1. Life & Culture

October brings Halloween events to Tampa Bay, with big changes

The focus will be on outdoor scare zones instead of haunted houses, and physically distant trick-or-treating.

October brings the return of some popular annual Halloween events and parties, including ZooTampa’s Creatures of the Night, some haunted river tours and the American Victory WWII cargo carrier turned into a zombie ship.

Some annual events have been canceled, such as St. Petersburg’s teen Field of Screams. The ones that have returned are changing how they operate because of the pandemic. Trick-or-treating is contact-free at Busch Gardens, where kids will find candy stations all around the park and gloved workers doling out treats. Others are focusing on outdoor scare zones instead of haunted houses and limiting capacity to allow people to space out.

Here’s a rundown of what’s coming.

Howl-O-Scream: Busch Gardens' annual scare fest opens Friday and runs on select nights through Nov. 1 for a socially distanced Halloween haunt. The event has been modified to feature 10 open-air scare zones and entertainment. There is limited capacity admission and face masks and reservations are required. Tickets start at $29.99. 7 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Busch Gardens, 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. (813) 884-4386.

Open-air scare zones like this will be the norm this year as Busch Gardens attempts physically distant frights at Howl-O-Scream. [ Busch Gardens ]

UNDead in the Water: The nautical haunted attraction takes place on an actual war ship designed to look like it has been taken over by zombies. The floating haunt includes steep stairwells, narrow hallways and live actors. Scare actors and guests are required to wear face coverings and socially distance. $15-$20, $13-$18 military. Runs weekends Oct. 2-31 at 7:30 p.m. American Victory Ship and Museum, 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 228-8766.

Scream-A-Geddon: A monster midway and zombie paintball assault with multiple scare zones including Demons Revenge, Blackpool Prison and Deadwoods. 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and most nights in October in a remote area of Dade City. There are five haunted houses, and for an upcharge that starts at $10, you can shoot zombies with a paintball gun. Admission is $21.95-$39.95 at 27839 St. Joe Road, Dade City. (813) 452-5412.

For Creatures of the Night, the Halloween event being held weekends at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, there are activities for all ages. including scare zones, nighttime animal encounters and a pumpkin patch. [ "CAITLYN CHASE, LOWRY PARK ZOO" | ZooTampa ]

Creatures of the Night: The Spider Queen requests your presence at the zoo’s outdoor, family-friendly Halloween event themed around spooky campfire stories and characters. Capacity is limited. Park reservations are recommended. $24.95-$29.95. Runs select nights Oct. 2-31 from 4-10 p.m. ZooTampa at Lowry Park, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552.

Haunted River Tours: Two ghoulish hosts tell eerie tales of Tampa’s ghosts on this 45-minute cruise along the Hillsborough River. Runs select nights Oct. 2-31. Departs hourly at 6:15, 7:15, 8:15 and 9:15 p.m. Boats are limited to 50 percent capacity. $25, $20 children. Pirate Water Taxi, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 390-3711.

HarvestMoon’s Flashlight Nights and Haunted Trail: Take a flashlight and walk the not-so-scary corn maze with your family. Then, the brave at heart can venture into the Haunted Trail to see if they can survive “the swamp.” Advanced ticket purchase recommended. Walkup availability limited. $19.95, 2 and younger free. Runs weekends Oct. 9-25 starting at 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays at HarvestMoon Fun Farm, 15990 Stur St., Masaryktown. Toll-free 1-800-373-4811.

HarvestMoon Fun Farm’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch: A daytime corn maze for kids with a 70-foot jumping pillow, pumpkin patch, candy cannon, cow train, petting farm, ball toss, hill slide, photo ops and Halloween-themed activities. $12.95, 2 and younger free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 3-Nov. 8. HarvestMoon Fun Farm, 15990 Stur St., Masaryktown. Toll-free 1-800-373-4811.

Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival: The 29th annual festival includes a pioneer trade village, hayrides, craft show, pony rides, chainsaw sculpting, scarecrow displays, a rock climbing wall, barnyard playground, arm painting, butterfly experience and a tricky dog show. Runs weekends Oct. 10-25. $10, 10 and younger free. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Hunsader Farms, 5500 County Road 675, Bradenton. (941) 322-2168.

