As the coronavirus pandemic stretches into the fall and winter months and cases continue to rise across the country, many will have to forego their favorite seasonal activities in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
In early October, the Centers for Disease Control released guidance advising against many traditional Halloween activities. Door-to-door trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties, haunted houses, public hay or tractor rides, and traveling to festivals outside of one’s community are all ranked as “higher-risk” activities.
While the CDC offered up solutions to maintain socially-distant celebrations — host a virtual costume contest or carve pumpkins with your family, the site says — some people may be looking for more thematic or interactive holiday fun.
Cities, schools, clubs, and individuals across the country have heeded the spooky call.
From California’s movie-themed experiences in the West to New York’s ghost hunts in the East, and from Texas’ sprawling pumpkin patches in the South to Wisconsin’s Burial Chamber in the North, here are just some of the fall activities from the four corners of the United States.
Thanks to its sunny weather year-round, California is offering more than its fair share of socially-distant activities this fall. Whether you prefer low-key activities or high-stakes thrills, the Golden State certainly has enough opportunities to keep children and adults alike entertained.
Nights of Jack boasts thousands of hand-carved and illuminated Jack O’ Lanterns and depictions of movie stars, sports heroes, and animated characters at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas. Touted as an “Instagrammable Halloween experience,” the event was changed to a drive-thru where visitors stay in their vehicle while cruising 50 acres of property. The event runs through Nov. 1, and tickets must be purchased online.
Fans of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” will be transported from downtown Los Angeles to 1980s Hawkins, where they can explore the Upside Down with all its visual and audio special effects — all from their vehicle. The experience is recommended for those age 13 and up, and dressing up for the occasion is recommended.
Visitors can enjoy a socially distant walk-through of pumpkin-themed displays in La Cañada Flintridge. Children ages 14 and younger are encouraged to wear their costumes. The event runs through the end of October, but some days, including Oct. 31, are reserved for members only.
Los Angeles’ haunted hayride is usually held at Griffith Park, but now a drive-up experience, was forced to move to San Dimas to accommodate vehicles. Attendees can expect terrifying sights, including a haunted show featuring a multimedia story projected on a 40-foot screen, as well as horrifying sets and characters from Midnight Falls.
Note that this event, which runs through Nov. 1, is not recommended for children under age 12.
The Sunshine State has no shortage of events that fit the seasonal and socially distant requirements.
In Orlando, a brand-new drive-thru haunted experience is happening thanks to some big names in the industry. The Haunted Road is a completely contactless drive-thru experience. It features theatrical storytelling, an original storyline, and unexpected frights, from the comfort of your car.
One of the masterminds behind the project is Jeremy Crawford, who worked as an art director at Universal Orlando for many years and was responsible for key visuals and graphics for events like Halloween Horror Nights.
“We kind of had to pivot just like everyone and we knew the things we were working on (before COVID) wouldn’t come to fruition,” he said. “Safety is our number one priority. So, guests can roll their windows down. We do ask that they wear masks because our characters will come pretty close.”
In Kissimmee, another first-of-its-kind drive-thru made its debut this year thanks to COVID: The Scream n’ Stream delivers an action-packed night of scares inside a transformed RV park.
The storyline is set back in 1997. As you drive through a “screen,” you’re actually driving into a horror film. Cars can punch up 91.7 FM for a spooky soundtrack during the ride as horror scenes play out on either side of the vehicle.
As for the trick-or treating component, characters will stand back and hold a long pipe, rolling down candy in “Easter-type” plastic eggs. Scream n’ Stream has family-friendly hours and grown-up time.
Those looking for some furry fun will be pleased to know that the Louisville Zoo’s “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween event is still on this year.
The party, celebrating its 39th year, will host children in their wildest costumes from Oct. 1 through Oct. 30, Thursday through Sunday nights.
New health and safety measures will be in place for this year’s event, including a mask requirement for all guests over the age of five. The Zoo will still offer trick-or-treating for kids 11 and under, but they will not receive individual pieces of candy.
