- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

NEW YORK — Invite a 10-year-old boy on a walk to see fall foliage, and he won’t even glance up from his video game.

Ask him to navigate a corn maze or tour a haunted house, and you’ve got yourself a companion for a fun outing. Here are five ways to get children out of the house this fall.

CORN MAZES

You can find easy walk-throughs for little ones, but for older children, look for a 6-acre odyssey that will take an hour to navigate. Some mazes have guides stationed in towers in case you get lost inside their larger-than-life 3-D puzzles.

The most intricate labyrinths are professionally designed, with fields carved to resemble images ranging from maps to presidents’ faces to sports logos. Most of the designs can be appreciated only with an aerial view. If you’re inside the maze, all you’ll see is a 12-foot-high wall of cornstalks on every side.

There are corn mazes in nearly every state, from Maine to California. Most are open September through Halloween or mid-November. Contact your state Department of Agriculture or tourism office to find one near you, or click on the map at www.cornfieldmaze.com.

HAUNTED HOUSES

With young children, look for low-tech haunted barns at roadside farms where the thrills won’t get much spookier than fog machines and a howling soundtrack. If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney World in Orlando, consider Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, offered 18 times between Sept. 15 and Oct. 31 — www.Disneyworld.com/halloween or 407/934-7639.

For preteens and teenagers, most theme parks offer haunted nighttime walks with scary special effects — including actors portraying axe-wielding madmen and bloody ghouls.

Universal Studios is opening a new attraction called Halloween Horror Nights that may make you feel as if you’re trapped in a horror flick. The event is staged as if it were an actual production by a demented movie director. Your visit also will include Chucky’s Insultorium — billed as a “mix of menace and humor” — and the Carnival of Carnage, where you’ll see sword-swallowing, fire-eating and other stunts. The WaterWorld attraction has been turned into SlaughterWorld. The Universal attraction opens in Hollywood on Oct. 13 and continues Oct. 14, 20 and 21, 27 and 28 and Halloween, Oct. 31; tickets are $34 to $39 online. Universal Orlando will stage the attraction Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 6 through 8, 11 through 15, 19 through 22, 26 through 29 and 31; tickets are $60 online. Details at www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.

The New England Inns and Resorts Association — www.NewEnglandInnsandResorts.com or 888/705-5353 — is offering Ghoulish Getaway packages. For example, at the Beechwood Hotel in Worcester, Mass., you’ll have an OverKnightmare, which includes a Halloween celebration, parade, art workshop and brunch. Prices start at $175.

FOOD, FARMS, FESTIVALS

Pick apples and pumpkins, then let the children help you make a pie or carve a jack-o’-lantern. Check the Web site for your state Department of Agriculture or tourism office to find nearby orchards. Go to www.pickyourown.org, www.farmstop.com or www.applejournal.com.

Vermont’s “cheese trail” — www.vtcheese.com/vtcheese/ charliestory.htm — includes several farms with guided tours where you can visit animals and watch cheese being made, including Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, which also has maple-syrup-making demonstrations, www.sugarbushfarm.com, and Taylor Farm in Londonderry, which has hayrides, www.taylorfarmvermont.com.

Many fall festivals have family-friendly activities such as pumpkin decorating and petting zoos. The Keene Pumpkin Fest takes place in Keene, N.H., Oct. 21, www.pumpkinfestival.com or 603/358-5344. In La Junta, Colo., check out the Soar a Gourd event Oct. 14. Gourds are catapulted into the air via slingshot, air cannon or your trusty pitching arm; details at 719/-254-6978. The Scarecrow Fest, with all types of contests for children, takes place Sept. 22 through 24 in Wanatah, Ind. — www.scarecrowfest.org.

Yankee Magazine lists the 25 best family events and destinations for fall — www.YankeeFoliage.com — including pick-your-own farms such as Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Conn.; the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, Mass., Sept. 30 through Oct. 9; and the Colonial-themed Harvestfest in York, Maine, Oct. 13 through 15.

HIKES

Nancy Ritger, senior interpretive naturalist for the Appalachian Mountain Club, says one way to get children excited about a hike is “to have a goal of some sort — a waterfall or a pond or maybe just a scenic overlook, but have something they can count on getting to. And have that goal be attainable — don’t do a 10-mile hike for their first adventure.”

Miss Ritger suggests bringing a net to dip in a pond or river; a magnifying glass for examining insects, and binoculars for the grand view. Food is a good motivator, too. Make pumpkin muffins together as a snack for the hike or let children help make trail mix, including treats of their choice such as M&Ms; or dried cranberries.

Conduct a scavenger hunt. Look for acorns, see who can find the biggest fallen leaf, and collect as many different types of leaves as you can. Maine offers a Web site with a leaf guide and an animated movie that shows how leaves change color — www.maine.gov/doc/foliage/kids/index.html.

Talk about safety before heading out. Stay together in the woods and remind children to stay put and make a lot of noise if they get lost.

AMC’s Fall Into Adventure With the AMC link — www.outdoors.org/lodging/fallguide.cfm — has a trip planner with recommended foliage hikes. The organization sponsors nature walks and other activities in New Hampshire, Maine and New Jersey, including a Rolling Moose Tour — an evening van ride for AMC Highland Center guests to look for moose near Crawford Notch, N.H.; details at 603/466-2727.

TRAIN RIDES

Many rail companies offer themed rides with entertainment for children.

New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad — www.conwayscenic.com or 800/232-5251 — stops near the AMC’s Crawford Notch (Highland) Center.

In North Carolina, the Raft’N Rail Excursion package, through Oct. 28, includes white-water rafting on the Nantahala River and a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City, N.C. — www.wildwaterrafting.com/nanraftrail.html or 800/451-9972. Prices are $71 for adults, $54 for children 12 and younger.

In Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs the Great Pumpkin Express, departing from the Rockside station, Oct. 21 and 22, and 28 and 29, with a costume contest and a visit to a pumpkin patch and corn maze — cvsr.com/halloween.shtml or 800/468-4070.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $12 for children 3 to 12.

In the Southwest, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad runs between Colorado and New Mexico — www.cumbresandtoltec.com or 888/286-2737.

In California, the Fillmore & Western Railway Co., about 60 miles from Los Angeles, celebrates Halloween with a PumpkinLiner trip to a private pick-your-own pumpkin patch. A Headless Horseman tour is offered five times in October — www.fwry.com or 800/773-8724.

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