How Popular Halloween Spots Around the U.S. Are Handling COVID-19

Still spooky, with some extra safety precautions.

Halloween is just around the corner, and while this year will certainly look and feel different than the past, the ghoulish festivities don't have to be completely on hold.

Universal Studios
Courtesy of Universal Studios

Several highly anticipated events have been canceled or modified, but not every spooky celebration has been scrapped. Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, for example, may not be happening due to COVID-19, but the theme parks did set up a pair of tooth fairy and bride of Frankenstein-themed haunted houses to get visitors’ hearts racing.

Nearby at Disney, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party revelers may have to wait for next year, but the park is still encouraging everyone — even adults — to come dressed as their favorite characters and taste all the special All Hallows’ Eve-themed treats (think alcoholic "Rotten Apple Punch" and the "Poor Unfortunate Souls Float" with cream cheese soft-serve, black raspberry syrup, and Coke).

Mickey and Minnie at Walt Disney World
Courtesy of Walt Disney World

In addition, Salem, Mass., is scaling back their famed Halloween events, but the city is still offering walking ghost tours and museum visits — just make sure to check Massachusetts’ travel advisory and comply with any applicable testing or quarantine requirements before going.

When it comes to Halloween festivities at home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that several traditional Halloween activities are considered high-risk for spreading COVID-19, including door-to-door trick or treating or attending a crowded, indoor costume party. But the agency said there are several low- and moderate-risk activities people can do instead, including carving pumpkins outside, having a virtual costume party, or visiting an open-air Halloween-themed venue.

Of course, wearing face masks when doing any activity around people outside of your household is recommended, however, the CDC warns a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.

But there are still ways to safely experience the thrills of Halloween all around the U.S. from drive-thru haunted houses to kid-friendly, socially-distanced versions of trick or treating, and more. These are some events that are happening across the country and how they are making it safe for 2020.

Universal Studios

Orlando, Fla.

Universal Studios may have canceled their popular annual Halloween Horror Nights at both their Florida and California parks, but the theme park is celebrating in Orlando with COVID-19-mindful events from Sept. 26 to 27 and Oct. 3 to Nov. 1. In addition to their two haunted houses (which include their Virtual Line experience), Universal is encouraging people to wear costumes and go trick-or-treating at Islands of Adventure. There’s also a (socially distant) scarecrow scavenger hunt, a Beetlejuice meet-and-greet, and a horror make-up show where people can learn how to create the make-up effects used in movies.

Universal, which reopened on June 5, has implemented several safety measures, including requiring masks, temperature checks, and having many hand sanitizer stations.

Salem Haunted Happenings

Salem, Mass.

Salem, Mass. in 2019
Costumed visitors celebrating Halloween in Salem, Mass. in 2019. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Due to COVID-19, several events had to be canceled in Salem, including the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade and the Howl-o-ween pet parade (that one went virtual), but there are still several in-person options on deck. According to Salem, the majority of museums, attractions, walking tours, and harbor tours remain open with modifications. Capacity restrictions and reservation systems will be in place for things like walking ghost tours and in museums, including The House of the Seven Gables (of Nathaniel Hawthorne novel fame).

The Haunted Road

Orlando, Fla.

This haunted house takes social distancing to the next level by making the entire event drive-thru. The contactless experience runs from Sept. 25 through Nov. 7 and invites guests to drive through nightmare scenes (think Rapunzel reimagined as a horror story).

And don’t forget the kiddos: there’s a family-friendly daytime version on weekends in October so they can meet some favorite fairy tale creatures.

Boo at the Zoo Drive-Thru at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute

Washington, D.C.

The annual event is going contactless for 2020 with visitors confined to their cars as they drive around a mile-long path along the side of the zoo. Look out the window to spot witches, vampires, and even Count Pandula before collecting a special treat at the end.

To attend, visitors need to purchase a car pass and reserve a time slot as well as up to six treat bags.

Louisville Jack O'Lantern Spectacular

Louisville, Ky.

This popular collection of around 5,000 illuminated pumpkins (about 95 percent of which are grown in the region) features intricate carvings from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, starting at dusk. This year, the show has gone completely contactless, welcoming people to drive through the breathtaking scene and encouraging them to buy tickets online in advance.

Proceeds from the Jack O'Lantern Spectacular benefit the Louisville Parks Foundation, according to organizers.

Castle of Muskogee Halloween Festival

Muskogee, Ok.

This festival is spread over 14 acres of the Castleton village, featuring everything from crafts and a visit to The Torture Chamber Museum to a train ride through an enchanted forest.

For 2020, masks are required when not actively eating or drinking, and ticket capacity is limited to prevent crowding.

“The Reel Sites, Real Scary: A John Carpenter Driving Tour”

Bowling Green, Ky.

Horror film fans can retrace John Carpenter’s steps (known for his “Halloween” movie franchise), hitting up 17 different locations that inspired him, including the log cabin where he lived when he was young. The driving tour allows people to remain in their cars and away from other people, making it a COVID-19-safe activity.

Lake Hickory Haunts

Hickory, N.C.

This over-the-top collection of terrifying Halloween attractions has put several COVID-19 protocols in place to ensure safety. For 2020, organizers are asking people to buy tickets online in advance and then check-in for the virtual queue. All visitors are required to wear a face mask or face shield except when eating or drinking, and touchless hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout. In addition, all indoor facilities are cleaned and disinfected each day.

This year, organizers have a new attraction: AQUAPHOBIA, a demonically-possessed village that has risen from the depths of the lake based on a frightening legend.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campgrounds

Multiple locations

Jellystone Park campgrounds around the country are preparing for COVID-19-safe Halloween fun, including socially distanced trick-or-treating (where foot traffic goes in one direction), pumpkin painting in a large tent, and “to go” crafts. In addition, some campgrounds even have corn mazes and haunted trails for more outdoor fun.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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