Arts and Culture

Halloween events in Minnesota and their COVID precautions

A toy pumpkin with a medical mask on top of it.
If you're headed to a Halloween event this year, you may need two kinds of masks and a costume with pockets for your vaccine card.
Marco Verch via Flickr

Updated: Oct. 11

Halloween events are popping up across the state, but this year your costume mask isn’t the only one needed to celebrate with the ghosts and goblins.

The COVID-19 delta variant is spreading statewide, and Minnesota’s Department of Health has been offering safety recommendations to fight that spread. Event venues are following the guidance at different levels.

So, from costume contests looking for the best mask-wearing ghoul, to concerts that’ll have you shaking in your boots once you have your temperature checked, we’ve got the scoop on some of the spookiest events happening this year, and what you need in order to attend them.

First Avenue’s Halloween party and costume contest

One of the Twin Cities’ biggest costume contests is returning to First Avenue on Oct. 31 — with a prize of $1,000 on the line. But there are a few changes you should know about before walking in with your winning costume. First Avenue and its sister venues require a full-course of COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 72 hours before walking through those doors.

So before slipping into your skin-tight skeleton suit, make sure your vaccination card is on an outside pocket.

Minnesota Zoo’s Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular 

Thousands of traditional jack-o'-lanterns on display at the Minnesota Zoo.
Thousands of traditional jack-o'-lanterns on display at the Minnesota Zoo as part of its first Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular on Oct. 18, 2018.
Carina Lofgren for MPR News 2018

The Minnesota Zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is also back after a year on hiatus. With thousands of smiling pumpkins lighting up the night in Apple Valley, the outdoor event runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 7.

Mike Stephenson, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the zoo, told us “Per CDC guidance, and for the safety of our guests and animals, the Minnesota Zoo requires masks when visiting indoor trails at the zoo for guests aged 3-and-up.” This includes when visitors head indoors to buy tickets or to use the restroom.

“For the time being, masks remain optional when visiting our outdoor trails,” he added. “The Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular takes place on an outdoor trail at the Zoo and as an additional safety precaution, hourly capacity for the event has been limited.”

Grande Day Parade & the 35th Annual Gray Ghost 5K

Anoka Halloween parade
Parade watchers, many in their own costumes, line Main Street during the annual Halloween parade Oct. 28, 2011, in Anoka, Minn.
Jim Mone | AP 2011

Self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World,” Anoka knows how to celebrate the spookiest time of the year. They offer a month full of events in honor of all that is creepy and crawly. Their free Grande Day Parade is returning on Oct. 30 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The whole family is welcome to dress up for the enchanted procession down Anoka’s Main Street.

Become part of the show by registering for Anoka’s 35th Annual Gray Ghost 5k. The run kicks off the parade, starting at Franklin Elementary School at 12:50 p.m. There’s a costume contest dedicated to participants — so be sure to dress up! 

Neither events require face coverings or proof of vaccination, but do encourage social distancing and masks (costume and medical)!

Twin Cities Horror Festival 

The Twin Cities Horror Festival is returning for their 10th year of horror-themed, live-performance art. TCHF offers two full weekends of scream-worthy performances with online-only shows offered on the weekend of Oct. 24 and in-person performances taking place at the Crane Theater Oct. 28 through Oct. 31.

If you’re planning to catch one of the in-person shows, you’ll need to wear a mask and bring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. TCHF states on their website that the same rules apply to to volunteers and performers — though not while they’re doing the actual performing.

90s Halloween Drag Brunch 

Scream. The Craft. Casper. Hocus Pocus. — drag style. Snag a ticket to Flip Phone’s 90s Halloween Drag Brunch on Oct. 24 to celebrate some of Halloween’s most loved 90s characters.

Every audience member is required to order an entrée when watching the Halloween extravaganza, and although the brunch is open to all ages, some material may not be suitable for children. Flip Phone and Crave currently have no explicit rules on COVID protocols around their performances, but having a mask handy is never a bad idea.

Tiesto at the Armory

Not in the mood to get spooked? Here’s a non-Halloween event for you. World-traveling DJ Tiesto is coming to the Armory in downtown Minneapolis on Oct. 30, and he’s bringing a whole lot of confetti, colorful lights and tunes with him. Before you head out the door to dance the night away, be sure to have a mask and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within the past 72 hours.

“The Armory follows all state and federal requirements when it comes to COVID safety at the time of each event.” Stephen Mann, the Armory’s Director of Marketing, explained. “For guests at The Armory, the tour or artist may implement additional COVID safety measures for their show(s), and The Armory assists in executing those requests on an event-by-event basis.” Mann said that the same rules apply to Armory employees.

Scream Town 

Now back to the scary stuff. Scream Town, packed with seven different haunted houses and a haunted hayride, will leave your heart racing and your palms sweaty. Voted one of the eight best haunted experiences in the country by CNN in 2019, Scream Town works hard to live up to its name.

Located in Chaska, its doors are open from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31. Scream Town is completely outdoors and all visitors are separated into timed groups when going through the haunted houses. Masks are not required but are highly encouraged. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test are also not required.

Gothess Halloween Dance Party

What better way to celebrate Halloween than to dance with all of the dark, gothic creatures of the night. With the dance floor opening at 10 p.m. on Oct. 29 at Mortimer’s in Minneapolis, be ready to groove late into the evening in your best all-black outfit. This 21+ event requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within the past 72 hours of walking into Mortimer’s. Mask’s aren’t required but are highly recommended.

The Great Pumpkin Fest & Halloween Haunt 

Even without the Halloween specials, Valleyfair rides are always good for a scream.
Jennifer Simonson for MPR News 2012

For something a little less scary, Valleyfair’s The Great Pumpkin Fest event offers family-fun with Snoopy and other members of the Peanuts gang. There’s a corn maze, a craft corner, games, live performances, and lots of rides. The event is open Oct. 2 through 31. 

Older kids looking for a fright can stick around Valleyfair after dark for their Halloween Haunt experience. With more than 75 rides, haunted mazes, scare zones, and monsters prowling the park, there is something to satisfy everyone’s devilish desire.

This event is not intended for visitors under the age of 13. Halloween Haunt runs Oct. 2 through Oct. 30, with gates opening at 7 p.m. Both events are fully outdoors and proof of vaccination to enter the park is not required. Social distancing and wearing masks are highly encouraged for all attendees, and masks are required indoors if you are not fully vaccinated.

Monster Bash Halloween Music Festival 

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with live music, food trucks, and lots and lots of tasty craft beer? The Monster Bash is returning to Lake Monster Brewing Co. in St. Paul on Oct. 30. With live music from the Black Eyed Snakes, Annie Mack, Apollo Cobra and Jaedyn James, this 21+ event is bound to have you boogieing late into the night. Doors open at 1 p.m. and close at 12 a.m. Proof of vaccination is required to attend this event — good dance moves are optional.

What events are you excited for? Let us know and we might add it to this list!