Saturdays). Van Cortlandt Manor is located at 500 South Riverside Avenue in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
Halloween may be the theme for a visit to Sleepy Hollow now, but there is plenty more to see and do in the area at every time of year. Prepare for a wonderful day trip that may include a visit to Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate; the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown; and Sunnyside, the meticulously restored home of Washington Irving, also in Tarrytown. Explore all the details at www.visitsleepyhollow.com.