Ghosts and goblins, jack-o'-lanterns and suburban yards decked out with cobwebs and headstones…it’s the time of year again for many a child’s favorite holiday (okay maybe second favorite after Christmas). Halloween 2020 is right around the corner. Dressing up as a grizzly ghoul or superhero and traipsing around the neighborhood in a mad dash for candy is practically a rite of passage. Let’s face it, everyone can use a bit of levity in the middle of what has been an excruciating year. We’ve put our heads together and come up with a brief guide to some great Halloween traditions. We’re also sharing our recommendations for some downright spooky travel destinations. Ever imagined booking a stay in the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining. Want to come play with us, Danny? Read on…if you dare! We’ve got your covered on all things Halloween 2020.
Table of Contents
Spooky Getaways for Halloween 2020
Trick or Treating Safely During Halloween 2020
Other Fun Ideas for Halloween 2020
Basic Tips for This Holiday Season
When Is Halloween 2020?
Halloween 2020 falls on a Saturday. Saturday, October 31 to be precise. This year, rather than being forced to celebrate earlier in order to accommodate work and school schedules, you can enjoy the festivities on the actual night itself. Not being an official bank holiday, Halloween traditionally does not come with any time off. Some businesses may close early to allow employees a chance to enjoy themselves. However, this is the exception, certainly not the rule.
Spooky Getaways for Halloween 2020
New Orleans, LA
The “Big Easy” is no stranger to a great Halloween party. Having already perfected Mardi Gras, there’s a similar tradition and revelry surrounding Halloween. Long a place where cultures blend, New Orleans is world-renowned for its distinct music, Creole heritage, and festival scene. As the birthplace of Louis Armstrong, the city swells with an enormous sense of pride. The Creole imports go beyond delicious cuisine and music, they also include the oft-maligned and misunderstood voodoo religious traditions. Capitalizing on the more sensationalized (and bastardized) aspects, New Orleans is home to many a shop, tourist attraction, and museum featuring zombies, spooks, and voodoo dolls. Though fun for Halloween, voodoo has a long and storied history among Afro-Caribbean peoples extending far beyond the notions of possession and spirits. Do yourself a favor and link up with a tour that will help you explore the true meaning of voodoo culture. Another popular Halloween activity is to visit the city’s famous cemeteries. Given its location and high groundwater table, New Orleans has long had to bury its dead aboveground. The city’s famous final resting places are popular on Halloween and include the historic Greenwood Cemetery. Spend some time wandering around the elaborate sarcophagi, but be on the lookout in case the Bone Man comes calling. Finish out the night in the famed French Quarter.
The legacy of Salem, Massachusetts is inextricably bound up with the events that occurred in 1692 and later became known as the Salem Witch Trials. The episode of puritanical mass hysteria resulted in hundreds of accusations, 30 convictions, and at least 19 directly related executions. Today, the town commemorates this dark chapter with several memories and museums dedicated to shining a light on exactly what occurred and why. Given their association with Halloween, Salem’s connection to witches and witchcraft make it a perennially popular destination. Located roughly 30 minutes north of Boston, you can easily make Salem into a daytrip or part of a longer vacation along the Massachusetts coast. Consider, for example, a fall driving tour that takes you up from Boston to Salem, on to Manchester-by-the-Sea, and finally towards Gloucester. These stunning areas are full of the Old World charms on offer throughout New England. In Salem itself, make sure to visit the Witch House, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and Salem Witch Museum, and the Salem Witch Village. All are located within convenient access of the waterfront so it’s easy to make your way around town on foot. There’s normally plenty of Halloween-related activities and promotions on offer in Salem. This is one place you won’t be lacking for things to enjoy.
