Halloween News: It's Scary How Many Haunts There Are Outside Theme Parks

September 25, 2014, 12:50 PM · Up to this point most of my columns have been on Halloween events at theme parks -- which makes sense, given the address of the website you are currently on. But there’s a large, diverse and disorganized world of Halloween haunts that don’t take place next to roller coasters and churro stands. This roundup is far from exhaustive (and is really more of a starting point), so please pitch your favorite in the comments below.

Dark Harbor
Image courtesy The Queen Mary

Dark Harbor is one of the better known haunts in Southern California. It’s hosted at the Perma-Docked Queen Mary and boasts six mazes, half of which are held on the ship itself. The ship is “known to be haunted” during daylight hours, so adding monsters and mazes seems like a natural fit. Tickets (general admission) cost $24 and the event runs from Oct. 2 to Nov. 2.

Staying in Southern California, the Los Angeles Haunted Hay Ride has three mazes, a show and the titular hay ride available for a range of prices depending on how many attractions you wish to experience and the night you visit. It’s big, it’s theatrical and it’s a heck of a lot of fun -- not to mention that it reminds you that there are actually trees in Los Angeles!

The Haunted Hotel in San Diego is one of three attractions around the city all operated by the same company. The Hotel is the longest-running haunt in San Diego and is certainly the most famous. Located in the Gaslamp District, the hotel runs from late September (tomorrow night is opening night!) until late October. Tickets are available online for $17.

The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park and the Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds are the other haunts under this umbrella, though it doesn’t appear a ticket exists that will get you into all three.

The Haunted Stadium is here more for its incredible website than its world-renowned scares, but the setting of a baseball field is something particularly neat for me as a sports fan. The maze takes place at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore (about halfway to San Diego if you’re coming from Rancho Cucamonga) and tickets are available for $15. There are no movie-quality sets here, but it’s a lot of fun.

Blood Manor is one of many highly-rated haunts in New York -- this one can be found in Lower Manhattan. Blood Manor hosts six mazes for around $35, but it’s a few of the non-traditional things listed on their website that caught my attention. They will be utilizing a “timed-entry” system this year to speed up maze queues, similar in concept (it sounds like) to a FastPass ticket. You come at the time printed on your ticket and wait in a greatly reduced line. Sounds great.

In addition to timed-entry being offered this year, Blood Manor is hosting “Touch Me Thursdays” in which guests can “experience ‘limited contact’ from the inhabitants of Blood Manor during their journey through the attraction. All touching will be either below the knees or from the shoulders up. A signed waiver is required.”

Nightmare NYC is another Lower Manhattan haunt, this one taking inspiration from the fears that exist right in New Yorker’s backyards. Sadly, a maze commemorating the Boston Red Sox World Series success is not a part of the event, but a maze that features “rats created by Superstorm Sandy” must be good, right?

Moving north of the border for our final maze, Screemers is a long-running maze in Toronto next to BMO Field (where Toronto FC plays). It appears they also have an event that takes place in nearby Hamilton -- in addition to a website with an autoplaying video as their background. Sorry for the late warning. Allegedly you can buy your tickets online, but I’m having trouble finding a place where they’re actually for sale. The haunt starts running on Oct. 10.

Like I said, this list is far from exhaustive. I want to hear what your favorite local haunt is! Post it in the comments so we can all see what we’re missing out on. I’ll be at Knott’s Berry Farm for Haunt on Saturday and look forward to bringing back a trip report on Sunday morning. Have fun out there!

Editor's Note: Please take a moment to rate and review theme park Halloween events here on Theme Park Insider. We'll present the best of the best in an upcoming "Monday Top 10" column.

Replies (6)

September 25, 2014 at 5:23 PM · I live in London so I can recommend two all year long venues: The London Dungeon and the London Bridge Experience. Besides, there are the Clink Prison Museum (the original prison dates back to 1144) and the famed "haunted castles" in and around the city
September 26, 2014 at 4:57 AM · FWIW, I got the press release for Fright Fest at SFGA today
September 26, 2014 at 6:30 AM · Kersey Valley Spookywoods in Archdale, NC is one of the best haunts I've ever been too. with a haunted hayride, corn maze and a haunted trail all for one price. they also have a zip line course populated with zombies below you.
September 26, 2014 at 7:35 AM · Halloween has become big business, and there are tons of non-theme park related haunts out there. One of my fellow Busch Gardens Blogger Ambassadors actually specializes in haunted attractions around the country. She spends the entire month of October traveling the east coast rating different events from HHN all the way down to the guy on the corner with some creepy scares in his backyard.

There are almost too many to count and tabulate these days, but most of the good ones are very well publicized. I seem to recall a group from LA actually got an investment on Shark Tank last season to expand their offerings.

September 26, 2014 at 8:24 AM · There are hundreds of haunts out there! I'm actually the Senior Editor for www.louisvillehalloween.com where I cover all the haunts in Louisville and Southern Indiana, of which there at least 10 annually. Theme Park Insider fans would probably really enjoy Grim Trails Haunted Attraction run by a father & son team with 30 years of home haunting experience who are big Walt Disney and Universal fans. This year they constructed a full size Maleficent's Castle complete with drawbridge, catacombs and dragon. Maleficent changes into a life size fire breathing dragon right before the guest's eyes. You can get a little preview here: http://www.louisvillehalloween.com/grim-trails-review-2014/


Darkride Rod

September 27, 2014 at 6:48 PM · So much for Great America......

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