Fun Ways to Safely Celebrate Halloween Across the Country in 2020

From drive-thru jack-o'-lantern displays and haunted houses to horror movie marathons, there are still plenty of ways to safely get into the spooky spirit this year

Boo at the Zoo
Photo: Louisville Zoo

Halloween is fast approaching, and with it comes our annual excuse to disguise ourselves behind a mask… oh, wait, that’s just our new normal.

Spooky season looks slightly different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on ensuring social distancing and sanitary exchanges of candy. With many annual events still being held across the country, most have shifted to drive-through experiences, or are operating at a limited capacity in accordance with local guidelines.

Whether you’re looking to spook yourself silly by renting a paranormal property, or to lose your sense of time and purpose in a seemingly never-ending maze (we're talking the corn kind, not the year that is 2020), there’s an activity out there for you. Below, we’ve rounded up a few ways to safely celebrate throughout the month.

Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty.

Jack-o'-Lantern Displays

This year, rather than meandering among the thousands of intricately carved pumpkins set up by local artists at the extravagant jack-o'-lantern displays across the country, many of the annual displays have shifted to drive-thru experiences in order to keep guests safe and socially distanced.

Night of the Jack
Night of the Jack

In Calabasas, California, celebrity-favorite Nights of the Jack features multi-pumpkin statues of dinosaurs, expertly etched celebrity faces and more illuminated with a multi-colored lights show. In Croton-on-Hudson, New York, the Great Jack-O’-Lantern Blaze will light up the season with over 7,000 artistic carvings, while Louisville’s Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular will transform Kentucky’s Iroquois Park into a forbidden forest.

Drive-Thru Haunted Houses

While you might think riding, rather than walking, through a haunted house could inhibit your ability to be fully immersed in the spooky surroundings, we will gladly accept any layer of protection from jump scares.

“Only a thin sheet of glass separates you from terror,” reads the website for BMC Productions’ Terror in the Timbers drive-through haunted house in Chicago’s Elgin suburb.

“Guests can expect the unexpected. They’ll experience the same type of scare they’d get with any other big time haunted house – but within the confines and safety of their vehicle," explained organizer and spokesperson Dan Barrie said, according to NBC Chicago. "The torch lit road will guide guests in their vehicles through a series of vignettes while actors interact during each scene.”

Meanwhile, in Ulster Park, New York, an annual hayride has been replaced with a haunted drive-thru experience, Dare to Ride The Horseman's Trail. Accompanied by a spooky soundtrack, the outdoor event will take riders through scenes like the “butcher shop” — and two socially distanced walkthrough haunted houses are also on the premises.

Looking for fear and haunting in Las Vegas? Look no further than Asylum and Hotel Fear (if you dare!), which rank among the most terrifying. Equipped with cleaning and social distancing protocols as well as operating at limited capacity, these attractions are taking place across three acres in the Meadows Mall Parking Lot.

Drive-In Horror Movie Marathons

Buckle up, it’s going to be a scary screening! Sure, you could just curl up at home to watch horror flicks from the comfort of your couch — but with the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters, why not take advantage of a vintage thrill?

Drive-In Theater
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty

From Indianapolis’ last-remaining drive-in to the big screen in the San Fernando Valley, check your local listings to see where and when you can catch Hocus Pocus and other Halloween classics.

Paranormal Rental Properties

If driving through a haunted house isn’t enough of a thrill for you, you’re in luck — you can rent your own through popular property-listing sites like VRBO and Airbnb. With houses available near historically haunted locations or on properties long suspected of paranormal activity, there’s a place for every type of thrill seeker — and enhanced safety protocols ensure there’s room for some good, clean fun.

Searching for ghosts in a historically spooky town? These homes have got you covered: the supposedly haunted Henry Derby House in Salem, Massachusetts is a stop on local ghost tours, and Laura’s Cottage in Savannah, Georgia is allegedly home to a ghost (named, you guessed it, Laura) and was also featured in the Robert Redford film The Conspirator. (Keep in mind, though, that many people will have the same idea and respect the town's COVID precautions. The mayor of Salem recently spoke out about potential crowds.)

Child wearing orange butterfly wings in a field of tall dried maize

Corn Maze

This classic autumnal activity is a favorite for the whole family. Wind your way through acres of 10-foot-tall corn stalks and themed excursions, like The Amazing Maize Maze in Queens, New York, which requires you to solve clues en route to a vista of Van Gogh’s "Sunflowers" masterpiece. Or, check out Idaho's original corn maze at the Lowe Family Farmstead, which features 18 acres of corn carved into a delightfully different pattern each year and a smaller "Mini MAiZE" for younger kids.

Most mazes this year are featuring wider paths and timed tickets to encourage social distancing. Check out your local options — they often go hand-in-hand with other fall-favorite activities, from pumpkin picking to hay rides.

Related Articles