Nebraskans can find fall activities to safely participate in every part of the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it may seem more difficult to find community events to attend during a pandemic, Jenn Gjerde, marketing manager for the Nebraska Tourism Commission, said there’s still plenty to do in Nebraska.
“Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a lot of people seeking the outdoors. Thankfully, the fall is a good time for that in Nebraska,” she said.
Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkin patches can help with finding a jack-o-lantern candidate and getting in touch with the fall spirit. While many activities at pumpkin patches can be done safely, Heather Eberspacher, medical director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Health Center, said it’s best to “avoid haunted houses, not physically distanced hay rack rides…and screaming around strangers in close proximity,” as the activities can be risky.
Eastern – Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna
- With more than 400 acres of barns, bakeries and haystacks, Vala’s is a 35-year-old farm open to visitors through November. Other pumpkin patches in eastern Nebraska include Roca Berry Farm in Roca, Harvest Moon Farms in Oakland and Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch in Blair.
Central – Helgoth’s Pumpkin Patch in St. Libory
- Aside from produce, this family-owned pumpkin patch offers ziplines, minigolf and for-rent bonfires. Helgoth’s is open Friday through Sunday until Halloween. Other central Nebraska pumpkin patches include Grandpas Punkinberry Patch, Holdredge and Nielsen Kids U-Pick in Minden.
Western – BEFarm & Pumpkin Patch in Bayard
- BEFarm offers more than 50 varieties of pumpkin and gourds available for picking. The panhandle farm also offers a wagon deal, where visitors can take as many pumpkins as they can fit into a large wagon for a set fee. Western Nebraska is also home to Adams Family Pumpkin Patch in Scottsbluff and Homestead Pumpkin Patch in North Platte.
Go to a State Park
State parks offer hiking, fall events like jack-o-lantern carving and a chance to see seasonal migratory animals.
“Right now campers are reconnecting with nature since it’s a social-distance friendly activity. I personally recommend Indian Cave State Park this time of year. The trees changing are beautiful and they go all out on Halloween decorations and activities, though limited this year,” Gjerde said.
But just because you are outside, it’s still best to wear a mask and keep your distance.
“Stay 6 feet away from others whether you are indoors or outside,” Eberspacher said.
Eastern – Branched Oak State Recreation Area near Raymond
- Branched Oak is home to the largest lake in eastern Nebraska and offers multiple hiking trails, campsites and an annual fall festival called the Branched Oak Spooktacular. Nebraskans can also visit Indian Cave State Park near Shubert and Ponca State Park near Ponca.
Central – Calamus State Recreation Area in Burwell
- With more than 4 miles of streams and a 5,000-acre lake, this Sandhills park offers fishing, canoeing and tanking as well as a pumpkin carving festival. Other central Nebraska parks include Red Willow State Recreation Area in McCook and Sandy Channel State Recreation Area in Kearney.
Western – Smith Lake Park near South Sheridan
- Smith Lake offers year-round fishing. The lake includes largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill. Other parks in western Nebraska include Crescent Lake near Lost Creek and Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford.
Go Somewhere Haunted
Unlike other Halloween activities like parties or trick-or-treating, which the CDC classifies as high risk, visiting a ghostly outdoor location has social distancing built in.
Eastern – The Haunted Hills of Seven Sisters in Nebraska City
- Legend has it the eerie hills are resting places of seven sisters who were killed by their father. Seven Sisters Road, officially L Street, passes through the hills and is said to be full of unexplainable phenomena, like glowing red eyes and disembodied, blood-curdling screams. Other spooky locations in eastern Nebraska are Blackbird Hill in Decatur and Antelope Park in Lincoln.
Central – Devil’s Canyon near McCook
- A few miles north of McCook along East 11th Street lies Devil’s Canyon, where a ghostly figure named The Duke allegedly torments visitors by causing their electronics to malfunction. Another outdoor central Nebraskan haunt is St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Columbus.
Western – Boot Hill in Sidney
- Sidney’s Boot Hill cemetery was created in 1861 for the bodies of soldiers who died in battle, but later became the final resting place for many cowboys and desperados who met their fates in the old west town. Today, Boot Hill hosts an annual Halloween grounds tour. Another supposedly haunted western Nebraska spot is Warbonnet Creek Battlefield Site near Harrison.