A guide to safety, food, costume ideas and events in the Tampa Bay area

Emilee Geist

Trick-or-treating is up for debate all over the Tampa Bay area, and 2020 has offered up a bounty of costume ideas for people with nowhere to go.

We have learned a lot over the last few weeks covering the planning of events and recommendations for a safe Halloween and wanted to give you a place to review them all. Doctors have recommendations for trick-or-treating, our food editor has some suggestions for food and drinks and our columnists have some opinions on the metaphors all around.

Read on for what will be stalking us this Halloween:

There are a wide variety of Loot Scoop bags available this year at the Spirit Halloween pop-up stores. They are $7.99 so kids can use an extended rod to hold out a candy bag to retrieve treats from a distance. [ SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE | Times ]

Safety first

Trick-or-treat: Doctors gave us guidelines on how to trick-or-treat safely. But they still are warning against crowded house parties or big gatherings at nightclubs where people aren’t wearing face masks or keeping their distance. For neighbors, there are also tips on how to more safely hand out the candy to the kids.

Kids wear masks and the trick-or-treating is physically distanced and contact-free at Busch Gardens Sesame Street Kids Weekends. [ Busch Gardens ]

Rethinking Halloween: Cities are changing public events. There’s a run on costumes that look like hazmat suits. Treat bags are being made with extended arms to collect candy from a safe distance. Read about the ways Tampa Bay is rethinking Halloween this year.

Politifact: CDC hasn’t canceled Halloween, the fact checkers say, but here’s how to stay safe.

Halloween night

Costume ideas: Even if you aren’t going out, there’s a lot to mine from 2020: Murder hornets and flat stadium fans and the Tiger King characters among them. Here’s what we came up with and instructions on how we made them.

Christopher Spata made cutouts of himself to dress up as Rays fans for Halloween. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Dark neighborhoods: Halloween won’t be a big party this year in St. Pete’s Old Northeast neighborhood, usually one of the busiest in the area.

Allergy-free candy: While we have other scares to worry about in this coronavirus-tainted Halloween season, the effects of food allergies continue to haunt parents and kids who could find fatal reactions in their candy bowl. The good news is the list of allergy-free candy is surprisingly fun. Here’s a list.

Halloween candy are up 13 percent over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. We have a list of candy that is safe for kids with food allergies. The good news is the list is surprisingly fun. [ ROBERT F. BUKATY | AP ]

Events and attractions

Haunted River Tour: Tampa’s Pirate Water Taxi is running its Haunted River Tours every weekend in October on the Hillsborough River with dressed-up ghouls driving the boat for family-friendly spooks as they “tell eerie stories of Tampa’s past.”

Walt Disney World: They canceled Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year, but for the first time, Disney is allowing people to arrive in costume during the day at the Magic Kingdom.

ZooTampa: Harmless scares might be just what we need, so ZooTampa at Lowry Park has brought back its family-friendly Halloween series Creatures of the Night, but with lots of changes this year.

Scream-A-Geddon: The cluster of haunted houses in a remote section of Pasco County has returned and made some changes to make things scary, “but not COVID scary.”

The Little Monsters pumpkin patch from the Ybor Merchants Association will still give kids a free pumpkin, but through the car window this year. [ KEVIN TYDLASKA | Ybor Merchants Association ]

Drive-thru pumpkin patch: The annual Little Monsters pumpkin patch and Halloween party in Ybor City on Saturday will still offer kids a free pumpkin, but it will be a drive-thru this year. There’s also a costume contest and free family photo. You just need to register in advance for the free event.

Creepy dolls: The St. Petersburg Museum of History has transformed its Odditorium into a Creepatorium, bringing in dozens of dolls that have been in storage since the 1950s and ’60s. That’s in addition to their permanent and odd collection that includes a mummy and a two-headed calf.

Fun with kids: This week’s list of 5 things to do with kids includes the Creepatorium and also a train ride that takes you to a pumpkin patch and Hocus Pocus playing at a drive-in theater set up on the roof of the Armature Works.

Day of the Dead: If you’ve seen Disney’s Coco, you know that Dia de los Muertos isn’t a Mexican Halloween, but a moving tradition of honoring ancestors. Unable to hold its annual festival this year, Dunedin’s Casa Tina has set up an ofrenda (altar) for the community to bring family pictures to a local park. There’s also a separate coronavirus memorial in Pioneer Park.

Performers wear face masks during a socially distant and modified ‘Fiends’ show at Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Howl-O-Scream: What is Busch Gardens’ Halloween event like this year? We went and reported on the socially distant scares we found. We also checked out the Fiends comedy musical at Howl-O-Scream, which got a coronavirus makeover

At home

Jack-o’-lantern: Since Florida is hot and humid in October, there’s a good chance your pumpkin could be a rotten pile of mush before Halloween even arrives. Here are seven tips for carving a pumpkin using the right tools and some preservation tips.

Chocolate candy blondies and a batch of Starburst Spritz. [ MICHELLE STARK | Times ]

Food and drink ideas: Staying in for Halloween? Here’s some food and drink ideas from our food editor, including a cocktail, fall flatbread and cookies made from Halloween candy. And since it’s time for pumpkin, here’s a recipe for cookies with brown butter frosting.

Skunk ape: A good creepy story to tell around a campfire is becoming a movie being filmed in Tampa. Writer Paul Guzzo dives into the debate over whether Florida’s legendary skunk ape is real. Read about the making of the movie and the legend here.

Decorating: Pandemic boredom prompts a Halloween decoration buying spree.

Megan Copello of New Tampa is obsessed with Halloween decor. She got this table setting by MacKenzie-Childs during a recent online sale. [ Megan Copella ]

DIY project: We asked local artist Demeree Barth to show us a simple Halloween-themed project that people can make at home. She came up with an easy silkscreen project using the popular sugar skull motif associated with Dia de los Muertos.

Columnists weigh in

Stephanie Hayes: Our columnist says that the 989-pound Tampa pumpkin is a metaphor for the season. “Bloated, much like all of us in quarantine.”

Halloween is not canceled: Stephanie Hayes suggests the holiday is not canceled, because we are living it. “What otherworldly delights reside around this bend? Why, it’s a flock of murder hornets, rising sea level, mask-related acne and a coven of three tropical storms hunched over a bubbling cauldron.”

Roy Peter Clark: One of our favorite authors lays out 10 cases for and against canceling Halloween. Also, he weighs in on the controversial argument of the greatest candies of all time.

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