10 Safe Ways to Celebrate Halloween in Columbus This Year

A List of Safe Ways to Celebrate Halloween Around the Columbus Area This 2020

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Maura McLay


Jan 21, 2021

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Due to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, this year’s Halloween events, parties, and activities might look a little different. Traditional celebratory events that have been staples of the past have been deemed high risk this year according to CDC guidelines

Activities such as door to door trick-or-treating, or trunk-or-treating where children are given candy from cars parked in large lots are not recommended. Additionally, indoor haunted houses with small, crowded spaces, hayrides or tractor rides with strangers, indoor costume parties, and rural fall festivals in a different community that is not your area are all listed as high risk activities. Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with the virus should not participate in Halloween festivities. 

The CDC has also released a list of moderate risk and lower risk activities. Many of the CDC’s moderate risk activities are traditional events with added restrictions and requirements such as social distancing at least six feet apart, outdoor or open air events only, wearing protective masks, and having the ability to wash hands or use hand sanitizer before participating in events where objects are being touched. 

These moderate risk activities include visiting pumpkin patches or orchards, having small group gatherings (costume parties, movie nights, pumpkin carving), and one way, open-air, and outdoor parades, haunted forests, or trick-or-treating. All of these events must be outdoors where people have the ability to social distance with masks and hand sanitizer available if objects will be touched. Any event that possesses the possibility of screaming should be able to have guests social distance at lengths greater than six feet apart.  

Finally, the lower risk activities include carving or decorating pumpkins, having a Halloween themed movie night or scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with members of your household. Carving or decorating pumpkins can be done with neighbors or friends as long as the event is outside and at a safe distance from others. The CDC also recommends decorating your house, apartment, or living space, having a virtual costume contest, or walking outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a safe distance -- this can also be made into a scavenger hunt. 

Despite the fact that traditional trick-or-treating, hayrides, haunted houses, and other events have either been advised against or given new restrictions, you can still celebrate Halloween this year! 

We have put together a list of events and activities in Columbus that you can participate in with friends or family to keep the fall and Halloween spirit alive. 

  • Franklin Park Conservatory 
  • Ohio Railway Museum
  • City of Hilliard
  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium 
  • Ohio History Center
  • Upper Arlington Civic Association (Smith Nature Park)
  • Hoover Gardens & Gift Center 
  • Westerville Parks and Recreation (Heritage Park)
  • Gahanna Parks and Recreation (Academy Park)
  • Hallowaffle Walk (Hilliard)

Franklin Park Conservatory 

Hundreds of carved glowing pumpkins
Visit the Franklin Conservatory Park through November or attend their special fall themed event called Pumpkins Aglow to celebrate. Image courtesy of Franklin Park Conservatory

Open through November 1st and holding a special event called Pumpkins Aglow two times throughout October, the Franklin Park Conservatory will keep the fall spirit in full swing this season. The event is being held Wednesday through Sunday evenings on October 14th-18th and October 21st-25th. 

The conservatory will exhibit hundreds of carved pumpkins and seasonal plant displays among other fun activities for children. This event is great for families and will allow a bit of normalcy this year. 

Ohio Railway Museum 

Ghost Trolley 2020 Flyer
The Ohio Railway Museum is presenting Ghost Trolley to keep the fall merriment alive this year. Image courtesy of Ohio Railway Museum

The Ohio Railway Museum has announced that one of their most beloved events, Ghost Trolley, will be returning for the 2020 fall season despite the challenges of the current year. This is a family friendly event fit for parents and kids alike, and will not be overly scary depending on the time you wish to attend. The best part is they have come out with a full plan to keep guests safe during their visit!

The museum will have hand sanitizer available along with smaller groups, socially distanced train rides, and they plan to sanitize their train in between rides for added safety precautions.  

The event will run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout October to November 1st. Friday nights will be considered scarier while the other days will be normal. Tickets will be $10 per person and free for children three years of age and younger. 

Pumpkin Patch at Hilliard 

Pumpkin top view
Pumpkin Patchport is a community event that will run throughout the month of October and end with a special prize for all participants who successfully complete their Patchport. Image courtesy of The City of Hilliard

The City of Hilliard has announced that a lineup of community businesses are participating in a fall themed event they have designed along with help of Ohio governor Mike Dewine. Their social media page explains that all events have been adapted to follow the necessary guidelines that have been set in place due to COVID-19. 

During the entire month of October, the city will be holding their event called Pumpkin Patchport Trail, which is a scavenger hunt through the city. The “Patchport” is a play on the traditional passport that has been given some fall flare! Participating local businesses will have window signs stating “Pumpkin Patchport” -- the goal is then to go inside the business, find a decorated pumpkin, and finally receive a stamp and special treat. 

After October 31st, those who have participated in the scavenger hunt should turn in their Patchport, fit with at least one bingo line, at the Hilliard Community Center. Completed Patchports with bingos will be eligible to receive a prize, and the participant with the most stamps will be given an additional prize!

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium 

Columbus Zoo (Boo at the Zoo) Flyer
Enjoy Boo at the Zoo this Halloween and allow the kids to experience the fun of the fall season with spooky animals and attractions at the Columbus Zoo. Image courtesy of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Gear up for Boo at the Zoo presented by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! The zoo has advertised this as a merry-not-scary event that will be a delight for the entire family. There will be a number of different animals accompanied by their own events. Kids and family members will be welcome to dress up in their favorite family-friendly costumes. 

