Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad: Halloween Ghost Train - Genesee County, Michigan

A couple of summers ago I heard about a Halloween Ghost Train that takes place in (or maybe it's near) Flint, Michigan.  So, I asked my Facebook friends if they had ever been there and, if so, what they thought of it.  It is a couple of hours away from my house so I really wanted to hear from others if it was worth my time/gas/money.  The feedback was very positive - including the Christmas Train that they do in November & December.  So, I added this to my Michigan Bucket list.  This year we were finally able to make it to the village and train during Halloween.  So here's our experience!

First, I studied the recommendations on their website.  The site recommended purchasing tickets in advance to guarantee a ride on the train during the busy weekends.  I waited until the day before so I could have a good feel for the weather.  I really did not want to drive all the way there and have it rain! We were leaving my house at 12:00 pm on a Saturday so I purchased our train tickets (includes access to the village) for 3:20 pm.  The reservation website lists times that are available for the train rides and that was the best fit for us.

The day of our visit:  My friend and I took our kiddos (a total of 6 people).  We had them all dress up in their Halloween costumes.  My daughter had a wide dress so I put hers on over her clothing when we arrived to the park.  Us mom's did not dress up but, while at the park, we noticed that many parents had on costumes - which made it fun!

The first parking lot was full when we arrived but there was a lot of traffic directors pointing us to another parking lot.  It wasn't far away (thanks to a path) and it seemed actually pretty convenient.  So, we parked the car, finished putting on costumes, grabbed our cameras and some bottled water, and we were off to the gate.

At the gate there was a long line to get in!!!  But, since we made an advance purchase, we were able to skip the line and go to another ticket booth where we were next in line.  There were signs reminding people that if they already made a reservation online they were supposed to go to ticket booth "A" (I think it was "A").  We were given our tickets (actually 1 ticket that was good for all 6 of us since we paid together) at the booth and reminded that we needed to be at the train line by 3:00 pm (our train was set to leave at 3:20 pm).  We had 1 hour before we needed to get in line for the train so we decided to check out the village.

As we were getting ready to enter the village (from the ticket booth) we were each given a small bag with a handle to trick-or-treat with.  Even the adults get a bag and get to gather treats!  That worked out great since one of our kiddos wasn't able to join us - he had candy coming home to him from his mom.

The entire village was decorated for Halloween - inside and out!!!

View of a portion of the village.
There were 20 stops on the trick-or-treat map.

Each one was numbered.  It was easy to find #1 and from there were wooden ghosts pointing you to the direction of the next number to visit.  Originally we were confused by the map but it was so easy to navigate once we figured out that the buildings had numbered pumpkins signs.

With a light for night visitors.

Like I said, everything was decorated inside and out!

The staff at each stop were really nice!  And one of the "treats" was a yummy honey crisp apple!

There was even a straw maze!

Love these trees!!!  This was on our way to the last stop - #20.
The last stop:  cold apple cider and a donut for everyone!!!  For an additional cost you could purchase other food and beverage items here.  Restrooms were also located in this building (we did see a couple of other spots for restrooms too).

The train:  We finished our trick-or treating in the 1 hour that we had from the time we arrived until it was time to get in line for the train.  LINES!!!  This is the thing I hate about busy places!!!!  Our tickets were stamped by a train staff member and then we were told a number in line to stand by.  We were #5 which was the front portion of the train.  There were so many people standing in line!  After the train was emptied from the ride before, a staff member let us through a gate.  At that time we were told what train car to go to.  No assigned seating and our group of 6 was the last to go to the car were were assigned to.  Of course, at this point I was expecting complete failure (not enough seats, can't sit together, ...).  And, of course, as soon as we got inside the car we were told that there wasn't any more room!  I immediately looked at my friend and told her that we needed to get off.  Since she was the closest to the exit she quickly went to the staff member to tell him that we still needed seats.  Thankfully they had another car to fit us into and we all got to sit by each other!!  Plus, the original car we were supposed to ride in had wood benches.  The car we ended up riding in had nice leather bench seats!  

  • Two people per bench seat
  • Keep arms in the windows (they are old and heavy with the possibility of falling closed when the train moves)
  • No food or beverages on the train (you can have it in your bag - just don't eat or drink on the train)

No - he isn't getting ready to take a drink of that water while on the train ;-)

The ride is 40 minutes long.  Along the way the engineer (is that the correct title?) talked us through the experience.  They go all out with a variety of scenes along the path!  It's amazing to think that they were almost all Halloween themed - which means that they change them all for the other holidays/themes through the year!

Scene along the train path.

Scene along the train path.
There's more!!!  In the village there is an area where you can enjoy a variety of rides.  These are an additional cost but not too badly priced.  Each ride was one ticket.  Each ticket was $1.25 or 4 for $4.  I noticed 5 rides total.  Three of the rides were a fit for our age kiddos (2 were for more toddler aged kiddos).  The three that were a good fit for our kiddos:  a carousel (that goes really fast), a ferris wheel, a boat ride (I have never seen anything like this but our kids loved it).

To the right of the picture is the building where you buy tickets and ride the carousel.
The pumpkin shed in the middle is a trick-or-treat stop.
To the left (hard to see) is the entrance for the Genesee Bell (show boat) and a place to eat (we didn't do either of these so I don't really have any input about them).  

View of the Genesee Belle from the train.  We did not purchase this option but now wish we did.
It was only $3 per person more and it was a beautiful day!  
Ferris wheel - each car fits 2-3 people depending on size.
Boat ride - 2 people on each boat and powered by the riders taking turns pulling on ropes.
What did we each end up with?  I loved that we got a popcorn ball, apple, and cider with a donut as part of our adventure!

Something to note:  the line was long when we arrived but once we got into the village it wasn't bad at all.  I did comment a few times on how cool it would be at night because they have Halloween lights all over.  But, as it got later in the day, the lines to get through the trick-or-treating stops got longer!  We told the kids that we would stop back into the village store on the way out so they could spend their money.  It was amazing how much busier the store was!  The line was huge (no line the first time we stopped) and the items my kiddos originally wanted to buy were gone!  So, it looks like it might be more awesome to see at night but the trade off is longer lines...

There was also a magic show at the village theater.  It was included in our entrance but the timing never worked out for us to see it.

We enjoyed this adventure so much that I am for sure going to the Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic experience this December!  That one I do want to check-out at night so here's hoping for a great experience and no lines!  I have heard/read that they do Christmas caroling and there are even some nights that they allow cars to drive through the village to check out the lights (instead of walking) where you pay by car.

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