Instead, they will receive a small sealed treat bag at each booth along the route. Zoo staff who receive health screenings each day before they arrive at work will distribute the candy, and socially distanced photo opportunities will be available.
“This is an event our community and guests look forward to each year, and we are doing our part to make this as safe as possible so that we can continue on with the Halloween festivities this year,” said John Walczak, director of the Louisville Zoo. “We are excited about Boo at the Zoo and being able to offer kids a fun event outdoors where they can still celebrate this holiday.”
In the mood for a more haunted experience? While it may look different, you can still get spooked at Waverly Hills this year. The Louisville landmark is offering a new kind of ghostly experience in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than its annual haunted house event, Waverly is starting “Haunted Halloween Guided Tours” which it says will be “more controlled” and “much safer.” The tours will feature cosplay actors who bring the stories of the former sanatorium to life on every floor.
Tickets are already on sale at $40 a piece. The tours will take place on Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 2 through Oct. 31.
Everyone who goes on the tours must wear a mask and social distance.
The best Halloween attraction in Louisville is happening this year, but the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular will be drive-thru this year because of the pandemic.
Fans of the pumpkin show will be able to enjoy the Spectacular Oct. 1 through Nov. 1 at Iroquois Park.
Each night there will only be a limited number of cars allowed to drive through the park, so fans are encouraged to buy tickets online. It will cost $35 for cars, SUVs, and minivans and tickets are $50 for passenger vans and limousines.
The park will open up for visitors to the Spectacular at dusk, which is roughly 7:30 p.m. in early October and closer to 7:00 p.m. later in the month. The park wants cars to arrive no sooner than 6:45 p.m. The event will close at 11 p.m. on weekdays and Midnight on Friday and Saturday.
The event features over 5,000 different Jack O’ Lanterns designed for this year’s theme of “Hitchhiker’s Guide.” The pumpkins will light up the 1/3-mile trail adjacent to the Iroquois Amphitheater. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have seen the Spectacular in the past.
Proceeds from tickets benefit the Louisville Parks Foundation.
As cities across Massachusetts asked parents to look for alternatives to trick-or-treating, many communities joined together to do just that.
The city of Barre will be hosting a “Trunk-or-treat” drive-in for children, with a designated entrance, sanitation station, and socially-distanced cars. Children will be able to trick-or-treat from the vehicles, with events hosted by the Barre Library Association, Barre Woman’s Club and local businesses offered nearby.
In Berlin, the city board opted to forego traditional Halloween celebrations and instead “promote a Halloween scarecrow and pumpkin decorating contest on the front lawn of the First Parish Church,” according to a post from the city on Facebook.
Participants will be able to design their own scarecrow at home and bring it into the center of town on Halloween day so they can be staked, labeled, and displayed. Attendees can also participate in a pumpkin-decorating contest, the winner of which will get to open a Select Board meeting.
For those who want to experience the great outdoors, the Southborough Stewardship Committee is offering Full Moon Halloween Guided Hikes at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. Participants are encouraged to dress up in their best Halloween costume for a night of stargazing under the full moon.
Not to fret, fur-lovers — the annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade is still on! This year will look a little different, as the event is entirely virtual. Attendees with or without a dog can log on to the event starting at noon on Oct. 24 to join the parade.
Take a drive outside of New York City, and things are getting a little spooky, but not too scary at the Explore & More Children’s Museum in Buffalo.
The museum opened a spooktacular Halloween event for all the little ghosts and goblins in Western New York.
Kids will get the chance to do some festive STEM activities, with toys, games, and of course candy.
“Normally we do one big day event, but that’s not possible due to limitations and safety. So, it is now a two-week program,” said Explore & More senior manager of learning and education, Amelia Schrader.
From now through the end of the month, you can head to Explore & More Children’s Museum in your Halloween costume to take part in a spooky scavenger hunt.
Nearby, Riverworks is offering a ghost hunt and history tour.
Guides take people to explore the GLF grain silos that were built in 1908. The tours give the history of the silos’ and some haunting stories from Riverworks’ past.
