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The costumes have been chosen. Treat bags readied.  The pumpkins purchased and carved. 

If your lil’ Halloween enthusiasts are anything like mine, your family is ready to get your Halloween on.  Luckily, our Sunset Coast hosts a healthy list of not-so-spooky festivities perfect for the lil’ (and big) kids in your boo crew. 

Here are four not-so-spooky events that get my family in good spirits for the Halloween season. 

Eden Springs Halloween Train

The Eden Springs Halloween Train is the ultimate “boo choo” and family night out.  Located in Benton Harbor on the grounds of the former House of David amusement park, the train winds  its way through history and Halloween.

Like a flash of fire and brimstone, the Eden Springs Park transforms the historic grounds into a small Halloween theme park, a decorative feast for the eyes. The nighttime train ride begins under the original amusement park train depot, which dates back to the early 20th century.  Here, you can buy the tickets and hop in the line. Like any theme park, waiting in line is its own experience. Brush up on your local SW Michigan history and read all about The House of David while you wait. While I read, my kids love to watch the miniature steam locomotive chug into place, puffing clouds of steam apparitions. It’s a Hogwarts-Express-kind-of magic. 

Once we’re all aboard, the train lurches forward and slowly builds speed into a lighted tunnel. It continues on, carving through ruins and reconstruction of the 120-year-old amusement park. Try to spy what lurks on the porch of the old Lion House.  Did you see the miniature race car track below? Or the former Beer Gardens? It’s fun (and maybe a little eerie) to imagine the park, once alive with all the people who have visited the park. 

When the two laps around the grounds are done, the train pulls back into the station. As we exit out, we always grab a snack at the concession. Popcorn and cocoa in hand, our family walks the grounds and takes pictures next to friendly ghost inflatables and graveyard displays. 

Rides available on Oct 12/13, Oct 19/20, Oct 26/27 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. | Admission: $4 per ride, children 3 and under free 

Halloween at Sarett Nature Center  

Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Lamp-lit woodland trails, spooky hayrides, crafts, and hot chocolate–the Sarett Nature Center’s Halloween celebration in Benton Harbor has something for every lil’ goblin. To be honest: this is the Halloween treat my family looks forward to the most. There’s something about walking through dark woods, flashlight in hand, that sends a shiver of fun into the bones. 

Typically, the evening starts at the lighted trailhead where a volunteer takes tickets and passes out scavenger hunt cards. From here, we follow the lit path, decorated with carefully placed Halloween props (there’s nothing like a coyote mount hiding in the bush to spike the adrenaline).  Along the way, the kids can find answers to scavenger-hunt clues and pause at the pit stops: roll pumpkins, say hello to the owl, warm up by a campfire, and ride the hayride. For the bravest souls in the group, there is extra–much spookier–trail, sure to stir up a good scream.  

When finished, kids can enjoy Halloween crafts, cocoa, sweet treats, and, of course, the Sarett animal sanctuary in the main building. 

Sarett Nature Center | 2300 N Benton Center Rd. Benton Harbor, MI

Dinges Fall Harvest Fest

Most know Dinges Farms, located in Three Oaks, for their eclectic display of pumpkins and home-town family vibes. But Dinges is so much more–a true meeting of Halloween and harvest.  A little spooky and a lot of happy. 

My oldest son (8) has recently acquired a taste for fright this fall. And Dinges’ “Haunted Semi” was the perfect amount of spook for him–a dark, twisty maze with small scares propped along its path. By the end of our time at Dinges’, he had ventured through the trailer a number of times, each time braver than the last. My daughters, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with what lurked in the semi. Instead, they waited for big brother outside in the yard: they chased each other through corn husk tunnels and played follow the leader through the  “ no left-turn” hay bale maze. 

Next, the kids and I ventured into the large dinosaur-themed corn maze and scavenger hunt; we rode the tractor-pulled cars on the Dinges Motor Speedway; the kids jumped and flipped in the giant pumpkin bounce; and we traveled an acre via the Fall Harvest Train. With an all-access activity pass for $10 a kid, there is plenty to entertain the entire family for a few hours. 

In one fell October swoop, our family got our Halloween scares, harvest fun, and pumpkins in one spot. 

Dinges Family Farms | 15219 Mill Rd, Three Oaks, Michigan 

Open last weekend in September-October 31

Free Admission, all-access activity pass (kids 3+) $10–only available on the weekends

The pumpkin bounce house: enter if you dare!

Haunted SCAREousel Family Fun Night

This is the Halloween party for kids. With the lights low, the Monster Mash track on repeat, and a long line of costumed kids, the Haunted SCAREousel  at Silver Beach always feels like the cool place to be. 

So cool, in fact, that the three-headed dog from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone made an appearance one year. My son (I mean, Harry Potter) was stoked. And because there are so many costumed kids and adults at this party, you’re sure to run into one of your kids’ favorite characters. 

Like every good party, there is plenty to do. Wear a costume and ride on the carousel next to the headless horseman. Watch the wizarding tricks of John Dudley’s Magic Show. Enter to win Ty® stuffed figures and mini-LEGO® builds. And don’t forget to hula hoop in your costume! 

The Haunted SCAREousel is a fun, mid-week dose of Halloween magic (better than doing homework) and one more excuse to wear our costumes.

Pro tip: we always continue the party with dinner across the street at Silver Beach Pizza. I mean, what’s better than eating a slice of Palladium pizza as Snow White, Evie, and Harry Potter? Absolutely nothing.   

Oct. 24th from 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

The Shadowland Ballroom and Silver Beach Carousel, St. Joseph 

Admission: Wear a costume for ONE free carousel ride–$1 tickets after. 

Spotted at the SCAREousel: the magical rare beast, the three-headed dog.

Considering all the local fun Halloween options our families have, this list seems short. Let’s not forget about all the trunk-or-treating, library parties, school celebrations, and good-old-fashioned trick-or-treat night. I mean, there is no wrong way to get your Halloween on. Am I right?

What are your favorite local Halloween activities? 

 

Tracy Becker