The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released recommendations against normal holiday festivities, warning that activities like trick-or-treating are high-risk. In the past, West Chester University students have had a wide selection of activities to participate in to celebrate the fall season. Pumpkin and apple picking, hayrides and haunted houses included as some popular favorites, COVID-19 threatens the likelihood of these traditions continuing this year. However, businesses have adapted to the times by providing safer ways to continue autumn traditions and bring in the high revenues they depend on this time of year. Read below for information on what’s on and off this year at West Chester’s favorite local spots:
Located just 15 minutes away from campus, Highland Orchards has been students’ go-to place for Instagram-worthy pumpkin-picking pictures. Though picking is still happening, Highland Orchards has had to cancel its Fall Festival events, including hayrides, hay maze and kids activities. Items from the market and bakery are still available, though! You can schedule curbside pickup and order your yearly apple cider and apple cider donuts online. People interested in visiting Highland Orchards for Pick Your Own need to make a reservation online and pay ahead of time. Guests should call when they arrive and drive themselves to the fields; the shuttle is running on Saturday and Sunday only. All guests and employees have to wear masks and social distance, of course.
A short drive away in Media, the sprawling Linvilla Orchards has kept a packed schedule despite the pandemic. Fishing at Orchard Lake, Pick Your Own, the Farm Market, Garden Center, Ship Bottom Brewery Beer Garden and Pumpkinland are still open. To attend, you must buy timed tickets online. Certain modifications have been made, including the removal of face boards and holding Pick Your Own Apples during the week only. Masks and social distancing are enforced, as well. This year’s canceled events at Linvilla Orchards include tours, classes, the Arts and Music Festival, Apple Festival and the Costume Parade. The playground is also closed to the public.
The Bates Motel
You can’t live in West Chester and not visit the Bates Motel at least once. While the haunted hayride is a rite of passage for new visitors, this Halloween favorite is temporarily replaced with a new walkthrough attraction this year. Don’t think the pandemic has taken the terror out of the Bates Motel, though! Your journey will include a linear route through the new Psycho Trail, leading to the Revenge of the Scarecrows trail and end with admittance into the haunted Bates Motel. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the actors can’t do their usual pushing and grabbing because of COVID-19. Employees and guests must wear masks and social distance at all times. Timed tickets are available online and guests have to pass a temperature check before admittance.
Eastern State Penitentiary
What would have been a celebrated 30th season of Eastern State Penitentiary’s “Terror Behind the Walls” is now replaced with smaller-scale “Night Tours,” running Friday through Sunday. These intimate tours will allow guests to experience the abandoned cell blocks in the moonlight, including Al Capone’s cell, with an audio guide to narrate the journey. Exhibits, 30-ft projections of animated short films and artist installations are also included with your timed ticket. Tickets must be bought in advance online. Employees and guests ages two and up must wear masks properly, social distance and sanitize hands before entering. Like many businesses, the pandemic has hit Eastern State Penitentiary hard. Before the July reopening of three days a week, they were forced to lay off about 40% of their staff and reconfigure their Halloween attractions that act as their biggest yearly fundraisers.
Besides having fun upholding yearly traditions, visits to these sites means supporting local businesses that have struggled to maintain their relevance and capabilities during a pandemic. While the world might be scarier than a haunted hay maze right now, safely participating in fall events can be a fun way to have a much-needed day out of the house.
Maria Marabito is a fourth-year English major with a minor in literature and diverse cultures. MM883631@wcupa.edu