Southern California has two big theme park haunt events that are known throughout the event community: Knott's Scary Farm and Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. However, there is a third theme park haunt event in the region that gets much less publicity: Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain. While lacking the IP of Universal or the budget available at Knott's, Fright Fest is still a large scale event able to hold its own in the competitive Southern California haunted attraction market.
I've made an annual visit to Fright Fest every year since 2011, and over that time the event has improved tremendously. Five years ago, a scare zone consisted of a fog machine, a few props, and three or four wandering actors. However, in the past couple years the event has improved tremendously, and after my visits in 2015 and 2016 I definitely think the event is worth recommending to general haunt enthusiasts rather than just Six Flags passholders.
Unlike the other theme park haunts in So Cal, Fright Fest is not a separate ticket event. On days that the event operates (generally weekends (and some Fridays) from mid-September to Halloween), the park opens at its regular time of 10:30 A.M. each day and remains open until either 11 P.M. (Sunday) or 1 A.M. (Friday and Saturday). There is no closure in the middle of the day; instead, at 7 P.M. each night the monsters are released to roam the park and the mazes open. Use of the mazes requires the purchase of a maze pass ($20 regular, $35 express access, $5 discount for season pass holders), but all other event attractions are included with park admission.
Fright Fest features quite a few haunted attractions. Visitors will find seven mazes and seven scare zones within the park. In addition, the event does include a couple stage shows, as well as slight modifications to several of the park's roller coasters. At some events, it would be difficult to do everything in one night, but fortunately that is generally not the case here. Ride lines are often shorter at night than they are during the day, and while maze lines can get long they max out at about 45 minutes. With a good strategy, it is often possible to do all the mazes in about 4 hours, leaving enough time for the other unique attractions. That said, for those who want multiple trips through the mazes, those who want to do a lot of coasters in the dark, or those who are visiting on a Saturday (easily the busiest day for the event), it is well worth it to purchase an express access maze pass in order to ensure you do everything.
One thing that's a little different about Fright Fest is that they do not create conga lines in mazes. While I have never attended Universal's event, I have noticed it is not uncommon for Knott's to send groups of 50 or more people through their mazes at a time. At Magic Mountain, however, most mazes are experienced in groups of 10-15, making it less likely that you'll have a scare revealed by those ahead of you. Another notable difference is that each maze at this event is unique not just in theme but also in style. For that reason, every maze is worth doing once for those who have never visited.
Mazes are listed in the order I experienced them, with a ranking following all reviews.
Red's Revenge: The most popular maze at the event, this is also the most theatrical. Themed to a twisted version of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, in this maze guests are hunted by Red and her minions. The path takes you through large scale sets such as a village and forest, all populated with live actors and mechanical scares. While this maze doesn't excel at anything, it also isn't lacking anything either and is a great way to start a tour of the event.
Vault 666: This is probably the most story-heavy maze of the event, beginning with a two part pre-show and then leading visitors through a human-animal mutation laboratory. This is also perhaps the scariest maze at the event, containing a lot of actors and an impressive number of visual effects. The maze is a good length and has a variety of sets that can compete with much of what I've seen at Knott's Scary Farm. This is another very popular maze, so I'd recommend going here immediately after Red's Revenge (the two mazes are right next to each other). Overall an outstanding maze that really demonstrates what Six Flags is capable of.
Toyz of Terror 3D: At one point, 3D mazes were extremely common, but now this maze is more of a novelty. Wearing free 3D glasses, guests walk through a creepy factory filled with all kinds of fun house effects to ensure everyone is thoroughly disoriented. This maze begins with a pre-show that will make most jump, but after that it is a bit less scary than its neighbors. However, this is still a very fun maze and a different experience to what is more commonly seen at modern haunts.
Willoughby's Resurrected: A classic haunted mansion maze, this would be an asset at any haunt event. This maze begins with a pre-show (complete with an in-maze photo), then guests begin wandering the halls of the mansion. While it begins fairly benign, the maze gets darker and darker, with scares becoming more frequent with each room. After Vault 666, I'd rank this as the scariest maze of the event due to the number of actors and mechanical effects that can be found inside as well as the general atmosphere. This is my personal favorite maze at Fright Fest and is absolutely a must-see.
Chupacabra: Chupacabra is a bit of a throwback maze as it resembles what most of this event's mazes were like 5 years ago. The maze itself consists of painted walls with a few props and actors jumping out at guests as they walk past. While the entire maze is filled with fog, it is a fairly predictable maze and therefore isn't all that scary. Chupacabra also lacks a storyline and is probably the shortest maze at Fright Fest, though it is long enough to get the job done. This is one of those that is fun to do if the line is short, but isn't something to make a priority. Unfortunately, due to the maze being located right next to X2 it often has one of the longest lines at the event.
