Halloween has always been a bit of a fantasy-based holiday, where I've never had the pleasure of experiencing it at its prime... till very recently! When we went travelling around the US throughout September and October, we were graced with pumpkins that took over houses, laneways, shopping centres, bars, and restaurants (to name a few). Visiting Chicago for the first time and not having a concrete itinerary in place, we stumbled upon Jack's Pumpkin Pop Up, which is basically a haven that packs a range of fun activities and events to get you excited for the spooky season, whilst working with nature's show of the autumn season.
Designed to offer their visitors with the perfect interactive experience that combines the beauty of the incoming Fall season with the scary yet awesome theme of Halloween, Jack's Pumpkin Pop-Up is a month-long celebration of these two festivities that is ideal for adults and children alike. Transforming the two acres of Goose Island into a multi-sensory adventure playground outdoors, you'll find everything from arcade-style games to axe throwing to fortune telling and even a corn maze that seemingly had a number of different routes with its own set of spooky, cute, and highly Instagrammable surprises nestled within. There were a ton of pop-up activities that were spread across their space to keep you intrigued and on your feet for all the right reasons.
One thing that I absolutely loved about the pop-up were the spooky decorations that were installed in every nook and cranny to inject a sense of Halloween. There were skeletons, zombies, and pumpkin-headed hooligans, who added a sense of mischief and fun throughout the space and made you feel like you're in a movie where your only goal is to survive the craziness. However, it wasn't overly done to present with a tacky set-up, but instead, created a subtle vibe of Halloween, whilst simultaneously embracing the beauty of Fall season; through the falling leaves and photo opportunity stations that were painted in hues of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. I love how the space was sectioned into spots that were designated for activities and games, Instagram photo-opportunities, a sit-down with a group of friends and/or family with the food and drink vendors setting up shop, and a quieter zone with polo-shaped swings that created a socially inviting yet relaxed atmosphere. My only suggestion would be to add more Halloween-themed games into the arcade setting, as it felt a bit out of place to play Mario and Tekken (although, we didn't mind the oddity of this).
While we visited the pop-up during the day (and had very gourd time indeed), I wish we had visited it again at night to see all the exciting installations come to life with its striking lights. However, during the day, we had the luxury of a less intense outing with smaller crowds. We got there as soon as it opened after booking our tickets in advance and were greeted to a carnival-style space that was packed with food trucks, teepees, and pumpkins (so many pumpkins!).
One activity in particular that my partner and I were considering as one of the "must do" experiences that came with our ticket was the art of axe throwing. You can either opt to pre-pay for 5 axe-throws as part of your ticket, or you could simply show up and pay for the number of axe throws that your heart desires. While my partner and I were able to get the hang of the art of axe throwing (towards the end), we would highly recommend adding on some more throws, as the technique requires a bit of getting used to, in terms of the grip, the maneuver, and the aim and 5 axe throws is simply not enough to get the maximum enjoyment out of it!
Since it is a pop-up, we expected things to be a bit more expensive than usual. Not that we were driving, but there didn't seem to be much parking options available, so Uber-ing it to and from the location seems to be the most popular option. Also, the food and drink (while expensive) had a clever Fall and Halloween-themed twist to them all, including the cocktails that had options such as PSL and Hocus Pocus, along with more traditional food options such as the classic Chicago Hot Dog and Mexican cuisine items such as nachos and quesadillas (to name a few). For those looking for a less boozy adventure, their hot cocoas were off the charts - it had just the right level of sweetness and warmth to complement the cooler change that came about in a snap!
Given how my partner and I were exploring a new city and had never experienced anything like this before, I would highly recommend Jack's Pumpkin Pop-Up as a prime idea for a cute date. There is so much on offer here and it will easily keep you busy for a couple of hours (minimum). It's also a great way to bond over something that is magical and designed to be a playground for adults (and children too, of course). The family-friendly atmosphere helps in creating a vibe that is wholesome and gets you pumped for the upcoming silly seasons of spook and chill.
Quick tips: 1. Dress like your most fabulous self - there are tons of photo opportunities and a heaven for those who are knee-deep into Instagramming 2. Dress warm! We went on a day when it was around 20 degrees and it got chilly real quick.
3. Try to get there early if possible. When we left at around 1pm, there were long lines to all the attractions all over the place - a stark contrast to the quieter beginning of our adventure at 11am (when they open)
4. If you're going to buy a ticket, make sure you go all out and get the drinks the axe throwing ($38). It makes the price worth it and you really get your money's worth.
5. Get a pumpkin (or few) to go - there are so many that are scattered all over the space and it would be rude not to!
6. Charge up your camera - you're going to need all the juice you can get! I had my camera out for most of my time and I couldn't stop snapping e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
7. I'd put aside about $50 to spend on top of your ticket price, especially if you're planning to wine and dine there or play the games.
Jack's Pumpkin Pop-Up will be running 7 days a week at 1465 N Elston Avenue, Chicago (Illinois) till November 3, 2019. Follow them on their social media channels: Instagram / Facebook.