There will also be pumpkins scattered throughout the park along with locations that have candy to be distributed to kids, spooky music, character ambassadors roaming around the zoo, a self-guided tour of frogwartz academy, and a train ride to Vertebrate Village. Some activities may require an additional fee to enter. 

Ohio History Center 

Ohio History Center Movie Flyer
Family favorite fall themed movies shown every Friday in October followed by a retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and maybe even see the Headless Horseman himself! Image courtesy of the Ohio History Center

Every Friday in October, the Ohio History Center is offering a drive-in movie for you and the whole family called the “Sleepy Hollow Drive-In Series.” Located in their parking lot, each week will feature a different family friendly spooky movie. The movies will be shown as follows starting from the beginning of the month to the end -- Ghostbusters, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, BeetleJuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hocus Pocus. 

That’s not all! As you leave the History Center, a retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow will be played along with some “All Hallows’ Eve Scenes.” The center will offer two showings of the movie each friday, one at 5 pm and one at 8:30 pm. 

Smith Nature Park

UACA Golden Bear Scare Image
Golden Bear Scare will have you forgetting about the pandemic and enjoying everything Halloween has to offer this year. Image courtesy of Upper Arlington Civic Association.  

The Upper Arlington Civic Association has announced their Golden Bear Scare at Smith Nature Park. This event is perfect for children of all ages, and has been specifically designed for elementary and middle school children.

Anyone who is interested in attending should register in advance, as the event is being operated at a limited capacity to comply with social distancing. 

Running from 6-9 pm, slots should be determined based on the ages of children -- meaning younger kids should schedule from 6-7:30 pm, while older kids can attend from 7:30-9 pm. After 7:30 pm the attraction gets increasingly scarier. 

Hoover Gardens & Gift Center

Haunted Maze at Hoover Gardens
Enjoy the Haunted Maze at the Hoover Gardens to embrace a bit of traditional normalcy with the haunted attraction. Image courtesy of Hoover Gardens & Gift Center

Despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, the Hoover Gardens & Gift Center has brought back its haunted maze for the 2020 Halloween season. Entering the maze comes free of charge, so this is a great event for families on a low budget! 

The center has asked that all guests who want to traverse the haunted maze should check in at the gift shop counter before entering. This is to ensure the groups can remain socially distanced throughout their visit. 

Parents should accompany any young children who are sensitive to haunted attractions. The haunted maze will run through October 31st. 

Heritage Park 

Pumpkin Glow Flyer
Leap into the Halloween spirit with the help of thousands of carved and brightly glowing pumpkins as you drive through the fall trail. Image courtesy of Westerville Parks and Recreation

This Halloween, Westerville Parks and Recreation is bringing you “The Great Westerville Pumpkin Glow” at Heritage Park. The event that is traditionally held annually will be experiencing some changes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will be drive-thru only to comply with social distancing regulations. 

The webpage for the event boasts that the park will transform into a “autumn wonderland,” fit with a driving trail that will be lit from the glow of thousands of carved pumpkins!

Admission will be $15 per car and tickets must be purchased in advance, online only. The event will run for two weeks -- October 21st-25th and October 28th-Nov 1st. 

Academy Park 

Great Gahanna Goblin Trail Flyer
A Halloween extravaganza like you’ve never seen before from the comfort of your own car to remain safe and socially distanced. Image courtesy of Gahanna Parks and Recreation

Gahanna Parks and Recreation is transforming Academy Park into a Halloween spectacular called “The Great Gahanna Goblin Trail.” This event will also be a drive-thru experience for the whole family. 

The Great Gahanna Goblin Trail will be a drive-thru event like no other. This experience will encompass all the joys of Halloween with live entertainment, a choreographed light show, fire performers, stilt walkers, animated Halloween projections, and a socially distanced car trick-or-treat. There may even be a few more surprises in store that will be revealed at the time of the event. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance and admission is $10 per car. The show will take place over the course of two days -- October 22nd and 23rd from 6-9 pm. Guests are encouraged to dress up in costumes and decorate their vehicles as well!

Hallowaffle Walk

Waffle and Cream
Enjoy a fresh waffle while you're fully decked out at this event in your favorite Halloween costume! Image courtesy of The City of Hilliard

Also funded by the City of Hilliard, this is another Halloween themed event that features a walk through Hilliard Station Park. Anyone who wants to attend is encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costume!

Attendees will be welcome to enjoy a waffle-to-go, visit three treat stations, and take photos of their costumes in the park decorated for fall. The city also encourages guests to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Hilliard Food Pantry. 

Anyone who plans on attending should register in advance. Price is determined per person and will cost between $6-8. The event will be held on October 31st. 

Despite the added restrictions and limitations of holding fall and Halloween themed events this 2020, many community groups and centers are taking on the challenge of hosting special family-friendly activities to keep the fall spirit alive this year. These events will comply with COVID-19 restrictions to ensure your safety so you can attend these events without feeling stressed or overwhelmed. These events are sure to be a hit for everyone who wishes to attend and also add a bit of normalcy to feel like traditional fall season!

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