Theme Park of the Day: Knott's Berry Farm

Why do so many theme park fans love Halloween events?

October 28, 2010, 11:45 AM · My kids have been talking about their plans for trick-or-treating this weekend, and I caught myself asking:

"Halloween? Didn't we do that already?"

Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland

In the theme park world, Halloween's grown from a one-night party to a month-long festival. We've long finished off the candy the kids collected at Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland earlier this month, but Halloween - officially - doesn't arrive until this weekend. Here on Theme Park Insider, we've been writing about Halloween for months, covering the build-up and launch of big events such as Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.

Even as Halloween expands backward into September, many fans just can't get enough.

Why is that? I invite your thoughts in the comments, but here's mine, to start:

Halloween's rep is all about scares and death. But in practice, a great theme park Halloween event really just celebrates friendship. You go through a haunted house or scare zone, get scared out of your mind - and you and your friends get to laugh about it.

Over, and over, again.

It's all about humility: seeing yourself reduced to screams or tears, and having your friends see that, as well. And you see the same, from them. The shared humility becomes a bonding experience.

And let's not forget the young gentlemen taking young ladies on dates to Halloween events, hoping that a strong scare might, uh, lead the young lady into the gentleman's arms. ;-)

(That's why the good scareactors target the girl in a couple walking down the street, but the great ones target the guy. Let's let the ladies see what their men are made of.)

More than any other theme park event, Halloween events depend upon audience response. If the park provides the scares and the people provide the right attitude, it's a great night - the largest, friendliest party you'll ever attend.

Even the kid-friendly, trick-or-treat events elicit a similar spirit. No one's getting scared, but lots of kids are getting together for that inevitable post-trick-or-treat after-market of I'll-trade-this-for-that.

Theme parks, are, at their heart, a shared narrative experience. Even if you go by yourself, you're never alone. Halloween events amplify that sense of community. That's why so many fans love them.

Your thoughts?

Replies (5)

October 28, 2010 at 12:23 PM · Halloween is also about dressing up and pretending, something very big in theme parks, especially at Disney and Universal.

I like the friendship aspect of it!

October 28, 2010 at 1:25 PM · Plus it's awesome seeing something you're so familiar with... the streets of Universal Studios... suddenly become a fog-filled breeding ground for zombies.

And definitely the friendship, shared moments. One theme park employee didn't shut the door to the claw machines in the arcade properly, so everyone in my group (20+) walked away with plush toys to remember the night by.

October 30, 2010 at 7:46 AM · I am a baby boomer -- and am doing my best to stay in a young frame of mind and enjoy myself as I get older. Just because you are a certain "number" doesn't mean you have to be serious and not have fun any more! My husband and I enjoy Halloween because it extends your summer and theme park season -- winter in Indiana can be depressing at time when you don't see the sun for days and/or weeks at a time.'
Halloween gives you a chance to pretend to be someone else, or let someone scare you; escaping the daily stress many of us have, going to work, along with many of our other responsibilities. It also brings back fond childhood memories of trick-or-treating when you would be able to stay out all day gathering candy, and not being limited by the two or three hours many areas of the country limit trick-or-treating. Happy Halloween to you all :)
October 31, 2010 at 7:57 PM · I guess I love the Halloween events because theme parks are the only place during Halloween time that you can pay an admission to enter an entirely different and huge world that's all based around horror or Autumn-feeling themes.

In the summer the small hotdog shop around the corner was just another food stop. But now it's decorated with cornstalk, pumpkins, and is selling "eyeballs-on-a-stick." I guess the reason why I like the Halloween events at theme parks is because theme parks are so massive and make me forget what's outside of the park. Isolating me into a Halloween world.

But that might just be me :)

November 2, 2010 at 9:26 AM · Growing up in the 60's & early 70's, Halloween was such a wonderful time for my friends and me. We'd talk about what we were going to be weeks before hand. We'd load our bags, run home..empty them and run out for more. Sadly the door to door trick or treating has dwindled down. Halloween is a time when you can be someone or something you're not the rest of the year. Now, thanks to these great theme parks, we can extend it through weeks of fun and thrills. We've gone to Busch Gardens Williamsburg the last two years, and had an awesome time. Already talking about next year, and the fun we'll have.

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