“Autumn in SoCal has always been a bit of mind trick. We know we should be wearing sweaters and sipping hot cocoa as we prep for Halloween, but the reality is October brings some of the hottest days of the year.
So I was excited to see a night-time activity to get in the spirit of the season: The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at Descanso Gardens Sure, my car thermometer still read 95 degrees as I drove my sons to La Canada Flintridge, but at least it was dark out so we could get into a spooky mindset to see the impressive display of pumpkin art.
Visitors buy tickets for predetermined times and are shunted along Descanso’s dimly-lit garden paths by guides waving lights like airport workers guiding planes. My kids liked the feel of being surrounded by dark woods. I found myself relieved that I wasn’t keeping track of a toddler. The paths are smooth enough for strollers, but they are winding and bordered by rocks in many places so it would take some maneuvering to navigate with a set of wheels. Piped-in music plays throughout. It’s Halloween appropriate but not particularly loud.
I liked watching two of the carving artists at work. Some of the pumpkins are foam, but others are real and are constantly replaced throughout the season.
Many of the the Jack O’Lanterns are simply cute with basic carved faces, but others are amazing works of sculpture made by clustering individual carved pumpkins. Organizers clearly tried to have a little something for everybody. One cluster showed Sesame Street characters. One of the larger areas is dedicated to dinosaurs. Several individual pumpkins had nods to video games or pop stars. Even Donald Trump made an appearance.”