Much to the chagrin of children everywhere (and also me, an adult), Halloween parties are canceled this year, and trick-or-treating is “not recommended,” per the L.A. County Department of Public Health. So what can a family do to indulge in spooky season? Well, there are a few in-car and outdoor events that may suffice in this strangest of years.
Dia de Los Muertos Installations
Date: Oct. 31-Nov. 2 Location: The Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier Cost: Free Visit their website
Downtown Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Pier Corporation present 13 large-scale installations of La Catrina by artist Ricardo Soltero, each measuring up to 14 feet tall. La Catrina is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday, originally conceived by political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s. You can find her at four locations on the pier and at nine on the promenade, all spread out far enough to allow for social distancing. Masks are required when visiting.
The City of San Marino Community Services Department has come up with an alternative to trick-or-treating this year. The Halloween “Scavenger Haunt” challenges families to locate six inflatable monsters hidden around town. Kids who find all six monsters can present their completed map to the Recreation Department on Oct. 30 between 2-7 p.m. for a bag of treats. Download the map here. For more information, call (626) 403-2200.
Haunt’O’Ween is a drive-thru trick-or-treating experience in Woodland Hills. Families will remain in their vehicles as they drive through jack-o-lantern tunnels and other fun Halloween scenes, collecting candy along the way from socially distanced costumed characters. Each car will receive one wrapped pumpkin to carve at home, too. In-car photo ops are available, so feel free to wear your costumes!
Nights of the Jack
Date: Oct. 1-Nov. 1 Location: King Gillette Ranch, Calabasas Cost: $69 per car Visit their website
Nights of the Jack brings spectators thousands of hand-carved pumpkins arranged into an autumnal spectacle. This year, the show is a drive-thru experience along a one-mile trail. Guests should expect to spend about 35 minutes gawking at the displays while moving at about 5 mph. Don’t worry, this exhibit isn’t scary and is suitable for all ages.
Oh, What a Beautiful Mourning
Date: Oct. 24-25 Location: Heritage Square Museum, Los Angeles Cost: $20 general, $15 members, $10 kids Visit their website
At this outdoor “Victorian Mourning Faire” at the Heritage Square Museum, you can learn about all sorts of Victorian pseudoscience and death practices, including spirit photography, divination, quackery and more. There will also be vendors, spooky displays, selfie stations and music. If you’ve ever wanted to check out a horse-drawn funeral hearse, here’s your chance. To attend, you must purchase your timed tickets online in advance.
Halloween at Descanso
Date: Oct. 10-31 Location: Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge Cost: $15 general, $11 for students and seniors, $5 for children, free for members and children under 5 Visit their website
Halloween at Descanso will feature pumpkin installations at various points throughout the gardens, including mandalas in the oak grove, an archway in the camellia forest and a pumpkin house and children’s hay maze on the main lawn. Food, treats, refreshments and cocktails are available for purchase on-site.
A Gentle Drive-Thru
Date: Sundays through Nov. 1 Location: The Gentle Barn, Agua Dulce Cost: $28 per person Visit their website
This should be a relaxing and not scary journey through the bucolic farm featuring Halloween decor and candy. Costumes are encouraged. If you want something a little spookier, there’s a nighttime Haunted Woods experience Oct. 22-Nov. 6 suitable for ages 13 and up, though there will be no animals present.
NHMLA’s Spider Pavilion
Date: Starting Oct. 24 Location: Natural History Museum Los Angeles Cost: $6 Visit their website
The Natural History Museum will open its Spider Pavilion to the general public on Oct. 24. Guests will be able to see a number of eight-legged friends and explore part of the museum’s gardens. This event takes place entirely outdoors. Tickets go on sale Oct. 14.
Halloween at the Arboretum
Date: Oct. 1-31 Location: The Arboretum, Arcadia Cost: $15 for adults, $11 for students and seniors, $5 for kids 5-12, free for kids 5 and under Visit their website
Throughout October, families can wander the “Ghoulish Gardens” at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in a self-guided outdoor tour featuring a spooky twist where kids can learn some creepy facts about plants. For example, did you know that rosemary is often placed in funeral bouquets to mask the scent of corpses? On Halloween, guests are encouraged to come wearing a costume.
This year, Tanaka Farms will offer socially distant wagon tours — or drive-in tours, your choice — of the grounds. Both experiences finish with the opportunity to pick your very own pumpkin to take home. You’ll get to see sunflowers in bloom, barnyard animals, watch a pumpkin get shot out of a cannon and more. Wagon rides are available Monday through Friday through Oct. 30, while the drive-thru tour is available on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31. Reservations are required.
Mr. Jack O’Lanterns Pumpkin Patch will host a socially distant outdoor experience where you can buy pumpkins, carving kits and other seasonal necessities. Though many of the usual games and activities are not happening this year, the Hollywood location will feature a pumpkin decorating station as well as a photo station. On Oct. 10 and 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Original Farmers Market will also host a pop-up Mr. Jack O’Lanterns in lieu of its fall festival. With a $5 donation to The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, you’ll get a take-home pumpkin decorating kit. Social distancing and masks are required.