On Saturday, Oct. 10th, my wife and I brought two friends from England who were visiting with us to Kings Island for our first visit to Kings Island Halloween Haunt. I have been to HalloWeekends at Cedar Point many times, but have never made the trip to Kings Island to see and compare the two. Our friends have never been to anything like it, so I was also interested to see what our friends from "across the pond" would think of an American Halloween event of the size of Halloween Haunt.
The first thing to say about it - it was crowded. Extremely crowded. We arrived late in the afternoon, about 5 p.m., but since the park was open until 1 a.m. that night we thought we would have plenty of time to hit all the haunts and some of the rides. Our friends are not big ride people, especially coasters, so I knew that the rides with the biggest crowds would not be a factor in our visit.
The entrance to the park has been transformed into a gigantic haunted house, a great visual welcome to the events inside. While not totally masking the entrance building, it was well designed and as we left that evening we saw it was well-lit with scary lighting effects. For some reason, Kings Island banned re-entry to the park after 6 p.m., so once you entered the park for the evening events you stayed there until you left - no taking things to the car and returning. It was not a problem for us, and it seemed to be well-broadcast to the guests, but I don't really understand the reason behind it.
We decided to get something to eat and plan our route through the park, so we went to the Reds Hall of Fame Grille - and found that there was a 50-minute wait time. I told you it was crowded! They were very nice, and took our phone number to call us when our table was ready. That gave us time to walk over to the Kings Island and Miami Valley Train station to catch a ride on the train. I noticed that the train only had three passenger cars on it, compared to the usual six. I thought that was odd, considering the huge crowds in the park, but we were all able to fit fairly comfortable onto the train. I assumed that it would continue past the Soak City station, since Soak City is closed for the season. Wrong. Not only did we stop at Soak City, there were dozens of people waiting to board the train! They had some sort of children's event there, and our train was the last train of the day to bring people back to the main park. We all moved in as far as we could to let those waiting board the train, but there was no way that they all could get on. I don't know if those that could not get on the train decided to walk to the main park (there is a walkway connecting them) or went out into the parking lot to walk to the front of the park. The rest of our ride back to the Rivertown Station was crowded and of course we had the screaming kid behind us whose father was doing his best to keep him controlled, but the sugared-up kid was having none of it. Luckily it is not a long train ride.
Almost as soon as we disembarked from the train we got a text that our table was ready, so we entered the Reds Hall of Fame Grille and were seated. Our waitress was obviously tired from what she told us was a 12+ hour day, but she was working on adrenaline and was very friendly, attentive and did a great job with us. We all had various kinds of burgers, and our friends from England RAVED about how good they were. We also had deep-fried breaded pickles (which they had never heard of in England, but loved), onion rings and home-made potato chips, and we were all stuffed and ready to face the Halloween Haunts. One thing I noticed in the restaurant was that while there were still many people waiting to be seated, there were many empty tables the entire time we were there. I suspect that the service was limited due to server availability and not because there were no tables available.
As I mentioned earlier, I have never been to Kings Island for Halloween, so I had no idea exactly where the haunts were located. We had the map showing where the haunted areas, both outdoor and inside were located, and where the live entertainment was being shown, but frankly the map wasn't that much help in finding where the entrance to each haunt was. We left the restaurant and saw a long line stretching along the sidewalk. We had no idea what it was for, so we asked some people what they were in line for. They told us that they had no real idea, that they saw a line and got into it, but that they thought it was for the train. The train? I learned later that it was for a haunted attraction called "Tombstone Terror-Tory" and did have something to do with the train (and perhaps explained why the train only had three cars on it) but we decided to move on towards the Eiffel Tower, one of the few rides that our British friends were willing to try (more on that later). While heading towards the tower, we unknowingly wandered into an outdoor Haunt called CarnEvil, a scary circus with the usual evil clowns located in the Planet Snoopy area. The actors were really very good, and our British friends were laughing with delight at being scared like little British schoolgirls!
Throughout the night we found several really good views of the Eiffel Tower, and Kings Island did a great job of using it to its full advantage. The top of the tower was adorned with a pair of evil, glowing red eyes, and the floodlights on the tower were often changing to make it look menacing and at time quite evil. The wait for the elevator to the top was not long, and the view as always was magnificent - except for our friends who didn't realize how much they hated heights. They still had a great time, but I never considered the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island to be such a thrill ride as it was for them!
