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31 ways to celebrate Halloween this year

Updated 7:04 AM ET, Thu October 1, 2020

(CNN) - We know door-to-door trick-or-treating may be discouraged or canceled this year, and indoor haunted houses with friends and crowded costume parties are risky. Indeed, Covid-19 looming over us is Halloween's biggest scare.

Don't despair! A global pandemic doesn't change these facts: Halloween 2020 falls on a Saturday. That evening there will be a full moon. And that night we also move the clocks back for daylight saving time. It's the perfect recipe for a late night of ghoulish fun with loved ones.

If you have energy to muster, you could build a contactless candy delivery system, like a catapult, for the children in your neighborhood. But that's not required to have fun this season. Even if you don't have a DIY degree from Home Depot, we've got loads of ways to safely keep the spirit of Halloween alive this month.

Dress up

1. Plan the outfit. Design the most 2020/pandemic-appropriate costume: health care professionals, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Karen," Zoom zombies, Black Panther in honor of the late Chadwick Boseman and the vaccine that might halt the spread of Covid-19 are sure to be popular.

2. Cover your face in style. Order cute or creepy Halloween-themed face coverings to wear during your socially distant activities. Keep it real: As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us, costume masks are not a suitable substitute for protective cloth face coverings.

3. Stay in costume. Dress up throughout the entire week leading up to Halloween, whether you are running errands, walking the dog or joining a Zoom meeting.

4. Stage a family photo shoot. Pick a family costume theme, take some porch portraits and wait for the likes to pour in on Instagram, or mail out a batch of Halloween cards instead of holiday greetings. I'm digging the party animals.

Pumpkins and decor

5. Organize a neighborhood decorating contest. My city is giving out awards for Horror House, Top Pumpkin Display and Ghouls Choice, with the winners receiving a custom sign with bragging rights for their yard or entryway. Make a map with participating homes so community members can visit.

6. Bring the decor indoors. Redecorate inside for the month. Turn an old plastic dollhouse into a haunted one, decorate a Halloween tree or hang floating candles a la Harry Potter. My husband's crafty aunt made the most adorable "Hiss" and "Hearse" orange and black throw pillows.

7. Do a pumpkin carving challenge. Invite friends to throw in a few dollars to enter and use the money to buy gift cards or candy prizes. Share the photos with friends and family and let them pick first, second and third place.

I thought I'd make this Cookie Monster pumpkin, but then again, these other carving ideas are adorable (get a load of the Swiss cheese holes and mice in #8)! There are just so many creative ways to take your carvings to the next level.

Be sure to seal your masterpiece to prevent it from rotting. Also, if you sprinkle cinnamon inside the lid, your pumpkin apparently will smell like a pie when you light a candle.

8. Paint your pumpkins. You won't have any pumpkin guts to clean up with one of these beautiful designs. And don't you love the ice cream cone?

Blood and guts

9. Haunt your house. Make some horrifying DIY Halloween props that will make your loved ones question your sanity. It's pretty easy to make your own bathroom murder scene. Only look at these examples if you're prepared to be seriously disturbed. Don't forget to put a skeleton on the toilet!

10. Host a creepy feast. You could serve feet loaf, hot dog mummies, a pumpkin puking guacamole and berry eye ball punch, finished off with a strawberry cheesecake brain.

11. Disfigure yourself (with makeup). Watch a gruesome makeup tutorial and try it yourself. Special effects makeup artist Glam and Gore has some amazing how-to videos for zombie faces, mangled princesses and more (not appropriate for children or sensitive souls).

12. Play "Doll in the Hall." Instead of "Elf in the Shelf" in December, take a creepy porcelain doll and secretly move it around the house to freak out your kids. (This is not recommended for kids who are scared of the dark.) Alternatively, I'm loving this creepy doll mobile.

13. Throw a horror movie night. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," "The Exorcist" and "Don't Look Now" are good thrillers to start with. For something closer to home, there is this year's Covid-19 horror movie, "Host," about friends who accidentally summon an angry demon during their weekly Zoom call.

