Toddlers squealed with delight and raced around my ankles clashing in giggly glowing toy swordfights. Romantic couples linked hands walking and whispering with awe at the luminous sights. The Descanso Rose Garden has gone creatively creepy for Halloween with a beautiful family-friendly event called The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns.
The RISE runs October 1st to November 1st at Descanso Gardens. Times vary according to nightfall. Tickets for this event must be purchased in advance at TheRise.org as entry is timed to prevent over-crowding. Tickets are NOT available at the location, so make sure to plan accordingly.
I brought along the family (ages ten and up) and we all loved this unique artistic event. Walking at an average pace, The Rise follows a forty-five minute trail past five thousand illuminated hand-carved jack o’lanterns.
First stop on the trail is a demo by carvers from Rodz Carvings. I spoke with Luis who was working on a ghoulish face. He explained that, using small implements designed for ceramic work, each carving takes several hours to complete. Then, the carvings are refrigerated until they are ready to be displayed.
Since it is so warm in Los Angeles, displayed pumpkins immediately begin to decay and may only last a few days or possibly up to a week before they must be replaced. Keeping up with this is a mammoth task, but the carvers seem to relish the work and were happy to pose for photos and discuss the process with visitors.
Entering the part of the trail with the pumpkins feels quite magical. Orange lights glow in the dark as nearly the only brightness on the path.
Friendly volunteers stand by ready with flashlights to make sure guests don’t wander off the trail. Each section has a different theme, so it’s fun to see the excitement of family members as they find something to delight in. My daughter absolutely loved the Taylor Swift and Minecraft pumpkins, while my husband had to laugh at likenesses of Donald Trump and a scene from Game of Thrones. I liked the “Love” section which featured celebrity couples and even had a giant pumpkin proposal to a girl named “Dianna”… I hope she said YES.
I also loved the creepy pumpkin heads which were bobbing in tanks of water, a little like a G-rated version of the Governor’s pets in The Walking Dead. It’s clear that The RISE is hoping that everyone finds a favorite. Dinosaurs, video game characters, and Star Wars scenes sat alongside sprawling aquatic animals with schools of fish and a giant Octopus under a gazebo. Popular with everyone, the life size giraffes and tigers were a stunning example of the carvers’ expertise.
Finding a truly all-ages Halloween event is sometimes challenging when you have grandparents and small children to consider, but The RISE is perfectly suited for all members of the family. The trail was short enough for kids to walk without strollers and crowds were well managed so that everyone could stop and take pictures without standing on top of each other.
The Flickering Lantern Cafe has Halloween themed snack foods available. Seasonal favorites include turkey legs, popcorn, churros, warm apple cider, and hot chocolate. Wine and beer are also available for purchase at the bar.
The Descanso Gardens Gift Shop is open during the event and is stocked for the holidays with handmade Halloween and Day of the Dead items. It was hard to resist taking home all the decorations inside, especially when I saw the ornaments hanging from their Day of the Dead Christmas tree! I need that in my life.
The RISE runs Thursday through Sundays at Descanso Gardens. This year, they have added another Los Angeles location at Santa Anita Park. Some displays (like the 50 foot dragon) can be seen at both locations, but there are also many carvings unique to each venue.
If you are looking for some non-scary Halloween fun, check out The RISE. Maybe you’ll get inspired to do something extra special with your own jack o’lantern this year!
Visit TheRise.org for more information and to purchase tickets.