Sunshine Grove Trail of Horrors: Move along a “Halloscream” trail of real ghosts, giant man-eating spiders and thirsty vampires. Halloween night also features a trick-or-treat trail, food, drinks and gifts. $5, 9 and younger free. Runs weekends Oct. 2-31 at 6:30 p.m. 8405 Sunshine Grove Road, Brooksville.

Haunted Zombie Cruises: Tampa’s Pirate Ship, Lost Pearl, will turn into Haunted Zombie Cruises on select nights in partnership with the American Victory ship’s UNDead in the Water haunted ship. The Haunted Zombie Cruises, recommended for age 13 and older, depart from the Tampa Convention Center on a 30-minute journey down Tampa Bay’s waterways to the American Victory ship. $39.95; includes admission to American Victory. Yacht StarShip, 603 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 223-7999.

Sir Henry’s Haunted Trail: Choose from trails including the Candy Tree, Marionette of the Dead and more. $25-$35. Runs weekends Oct. 4-31 at the trail site at Sir Henry’s Haunted Trail, 2837 S Frontage Road, Plant City. (863) 944-0748.

The pumpkin patch is a big draw at Sweetfields Farm in Masaryktown. The popular farm's Fall Corn Maze is opening in October. [ Tampa Bay Times (2016) ]

Sweetfields Farm Corn Maze: Running weekends Oct. 2-Nov. 8, admission includes a huge corn maze, a hay play area, a mini maze, tree house play area, hay maze, jumbo foosball, access to the harvest barn and a pumpkin patch. $9.75 for ages 3 and older. Bring extra cash for produce, pumpkin painting, food and drinks. Admission must be purchased at for a date and time slot before arrival. Sweetfields Farm, 17250 Benes Roush Road, Masaryktown. (352) 279-0977.

Sesame Street Kids Weekends: Every Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 1, the furry stars of Sesame Street will be on hand for physically distant trick-or-treating, an open-air stage show for families and new special character appearances such as the Count’s Not-Too-Spooky Howl-O-Ween Radio Show. There will be song and dance numbers that get everyone involved in the outdoor Sunny Day Theater with physically distant seating. Included with admission. Noon-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Busch Gardens, 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. (813) 884-4386.

Pumpkin Patch Express: Board a train for a ride to the pumpkin patch where children pick their own pumpkins and enjoy hayrides, Lincoln Logs building, crafts and other activities. Mask requirements are based on the Manatee County mask ordinance at the time of the event. $14.50-$32.50. Runs weekends Oct. 17-25, 10 a.m. and 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E, Parrish. Toll-free 1-877-869-0800.

Haunted Ape Escape: Pongo the 400-pound orangutan watches closely as guests make their way through the sanctuary’s haunted forest of trails. Includes photos with animals. $7. 8 p.m. Oct. 22-24. Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation Inc., 4600 Alt. U.S. 19, Palm Harbor. (727) 943-5897.

Howl-O-Train: Wear a costume and climb about the train for a ride through decorated tunnels with costumed characters, fall scenes, a hayride and music. Every child leaves with a goody bag. $10. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 24. Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014.

Drive-O-Ween Spooktacular: Largo’s annual Spooktacular get a safety twist. Parents drive costumed kids through decorated themed areas. At the end of the trail, the first 1,000 kids 2 and older get a goody bag full of treats. Free. 6 p.m. Oct. 30. Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. (727) 587-6740, ext. 5014.

SeaWorld Spooktacular: Kids can wear a costume for not-so-spooky fun including a trick-or-treat trail, costumed characters, face painting, mermaid meet and greet and DJ dancing. Included with admission. Runs weekends through Oct. 31. SeaWorld, 7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando. Toll-free 1-800-327-2424.

Screamin' Green Hauntoween: Spooky, family fun with monster-ific crafts, scavenger hunts and character photo ops. Included with admission. 10 a.m. daily Oct. 1-31 at Crayola Experience, 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. (407) 757-1700.

Brick or Treat: Costumed families can experience a spooky, kooky Halloween event with entertainment, a scavenger hunt, Lego photo ops and the popular Brick-or-Treat Trail. Park admission required. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Oct. 3-31. Legoland Florida, 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven. Toll-free 1-888-690-5346.