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What to expect when visiting Long Island's Halloween and fall attractions 

John-Paul Baker peers out from a hiding spot

John-Paul Baker peers out from a hiding spot with a fake hand ahead of the Gateway Playhouse's haunt. Credit: Johnny Milano

This fall feels different, but that doesn’t mean traditions can’t continue. As we enter another season of COVID, some things might be slightly altered for safety. Here’s what to expect during your autumn activities:

U-PICK SOCIAL DISTANCING

Apple and pumpkin fields are open for picking this year, but you’ll need to wear a mask and stay with your own group. At Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, owner Tom Wickham encourages families to visit early in the day or be prepared to wait, if necessary, because capacity is reduced. Patrons will still be ferried out to the orchard on a flatbed truck pulled by a tractor, but "groups are socially distanced on the bench seats," he says.

At Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms in Dix Hills, hayrides will be done for individual families this year, says owner Jean Schmitt. Patrons should also expect a limit on how much time they can spend out in the u-pick pumpkin field.

"Safety is our main concern, therefore we are going to limit capacity," Schmitt says. "We are not going to let the farm get overcrowded."

RESERVATIONS MAY BE REQUIRED

Many attractions are eliminating lines and physical admission sales at the door. In fact, advanced timed ticketing is being utilized at several places in order to avoid crowds and prevent congregating.

When visiting The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, which showcases over 7,000 hard-carved jack-o’lantern in sculpture displays, tickets are only sold online in half-hour intervals.

The situation is similar during Peak Nights at Bayville Scream Park which runs on hourly sessions.

"We will be operating at 33% capacity and increasing the time between groups, making sure only groups that come in together will go into the attractions together," says owner D.R. Finley.

In most cases, tickets are limited and may sell out fast, therefore early action is suggested.

HAUNTS ARE DIFFERENT

Each year haunted houses are presented with the challenge to revamp and refresh. But the pandemic has upped the ante. Haunts are making a concerted effort to provide more room for patrons to move about and avoid cloistered hallways and rooms.

"We went through the house and cleared the path for touch surfaces or anything people have to move out of their way like doors or fabrics. Scares that couldn’t be socially distanced were taken out," says Mike Meola of Darkside Haunted House in Wading River. "There will be no use of fog or anything that would encapsulate air molecules. Everyone on property is required to wear a mask at all times."

Chambers of Hell in Hauppauge will be doing temperature checks at the door and using disinfectant wands on all who enter.

"We built our sets in a way to have our actors keep their distance," says co-owner Robert Frankenberg. "There’s even one suspended in the air!"

Continuing the creativity, some haunts are adapting the summer's popular drive-in model, including Bayville Scream Park, and Gateway's Haunted Playhouse is even going the auto route. "[It] is a spooky, immersive drive-through Halloween experience," says managing director Paul Allan, who notes timed tickets ($40) are sold online only and not at the door.

GRAPE HARVEST FROM AFAR

Visitors can still spend a leisurely afternoon at many Long Island wineries during the peak grape-harvesting season. At Pindar Vineyards, patrons are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs to spread out on the 30-acre property in Peconic. Tables are also available in the Pavilion, says owner Pindar Damianos, but they’re situated 8-feet apart and limited to 6 or 8 people.

Over at Pugliese Vineyards in Cutchogue, guests have plenty of room to sip vino at picnic tables lakeside, under a tent or in the pergola covered with grapevines as they enjoy live music in the afternoon on Fridays and Saturdays. At many vineyards, much of the action has shifted outdoors.

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