It’s no secret that fall is my favorite season in central New York, and probably why I love living here so much. In addition to the beautiful fall foliage, apple picking, craft fairs, and fall festivals, there are so many things to do to celebrate Halloween! And Halloween happens to be a favorite holiday for my husband and me. Luckily, Syracuse is full of haunted houses, trails, and hayrides to spook us every year! Check out my favorite local haunts and why I love them.
The Last Ride – Palermo, NY
Best Haunted Hayride
The Last Ride has been a long-standing favorite of mine since college. Why? Their hayride is the most creative around. The clown tent in particular! The hayride goes through the forest and stops at each “scene” for the actors to do their scares. BE WARNED – the actors DO touch you on this ride, which only adds to the fear factor. If you’re in for a bigger scare, try the hearse ride through the trail! The Last Ride also has an extensive haunted house to go through, but you may not come out! Or will you?
Fun fact! A few years ago The Last Ride hosted Tony Moran, the original Michael Myers, to do a special haunt and meet-and-greet. We participated (of course) and got the chance to be scared by Mike Myers in a replica of the Myers’ house and then got autographs from Tony. Awesome experience.
Tips: Cell service can be hard to get at their location, so have your directions ready. When you get there, you might think you’re heading to the middle of nowhere. That’s correct. Just keep going, it only adds to the scare! The Last Ride has a bonfire and a projector showing horror movies while you wait. There is also a small shop for snacks and souvenirs.
Demon Acres – Hannibal, NY
Best Haunted House
I’d been wanting to go to Demon Acres for years but somehow it never worked out. This year I finally got the chance to visit, and I only regret that I hadn’t gone sooner! Demon Acres is also set in the middle of the woods, and even when you park, you have to walk through the woods to get to the main gate. On site there are two haunted houses and a haunted hayride – the combo ticket for all three is $25. You can also pay extra to do the Insane Asylum, an audio experience. Next to the ticket booth there is a snack bar in case you are hungry. There is also a bonfire and a stage where performers occasionally do shows.
For the hayride (which has no hay, FYI), the props are incredible – particularly the “demon”. He was my favorite. The fx were also pretty awesome. While the trail is a decent length, the tractor rarely stops, so the ride keeps moving past most of the scenes. Also, because of the way the seats are, you can only see one side of the trail. If you’re looking for a lighter scare, sit on the left. If you want a little more, sit on the right. At least that’s what my experience was on the ride.
Now for the haunted houses. Jailbreak is an awesome concept. They actually handcuff you to begin the haunt, and then your goal is to escape the jail. Really well done. Even better? Demon’s Den. I absolutely LOVED this haunted house. My new favorite in Syracuse. The actors were fantastic and definitely got me several times. I jumped. I screamed. So did my husband and my friend who were with me.I almost punched a monster in the face (on accident!). The house just kept going and incorporated so many cool elements. Go discover it for yourself. You’ll love it too.
Tips: Demon Acres is CASH ONLY. Be prepared! Or be willing to pay the fee at the ATM onsite. This haunt is also open the latest, so if you’re trying to hit more than one in an evening, choose this as your second. On busy nights, you can also pay extra to have express entry to each of the haunts.
Frightmare Farms – Palermo, NY
Best Overall Haunted Experience
Frightmare Farms has been another favorite of mine… and many others in Syracuse! They have the best set-up for a haunted attraction. Located in the middle of the woods (of course), Frightmare has something for everybody! Besides the two haunted houses and the haunted trail, there is a 5-minute escape room, multiple concession stands, photo opportunities, a bonfire, picnic areas, a souvenir shop, and a projector showing horror movies. It’s definitely the haunt with the most to do. They also have their actors wandering around entertaining people throughout the crowd and while you’re in line. They make the experience that much better! My favorite part this year was the horse and her headless rider at the ticket line. So cool!
My favorite attraction at Frightmare Farms? The main haunted house. It’s always fantastic! Frightmare also has amazing actors throughout all of the attractions, making the scares even better. They are also really well organized. Toward the end of the evening, they have a recommended order to do the attractions because they also close in that order. So do the house first, the labyrinth second, and the trail third. Enjoy!
Tips: Frightmare also offers a VIP express pass for $41. But, after 9pm, the price drops to only $29. Time it right to get the discount and the most time for your money!
Frightmare Farms: Containment – East Syracuse, NY
Best Haunt in the City
This year Frightmare added a new location – “Containment” located in Shoppingtown Mall. Containment has two attractions, a zombie haunted house and “The Flesh”, an escape room. The haunted house is housed in an old laser tag facility, and uses that to its advantage. The actors are Frightmare Farms caliber – fantastic. Clever scares and lots of jumps! “The Flesh” is a unique take on an escape room. Instead of having a time limit or having to find a way out, this room lets you leave whenever you’d like. Instead of playing against the clock, you’re playing against a high score. I won’t give too much away, but keep in mind there is a live “zombie” inside who you’ll have to stay away from. The perfect score is 20, the highest achieved is 16, and we got 12. What can you get?
At $17, the haunted house is a little more than I would typically pay. BUT it is located right in Syracuse, so no time and gas wasted driving out to the country. So, it balances out. It’s also located indoors, so there is no concern with the weather either. The escape room is $10, or you can do both for $22.
Raven Haven – Liverpool, NY
The Best Free Haunt
Looking for a scare but on a really tight budget? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Raven Haven is a haunted house in the oversized shed in the backyard of a private home in Liverpool. The owners are such Halloween fanatics that they want to share their love with you. They have both a haunted house and a haunted yard, you can choose to do either or both – for free! There is a spot to leave a donation for the family if you’d like. I always do, both to show my appreciation and to help support their efforts! The house is short, of course, but really well done. And you know that the family and friends who run it absolutely love what they do. The entire front and back yards are completely decorated, and there is usually added traffic to the neighborhood, so drive carefully. While you’re waiting in line for the house, be prepared to be spooked by some of the actors who move throughout the crowd.
Tip: If you are easily frightened or bringing a child, the actors will adjust the scare-level. Just ask the person at the front door to the shed for a lantern. When you go inside and they see the lantern, they tone down the fright.
Raven Haven is also one of the only haunts in Syracuse that is open on Halloween night!
Looking for other Halloween-themed activities?
Chuck Hafner’s hosts a Fall Festival for the kiddos on weekends in October. Many of the activities are even free! Bring the kids to ride ponies, check out a kid-friendly haunted house, do crafts, get their faces painted, and play games. While you’re there, you can pick up your pumpkins and seasonal squash. Yum! This year food trucks were onsite as well.
The Run of the Dead is also popular activity among my friends and family. It’s a 5k obstacle course/mud run where you have to escape the zombies! You can volunteer to be a zombie or sign up to do the race. Runners get two flags like in flag football, but the zombies are coming after them! If you finish the run with at least one flag, you win! After the run, zombies and runners both can enjoy music, refreshments, and a bonfire.
Ghost tours! Several places around Syracuse have begun hosting ghost tours and haunted historical walks. I still haven’t had the chance to do one because October is always crazy busy for me, but hopefully next year! Oakwood Cemetery, the Onondaga Historical Association, and the Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce are just some of the organizations that have tours to check out.
If you’re looking for even more haunted fun, be sure to check out Scarycuse.com for a full list of haunted happenings! So which haunted house in Syracuse is your favorite? Do you agree with my top choices? Let me know in the comments. Happy haunting!