By Jaimz Dillman
Just a quick 45-minute drive down the road from Orlando lies a big beautiful pick-your-own blueberry farm off Lake Catherine Road. By day, a sweet little farmhouse sits on acres and acres of delicious ripe blueberries. A tractor sits out front with a Welcome Fall sign along with a quaint general store and ice cream shop. It looks like the picture-perfect vision of something you'd find in a storybook.
But when the sun goes down, that all changes into one big nightmare.
Owners Dustin and Jamie Lowe have turned their rows of crops and homestead into weekends of frights and delights for fiends and families who drive in from all over. The wide-open acres are populated with volunteer actors mostly made up of local high school kids, Dustin says they usually do it for volunteer credit. And this year, with so many other events canceled the usual small group saw a turnout of over 80. Not everyone made the cut but they're well-staffed to get you ready for the season.
Bring your flashlights and bug spray- both will be heavily needed. It is the country after all. Also of note- Lake County has no mandatory mask mandate. On a slow night recently most guests were wearing theirs unless eating or drinking. The farm has taken a policy of "do what you feel comfortable with." There are many posted social distance signs asking guests to keep from getting too close to each other, the country store is closed for only counter service, hand sanitizer is available at various places, everything is cleaned according to safety standards, entertainment is on a raised stage away from guests, they're staggering maze arrival times, and you'll only go through with those in your party. But you should know, the employees are not masked, and some of the scareactors are wearing stage makeup without face coverings. So do with that info what you will.
On Thursdays, things start off with happy hour at the outside bar (pumpkin spice russian- yum! $8) along with live entertainment in the large outdoor area and "hay" ground, pumpkin painting (Any leftovers will be donated to local food pantries), plus the family fall maze and scavenger hunt. Times may vary but Dustin says generally 7:30pm- 10pm admission is $5, children under 3 are free.
Friday's and Saturday's several events may be too intense for young children but just what the adults may be looking for. No costumes, masks, or flashlights are allowed. No flip flops or open toes shoes. Everything is outside except the escape room and the schedule runs through October 31st.
Speaking of the escape rooms this is a new addition for the Lowe's. Open Thursdays and Fridays 6pm-10pm, Saturdays 10am-10pm, and Sundays 10am-5pm. Tickets must be purchased in advance and each team can have up to 6 players for $95.
The Haunted Halloween Maze- Catherine's Escape- tells 100 years of ghost stories including a little girl's mysterious disappearance. Advanced purchase online is $10 which will buy you time rather than waiting in line, $12 at the farm, Fridays and Saturdays.
The Dark Forest Trail of Terror is for those who want to kick their frights up a bit. Situated at the back of the farm this offering has the option to pay for a "more intense" experience. Participants will wear a glow necklace (Sanitized after each use) and that lets the actors know all rules are off- you can be pushed, touched, and moved around. Dustin says sometimes after the first interaction guests take off their necklaces and tap out. Admission is $15 in advance, $17 at the farm, Fridays, and Saturdays.
With so much available there's bound to something for everyone. Different American-fare food options are offered on Thursdays, as well as pizza by the slice throughout the month and the addition of an amazing and authentic taco truck on the weekends easily rounds out the experience. While we're all still trying to keep safe in the time of COVID it's nice there are places to take the whole family for some good ol' fashioned Halloween fun!