How to have a fun—yet safe—Halloween in Atlanta this year

Tips and suggestions for making the most of this holiday while in the pandemic

How to have a fun—yet safe—Halloween in Atlanta this year

Illustration by BojanMirkovic/Getty Images

It’s every parent’s dream to put their child in a costume on Halloween, snap a picture on the lawn, and then go right back inside—right? Yeah, not quite. For many parents this year, though, that’s what a pandemic-era Halloween looks like. As if 2020 wasn’t already like getting a pumpkin pail full of Tootsie Rolls.

But, it’s of course absolutely possible for you and your kids to still have a fun Halloween, as long as you take certain safety measures and celebrate responsibly. The CDC, for example, has Halloween guidelines that include hosting outdoor activities rather than indoor ones, as well as limiting food sharing (i.e. no potlucks) and avoiding gathering with friends and family who aren’t taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously. Also, whatever you do, bring lots of hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.

Here are a few suggestions to help you plan a holiday for your family that’s only spooky in the festive way:

Skip trick-or-treating (but if you must, wear a mask)
Hate to say it, but according to experts, the safest thing to do this year is to not trick-or-treat. But if you, do decide to go, wear a mask! This is the most obvious and important thing to do if you go trick-or-treating, says Travis Glenn, professor of environmental health science at the University of Georgia College of Public Health. There are plenty of festive face coverings to choose from, or you can incorporate a mask into your child’s costume.

Avoid large groups and maintain distance
If you do go trick-or-treating, avoid going in large groups and stick with people already in your social circle (i.e. your kid’s classmates, your pod, etc.). “The biggest hazard is being in contact enough to pick up somebody else’s breath while you’re around them, whether you’re inside or outside. Outside is less risk, but it’s not no risk,” says Glenn.

Buy your own candy
You should never accept unwrapped candies (pandemic or not!), but this year it’s good to take extra care. Glenn suggests buying a bag of candy to have on hand for your kids at home, and then setting aside any candy they receive from trick-or-treating or events for a few days. Glenn explains,  “Leave it at room temperature and just let it sit for a couple days, and the virus is going to diminish. The live virus will become less and less live as time goes on.”

Re-think the candy bowl
Whatever you do, don’t leave it out in a big bowl for the neighborhood kids to rifle through. If you do, Glenn says, “you’re increasing the probability that if any one child goes through the bucket and contaminates it, everybody who comes in after [them] is going to get whatever they had. Whether that’s coronavirus, or hand-to-mouth, or whatever.” While some people are making candy chutes, it doesn’t have to be so extreme. Glenn suggests arranging the candy on a card table and swapping out the pieces as kids come up, or use a tray. Mea Matsuoka, an Atlanta-area mom to three young kids, plans on putting candies in treat bags and hanging them from tree branches. “Kids can pick their candies from the trees and families can stay socially distant,” she says.

Host a mini parade
The beloved Little 5 Points Halloween parade may have gone virtual this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own scaled-down parade. Siobhan Alvarez Borland, creator of the blog Mimosas & Motherhood and a Mableton resident, says she’s sad she can’t take her tots trick-or-treating but looks forward to starting new traditions, like a socially distant costume parade with her neighbors. “The kids can actually walk with their families on the sidewalks, and families that are interested in participating from their houses can toss candy towards them, which is really cute,” she says.

Have an outdoor movie and candy hunt
Gresham Park resident Christan Vick and her family traditionally watches It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown outside. This year, they plan to watch with another family of three. “We’re also going to have a glow-in-the-dark candy hunt. I’m going to paint plastic Easter eggs with glow paint, fill them with candy, and give the kids blacklight flashlights to find them with,” says Vick.

Attend local events—with caution:

  • The Bunny Hive, a baby-parent hangout and class space located in Chamblee, is throwing an outdoor Halloween lawn party on October 24 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The capacity will be kept low, so a timed ticket ($50 per family) must be purchased ahead of time. Admission includes crafts, treats, and a mini photo session. 5576 Peachtree Road, Chamblee
  • The Roof at Ponce City Market is inviting kids to head on up for a festive afternoon on Saturday, October 31. From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. kids can trick-or-treat at 10 stations throughout the roof and snack on complimentary popcorn and cotton candy. Admission is $7 per child, $15 per adult. 675 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast
  • Now through November 8, brave souls can take a walk through Fernbank’s woods during Woodland Spirits. Fernbank worked with artist Laura Lewis to create sculptural apparitions placed cleverly in the forest. While you’re there, check out their Supernatural Science Fest with activities for all ages throughout the month. 767 Clifton Road
  • Boo at the Zoo, Zoo Atlanta’s annual family festival is back, with pandemic precautions in place. Treats are available throughout the zoo (follow the directional pathway) and live entertainment is available with socially distant floor markings. Visitors over 10 years old are required to wear face masks. The event takes place October 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31, and is free for children under three. 800 Cherokee Avenue Southeast
  • The weather lately has been just right for an afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and Goblins in the Garden is the perfect excuse to go. On Sunday, October 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., your goblin can participate in an array of fall activities such as a costume fashion show, mini pumpkin decorating, and a painted pumpkin hunt. Admission to Goblins in the Garden is included with your ticket to the botanical gardens. 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta

Decorations drive
Since people are really leaning into Halloween decorations this year, Alvarez Borland and her husband plan to take their sons for a drive. Hop in the car during the day to make the most of spooky decoration spotting. Take it up a notch and turn the drive-by into a scavenger hunt—there are plenty of printable templates found online.

Have a scavenger hunt at home
Arts writer Lynne Tanzer recently moved with her family of four to the Upper Westside. Drawing inspiration from the video game Luigi’s Mansion, she plans on creating a scavenger at home by hiding toys and candy around the house. “I’m going to have them dress up as Luigi and Mario and hunt for ‘gems’ while they encounter ghosts in the closets and such, so it’s a little more spooky than an Easter egg hunt,” she explains.