The best socially distanced Halloween activities

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A lone skeleton stands on the yard of the Skeleton House. The house is another staple of Halloween in New Orleans Photo credit: Michael Bauer

Annie Oddo

October: Spooky season. Technically fall (even though it’s still 80 degrees out). Whatever you choose to call it, the season is now officially upon us, and no city knows how to celebrate Halloween quite like New Orleans. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the 2020 Halloween season has already been stripped of many of its staple attractions here such as Voodoo Fest, Krewe de Boo and Scout Island Scream Park, to name a few. So, what exactly will Halloween look like this year?

With a little bit of creativity and more than a little bit of caution, there’s no reason we can’t still enjoy the holiday, and the city is already coming up with ways to do just that. So, whether you prefer staying in or getting out, here are a few things you can do to celebrate the season!

Haunted Houses

This year, haunted houses are allowed to apply for a permit through the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office to operate under strict guidelines. Two of the most famous haunted house attractions in the New Orleans area –– New Orleans Nightmare and the Mortuary –– have obtained permits and are operating this season with ample safety procedures and rules in place to minimize risk.

Located at the site formerly occupied by the House of Shock, New Orleans Nightmare has been voted one of the top haunted houses in America by the Discovery Channel and promises to deliver a frightful experience like no other. Tickets for October are expected to sell out earlier than usual due to limited capacity this year.

The Mortuary is a different kind of haunted attraction, combining the thrills and chills of a haunted house with the action and excitement of laser tag for a unique, all-encompassing experience. This year’s feature is “Rift War: Undead Battleground.” In short, it involves fighting off zombies in an epic solo survival match.

Both attractions say they are following strict CDC guidelines concerning sanitization, PPE, and daily employee temperature screenings and symptom checks. They will be limiting group sizes and monitoring distance between groups, and implementing measures like virtual queues to avoid unnecessary physical contact. Masks, of course, are mandatory!

For more information and to find tickets, visit themortuary.net / neworleansnightmare.com

Pumpkin Patches

Pumpkins are basically synonymous with this season and timelessly so. While you may or may not enjoy pumpkin spice-flavored everything in the fall (I won’t judge you if you don’t; at least, not out loud), there’s just something wholesome about bringing home a pumpkin that makes it feel like fall, and decorating pumpkins and carving jack-o’-lanterns will never not be fun and festive. Pumpkin patches have opened up this month at the First Presbyterian Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal School. If for no other reason, do it for the autumn photo ops.

Dress Up Yourself and Your Space

For a lot of people, costumes make or break Halloween. So why shouldn’t you dress up this year? Put together an Instagram-worthy costume and have a photoshoot with your friends (outdoors, if possible). If you can creatively incorporate a mask into your costume, even better! Along those same lines, decorating is a great way to get into the spirit of the season. Craft stores and dollar stores are overflowing with all things spooky and pumpkin spice-themed, so have some fun and liven up your space – your dorm, your living room, your front porch or whatever kind of space you’ve got to work with. If there were ever a time to lean especially hard into the décor, this would be it.

Movie Marathon

If you’re planning to stay in on Halloween, why not watch some of your favorite scary movies and Halloween-themed movies with your roommates or a few friends? Between Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and Disney+, there’s a pretty extensive catalogue of movies available, ranging from tamely spooky (e.g., “The Addams Family”) to completely demonic (e.g., “The Exorcist”). Make a whole night of it: break out some candy, bake up some fun Halloween treats, dress up (or dress down, if that’s more of your speed), whatever makes it feel fun and season appropriate. Lastly, if you tend to scream during scary movies, make sure you’re properly distancing.

Final Thoughts

This year, finding a balance between being safe and having fun is key. So whatever you plan on doing, be smart about it. If you do plan to gather with friends, do everything you can to keep the gatherings small (outdoors is preferable), and be especially wary of communal food and drinks. If you’re going somewhere public, make sure you bring a mask and hand sanitizer, and keep your distance from other people. Be aware and mindful of any and all guidelines you are expected to follow.

Be safe out there, Wolf Pack, and happy Halloween!