We love a good scare.
Monsters that pop out from around a corner to surprise you in the dark. Chainsaw-wielding scary clowns crying out for more victims. Larger-than life, fire-breathing animatronics lurking in a dungeon lair. Spooky scary stuff.
You know what’s not a good scare? Fearing for your health or safety.
So many of the haunted houses we loved in the past relied on narrow corridors, dark rooms, and scareactors getting close enough to whisper in your ear. But this year, some of those things feel a little too high risk for many of us. Is it still safe to visit your favorite haunted attractions?
Yes, it can be! In fact, a well-timed scare can be good for your health, provided it’s done in a socially distanced environment. So many of us are feeling stressed out and on edge right now. A fun scare and a good scream release mood-boosting dopamine and adrenaline. It’s a much-needed dose of fun in this crazy world.
There are things you can do to protect yourself when you visit a haunted attraction.
Additionally, there are some things you can watch for to help you determine which attractions will be low-risk and which will be high-risk in terms of potential COVID-19 exposure.
Follow these 8 tips to make sure your trip to a haunted attraction is filled with good scares, not bad ones.
1. Look for outdoor haunts
It seems that indoor spaces increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, so outdoor attractions like corn mazes may be a safer bet this year, provided they are using social distancing precautions. Zombie paintball or haunted hay rides, which are outdoors and take small groups or private parties through the attraction at a time, may be good options as well.
If you’re visiting an indoor haunt, seek out ones that offer well-ventilated spaces, provide PPE for staff, and have reduced the number of touch points between guests and props or scenery (the days of pushing past bloody carcasses in a meat locker are, sadly, over for now).
If you’re not sure about a venues policies, reach out to them! Most haunts are working really hard to create a safe environment and will be happy to share the extra steps they’re taking—they want you to be safe and have a great time, too!
2. Buy tickets online
Avoiding the ticket booth will not only save you time in line but it also minimizes your contact with other people. Plus, it guarantees the haunt won’t be sold out when you arrive (remember that many attractions have dramatically reduced their total capacity during this time).
3. Look for haunts offering virtual queues
Even with social distancing markers, standing in a long line on a busy Saturday night increases your chance of exposure to COVID-19. Look for haunted attractions that are eliminating queue lines altogether and using virtual queues to control the flow of guests at their venue.
You’ve probably experienced a virtual queue before, maybe without even knowing it: if you’ve ever left your name and cell phone number at a restaurant or used one of those vibrating buzzers while waiting for a table, that’s essentially how they work. You can wait in your car or perhaps in an open space outdoors (maybe even with midway games or concessions) to kill time while you wait for your turn to enter.
4. Hit the drive-thru
Designed for optimal social distancing, drive-thru haunts combine theatrical storytelling, nightmarish creatures and unexpected encounters as you slowly drive and park your car at different points along the route. We’re seeing them pop up more and more this year as venues look for creative ways to provide safe yet immersive entertainment.
A drive-thru haunt can also be a good option if you have anyone in your party who’s a little afraid of a traditional walk-through haunt: they can cozy up under a blanket in the back seat and even bring a set of headphones if the spooky scenes become too much for them.
Some haunts even have an outdoor bar & concessions area which you can visit before or after the drive-thru (be sure you have a designated driver if you imbibe).
5. Consider going VIP
If you really want to limit your wait in line, a front-of-the-line, skip-the-line, or VIP pass may be the way to go. These upgraded tickets often allow you to go right to the attraction entrance and experience it with no wait at all. If the idea of waiting in your car doesn’t appeal to you, or you just want to spend less time out and about, a VIP pass means you can get in & get out efficiently with as little contact as possible with unfamiliar parties.
6. Review guidelines in advance
Everything is new these days. And while there are some universal guidelines (wearing a mask inside, for example), different businesses will have differing rules and expectations for guests visiting their venue.
Don’t just show up to a haunted attraction without doing your research in advance. Find out what their rules are for how to queue up, what types of payment are acceptable, and what their food & drink policies are, to name a few. The more prepared you are, the less chaotic things will feel when you arrive.
7. Mask up
We’re not talking about Halloween masks here. A cloth facial covering over your nose and mouth helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others and can help protect you as well. When you’re choosing a haunted attraction to visit, look for ones that have a clearly spelled out mask policy on their website and/or social media pages. If everyone at the haunt is wearing a mask, it reduces everyone’s risk of spreading the virus.
Along those same lines, be sure to follow any physical distancing markers on the floors, walls, or signage. They’ll help minimize your exposure to other guests and will help protect the haunt’s employees, too, so they can keep scaring.
8. Try out a scare cam
We’re seeing more interest in virtual experiences this year, and haunted attractions have been no exception. From virtual walkthroughs led by demon tour guides to live “scare cams” where you can watch real guests experience the haunt from the comfort of your home. It’s a great option for anyone who may be immunocompromised or who just doesn’t feel comfortable with an in-person experience. You can even “visit” haunts across the country without a road trip!
This can also be a good way to see how the haunt is handling crowds, props, and physical distancing – then decide if it’s one you feel comfortable visiting in person.
Dim the lights, grab a cozy blanket and cast the virtual show to your TV. Maybe put on a spooky playlist to enhance the mood. No standing in line in the cold, no traffic. Hey, you don’t even have to put on pants.