Spooky ‘Nights’: Newfields brings back seasonal experience

This fall, the multicolored eyes and glowing, leering smiles will again emerge from the wooded hills of Newfields’ campus.

Ghosts and ghouls have plans to bring the house down — literally. And a ghostly train will pierce the night.

A full month of spooky, not scary, fun is on tap during Harvest Nights at Newfields, home of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Visitors can enjoy past favorites of the interactive outdoor adventure, such as the Pumpkin Path of Perio, the Ghost Train and Mischief Manor.

At the same time, a host of new surprises await guests this year.

“The return of Harvest Nights is truly an exceptional outdoor experience for the Indianapolis community and all our neighbors. The Newfields team has worked hard to bring the most unique spooky ideas to life in The Garden at Newfields,” said Jonathan Berger, vice president of marketing and external affairs for Newfields, and executive producer of Harvest Nights.

Newfields first created a Harvest-themed festival in 2018, after receing a Lilly Endowment grant that allowed it to curate a festival dedicated to both creativity and culinary arts. The inaugural event was held over a test weekend, with farm animals, pumpkin painting, craft beer and locally sourced food.

The festival grew the following year, adding music, culinary experiences and family activities such a bounce pad and more crafts and art experiences. In 2020, they opened Harvest Nights, a ticketed tour through the Newfields grounds at night in the vein of the popular holiday experience Winterlights.

As visitors arrive, they have the opportunity to stop at the Playhouse, a new food and beverage destination created by Newfields. Fall-themed snacks and beverages will again be available, with favorites such as Just Pop In! caramel corn, giant pretzels from Half Liter, the Indiana Applejack by West Fork Whiskey Co. and Sun King Brewing’s seasonal beers.

New to the menu this year are treats such as cinnamon Bavarian creme churros paired with white chocolate sauce, as well as Spooky Campfire Cocoa — traditional hot cocoa infused with Hotel Tango Distillery’s toasted marshmallow bourbon.

Properly fortified, visitor can begin the otherworldly trek. People come onto a paved trail through Newfields’ wooded campus to encounter thousands of glowing pumpkins, illuminated corn stalk sculptures and mounds of gourds and hay bales. Visitors can stand on a platform as the “ghost train” hurtles towards them.

At the end of the trail, they’ll come in a state of chaos to the Lilly House, where a digital performance is projected on the face of the historic home. To add to the atmosphere, actors from NoExit Performance will portray partygoers around the house.

Guest can also go inside the Lilly House — decked out in seasonal decorations — for the first time during Harvest Nights. Inside the kitchen, people can check out what is being cooked up in the Mad Scientist Lab.

Tickets to this year’s Harvest Nights are $25 for public adults, $17 for public youth, $20 for member adults, $13 for member youth and $23 for seniors ages 55 and up. Children 5 and under remain free.

Newfields has also cooked up a pair of new pass options this year. The first is a Harvest Nights Premier Ticket, which includes admission for one adult ticket to Harvest Nights, express entry, Harvest blinky lights, cider or hot cocoa and Just Pop In! caramel corn.

The premier ticket is $45 for public adults and $40 for member adults.

A second special pass binds together some of Newfields’ most popular attractions of the year. The Seasonal Flex Pass gives guests discounted tickets to seasonal experiences including THE LUME Indianapolis, Harvest Nights and Winterlights. This all-access pass is $58 per person.

Harvest Nights runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30. But in addition to the nightly activities planned, Newfields organizers have put together a pair of special events to enhance the showcase.

On Oct. 1, Newfields is hosting the Hocus Pocus Drag Show in partnership with Indy Pride. The evening features lively performances inspired by the cult classic film, “Hocus Pocus.” VIP guests will enjoy a cocktail hour and photo opportunity with the Queens before heading into the show. All tickets include one free signature cocktail, beer or non-alcoholic beverage of your choice and 8 p.m. entry into Harvest Nights.

The season caps off with Art or Treat at Harvest Nights. On Oct. 28 and 29, guests of all ages can come and gather goodies in treat bags designed by Indianapolis-based artist Gary Gee of The Eighteen Art Collective. Art or Treat is $30 for public adults, $22 for public youth, $25 for member adults, $18 for member youth, $28 for seniors; children 5 and under remain free. Access Pass holders will be able to purchase Art or Treat at Harvest Nights tickets for $2 admission.