Halloween time with toddlers usually consists of a morning trip to a pumpkin “patch.” (Which for us urban families means an empty lot loaded with overpriced pumpkins and pony rides.) But if you’re looking to break free from this tourist trap and the inevitable purchase of a double digit-priced yet frightfully sup-par pumpkin, Calabasas, California has an attraction for you called Nights of the Jack.

The art of pumpkin carving in Calabasas, California

Nights of the Jack--Calabasas, CaliforniaIn its inaugural year, Nights of the Jack is an after-dark celebration of the art of pumpkin carving. That’s right, pumpkin carving. No pumpkins are for sale at this soiree. It is an art instillation featuring thousands of hand-carved pumpkins, placed along an easy-walking half-mile path. The pumpkins are illuminated and provide most of the lighting for the walk. (You may want to enquire about assistance if you have trouble seeing in low light.)

This festival of Halloween lights is on now at the King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The ranch provides an ideal setting for a night walk, as there are paved pathways leading around the ranch and through meadows. And the jack o’lanterns that give this event its name are artfully distributed around the half mile loop that makes up this nighttime attraction.

And although the name conveys otherwise, this event is designed for all ages, including the preschool set. Strollers are welcome. And the terrain is easily negotiable. (Some doublewide strollers may have trouble in the one or two areas where the path narrows.)

Tickets are sold in half-hour blocks beginning at 6pm. Guests are not permitted entry more than 1/2 hour before their time slot. I took my tiny ones for a 6:30 entry. We arrived slightly early to have an opportunity to eat before the walk. Although there is no set restaurant for the event, Nights of the Jack offers a rotating selection of food trucks as well as an adults-only beer garden. Our timing turned out to be ideal, as darkness fell just as we entered the trail. The walk took us close to an hour, which made for perfect timing to scoot them back into the car before bedtime.

An art display for all ages

Nights of the Jack--Calabasas, CaliforniaThe art is approachable for all ages to appreciate. Little ones will fall in love with the Disney castle instillation. And they’re sure to delight at the magical undersea world where pumpkins are affixed to one another to create life-sized jack o’lantern sharks. Adults will appreciate the homage to Hollywood with a series of pumpkins carved with the likenesses of film industry legends. And they’re sure to laugh at the “Rodeo Drive” instillation filled with Prada and Chanel-wearing pumpkins. But everyone is sure to appreciate the singing jack o’lanterns. Don’t think pumpkins can sing? Prepare to be surprised and delighted.

Get your Nights of the Jack tickets

Nights of the Jack runs through November 4, 2018. Tickets are for sale nightly from 6pm-11pm. Child-priced tickets are available for $20. Children three and under are free. For more information or to order tickets, visit the Nights of the Jack website. Although the event is not spooky nor frightening to little ones beware: There is a gift shop filled with light up toys in colors irresistible to anyone under the age of ten. Your wallet should be very afraid.