Last week we went to visit The Rise of the Jack-O-Lanterns at the San Diego Safari Park. This incredible pumpkin-carving festival features over 5,000 pumpkins carved throughout the week so there are fresh ones on display every weekend from now until Halloween. If you're not in San Diego, you can also check out The Rise in Los Angeles and New York and I highly recommend the visit. Here are some highlights from our experience though I get the feeling each event has unique attractions so what you see here is probably a bit different than what you might see in person.
At the start of the event you could see carvers making new pumpkins -in part I'm sure it was to show that the pumpkin works of art were actually real and carved fresh before the event, but it also helped emphasize the talent and creativity of the artists.
Still, as cool as these are, they are nowhere near as impressive as the ones actually inside the exhibit.
It seems appropriate that while there we traditional signs around the event, the main one was made from pumpkins -it also seemed oddly appropriate that like Halloween pumpkins, one of the letters had gone out.
This pumpkin sentinel was on guard to protect his other carved friends.
These jellyfish were utterly adorable and seemed like something that would actually be reasonably easy to copy at home.
The octopus was a bit cthulhu-esque and he seemed to have it out for the kelp next to it.
The crabs looked oddly delicious even if they weren't filled with shellfish goodness.
It wouldn't be under the sea without SpongeBob.
At the end of the under the sea section was a detailed carving showing an aircraft carrier, which has particular importance to San Diegians since we have a history as a military town and the USS Midway is one of our most unique museums.
The next section of the attraction was dinosaur themed and the creepy bone dinosaurs were a perfect Halloween treat.
This one was particularly impressive -and huge!
I really liked how some of the dinosaurs looked like they were attacking each other.
You could only see the pumpkins in the dark and there was no flash photography, but I really wanted to see some of these under regular lights -the head on this one was way too cool.
I couldn't have been happier to see my favorite dino represented -the magnificent stegosaurus.
There was also a Hillary pumpkin, but the lights weren't bright enough to get a good picture of it.
Throughout the event, there was a number of Halloween-y touches including this cool graveyard.
Of course, even death wouldn't stop San Diego football fans from watching their favorite game.
There were also cool pumpkin cars that looked delightfully 3D.
The company's website has a number of pictures dedicated to people getting engaged at the event and while they seem to carve custom pumpkins for proposals, this one was set up for just anyone to spark up a long-term relationship.
You can't have a proposal without flowers and in this case there were pumpkin ones.
And while there wasn't a soundtrack for the engagement party, there was a musically-inspired pumpkin.
These pumpkin trees set a romantic mood for the scene and I imagine these were some of the handful of artificial pumpkins at the event since I doubt they are climbing up and down the trees to decorate them every week.
These were some of the only non-carved pumpkins on display and these min-kins were totally adorable.
There were tons of kids at the event and the minions and these pumpkins were quite possibly the favorites of the little ones.
Of course, the adults out there also loved the Sesame Street jack-o-lanterns since so many of us grew up watching the show.
For the geeks out there, this Star Wars pumpkin was certain to please.
While there was no flash photography, I couldn't resist lighting this one up since the light inside was out.
I was also enamored by this amazing Day of the Dead skull.
Since the festival was held at the San Diego Safari Park, it only made sense to throw in some cool wild animal carvings.
Whatever your favorite animal, there was a decent chance it was carved on a pumpkin and put on display there.
This guy was simply purrrfect.
And there were plenty of impressive zebras out there, but this one was particularly cute.
And as always, the flamingos were totally charming.
These giant giraffes were some of my favorite animals there simply because they were so darn impressive.
After the animals, there was a whole section dedicated to pop culture goodies. Lots of little gamers were thrilled to see this one.
And the comic book fans were kept entertained. by Spider-Man.
There was a whole series of emotions from the film Inside Out.
And while a massive group was surrounding Daenerys and admiring the carving, I kept hearing people ask what it was -apparently there weren't many Game of Thrones fans in attendance.
At the end of the carvings was a series dedicated to people we have lost this year and this one was particularly sad.
And on the way out, the Safari Park told its own horror stories detailing animals and plants that went extinct long before their time.
All in all, it was a super fun event and the pumpkins truly were works of art. If you get a chance to check out The Rise, I highly recommend it (though I advise finding a promo code online before purchasing because there are a lot out there). If nothing else, it might just give you some cool ideas on carving your own pumpkins -I'm considering making a jellyfish or a rose this year!