Trick or treat

14. Make a candy slide. Be the savior of trick-or-treating by making a socially distant, touch-free candy delivery system like this 6-foot candy chute an Ohio dad created from a cardboard shipping tube or this awesome candy zip line by Michigan woodworker Matt Thompson. The Wicked Makers have a tutorial to make a PVC-pipe candy slide.

15. Do in-home trick-or-treating. Decorate each room, dim the lights and give out a different type of candy at each doorway. Midnight Syndicate's spooky "Halloween Music" album makes for an ideal soundtrack.

16. Go reverse trick-or-treating. Surprise your neighbors with homemade or hand-picked treats. The Booing ritual, where you sneak a bag of treats and instructions on your neighbor's door and encourage them to repeat the game for two other families, has been on the rise for years.

17. Make a candy graveyard. Set up tombstones in the yard, scatter fake bones and consider procuring a fog machine for extra effect. Scatter the treats on the grass or put prizes inside Halloween-themed eggs and hide them for children to find.

18. Put treats on the driveway. Make little candy bags and line your driveway, walkway or front yard for children to take. Set up chairs outside to greet trick-or-treaters and enjoy their costumes from a distance.

Food and drinks

19. Cook an orange-and-black dinner. You could make roasted carrots with balsamic glaze, butternut squash soup with dark rye bread, or orange peppers carved to look like jack-o'-lanterns and stuffed with black rice.

20. Halloween baking night. Will I make the banana mummies or the stuffed candy corn cake? Probably both. There are just so many great recipes ...

21. Craft a spooky cocktail. Check out the guys at Drinks Made Easy for recipes like the Pumpkin Old Fashioned (made with bourbon, maple syrup and pumpkin puree) and The Smoking Skull for you grown-up ghouls.

22. Make Halloween Chex mix. My go-to recipe has a decadent coating of brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Save a little for yourself and put the rest into baggies to give your favorite neighbors.

23. Conduct a candy taste test. You could use the limited-edition treats only sold this time of year, like Reese's white chocolate pumpkins, Haribo S'Witches' Brew gummies and Cadbury Screme Eggs.

Let us entertain you

24. Listen to a spooky podcast. Dive into all things horror and supernatural with the "Spooked" series from "Snap Judgment," "Enter the Abyss," "The Last Podcast on the Left" and "Scared to Death."

25. Halloween movie night. Order skeleton pajamas for your family and for the younger set. You can't go wrong with classics such as "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," "Halloweentown," "Spookley the Square Pumpkin," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" or "Hocus Pocus."

For older audiences, the original "Halloween" and all of its sequels, "Boo! A Madea Halloween," and the "Scary Movie" franchise all feature Halloween story lines. Or you could go with an '80s theme and do a marathon of "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Pet Sematary" and "The Shining."

26. Curl up with a book. You could check out a Halloween children's classic such as "Room on the Broom," "Big Pumpkin," "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything," and these others. I love reading "Pumpkin Jack" -- a nice circle-of-life story, in pumpkin terms -- and "The Biggest Pumpkin Ever," about two mice who realize they're tending the same pumpkin and work together to win a competition.

27. Learn about Halloween's origins. This is a nice video explainer. "The Halloween Tree," based on Ray Bradbury's 1972 novel, takes place on Halloween night and is all about the myths and traditions surrounding the holiday.

28. Celebrate Halloween on Animal Crossing. Thanks to Nintendo's fall update, players can grow pumpkins, stock up on candy, buy Halloween costumes and learn DIY projects from neighbors. And there is a whole evening of fun planned October 31 after 5 p.m.

Outdoor fun

29. Ride bikes in costume. Have the family dress up in coordinating outfits and ride around the neighborhood, looking at decorations.

30. Make a backyard bonfire. Enjoy Halloween s'mores (use chocolate graham crackers and Halloween candy), drink hot cider and play the classic doughnuts on a string game.

31. Pumpkin patch stomp game. Lay down a vine of tied-together orange balloon "pumpkins" filled with candies and stickers and let the kids go crazy stomping on them. Country Living has lots of other fun DIY Halloween games.


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