Courtesy of Cat Bowen

The Best Kid-Friendly Haunted Houses In New York City, So You Can Boo Without Tears

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I love haunted houses, scary movies, haunted hayrides — all of the scarier parts of the best holiday of the year. There's something exhilarating about being terrified so badly you pee a little. My kids aren't so fond of the scarier stuff just yet, though. They do love spooky themes and costumed characters, but prefer not to be chased by a dude with a chainsaw or headless corpse. Thankfully, there's a happy medium where everyone can have fun especially with the kid-friendly haunted houses in New York City.

The kid-friendly part is an important distinction, because some haunted houses are really terrifying. When I was 9 years old, I somehow convinced my over-tired mother that going to Hannibal's House of Horror in Canton, Ohio, was a great idea. She took me, my 11-year-old sister and my 8-year-old brother to the pop-up haunted house one Friday night. To say it was a disaster is putting it mildly. I spent the whole time screaming "I'm only 9 years old," my sister kept pinching me to shut up, and at one point, my brother sucker punched a character so hard, you could hear the "oof," as the air evacuated his lungs.

Occupational hazard, if you ask me.

Don't let this be you. Also, don't let this be your kid. I'm in my early 30s and I still haven't lived it down. At least once a year, my sister will yell "I'm only 9 years old" as a punchline to a joke. The best haunted houses for kids in New York City won't make your kid a punchline in their 30, at least, not for doing something at a haunted house. I can't help it if your kid pukes on Bieber or something.

Boo At The Zoo

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The Bronx Zoo is great year round, with its focus on preservation and conservation. At Halloween, they really light things up with spooky and funny pumpkins, costumed kids, haunted forest, and halloween hayrides. There's also Bootoberfest for parents in the Astor Court where you can sip on local beer and snacks.

7 and up for the haunted forest, straight out of the womb for everything else except the beer.

The Gravesend Inn Haunted Hotel At City Tech

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This one is for older kids 10 and up, but it's really fun. The theatre program designs the entire thing, and it gets better every year. As a former theatre nerd, I can tell you, we are really invested in the storyline of it all. The theatre program at City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn really showcases their skills at this one.

Halloween At The New York Botanical Gardens

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Scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, creepy creatures, and hot cider round out the nature walk style theme of this spooky getaway at the New York Botanical Gardens in the North Bronx. It's gorgeous and absolutely family friendly. Also, the spectacular glass art of Dale Chihuly is on display until 10/29, and it's not to be missed. There really is something for everyone at this spot.

Ages 0 and up, but a carrier would be easier than a stroller, as there's a lot of uneven ground.

The Haunted High Line

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The High Line park is a magnet for locals and tourists alike. This green oasis perched atop Chelsea on a historic elevated train line boasts some of the most-Instagrammable spots in the city. For the haunted high line, they go all out with face painting, cookie stations, creepy costumed characters, and candy-filled scavenger hunts. It's exactly what you'd expect from our glamorous city, and a few things you didn't expect.

Fun for everyone who doesn't hate awesome.

Halloween In Prospect Park

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The largest park in Brooklyn, Prospect Park, holds a fantastic Halloween haunted party every year. From ghouls to grandmas, everyone in Brooklyn seems to show up. There's food from trendy food trucks, scary stories at Lefferts Historic House, and the haunted carousel, which you cannot convince me is not haunted the other 364 days of the year. My kids love it, but I think it's creepy as hell.

Afterwards, spend the evening with your kids playing in one of the park's many beautiful playgrounds, and then eat at any number of awesome restaurants in the area. It's a sure bet those kiddos will sleep like the (un)dead that night. You're never too young to learn how to bask in the smug pretension that is my neighborhood. It's a life skill.

Queens Fall Festival & Haunted House At The Queens County Farm Museum

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This one is a personal favorite. For two days, the historic Queens County Farm Museum puts on a spectacular haunted house and festival. The haunted house is creepy and spooky, with just enough humor to abate the fear in kids. The festival is a blowout that only could be accomplished in Queens. There are hayrides, a pie-eating contest, and New York City's only corn maze. Afterwards, you can drop your kids off at your in-laws' place in Flushing where they'll be fed full of noodles and buns and you and your partner can go to the huge Target and hot pot place alone. OK, that last part might just apply to me, but it's glorious even without the babysitting thing.

All ages — bring a bib.

Halloween In Historic Richmondtown

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With the Hamilton mania that still has the country in its grip, I'd be remiss if I didn't spotlight the opportunity to celebrate a spooky Halloween at this historic district in Staten Island that shines a light on 350 years of history in New York City. Sure, your kids will see the creepy favorites of the holiday, but they'll also learn about the founding of New Amsterdam while being at the oldest continually running farm in the city.

Great for all the little New Yorkers in your life, but sign up early.

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