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Chicagoland Halloween Celebrations Emphasize Fun and Safety

Sep 30, 2021 ● By Dominic Calabrese
Girl holding a large pumpkin in a pumpkin farm

Photo by AdobeStock_56867317 Andy

Halloween events are still scheduled throughout the Chicago area this fall, but safety considerations will remain front and center as COVID-19 and its variants remain a health concern. Fortunately, local families have many fun in-person and virtual events to choose from in which to celebrate safely.

Among organizations planning to celebrate the holiday this year after the pandemic led to widespread cancellations in 2020 is Navy Pier, the Midwest’s premier tourist attraction. The iconic Chicago lakeside destination will offer a full roster of free fall- and Halloween-themed programs through November, according to Payal Patel, communications director.

Highlights include Pier Pumpkin Lights, which makes its return this month, with Navy Pier literally transformed into an experiential fall spectacle with more than 1,000 pumpkins stacked in elaborate and photo-worthy displays. “Our guests are welcome to explore this colorful pumpkin pop-up experience while enjoying Pier-wide deals and other Halloween festivities throughout the month,” Patel says.

“We will also host Halloween Family Fun Days on Saturdays, starting October 9 through October 30,” Patel notes. “Weekend activities will include costume contests, scavenger hunts, Halloween-themed movie viewings, trivia contests and more.”

She adds that the grand finale of Navy Pier’s Halloween extravaganza on October 30 will feature onsite trick-or-treating, family and dog-friendly costume contests, plus arts and crafts stations for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Patel maintains that the safety of all its guests remains the Pier’s top priority, and it continues to follow guidance from the city and state’s respective health departments. “As of now, masks are required while indoors at the Pier, in alignment with local guidelines,” she says. “We’ve also continued to follow stringent cleaning measures throughout the entire pandemic. We will closely monitor the situation and inform our guests of any modifications in our activities.” She adds that safety measures may change throughout the fall season and beyond, following government guidelines.

Lincoln Park Zoo is also presenting Halloween celebrations this month. While the complete roster is still being finalized, including details for the planned “Spooky Zoo” on October 23,
Jillian Braun, director of public relations and communications, says that several activities are set. Among them is Fall Fest, which will take place weekends in October, beginning October 8 and 9.

“Our visitors will have a number of fun things to do, such as exploring a giant pumpkin patch, taking a pumpkin walk and sampling tasty items from an autumn-themed pop-up bar,” she notes.

Due to safety concerns, Braun states that the zoo will closely monitor capacity for the walk and other activities. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are canceling such interactive programs this year as our annual corn pool and hay mountain for climbing,” she says. Braun adds that to ensure public safety, masks must be worn in all zoo buildings, hand sanitizers are available throughout the park, social distancing is strongly encouraged and all other city, state and federal guidelines are adhered to.

Halloween observances are planned across the city this fall at the Chicago Park District. According to Irene Tostado, deputy director of communications, details are still being finalized for the return of Chicago’s “Halloweek!” experience, which is usually held the week before the holiday. Halloweek! is a part of a partnership between My Chi. My Future., an initiative from Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman, that aims to connect youth to opportunities during out of school time, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Libraries and other City departments. Updated information is available by visiting

Tostado also notes that activities at city parks will range from a Day of the Dead Arts and Crafts Show at McKinley Park on October 23 to a Haunted House at Fosco Park on October 26 and a Halloween Dance at Nathan Hale Park on October 28. For additional activities and the latest information, visit

“As the Chicago Park District plans to offer spook-tacular virtual and in-person events, we want to ensure that we all celebrate Halloween safely,” she maintains. To that end, visitors must practice social distancing, wear face coverings at all times, wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, minimize congregations and, “Keep it moving.” Tostado adds that those experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, have a fever or have been recently exposed to someone with COVID-19 should stay home. For updates to this policy, visit

She acknowledges, “While Halloween looks a little different this year, we want everyone to have fun! Protecting our guests and staff is our top priority. We want to thank everyone in advance for their cooperation.”

For their part, parents in the Chicago area will be focusing on safety as well this Halloween. Among them is Sarah Czepiel, of north suburban Kenilworth. “Traditionally, Halloween has been a big celebration in our community, with residents setting up buffet tables for parents to enjoy while passing out candy to the children,” Czepiel explains. She adds that things changed last year with the pandemic. “People instead distributed candy from tubes inside their homes or like we did, had full-size candy bars spaced out on a table in our backyard.”

Because of the continuing threat posed by COVID-19, Czepiel expects that Halloween 2021 will resemble 2020. “While I imagine that we’ll see more families participating this season, the buffet tables most likely will be a thing of the past,” she says. She plans to take her two children trick or treating, but will make them wear masks, use hand sanitizers and adhere to social distancing as much as possible.

Dominic Calabrese is an award-winning writer and public relations professional who serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and the University of South Carolina.