When asked, school-aged children can likely recall the harrowing story of Ichabod Crane. The protagonist in Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was portrayed by the dashing Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s 1999 film adaptation. In Irving’s original tale, Crain is vividly described as a slightly comical-looking schoolmaster with a tender heart. Venturing home late one night, Crane encounters the legendary Headless Horseman, a frightful apparition who pursues Crain through Sleepy Hollow. Irving’s penchant for storytelling leaves readers with a memorable impression. The real Sleepy Hollow is a charming little town set on the Eastern Bank of the Hudson River roughly an hour’s drive north from Lower Manhattan. In fact, you could hop on Broadway at Times Square and take it all the way to Sleepy Hollow. Once there, you can explore the lovely small town and visit the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse, Philipsburg Manor, and the gorgeous Sleepy Hollow itself. The densely wooded area is filled with many lovely paths and open fields. Wander through Sleepy Hollow cemetery where you will find Washington Irving’s grave along with that of Andrew Carnegie and William Rockefeller. Flee towards town as darkness draws nigh and make sure you’re across the Headless Horseman Bridge with plenty of time to spare. This is a frighteningly good Halloween destination.
Atlanta may get an outsized share of attention, but coastal Savannah bills itself as “America’s most haunted city.” Its antebellum architecture features plenty of locations you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see in a horror film. Art lovers will thoroughly enjoy the broad range of artistic styles and tastes on display in Savannah. Begin your tour in Forsyth Park where a dash of late fall color makes for a memorable photo along the tree-lined paths. Near the park’s northeast corner is Savannah College of Art and Design. The galleries there are typically filled with works by talented students pushing the boundaries of various aesthetic forms and trying to make a name for themselves. Visit the nearby Mercer Williams House Museum to see the mansion vividly portrayed in John Berendt’s bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Afterwards, work your way towards the river and the Savannah City Market. Often described as Savannah's “art and soul,” the galleries here are a must-see. Finally, allow yourself some time to explore this most Southern of towns and draw in its wonderful artistic sensibilities. Spend some time walking the cobblestones on River Street and pay a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The 19th-century Roman Catholic Church is a great example of neo-gothic design, especially the lovely stained glass windows.
Best known for Colonial Williamsburg, the living-history museum dedicated to preserving the life and times of America’s Revolutionary era, this city is no slouch when it comes to Halloween. Colonial Williamsburg dresses itself up and offers a range of fun activities including a ghost story tour. Accompany your guide through the historic village and learn about local witch trials. Other tours take guests around to various properties rumored to be haunted at one time or another. The city’s lovely colonial era architecture makes for a fun adventure any time of year. Make sure you visit prominent locations like the Governor’s Palace, a pre-Revolutionary mansion that was home to British royals. Depending on your travel plans, you can elect to stay in Williamsburg proper or make the short drive up from Hampton or Norfolk. If you opt for the latter, pay a visit to Hampton University Museum. Founded in 1868, it is the oldest African American museum in the United States with a collection that includes African American fine art, as well as traditional African, Native American, and Pacific Island art. Cross Hampton River and explore the Virginia Air and Space Center. You can see the Apollo 12 Command Module and a test vehicle from NASA’s new Orion program. Finish up with a good meal and some Halloween entertaining in Downtown Hampton.
Dearborn is a community in the Metro Detroit Area with close connections to the Ford Motor Company. During Halloween, Greenfield Village, the city’s sprawling open-air history museum, breaks out the jack-o’-lanterns. Over a 1,000 often-intricately decorated pumpkins bring joy and amazement to young and old alike. Greenfield Village is a great place to visit and the neighboring Henry Ford Museum is filled with interactive exhibits that include lots of cars and a collection of classic steam locomotives. The museum occupies a site on what was once Ford’s iconic River Rouge Complex. The sprawling museum and attractions at Greenfield Village will give you plenty to explore. Be on the lookout for the Headless Horseman and don’t forget to grab yourself some delicious apple cider and doughnuts. On crisp fall days in Lower Michigan, hot apple cider is a real treat! If you have some extra time to budget, wander over to neighboring Detroit. The city is undergoing a revival and has been attracting businesses and talent for the last few years. The increasingly prosperous Corktown District is a magnet for young artists and creative entrepreneurs. Look for great bargains on food and drinks there. Make sure to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts and marvel at the incredible frescoes painted by Diego Rivera. A ticket won’t even set you back $15 so it’s well worth it.
