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Halloween attractions in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia: ‘Scary-yet-safe’ amid COVID-19

  • October 23, 2020

Not to state the obvious, but 2020 has been a pretty scary year. 

As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter amidst our frankly terrifying modern climate — which, yes, features a still-raging global pandemic — what does the season look like for destinations across our region accustomed to welcoming hordes of screaming visitors searching for simulated Halloween scares?

“I literally, daily, went back and forth in my mind, in my conscience, (asking), ‘Should we open? Should we not open?” said Sharon Kyle, co-owner of Field of Terror in East Windsor, New Jersey. “(I thought,) ‘Should we just say “screw it” for this year and not do it because it’s going to be so stressful and so much more work and worry to try to open and be open safely?’”

Field of Terror, which has been terrifying visitors to the relatively remote Mercer County site of KS Farms for 18 years, ultimately decided to open with new safety and sanitization processes in place with COVID-19 prevention in mind, reports the Asbury Park Press, a USA TODAY Network paper.

“And even as safe as we can possibly be, there’s still that possibility that somebody gets it, one of your actors get it, one of the customers has it,” Kyle said. “We’re exposing ourselves to that little bit of risk even though we’re doing all the precautions and we feel like we’re doing everything that we possibly can to be safe. But we just feel like it’s worth the risk to have some people have some fun and (because of) how important this is to so many people.”

Field of Terror’s 2020 season has plenty of new elements for both customers,  including online ticketing and required advance registration, attendance capped at about half of what they’d normally expect and temperature checks before entering.

People attend a slightly different Field of Terror Halloween celebration this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Customers have to buy their tickets on-line, arrive at a scheduled time, and have their temperature taken upon entry. The site has taken many additional precautions to keep customers safe.

Cleaning crews armed with backpack sanitizer sprayers will be cleaning the bathrooms, the haunted hayride wagons and the site’s one semi-enclosed attraction, The Manor, after every group, spraying down possibly touchpoints. Meanwhile, the haunt will be populated by a reduced number of actors.

So while the experience will certainly be different, Kyle said it was important for Field of Terror to return in some way, shape or form this season.

“I think people are so starving for a sense of normalcy and something to do in this crazy time that we just felt obligated to try to prove a little bit of entertainment and a little bit of fun for people before we may go back into winter and cooped up again,” she said.

People attend a slightly different Field of Terror Halloween celebration this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Customers have to buy their tickets on-line, arrive at a scheduled time, and have their temperature taken upon entry. The site has taken many additional precautions to keep customers safe.

‘Safe-yet-scary’

Jackson, New Jersey thrill park Six Flags Great Adventure similarly modified its seasonal offerings, pivoting from the local Ocean County favorite Fright Fest to the inaugural Hallowfest.

Guests and costumed performers are masked at all times, with actors keeping at least six feet of distance from attendees at all times.

Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos explained the changes in a news release: “Given the current environment, we are taking special precautions this year and offering our guests a version that is still scary, provides lots of thrilling rides and Halloween fun, and most importantly, is safe for our guests and team members.”

Things to do:  Six Flags Great Adventure unveils Hallowfest for fall frights

Six Flags Great Adventure presents Hallowfest, thrills by day and chills by night.    Jackson, NJFriday, September 18, 2020

Guests to Nightmare at Gravity Hill, located at Cicconi Farms on Farmingdale Road, Jackson, will have to wait in their cars for the majority of time before entering a haunt where hanging set dressings that would touch the customers have been removed, ghouls and patrons alike will be masked and groups will be spaced out further than ever before.

Ready for some South Jersey scares?: Check out BloodShed Farms’ ‘The Last Drive’

Adapting the space to the demands of COVID-19, meant there will be no new attractions to scare returning visitors. Visitors won’t be able to buy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, either.

“It’s changed completely this year,” said partner Bob Hynes.

‘Impossible in 2020’

Other seasonal favorites across our region have made more drastic changes in light of the pandemic.

The Asbury Park Zombie Walk, which has traditionally drawn thousands of shambling undead marchers to the City by the Sea on the first Saturday of October, called off its in-person gathering this year and instead opted to go the virtual route.

New York City’s iconic Village Halloween Parade has also canceled its 2020 celebration, which would have been the 47th annual staging of the event. (Event organizers are promising some sort of COVID-safe Halloween night surprise, so stay tuned to halloween-nyc.com for details.)

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia will offer Night Tours through through Nov. 15.

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary suspended its massively popular Terror Behind the Walls attraction for what would have been its 30th season.

In its place, it is presenting Night Tours, a self-guided after-dark journey through the site which operated as a prison from 1829 to 1971, housing approximately 75,000 inmates behind its 30-foot walls. 

“The haunted house, the way we had run it in the past, was impossible in 2020,” said Eastern State Penitentiary senior vice president Sean Kelley. “It’s always been a place with a lot of excitement but also dark spaces and cramped quarters and things coming out you (that) you don’t expect and people getting startled and yelling in close quarters, all those things that are just, 2020 is not the year to be doing those things.”

A National Historic Landmark that now operates as an educational historical site, Eastern State is only offering Night Tours over 32 nights this season with 50 people admitted every half hour, letting the building itself be the star attraction as it offers a different sort of seasonal escapism.

Halloween fun in South Jersey: Terror in the Timbers returns to Parvin State Park

“We are still offering a way to really come and experience something that’s so out of the ordinary, it’s going to be eerie and completely immersive, just not scary — not startling scary,” said Kelley. “And no big crowds, very few people, but definitely being in that building in the fall, after dark, it’s eerie in there and we’re going to play to that, in a quiet way. Nothing over the top, no costumed actors, no strobe lights, but the building does a lot of the work for us.”

Go: Hallowfest at Six Flags Great Adventure, 1 Six Flags Boulevard, Jackson, 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, on Fridays from 5 p.m. until varying closing times, running weekends, as well as Monday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Nov. 1, daily tickets starting at $29.99 online; sixflags.com/reserve.

Go: Field of Terror, 831 Windsor-Perrineville Road, East Windsor, 6:45 to 9:45 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and 6:45 to 10:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Nov. 1, $20 to $45; fieldofterror.com.

Go: Nightmare at Gravity Hill at Cicconi Farms, 1005 Farmingdale Road, Jackson, dusk to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 31, $30 to $50, nightmareatgravityhill.com.

Go: Night Tours at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, select evenings through Nov. 15, $19 to $32; easternstate.org/nighttours.

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/637433682/0/usatodaycomtravel-topstories~Halloween-attractions-in-New-York-New-Jersey-Philadelphia-Scaryyetsafe-amid-COVID/

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