Falling Into Fall with Cleveland Botanical Garden and Halloweekends

We kicked Fall off with a Harvest and Halloweekend - visiting both Cedar Point and the Cleveland Botanical Garden's RIPE Fest.

My favorite season of the year is finally here. 

If I hadn’t looked at the calendar last week to see Fall had arrived, this weekend’s fluctuating weather would have clued me in. To celebrate the changing colors and crisp air, Scott and I had two days full of Fall fun.

We started it off with our favorite tradition of the season — Boeckling’s Banquet at Cedar Point. Three years ago, when the amusement resort moved its headquarters from the original administration building that Cedar Point legend G.A. Boeckling built, the old building was transformed into a new haunted house – the Boeckling Estate

Don't worry -- the Boeckling Estate "Kitchen" isn't really where they prepared our delicious halloween feast.

When you first approach the gray limestone covered in ivy, you see how perfectly the building fits its new role of haunted mansion.  During the evening on Halloweekends, guests are led through the haunted house with plenty of scares.  However, those park visitors looking for a special thrill can experience the house early with a fine dining feast known as Boeckling’s Banquet.

Scott and I have been attending and enjoying Boeckling’s Banquet for the last two years. When my sister planned on visiting Cleveland this weekend, that was the first thing on our agenda.

On Saturday, the banquet started at 12:30 so we arrived as the park opened. This gave us just enough time to ride Raptor and this year’s newest attraction Wind Seeker before making our way to Boeckling Estate for lunch.

In addition to the ghouls, this little guy was my dining companion for the Boeckling's Banquet.

As we approached the house, we were welcomed by Mr. Boeckling’s recently reanimated servants: Lucious, the Butler, and Sara Piano, Mistress of the House. They took us on a behind the scenes tour of the house where we met other ghoulish servants.

Without the fog and strobe lights of the haunted house, you really get to enjoy the detail that went into putting the attraction together. Although you may miss the creepy little nuances while someone jumps out at you – like the eyes painted into the wallpaper or a looming giraffe head in the game room, they are all there to see during the Boeckling’s Banquet tour.

The tour winds through the building to the house’s dining room. A lavish table is set up in the center of the room, decked with “rotting” centerpieces and cobwebs. After we were all seated, we were invited to dig into a fresh salad of greens topped with strawberries, oranges and coconut. The small vial of berry vinaigrette (or was it blood?) was a nice added touch. 

Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon at Cedar Point? Believe it! (And it was delicious)

After finishing off the salads, our main entree was served. Scott and I both opted for the Lobster Tail + Petit Filet Mignon dish (other menu choices included Crab Legs; Shrimp, Scallop and Lobster Alfredo; and a Char-Grilled Filet Mignon). As appetizing as the other options sound, Scott and I order the Lobster Tail and Petit Filet Mignon every year.

I always say Cedar Point does the best park food, but this meal tops anything else you’ll find in the park. The lobster is flavorful and the filet mignon cooked to order, very tender and juicy. Each dish is also accompanied by a plate of aspargus and twice-baked potato with a cripsy cheese wafer.

If these ample servings weren’t enough (trust me, they are – even Scott couldn’t finish his meal), the banquet is finished with a slice of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling. It’s garnished with chocolate sticks and a flat piece of white chocolate with the Eerie Estate logo printed on it. Although I loved the presentation of last year’s dessert (a white chocolate skull filled with strawberry mousse), the taste of this one trumped it.

The third annual Boeckling's Banquest was finished off with a rich slice of chocolate mousse cake.

After bidding fond farewells to the always hospitable ghouls of Boeckling Estate, it was time to ride coasters. We first hit up Iron Dragon, Gemini and Magnum. Then we turned to the big guns.

One of the to-do items on my 30 by 30 list was a ride on Top Thrill Dragster. I am not a fan of heights so I’ve vehemently avoided riding the 420-ft Dragster for years. Not on Saturday though. After an anxious 45 minute wait, I rode it — and loved it (even with my eyes open)! My favorite part was the drop down. I was amazed how close you wind around the yellow beams of the coaster (and how that didn’t scare me).

After all that food, it was time for Top Thrill Dragster.

As with any of our Halloweekend visits, we finished our long day with a nighttime ride on Millennium Force (nothing beats zooming through the fog in the dark) and a walk through the Terror Island maze. It’s the last year for the haunted-pirate-walkthrough, with next year’s Dinosaurs Alive taking over the little island under Millennium Force.

Halloweekends runs until October 30. Boeckling’s Banquet is held Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. with the Boeckling Brunch on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. (advance reservations are required by calling 419.627.2242).  You can check out this year’s Halloweekend scares, as well as the family friendly festivities online. 

One of my favorite things about the Cleveland Botanical Garden is the opportunity to get up close to beautiful butterflies like these.

After Saturday’s day of thrills, we switched gears on Sunday with a relaxing afternoon at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. As always, the gardens and glasshouse were absolutely stunning. I love seeing not just the flora but the fauna of the butterflies, birds and tortoises.  We even caught a glimpse of a sleeping hedgehog.

In addition to enjoying the beautiful gardens, we took in the second annual RIPE! Fest. Last year we attended the inaugural celebration of Northeast Ohio’s local food and edible gardening scene, which you can read about here.

This year’s visit to RIPE started with a culinary demonstration from The Greenhouse Tavern’s Chef Jonathan Seeholzer and Sous Chef Jennifer Plank.

The hog butchery demo was a highlight of RIPE, and made me hungry for bacon.

The topic of the demo was hog butchery. From whole hog to its core, we got to see the skilled chefs from Greenhouse strip the animal. As part of Greenhouse’s mission of sustainability, we learned how they don’t let any part of the animal go to waste in the restaurant and use hogs from local, humane farms.

Scott and I were both impressed by how deftly they handled the hefty hog. And while we probably won’t be throwing a pig roast anytime soon, we picked up a number of good tips for selecting and slicing meat. We also got to sample a small bite of pate filled with bacon.

We ended our visit by perusing the culinary and gardening marketplace, tasting a delicious slice of beet with goat cheese from The Market Cafe and Wine Bar and picking up an apple pie from Avon Lake’s Humble Pie Baking Company.

As it starts to get cold out, the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Costa Rica Glasshouse is the perfect escape.

Although yesterday’s weather was more fitting for a summer day (I probably shouldn’t have unpacked my sweaters just yet), our Halloweekend and harvest fare put us all in the mood for Fall.

Cedar Point Halloweekends 411: 

Cleveland Botanical Garden 411:

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