7 Places to Enjoy a Drive-Through Halloween in Los Angeles
Never is the “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” impulse more in evidence than around Halloweentime when everywhere from the Inland Empire farmland to the Griffith Park hiking trails are turned into frightening tableaux of witches, ghouls and depraved madmen. (No, we’re not talking entertainment industry types.) Seriously though, rather than cancel Halloween in Los Angeles this year due to Covid-19, fright season organizers have gotten extra creative with their events. Here’s a list of Fright Night drive-thru events, starting with the not-at-all-scary to the seriously spooky.
1. Not So Spooky Farms in the Inland Empire
This fun-for-all-ages experience tells the story of Stingy Jack, who was cursed to wander the earth with only his Jack O' lantern to light his way. After uncovering a map in a forgotten temple, Stingy sets out on a mission to uncover candy clues to get the fabled treasure of dread pirate Bluebeard. Will your kids be up to facing the challenges ahead to find the reward? After being cooped up in the house with you for months, the answer is most likely yes. Recommended for ages 13 and up.
2. Hauntoween in Woodland Hills
This 30-minute drive-thru event is described as being "windows down, masks on." Visitors stop their cars to pick their own pumpkin from a pre-sorted pumpkin patch, go door-to-door trick-or-treating along two streets in a 10 home "neighborhood" where costumed actors use social distancing to give away candy and pose in front of a pumpkin backdrop with the snap sent to your email. At $70 per car, it's not inexpensive, but if you bring a few littles who are socially distancing together (organizers say kids ages 5 and up will enjoy the experience), it's going to give them the opportunity to trick-or-treat without worry.
3. Nights of the Jack in Calabasas
Stay cozy with your kids in the car as you putter through the King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains hideaway at this event that's appropriate for all ages. There are thousands of hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns arranged in themes that range from local interest (like the Hollywood sign, recreated with pumpkins) to classic (like a cemetery). We recommend having your kid put on their costume while you hide a few pieces of candy in your car before you go. That way, you can bribe your kids not to get out of the vehicle, and to describe each tableau as you embark on the 25-minute, mile-long drive that you bought a timed ticket for. Also, this makes great social media content so that you look like you actually made an effort this Halloween (when in reality, between the virtual learning and general quarantine stress, there wasn't even time to buy a pumpkin, let alone carve one).
4. Stranger Things Drive Into in DTLA
The little town of Hawkins made famous in the Netflix hit Stranger Things is your destination in this hour-long experience. You follow along on your phone—instructions tell you where to drive and when to pull over to watch scenes—from the inside your car. Since the goings-on are tailored to kids ages 13 and up and you'll be in your car for an hour with the windows rolled up the whole time, it's probably not ideal for younger families. (Also, expect to see some of the scary creatures from the show's "upside down place," which are fodder for wee peoples' nightmares.) Like the series, this is set in 1985, so come in your best retro styles...including lots of teased hair.
5. Fright Farms in the Inland Empire
Set on the same five acres as the Not So Spooky Farm (see #1), this is the more teen- and adult-friendly drive-through experience. This one skews terrifying, starting with the backstory something terrible has happened in the sleepy town of Hilldale. Strange news reports and animal sightings accompany the news that local woman Emma Parker is missing—and your convoy of cars is following the clues to help her. There’s something lurking the shadows among the cornstalks and there’s no turning back.
6. Urban Legends Haunt in Costa Mesa
On the OC Fair Grounds, you're driving through a special effects-enhanced retelling of urban legends including scary criminals and unsettling ghost stories. So that no one rolls over a performer during a fright, organizers have created pull-over zones where you can be safely parked while watching the interactive show. It's scary in places, so it's recommended for age 13 and over. And yes, there will be monsters but no, they won't reach into your car. Since this is from the same team that puts on the annual Queen Mary Dark Harbor show, we're expecting a top-notch production.
7. Haunted Hayride in San Dimas
This year, the hayride has moved from Griffith Park (it couldn't accommodate all the cars) to San Dimas, where all the ghoulish goings-on are viewed from inside your vehicle. Too intense for younger kids, this show includes lots of gore—decapitated plastic heads and fake blood are standard fare, and mechanical demons and monsters are lurching in staged scenes everywhere. Even scarier, costumed actors are running up to your car for jump scares, which in our road rage-prone times is a little too jittery-making for this driver. However, the drive-in theater portion of the evening, including a zombie lounge lizard singer, is exactly the mood music we're feeling right now.