Estes Park, CO
“Here’s Johnny!” Anyone old enough to remember Jack Nicholson’s bone-chilling performance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining can readily attest to the film’s cultural impact. Kubrick’s films always explored the outer reaches of the human psyche and Nicholson’s onscreen descent into madness was visceral. The film was an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. King found inspiration for the novel’s location in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Offering spectacular panoramic views of Lake Estes and the nearby Rocky Mountain peaks, the Stanley Hotel is an absolute classic. Estes Park itself serves at the gateway into nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. A UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve, Rocky Mountain National Park contains a multitude of species, scenic hiking trails, river recreation, phenomenal camping, and more. Particularly now when safe and affordable vacation destinations are scarce, you’ll find the wide-open spaces a welcome relief from months of pent-up coronavirus-induced frustrations. In addition to a smattering of dining and drinking options, Estes Park has a few art galleries specializing in works dedicated to Rocky Mountain imagery. You’ll also find the smallish Fun City amusement park featuring a go-kart track and miniature golf. Treat yourself with a stay at the Stanley Hotel and you’ll have a Halloween to remember.
Las Vegas, NV
Vegas can be a downright scary place year round, but Halloween is something else altogether. Ditch the glitz and glamour found along the Strip and head down to the Fremont Street Experience. Freemont turns into a veritable vampire's ball. Celebrate Halloween Vegas-style with live music entertainment, costume contests, and the chance to win to some serious cash. Freemont is an innovative re-imagination of classic Downtown Las Vegas. Before there was the Strip, this is where the action was. Once known as Glitter Gulch, classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe were located here. Following extensive redevelopment, Fremont Street is now a popular performance venue. Under a barrel vault canopy, visitors can take a ride on the zip line or hunt for souvenirs. Plenty of bars and restaurants serve up food and drinks all hours of the day and night. Classic facades from old casinos have been preserved along with the copious amounts of neon lighting, harkening back to those glory days in the 1970s. Be on your guard during Halloween as pesky performers will do their best to sneak up on unsuspecting guests to give them a mammoth fright! You’ll find plenty to see and do along Freemont Street during Halloween. Come on down and work up a grove as you dance the Monster Mash late into the night.
Trick or Treating Safely During Halloween 2020
Obviously the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing parents to rethink their plans for Halloween. Much to the chagrin of younger ones, it simply may not be possible to participate in traditional trick or treating this year. The CDC warns of increased risk for spreading COVID-19 due to lots of close contact. However, there are several steps you can take to make sure you and your little monsters stay safe this year.
1) Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
2) Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
3) Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
4) Wash hands before handling your treats.
If you’re giving out candy, consider adding a bottle of hand sanitizer into your Halloween decorations and encourage everyone who comes to use a little on the way out. Maybe work in a prop like a mechanical arm or grabbing device where you can deposit candies into outstretched arms from a safe distance. No matter what your plans, make sure you remain vigilant and do your part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Other Fun Ideas for Halloween 2020
Besides trick or treating, here are several ways to have some wholesome fun this Halloween. Plan a visit to your local pumpkin patch, orchard, or corn maize. Many of these locations love to do Halloween-themed events. Find out ahead of time whether the corn maize is built with one-way paths. This will help you avoid coming into overly close contact with other people. Be cautious when handling fruits at the orchard or pumpkins at the pumpkin patch. It’s normal for lots of people to want to touch things so keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at the ready and use it frequently. As yet another alternative, consider inviting your neighbors to take part in a local costume parade or contest. Make sure to hold it outside so people can maintain a suitable distance. You could also do a pumpkin carving at your local park. These fun events don’t require confined spaces and would be appropriate to do provided you adopt some minimal safeguards.
Basic Tips for This Holiday Season
This holiday season, the best way to ensure a good time for you and your family is to plan early. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your travel arrangements. This year, it’s even more important to know what challenges you may face and how you want to deal with them. For example, make sure to find out whether the destination you plan to visit has any special quarantine requirements / recommendations for travelers. The same goes for your own state and locality during the return trip. If you plan to have friends and family over to your house, consult with them ahead of time regarding your own personal pandemic safety precautions. Do you expect your guests to wear masks? Is there a member of your family who might refuse to abide by your guidelines? Have you decided how you might handle any awkward interactions? Developing a plan or some basic strategies will go a long way towards making your holiday season more reminiscent of the carefree time we all remember from not so long ago.