How Will Autumnal Activities Be Affected By COVID?

Social distancing is coming to apple orchards, corn mazes and haunted houses this year

How Will Autumnal Activities Be Affected By COVID?
Brittney Burnett/Unsplash

A couple days ago, a tweet went viral that said “January, February, Quarantine, December.” That about sums 2020 up. But even with a potential second wave brewing (it’s already started in Europe), Americans aren’t ready to give up on autumn this year. Today, believe it or not, is the first official day of fall. And a number of American businesses that rely on tourism spending this time of year — namely, apple orchards and pumpkin patches — are trying to plow ahead with the usual fun.

To pull it off, though, they’re just approaching the whole operation a little differently. As outlined in a recent piece by The New York Times, farms are primarily concerned this year with crowd management. Highly-trafficked institutions along North Carolina’s “Crest of the Blue Ridge Orchard Trail,” for instance, are now operating like gyms and barber shops, compelling visitors to book a slot online, or buy a ticket for a set time frame within the grounds.

Once there, visitors are required to wear face masks, practice social distancing, wash their hands before entering, use materials (like collection bags) supplied by the site, and leave all eating for the car ride home.

Social distancing has even come for pumpkin rows and corn mazes. They’ll both be a bit wider than you remember. Meanwhile, hay rides should be a little emptier, and haunted houses may be a little less scary — the “actors” at two St. Louis spook shows are forced to remain in the same corner and not jump out at people. It makes the experience more predictable, but far safer, from a COVID perspective.

Farms are also banking on families’ willingness to spend a few bucks, after a summer potentially without vacation and a year without too much time out of the house. Many are posting admission in the $10-20 range, plus add-ons for pecks of fruit, pumpkins, baked goods, or speciality experiences, like the mazes, rides and haunted houses. With Halloween hanging in the balance, too — trick-or-treating has been discouraged by the CDC — a weekend outing or two could be crucial for kids.


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