Drive-through hay rides, jack-o'-lantern displays, and haunted farms—this might be the year your family starts a new tradition.

By Alexa Erickson
October 16, 2020

Crisp air, changing leaves, and longer nights can only mean one thing: the height of autumn is upon us. While we begin to bundle up and stoke the indoor fires, Halloween beckons us to stay outside long after nightfall. The spooky season is October's finest: Families don their finest costumes yet. Driveways transform into a fright for all trick-or-treaters. Pumpkin patches take over open frosted fields. And horrifying decorations fill storefront windows downtown. It's certainly a unique time of year. This year, of course, will be different.

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in New York
Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored, no matter how excited we are for the holidays, beginning with Halloween. However, as we come to terms with our changing environment, we learn new ways to innovate and inspire. Towns and organizations have answered concerns of how people will be able to celebrate Halloween safely, and there's plenty of events taking place. From drive-thru haunted hayrides to historic cities wrought with haunts, take part in the festivities while remaining socially distant.

The Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze

As a quaint village in Mount Pleasant, New York, Sleepy Hollow has become known as one of the most haunted towns in America, making it the perfect place to visit come Halloween time. Washington Irving, who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is even buried here. A 20-minute drive upstate will lead you to Croton-on-Hudson for The Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze. Meander through the 18th-century landscape of Van Cortland Manor's historic grounds to see a breathtaking display of more than 7,000 illuminated jack-o'-lanterns—all designed and hand-carved on site by a team of artisans.

The Ride at Pumpkintown U.S.A.

Head up to New England for one of their premier fall attractions—"The Ride" at Pumpkintown U.S.A. Every year, 25,000 people visit East Hampton, Connecticut, for its family-friendly display of "pumpkin people" inhabitants and their animal companions on an enchanting hayride through the forest. This year, you can enjoy this adventure from the safety and comfort of your own car, all while snacking on hot buttered popcorn, cider doughnuts, and crisp cider from locally-grown apples.

Jack-o'-Lantern Spectacular

Continue your road trip at the drive-through Jack-o'-Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. A staggering 20,000 pumpkins are expertly carved by the Passion for Pumpkins team (plus, they are swapped out and replaced anew as they deteriorate to the outdoor elements, so there's a fresh sight to see all season long). For the month of October, the trail will be open nightly from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. And this year's theme is "Special Places" where 5,000 pumpkins will be carved in the image of local and global destinations that were likely out of reach for travelers this year.

Fright Farms and Not So Spooky Farms

What's more socially distant than a drive-thru Halloween-themed event? Opening October 26, these California-based experiences will fulfill your love for blood-curdling screams, imaginative costumes, and over-the-top decorations, while allowing you to remain socially distant. Not So Spooky Farm offers a family-friendly experience from the comfort of your car like aptly named treasure temples, hedge mazes, cornfields, and fairytale towers. Fright Farms offers a more mature drive-through experience. A cruise through the sleepy town of Hilldale will turn into pure horror, as you receive pop-up notifications on your smartphone alluding to a missing persons alert. Small clues and bizarre turns unravel a mystery ride that's full of fright. Both experiences take place in Norco, California.

Self-Driven Hayride at Cox Farms

Hopping on a wagon full of excited Halloween enthusiasts may not be in the cards this year, but all around the country, popular events are transforming their usual experiences to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. Such is the case for the popular fall festival known as Self-Driven Hayride at Cox Farms in Centreville, Virginia. The one-mile cruise features a forest filled with witches, skeletons, and people dressed as aliens.

Scenic Trail Walk at Roloff Farms

Located just 30 miles west of Portland, Oregon, Roloff Farms has grown into one of the country's best pumpkin patches. The farm may not have its usual experiences, including the popular Adventure Zone play area and Wagon Tours, but it does have a brand new Scenic Trail Walk. The self-guided quarter-mile trail walk will keep your Halloween spirit alive and well, as it offers previously unavailable access to areas of the farm, where surprises await. Wrap up your walk with a stop at the pumpkin patch and take your pick of the lot. Your experience is socially-distanced approved, as the farm has implemented a reservation ticketing system that helps manage the number and flow of people moving through the farm.

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride never ceases to scare visitors. This year, due to the pandemic, the ride has taken a new direction that will keep you on your toes while remaining socially distant. Normally located in Griffith Park, this year's experience will take part in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. The creep factor will be in full swing, albeit from the comfort of your car in a unique style that combines elements of both a drive-thru and drive-in experience. Expect horrifying scenes, sets, sounds, and special-effects amid a dark stretch of "All Hallows Lane" and a haunted, multimedia story displayed on a 40-foot screen that's accompanied by live characters.


Be the first to comment!