Ghost hunting equipment can also be used. Just make sure you definitely bring your flashlight.
The tours are October 13, 20, 26, 27 and November 1.
For three decades, the Double M Haunted Hayride has been scaring anyone willing to set foot on its property — and they don’t plan on stopping this year.
But instead of a hayride, visitors will be driving themselves through it this year. The drive-thru experience is one of the changes put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to entertain them a little bit, as much as we can,” said owner Leo Martin, the mastermind behind all the thrills and chills.
Cars will be stopping at 13 different stages. Some have animations, while most of them still have live performers. They’ll keep their distance, but that doesn’t mean they won’t scare people.
Martin says it’s a safe way for families to still come out and enjoy Halloween.
“We’re booked. We’re sold out this whole weekend, which is unheard of for us this early in the season,” Martin said. “Usually not until the end of October is when we start selling out.”
Everything is done online this year, from purchasing tickets and snacks to receiving information and guidelines. It’s open now through Halloween weekend.
While not necessarily an attraction per se, one Cleveland couple’s home has certainly drawn widespread attention for its festive decor.
For the past seven years, Marija Lasic and her husband Joshua Davis have transformed their home each Halloween and Christmas, but this year, they almost didn’t do anything at all.
“The neighborhood pretty much told us, ‘You’ve gotta do something!’ It’s been such a tough year for everyone, and we wanted to put smiles on people’s faces in the neighborhood, and we thought it was a good way to do that,” said Lasic.
Lasic said she found a giant skeleton at Home Depot, and the pandemic-themed decorations came to life. Complete with giant coronavirus particles, cleaning products and a skeleton buying too much toilet paper.
Lasic and Davis say they’re just trying to make people smile and bring a little joy to our current situation.
“I don’t want to offend anyone or anything like that, and I want it to be kind of fun and scary. But then throw in some comedy,” said Lasic.
For more interactive adventures, a certain business in Medina is offering up some good, clean Halloween fun.
The Rainforest Car Wash in Medina is back with its Haunted Car Wash event after experiencing success last year.
“It went viral. It was a huge hit. We were anticipating maybe 500 cars. We ended up with more than 1,500. It was a sensation. We were not expecting that turnout and we were very grateful for it. It was amazing to be able to provide that for people,” said Tara Crawford, from the car wash.
While many events are being canceled this year because of the pandemic, this one doesn’t have that problem. It’s no-contact format fits perfectly with the social distancing protocols of 2020.
“It gives some people a chance to get some semblance of normalcy back into their lives,” Crawford said. “You can still enjoy Halloween. You can still get that spooky experience that you want, but from the safety of your vehicle.”
Organizers of the Haunted Car Wash say it is a family-friendly event, but it is not for the faint of heart.
Fortunate kiddos in one Cincinnati neighborhood will actually have the chance to trick-or-treat door-to-door, thanks to the creative invention of one festive father.
Andrew Beattie is a holiday fanatic, and he goes all out. His home is the first on his block with lights and spooky decorations, and Beattie said the display only grows year after year.
Unfortunately, with his high porch and steep steps, Beattie said many families struggle to make it to his door on Halloween night.
“When I’m wearing a mask and a costume, they’re not really safe for me to run up and down,” he said.
He said that’s what inspired his initial invention. Beattie found a six-foot cardboard tube in his garage, and he and his daughter got to work. Then they decorated it with orange spray paint and black duct tape. Once complete, he tied it to the railing and tried a few more tests. The candy flew down with ease.
Now on top of keeping folks from coming up and down his steep steps, Beattie also has a way to make social distancing fun.
“You know, this year with safety concerns out there, people in some cases have immune deficiencies. I myself was born with an immune deficiency,” he said.
If you’ve been to Raleigh in October, you’ve likely heard of the Annual Haunted Mordecai Festival. The Mordecai House was originally built in 1785, and is registered as a historical landmark and museum in Raleigh. It’s the oldest house in the area still on its original foundation.
