- Associated Press - Thursday, October 4, 2012

Too old to trick-or-treat? Busy the night of Oct. 31? That’s OK, because Halloween has become a seasonal holiday, with attractions and activities for all ages from late September through early November.

Many cities now have haunted-house attractions, community zombie walks and ghost tours. Amusement parks small and large revamp for the month of October with faux graveyards, haunted trails and actors dressed like freaks. Some attractions — for instance, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights — are so creepy they are not recommended for anyone younger than 13.

Other entertainment venues — from Disney parks to zoos, museums, aquariums and even indoor water parks like Great Wolf Lodge resorts — host Halloween events geared to younger children.

“Haunted and seasonal theming is growing in popularity not only for theme parks and amusement parks, but also at water parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers and family entertainment centers,” said Colleen Mangone, spokeswoman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. “So families have a lot of choices for celebrating the Halloween season at parks and attractions.”

Here’s a sampling of attractions, experiences and events around the country that take place around Halloween or are themed on the holiday.

Pumpkins, parades and zombies

Get ready for the end of the world if you’re planning to attend New York City’s Village Halloween Parade. This year, the theme for the event is the Mayan calendar, which ends on Dec. 21. The annual parade draws 2 million spectators and 50,000 participants — many in costumes that will vary from the official theme — and stretches from Spring Street to 16th Street along Sixth Avenue, starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 31.

A few signature events celebrate that hallowed Halloween symbol, the pumpkin. The granddaddy of pumpkin-throwing contests, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, is scheduled for Nov. 2 to 4, in Bridgeville, Del. And on Oct. 20, the streets of Keene, N.H., will be lined with carved, lit jack-o-lanterns at the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival.

From college campuses to main streets, zombie walks are held year-round, but many of them take place this time of year and are surprisingly family oriented, with little children, teens and grown-ups alike donning bloody rags and feigning limps in homage to the living dead. Find one near you at zombiewalk.com/forum/index.php.

Amusement parks

Halloween brings crowds to amusement parks that rival those on peak summer days, so be prepared for sellouts and long lines, especially on weekend nights.

Cedar Point has Hallo-Weekends in Sandusky, Ohio; Busch Gardens has Howl-O-Scream in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va.; Six Flags has Fright Fests in 13 parks; Hersheypark in the Dark takes place in Hershey, Pa.; and Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., is featuring Nights of Horror at Luna Park.

Universal theme parks in Florida and California go all out with their Halloween Horror Nights, halloweenhorrornights.com. This year, park guests on both coasts will encounter flesh-eating zombies inspired by the AMC show “The Walking Dead,” about a band of humans surviving the zombie apocalypse, with guests at Universal Hollywood Studios dropped off by the park’s Terror Tram to wander the ghoul-filled studio backlot. Both parks also will feature demonic beings from the video game and movie “Silent Hill,” along with shock-and-horror attractions inspired by heavy-metal rocker Alice Cooper.

Also awaiting scare-seekers at Universal Orlando: a Las Vegas wasteland covered with nuclear ooze, designed by entertainers Penn & Teller; an abandoned house, Dead End; an ancient European cathedral, Gothic, where stone gargoyles come to life; and a House of Horrors featuring classic Universal films monsters, including the Mummy, Frankenstein and Wolfman.

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