We returned to earth, and got in line for CornStalkers - eventually. This was an ongoing problem with the haunts at Kings Island. We learned that they had a red neon skull-and crossbones to show the entrance to the haunts, but the line often extended so far past the sign that we had to walk a considerable distance in the dark with huge clouds of fog and smoke making the journey to the end of the line that much harder - plus the location of the Fright Lane (up-charge faster entrance) entrances made us often think we were at the end of the regular line only to realize that we weren't. The lines seemed to move remarkable quickly, considering how many people were there, and we were soon entering CornStalkers, located in the Tower Gardens.
I was familiar with CornStalkers at Cedar Point, and they had the same problems at Kings Island as they do at Cedar Point - not enough actors to really do a great job. There were long stretches where nothing was happening - just walking through the maze with nobody there other than other guests. We noticed this problem in most of the other haunted areas. They need more scare actors. At Cedar Point they are called Screamsters, but I can't find what they are called at Kings Island. The ones that were there were good, but too few and far between.
Leaving CornStalkers, I convinced our friends to ride Adventure Express, one of the more family-friendly coasters at Kings Island....at least to me. I had never ridden it at night, especially when it was completely dark, and it is a much more intense ride in the dark. Our British friends - well, we are still friends, but I don't know if they trust my judgment on what is a family coaster anymore. I still thought it was fun, and I suspect that they would admit that it was a thrilling ride, if not their idea of "fun".
We moved on down Coney Mall, renamed "Coney Maul" for the Haunt, and stumbled on two haunted houses, "Board to Death" and "KillMart." These are both rather good indoor haunts, "Board to Death" themed to family board games out to kill you on family game night and "KillMart," which was described as: "A new department store has opened in the neighborhood that has everything you need with killer deals in every aisle. Shop 'til you drop...dead!"
"Board to Death" was fun, but the layout was confusing and I kept walking into off-limit areas where the actors had to stop me and redirect me back to the right path. Very confusing and hard to find my way around. "KillMart" was more gory than scary, but despite that our friends were laughing hysterically throughout both. There was another haunt in this area, "Delta Delta Die," which is supposed to be in a sorority house where "something goes terribly wrong" but while we found the Fright Lane entrance with no problem and could see the regular line in places we never did find the end of the line to go into it.
By this time it was getting late and we were getting ready to head out. We decided to take our friends on the one attraction that I knew they would like and not be scared of - the dark ride "Boo Blasters on Boo Hill," and they had a great time shooting at ghosts. On the way we passed a stage in front of the Eiffel Tower and saw part of the live show "Blood Drums," which from what we saw was a great display of drumming and playing with fire. A little bit of last-minute shopping and were headed out to our car. We got out of the parking out very quickly - parking congestion is one thing I have never had a problem with at Kings Island.
There were several Haunts that we did not make it into - Wolf Pack," "Blackout," "Urgent Scare," "Slaughter House," "Madame Fatale's Cavern of Terror," and "Tombstone Terror-Tory," mostly because of the huge crowds but also because we simply could not find them. The map provided was not especially helpful in locating the entrance to these areas.
What stood out most vividly to me about the Halloween Haunt at Kings Island was that the entire park was transformed for the event. There was no outdoor area that didn't have fog, smoke, strolling scare actors, etc, and frankly at times it seemed a bit too much. Some of the areas were so dark and so heavily smoked that it was impossible to walk through them on your way to something with out walking into a complete stranger, or being walked into. Our British friends commented often about the music and sound effects heard throughout the entire park. They loved the eerie music, the scary sounds and the fact that you really never knew when a zombie would suddenly appear out of the mist to "greet" you. They loved the fact that they could be scared and startled without feeling threatened. It was a fun scare, and left them laughing so hard they were crying.
I would like to go back to Kings Island to experience the entire Haunt, and to find the areas that I was not able to see while there. There is much more that I could comment on that we didn't experience- the other live shows, the fact that several of the Haunts have a secret room that can only be opened with a Skeleton Key (up-charge with Fright Lane), the outdoor Scare Zones that we didn't find. I would say that, if you are looking for a really all-encompassing Halloween event that emphasizes fun, check out Halloween Haunts at Kings Island.Tweet
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