Typically on Halloween, around 200 people come out for vendors on the lawn, costume contests, ghost stories, and to learn the history. Guests also learn about the paranormal investigations and data collected that year from Ghost Guild Inc. team members.
Because of COVID-19 the team’s usual three to four investigations was cut down to zero.
To make up for it, the team plans to live stream a paranormal investigation on Halloween night for the virtual festival.
“A lot of people are used to watching the TV shows where they’ve got this stuff happening nonstop all night long,” said Nelson Nauss, who is on the paranormal research team that investigates the site. “It’s very important for people to understand that that is data collected over a longer period of time and edited into making these shows. We’re just going to be going live.”
In addition to the investigation, the virtual festival is anticipated to include storytelling and history of the site.
“I love the fact that we’re going to be able to blend in the history, the legends, any of the data that we’ve recorded at those locations previously,” Nauss said. “So, to me, it’s just the perfect package that has a little bit of everything for everybody.”
The Mordecai Historic Park is still working out the details on how Halloween night will run and getting materials together to make the experience as safe as possible.
October festivities are in full swing in Texas. Temperatures are down slightly, the aroma of pumpkin spice is in the air, and for many people it’s the best time of the year.
Looking for a scenic photo op the whole family can enjoy? Look no further than the annual Fall Festival & Pumpkin Patch at Barton Hill Farms. Located in Bastrop, the event is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday from October 3 through November 15. You’ll also find a corn maze. Due to COVID-19, capacity is reduced to 50 percent this year and it is completely cashless.
Looking for something a little spookier? The Paramount Theatre in Austin has reopened, and on October 31, Halloween, the landmark is hosting actor and all-around groovy guy Bruce Campbell. Campbell will host a screening of the cult classic Evil Dead, and that will be followed by a Q&A session. It’s probably best to leave the kids at home for this one.
While it’s available year-round, October is undoubtedly the best time to experience Austin Ghosts. Texas’ capital has its share of ghosts and legends. The website for the tour states: “Passion and misfortune find easy homes here along the Colorado River. The result is a city full of true tales of extraordinary lives, dramatic deaths and spectacular hauntings you will see if you take a tour with Austin Ghosts.”
Finally, why not take the family on a day trip out to Vogel Orchard in Fredericksburg and pick out your own pumpkin? This Hill Country gem features a pick-your-own-pumpkin patch as well as a wide selection of pies.
Hay rides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and trick-or-treating are hallmarks of autumn in the Midwest.
Families don’t need to miss out on their favorite fall activities this year; businesses around Wisconsin are adapting to the pandemic with drive-through family fun. From spooky light displays to drive-through trick-or-treating, here are some socially distant events designed for the entire family.
Neenah’s Burial Chamber is already open for business and had its first crowds come through in mid-September.
“I think people are excited to just get out and do something. People have been holed up for so long, they just can’t go out and do anything,” owner Matt Mars told Spectrum News.
Billed as the midwest’s largest haunted complex, Mars feels safe with his outdoor waiting area and other safety measures put in place. With four separate attractions, he plans to limit crowds by keeping one of his haunted houses closed each night.
“Everyone’s wearing masks, both customers and employees. When you go through, you don’t even notice they have them on. I thought for sure it would wreck the experience, surprisingly, it makes no difference at all,” said Mars.
Mars and his employees are excited to scare crowds and help make memories.
“It’s a stress reliever. It doesn’t seem like it would be but you get out and you just feel like…ahhh…you feel good. You let all that stuff out. It works out nice,” said Mars.
The Burial Chamber is open Fridays and Saturdays in October from 7 to 11:30 p.m. and includes a parade of scary characters at 6:45 p.m.
There are several family-friendly events going on across the state as well.
The Racine Zoo kicked off Halloween Glow this month, a spooky light display illuminates the zoo grounds as families enjoy from the comfort of their cars. Admission is purchased onsite.
At Old World Wisconsin’s Fall Family Fun Drive, guests stay in their cars to travel a set route, exploring vignettes that capture the beauty of Old World Wisconsin. The tour includes routes not accessible during the regular season.