Looking for a fun, family-friendly Halloween event to get you out, into that crisp, autumn air – sans jump scares and screaming? Take a trip to Powell Gardens for Glow: The Magic of Nature. For two nights every fall, the gardens turn into a one-mile walk lit by jack o’ lanterns and other artfully carved pumpkins – all thanks to local volunteers.
Admission is $12 per adult (unless you’re a member), $10 for seniors and $5 for children between the ages of 5 and 12. This includes access to activities like decorating your own bag for trick-or-treating and crafting a magic wand hosted inside a giant, centrally located tent complete with a DJ, bar and surrounding food trucks. Hayrides were also available for an additional $5 fee.
Upon entering the gardens, you’ll find yourself in the Grand Hall – a Harry Potter inspired hangout for warlocks, witches, and wizards alike complete with owls and a sorting hat. When we arrived around 7 p.m. on Friday the 19th, it was already crowded inside here. I’m talking jam-packed. We just forced our way through to get out, into the gardens with the plan of coming back later that evening with the hopes it wouldn’t be so crowded.
The Grand Hall was filled with lines of people going every which way waiting to buy cider or booze, enter the gift shop, check out the different featured booths, or get into the conservatory housing what ended up being my favorite display of the night: intricately carved, JUMBO jack-o-lanterns. People were able to “vote” for their favorite by putting money into a jar beside it. In my opinion, seeing these gourd-eous creations was totally worth the cost of admission. You can check out all the entries in the gallery below.
The first half of the trail was wide enough for two-way traffic which was a blessing because there were a lot of strollers, wagons, big groups and children everywhere. Jack-o-lanterns aside, this part of the trail was decorated with inflatable Halloween decorations and selfie stations providing families with plenty of photo opportunities if you don’t mind standing in a line to get to them. With Reila content in her stroller, though, Spence and I decided to just keep moving and take in what there was to see. Popular themes included The Nightmare Before Christmas and Despicable Me – well, specifically minions.
At some point (probably about the halfway point through the pumpkin walk), the trail was roped off. Costumed workers or volunteers directed visitors across a grassy field toward a different segment of the trail. Luckily, our stroller can handle a little off roading.
Unfortunately, I’d already started noticing the pumpkins and decorations were waning. There was absolutely nothing to see in this field or on the trail ahead of us. And the worst part was this trail was narrow – very narrow – probably meant for one-person, one-way traffic. And what happens when a whole bunch of people find themselves corraled in one direction on a narrow path? Bumper to bumper traffic backups.
10 minutes later, the line finally moved enough for us to see the next display of pumpkins. These ones were lumped together as a general Disney theme complete with characters from Monsters, Inc. and – you guessed it – Despicable Me. It became apparent most of the jack o’ lanterns were carved using stencils because we were seeing a lot of repeat designs at this point.
Between the next few displays – a giant spider web followed by an under the sea theme complete with a pumpkin octopus – there was a lot of dead space and waiting in line. Sometimes, strings of Christmas lights were used to illuminate the trail which I suppose were better than nothing. This section was disappointing, but once the trail opened back up to a big enough width to support traffic flow, it got better. The walk ended with a pumpkin graveyard and witches’ cabin complete with a cauldron outside.
We decided to head to the event tent before going back to the Grand Hall to get some kettle corn. The tent wasn’t exactly stroller accessible, so Spence pulled Reila out of it to walk around and take a look at all the activities. Along with the activities I mentioned earlier, the tent housed games like pumpkin ring toss and tic-tac-toe. Reila was too little to participate this year but she loved the music and watching people on the dance floor.
This was our first Glow experience as well as our trip out to Powell Gardens, so we will definitely be back. I hope this event continues to grow year after year so, eventually, there will be no sparse areas along the trail and lots more Halloween decorations to enjoy. Large crowds aside, if you’re looking for a unique, family-friendly fall experience in the Kansas City area, be sure to check out the pumpkin walk at Powell Gardens next year.