Vote of the week: Should theme park Halloween events deliver scares, or sweets?

October 14, 2010, 9:10 PM · Theme parks' Halloween events have become wildly popular, with thousands of fans filling queues at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Halloween festivities driving attendance and revenue at Disneyland, to cite just two examples.

But as the theme park industry milks its season-extending cash cow, individual parks are dividing into two camps.

The older camp presents Halloween as a frightful affair, with guts, gore and scares (examples are from top year-'round theme parks):

Getting scared at Howl-O-Scream

But a (relatively) newer collection of events presents a more child-friendly version of Halloween, based largely upon trick-or-treating:

Costumes at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Which type of Halloween event do you prefer? That's our vote of the week.

To be fair, many of the parks that offer scare-filled Halloween events in the evening (Knott's, Six Flags) offer kid-friendly Halloween festivities during the daytime. But it's still interesting to me to see how one holiday elicits two very different styles of celebration.

Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did, or just which theme park Halloween events you're looking forward to visiting this month.

Replies (13)

October 14, 2010 at 9:18 PM · Halloween Horror Nights is best!
October 15, 2010 at 2:50 AM · I often find myself wishing that there was another "candidate" to vote for in your polls. In this case, I wish you had a choice for "I enjoy both the fun, not-scary,candy stuff AND the scary stuff". At Cedar Point, I like the great daytime decorations they have all over the park (the graveyard of dead rides is my favorite!)and the giant dancing monsters doing the "Monster Mash" on the midway, but I also enjoy the dark, fog-filled scary haunts that come out at night. It's like Christmas- the religious importance of it is central to my celebrations of my faith, but I also enjoy seeing a kid sitting on Santa's lap and watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with my son sitting on my lap. The two do not cancel each other out, but actually make the season more complete.
October 15, 2010 at 4:27 AM · I'm sort of on the fence, although I prefer the "heavy horror" stuff and voted accordingly. But although I enjoy that part of it, the fact that the less scary, daytime, kid-friendly attractions at the parks I frequent keep the crowds down is a major plus. You're taking your kids trick or treating in the park? Good, I'll go ride El Toro for an hour. Then around 4 pm the park starts to fill up with the teens and adults, and it becomes a struggle to get on more than a few rides.
October 15, 2010 at 6:05 AM · I think when I was younger, I used to enjoy the whole getting candy scene. Now, I don't really care too much about candy and would much rather get scared and have fun that way.

I'm definitely for Halloween Horror Nights. Just one visit and now I'm hooked!

October 15, 2010 at 6:29 AM · Six Flags does split it up, but at SFGA they decided to do it in house with the scares and, in my opinion, is not scary at all! I guess its the thought that counts!
October 15, 2010 at 6:30 AM · The anon. poster was me!
October 15, 2010 at 7:20 AM · FWIW, I've found that when I offer the "all of the above" option, that's what the majority picks. (Hey, we're theme park fans. If it's in a theme park, chances are we're going to like it!) So I try to push the leaners instead, to find what's the one thing that you really like, most of all.
October 15, 2010 at 7:57 AM · I prefer the children's version of Halloween. I don't like the idea of people jumping over me to scare me. I like the costumes, I like the pumpkins, I like the treat or tricking. It reminds me of my childhood.
October 15, 2010 at 9:49 AM · I enjoy both HHN and MNSSHP immensely, but if I had to choose...definitely HHN!!
October 15, 2010 at 11:01 AM · Some parks have a narrow definition of scary. Gore and violence aren't the only things that scare. Enchantment, charm, fascination, and mystery are also scary.
October 15, 2010 at 11:02 AM · Some parks have a narrow definition of scary. Gore and violence aren't the only things that scare. Enchantment, charm, fascination, and mystery are also scary.
October 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM · Personally, I like the scary stuff. Not cause I get scared, but because I love watching everyone else get scared (and try to interact with the scare actors as much as I can.)

Honestly, I admire scare actors. I would be cracking up the entire time.

October 15, 2010 at 5:15 PM · I think each park caterers to it's main clientle. The steel coaster AMUSEMENT parks that cater to teens, do the scary, gory Halloween and the THEME parks that cater to families do the fun Halloween. The interesting difference is Universal. Although they would be considered more of a THEME park than an AMUSEMENT park. The scary Halloween fits them better due their reliance on movies. And Universal does have some GREAT classic monsters.
The one thing I don't understand is with all the gangbangers and punk kids at Knotts and SFMM, how is their "scary" Halloween different than any other regular day?? Which is scarier? A gangbanger that might ACTUALLY start a fight with you? (actually happened to me at SFMM) or a monster that is pretending to scare you?

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