The Willoughby's Garden of Darkness: A continuation of Willoughby's Resurrected, this is essentially a hedge maze in the dark. While scary at first, it is also a very repetitive maze that mostly consists of the same thing over and over. If there is one maze I would recommend skipping it is this one. That said, it is worth checking out for first time visitors, but it really feels more like it should have been a section of the other Willoughby maze than a stand-alone attraction.
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising: New for 2016, this is a giant outdoor apocalyptic maze themed around a biological weapon infecting the last livable space in Ash Valley. Due to its design, this maze is not an overly scary one despite featuring nearly twice as many actors as anything else at the event. Where it does excel, however, is length, set design, and uniqueness. This maze will redefine a long maze...it is a 1/2 mile and covers 40,000 square feet. Once inside the maze, the entire thing features elaborate sets that recreate a destroyed city about as well as possible on a Six Flags budget. This maze features a lot of pyrotechnics and other special effects, and also includes sections with multiple pathways. Lastly, there is an entire free-roaming scare zone contained within the maze, where the monsters will do their best to keep visitors from finding the exit for as long as possible. While not the best maze ever, this one is certainly a unique experience, and because of that it is a must do.
1. Willoughby's Resurrected
2. Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising
3. Vault 666
4. Red's Revenge
5. Toyz of Terror 3D
7. The Willoughby's Garden of Darkness
Fright Fest advertises as having more scare zones than any other theme park. Technically, this is true as the event does contain seven distinct zones. However, in terms of total area I have a feeling that other parks may beat them, as many of Magic Mountain's scare zones are very small. There are a few that stand out, however.
My favorite zone at the event was Nightmares-A Twisted Fantasy, which contains colorful but twisted versions of characters from well known bedtime stories. As it is a hilly path surrounded by trees, this area is offset from the surroundings and has plenty of places for the talented actors to hide. I also recommend saving the 3D glasses from Toys of Terror and wearing them through this section of the park as it enhances the effect of the blacklit neon props and characters.
Another scare zone that stands out is Terrortory Twisted, the largest scare zone at the park. This area takes over the entire Screampunk District with a steampunk horror theme. Lots of props and lots of actors are present here, and this area is filled with heavy fog all over the place. Add in some custom lighting effects and audio tracks, and the results are outstanding.
The other noteworthy scare zone is Suicide Squad. This is a 2016 exclusive tie-in to the DC film of the same name and appropriately takes over the park's DC Universe area. The area itself is not as much based on scares as it is on recreating Midway City from the film, with projection effects and props scattered throughout the area. The characters from the film roam the area and take photos with guests (I saw Joker, Killer Croc, and Katana), while the Joker's henchmen and Enchantress's minions provide the scares. It clearly only exists as a tie-in to the film, but it is well done and worth checking out.
Other scare zones at the event include Demon's Door, Exile Hill, The Ruins, and Zombie Xing. Overall, these scare zones are simpler and generally are just a small fog-filled area with some props and scaractors roaming around.
This is probably the weakest element of Fright Fest, as neither of the stage shows are particularly great. Voodoo Nights is a Halloween version of the park's summer Full Throttle Nights show, a live music dance party with a few audience participation activities thrown in for good measure. The park's other show is the High Sierra Hypnotist, who performs twice per night. I didn't watch this show, but I've got a feeling it is fairly standard.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is a roller coaster park, and during Fright Fest they ramp up the thrills. At night, nine of the park's coasters (Apocalpyse, Batman, Full Throttle, Goliath, Riddler's Revenge, Scream, Tatsu, Twisted Colossus, and Viper) operate with all lights in the ride area switched off. For the coasters in the front of the park, this feels pretty much like a normal night ride. The ones in the back, however (particularly Apocalypse, Batman, and Riddler's) are very, very dark and have a little bit of an extra thrill. It isn't something that will make much of a difference if you've ridden dozens of times, but for an infrequent visitor it will make the experience more exhilarating. The park also offers an alternate version of X2 called Satan's Domain, but this was unfortunately closed during my visit.
As I've mentioned a couple of times, my primary comparison for Fright Fest is Knott's Scary Farm. Now, I would not say that Fright Fest is as good as Knott's Scary Farm simply because it lacks live entertainment and it lacks the budget for as much as Knott's Scary Farm is able to do. However, I would still recommend checking out Fright Fest if you are in the Southern California area, as it is nearly on par with many more respected events. The scare zones are variable quality (though most are good), the mazes range from fair to excellent, the coasters are among the best in the country, and, particularly if you are a Six Flags passholder, it is really difficult to beat the price. For someone who only attends one event per year this is probably not the top choice, but if you've done other events and are looking for something a bit different it is a solid option that has impressed me recently and, in my opinion, is actually scarier than Knott's.Tweet
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