Halloween on Governors Island

I have written before about the experience of taking a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan and ending up on Governors Island, walking and biking around a little bit of country with killer views of iconic skyscrapers (read my previous report here). In addition, for years I have taken the drive up to the Historic Hudson Valley to see the Blaze, a massive display of carved illuminated jack o’ lanterns. This year I discovered, to my delight, that there is a Halloween ticketed event on Governors Island called Rise of the Jack O’ Lanterns (also held in other locations outside NYC) so of course I needed to check it out.


This year the experience started October 18-20, and will conclude later this week (October 24-27). The ticket is timed for the ferry you will take over, and you aren’t allowed to get on an earlier or later ferry, so be on time! The earliest time slot is 6 PM, and the latest is 10:40. There tend to be discounts for later times, and of course some time slots are already sold out. The ferry leaves from the Battery Maritime Terminal, the same one that is used for regular ferries to Governors Island.


At least in my opinion, some of the old houses left on Governors Island are a little creepy even during daylight hours, so being around them at night with mysterious music playing and thousands of illuminated jack o’ lanterns around is certainly enough to put you in the Halloween mood. I will say, though, that it is not particularly “scary,” so is appropriate for all ages.

All the jack o’ lanterns are hand-carved by artists out of real pumpkins, and the night I was there an artist was on site demonstrating the elaborate technique needed for such detailed compositions. Many are traditional spooky themes, but others reflect popular culture.

There were several in memoriam (see Luke Perry, above), plenty of Disney princesses and Game of Thrones tributes, as well as Harry Potter.

I loved the jack o’ lanterns themed to artists.


I kept looking for a “She said yes!” jack o’ lantern near this one, but couldn’t find it. Erika, did you make it to the RISE and were you impressed?

The jack o’ lanterns are mostly on pillars raised up so that you can easily observe the details.


One of the more surreal experiences on Governors Island is when you suddenly see the towers of lower Manhattan while immersed in this rural setting. Every now and then while viewing jack o’ lanterns I would glimpse One World Trade.

On the way back to the ferry there is an opportunity for unimpeded views of Lower Manhattan.  The views are terrific when seeing during the day on Governors Island, but the night time view is simply magical.

Those who don’t live in New York City might think that it’s difficult to experience a festive Halloween, but I definitely disagree! In addition to the RISE, Governors Island has trick-or-treating for children on October 26 (see details here). There are Halloween decorations all over the city, especially on townhouses (see a previous blog post on this topic here). The Cathedral of St. John the Divine has a marvelous Halloween Extravaganza every year that includes a scary silent movie accompanied by live organ music. And of course the famous Halloween parade takes over Greenwich Village the night of October 31.

I know I’m biased, but I do believe that New York City is the best and most fun place to live – any time of year!

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