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Monday Top 10: The Best Theme Park Halloween Events

October 6, 2014, 10:32 AM · It's October, and that means we are in prime time for Halloween events at all the major theme parks around the world. What started in the 1970s at Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California has grown into a global phenomenon, as parks look to extend their operating season into fall with Halloween-themed events. Whether they're scary haunts or candy-filled trick-or-treat opportunities, these events pack in Halloween fans. But which are the best? We've collected your votes over the past year and present our Top 10 list, based on your reader ratings. The list below also includes comments from readers and our Theme Park Insider Halloween reviewers.

10. Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest

With "terror tracks" on its world-class roller coasters, multiple scare zones, and eight mazes, Fright Fest would be the hit of the town in any other city. Yet it's located in the ultra-competitive Southern California market, the birthplace of theme park Halloween events, which means that Fright Fest too often gets overlooked by busy local Halloween fans.

9. Cedar Point Halloweekends

Cedar Point Halloweekends

When the weather starts to turn cooler and the sun sets earlier over Sandusky Bay, the beautiful lake north of Ohio turns from Lake Erie to Lake "Eerie." A mysterious fog covers parts of Cedar Point. And the screams heard throughout the park don't all come from the roller coasters Cedar Point is famous for.

8. Knott's Berry Farm Halloween Haunt

Knott's Berry Farm Halloween Haunt

The original theme park Halloween event is more fun than it is scary, and that's not a knock so much as it is noting Knott's Scary Farm's lifestyle choice. They want to be a fun, mostly PG-13 event — and if you get scared now and again, all the better.

7. Universal Studios Singapore Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Studios Singapore Halloween Horror Nights

Singapore's is a fairly new event (and a fairly new park, for that matter). In a country where Halloween is not quite what it is in the United States, Universal Studios has put together a very strong event over the past four years, helping increase the popularity of the holiday in the country.

6. Busch Gardens Tampa Howl-O-Scream

Busch Gardens Tampa Howl-O-Scream

Facing tough competition up the highway from the Orlando theme parks, Busch Gardens fights back with its own aggressive mix of scares and thrill rides.

5. Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl-O-Scream

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl-O-Scream

After 15 successful years, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has a proven formula for a successful Halloween event. This year’s 16th-annual edition offers much of what past guests have grown to enjoy, along with just enough change to keep the event fresh.

4. Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Not all theme park Halloween events have to be scary. Disney has embraced the other great tradition of Halloween — trick-or-treating — with a pair of candy-fueled celebrations on each coast.

3. Disneyland Mickey's Halloween Party

Disneyland Mickey's Halloween Party

Disneyland's version of the "not=so-scary" party edges ahead of its older sibling, thanks in part to a couple of great attraction overlays (available to day guests, too, during "HalloweenTime"): Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Haunted Mansion Holiday. Don't miss the Cadaver Dans performing on the foggy Rivers of America, either.

2. Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

Knott's might have started this party, but Universal is the one that's, well, killing it these days. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando's is the Universal's oldest theme park event and the world's largest, attracting theme park fans from all over the world for its mix of scare zones, shows and mazes.

1. Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
Lauren Cohan at USH's Walking Dead maze. Photo by David Sprague for Universal Studios Hollywood.

But if you want to get scared with the stars, you gotta go to Hollywood. Creative Director John Murdy sets the standard with USH's annual festival of "branded horror," bringing together the directors and stars of top TV and movie horror franchises to create unique, theme-driven houses that have fans queueing up from dusk to (nearly) dawn, until they're so overloaded by all that's happening around them that they can barely stumble home like, well, the walking dead. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

What's your favorite theme park Halloween event?

Replies (7)

October 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM · Really like the new look of the site. My favorite thing is that you haven't changed Monday's TOP 10 into a slideshow that only serves to have me give up reading after the first three slides due to lagging download, advertisement clutter, incorrectly labled slides and overall frustration in trying to read a simple article with less-than-a-dozen pictures.
Keeps in line with my belief of: Don't change what ain't broke. Well done.
October 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM · Thanks! The Monday Top 10 becomes a slideshow over my Hidden Mickey Ebola-infected dead body.

October 6, 2014 at 11:07 PM · Sorry to beat another dead horse here, but...
Halloween time at Tokyo Disney Resort gets my vote for best special event. Both parks participate, with Tokyo Disneyland running a daytime Halloween Parade and DisneySEA running a mini-parade in Lost River Delta, a stage show at New York's waterfront park, and a water show at Mediterranean Harbor. Then to cap it all off the two parks do a combined halloween fireworks show. The shows and parades get a complete changeover every 2-3 years--not just one new float in an otherwise identical parade, but a completely new lineup of 7-10 floats, new costumes, music, choreography and overall theme.

They also have their own version of the Haunted Mansion Holiday (called Holiday Nightmare in this location), and plenty of atmosphere decorations and special souvenir merchandise and food, beverage and dessert items.

Another fun aspect is how much effort and passion goes into the cos-play, which is allowed at Tokyo Disneyland during the first and final week of the event. Entire families and groups of friends will pick a common theme or movie and all dress as characters or elements within that theme.

And the best part is, this is all included with your normal cost of admission--No separate upcharge, no planning around an event that is only offered on a specific time and day, and you don't loose out on any of the other non-seasonal "regular" shows, parades, and attractions because those continue to run as normal during the event as well.

On second thought, I think this is so well worth the cost and effort to get over there and see it, that I do not apologize for beating the dead horse!

October 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM · I enjoyed the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl-o-Scream in 2012 (just before Hurricane Sandy wrecked the East Coast).

October 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM · How were these ranking determined? Because, with all due respect, there' no way HHN Hollywood should come in over Orlando's. As someone who attends both events every year, Hollywood is impressive... if you've never been to Orlando's. But Orlando's is bigger and better in every conceivable way. The sets and theming are outstanding, the scareactors are top-notch, the scarezones more unique, imaginative, and immersive, and the mood of the park is just stronger. HHN Orlando #1 with a bullet!
October 7, 2014 at 6:02 PM · No love for SFGA? Don't call me surprised ;)

I will write an article about SFGA Fright Fest, but it is hard to compete with the California and Florida parks, especially to think that Disney and Universal probably blow the entire season budget for Fright Fest in one night.

October 8, 2014 at 10:16 PM · I second the notion that Universal Hollywood coming in above Orlando is ridiculous. It takes more than "star power" to top Orlando...it's no competition.

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