Vote of the week: Which Halloween event should you visit?

September 21, 2018, 1:12 PM · Knott's Scary Farm kicked off last night in Southern California and Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream gets started tonight in Central Florida, completing the opening of this year's major theme park haunts in the country's top theme park markets.

Some of you already have booked trips to visit one or more of these events. Those who live in Florida or California might hit up all of the ones in their area. And a few of you sick souls will head out across the country to hit all of them. But for those of you who haven't committed to Halloween plans just yet, let's ask the big question...

Which theme park Halloween event should you go to?

There's no wrong answer here, of course, but there certainly will be some sharply divided opinions. To focus the question a bit, let's put up two votes: one for Central Florida and the other for Southern California.

The common player in both markets is Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, which runs select nights between now and November 3 this year. But they're not the same event. Though they both feature mazes themed to Stranger Things, Poltergeist, Halloween 4, and Trick 'r Treat this year, Orlando also features five original-themed houses, while Hollywood features a maze themed to Universal's classic monsters as well as the Terror Tram overlay of the park's iconic Studio Tour. (Here's our review of this year's Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood.)

Knott's Scary Farm is the original theme park Halloween event, now celebrating its 46th year of scaring Southern California fans. This year's Scary Farm features two new mazes — the SciFi-themed Dark Entities and the underground cave of The Depths. There's also a new scare zone, Forsaken Lake, and a new show in the Charles M. Schulz Theatre, Hacks - Cutting Room Floor, a salute to "B" movie horror films. (That's a common theme this year, with Universal Orlando's Slaughter Sinema.)

Six Flags Magic Mountain's Fright Fest this year is getting into the licenses IP space by featuring a maze based on the upcoming movie Hell Fest, one of 13 mazes and scare zones at the event, including two other new mazes and two new scare zones this year. (Unlike other theme park events, a separate admission is not required to enter the park for Fright Fest, though one is needed to get into the mazes.) Over in Florida, Busch Gardens is dropping two new mazes this year: Insomnia and Simon's Slaughterhouse.

Simon's Slaughterhouse

So, our theme park Halloween experts, which are your go-to events? And why?


Of course, you can find Halloween scares at theme parks elsewhere in the country and around the world over the next two months. In the comments, please tell us about your trips to some of those other events... and which ones you would recommend.

Happy haunting!

Replies (14)

September 21, 2018 at 1:24 PM

LOL no love for Six Flags.

September 21, 2018 at 1:26 PM

I’ve never been to Busch Gardens for Halloween which is kind of depressing since I’ve been a passholder for 19 years now.

Universal is always a lot of fun, but it’s just not in the budget for this year.

September 21, 2018 at 1:52 PM

Well, Fright Fest just for the closeness of a Six Flags park and is fun seeing how each park integrates it.

September 21, 2018 at 4:24 PM

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party ... Far too many drunks at UO.

September 21, 2018 at 5:37 PM

^As opposed to Disney, with the Food and Wine Festival (plenty of drunks there).

September 22, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Too many stroller at MNSSHP

September 22, 2018 at 4:54 PM

i’d agree ^^^ @TH Creative too many strollers at MNSSHP. i’ll stick with halloween horror nights haha!

September 23, 2018 at 3:56 AM

Just a brief word on Howl-O-Scream. I did it for the first time in 2016 and again 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed both times. The crowds are minuscule compared to HHN and you can do the entire event in a single night and be completely relaxed with it. Motel Hell, introduced in 2016, and still part of the roster this year, is my favourite house of all, inc HHN. I love it and did it 7 times over the 2 years with single night tickets. You can't do that at HHN!

With the introduction of only 1 or 2 new houses per year, HOS may not be a "must do" every year but for those yet to experience it or those who haven't been for 3-4 years it is highly recommended. And, my early bird last year was $29.99!

September 24, 2018 at 10:33 AM

The mazes this year are AMAZING !!!

September 24, 2018 at 10:40 AM

I have to say they are all a major rip off. I've been to Universal Horror Nights (the worst offender) just 2 days ago, "Nots" Scary Farm (another place for high schoolers) and the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor. So far Dark Harbor has been the best of the 3, probably because its not nearly as popular. Knotts is too crowded and its more jump-scare tactics but really low level sets-- not good at all. Universal was an absolute nightmare and rip off- $100 for early admission and I didn't see all the mazes because wait times as soon as 7pm hit skyrocketed to 120 minutes, even if you paid an extra $100 for a fast pass it was still 30-40 minute wait times! Unacceptable! In addition, because of the crowds it wasn't scary since you could clearly see where the creatures were hiding, and don't get me started on all the workers standing around with glowsticks pointing you out of the mazes every 2 minutes...

September 24, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Is this the right place and time to suggest Halloween overlays to beloved attractions that lend themselves to them, like the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Would it be sacrilege to suggest something similar over at The Wizarding World? Hope so, and hope not, respectively. I know thousands of guests would want to experience these legendary attractions in their conventional (mortal) states, But I'd love to see it.

September 25, 2018 at 5:54 PM

@184.89.147.180 what are you thinking, like a Apocalypse Now overlay for Jungle Cruise? How does that ride lend itself to Halloween exactly?

September 26, 2018 at 5:54 AM

Need to try Busch Gardens this year. Universal has become too crowded and too expensive to see properly

September 26, 2018 at 2:16 PM

OK so this is going to be an unpopular opinion but I dislike pretty much all of the fall events for the following reasons:

First off its still hot as balls outside. To me September and October always feel like the hottest time of year. Maybe because its cooled off in other areas of the country but here in Florida this time of year it just stays in the 90s with high humidity, and at the time when going to theme parks in most parts of the country has finally become brisk, it just stays hot here. Last year I drove up to Atlanta and went to Fright Fest because I wanted to ride coasters but not deal with the humidity and it was still hot and humid as hell in October up there as well. Honestly if it were even in the low 80s I would like the fall theme park events a lot more.

Second is Horror Nights and Food and Wine to me are by far the most over rated events in the industry. Honestly I like Fright Fest at the various SF parks more than Horror Nights because they focus more on fall undertones while HHN surprisingly has very little Halloween decorations, its pretty much all about the houses and gore i'm not a big haunted house guy. This brings me to my next point.

HHN is WAY too gory for me. It's over the top and honestly comes across as disgusting and tacky. I know my opinion doesn't matter in this situation as obviously the event is always packed and makes tons of money.

In regards to Disney Mickey's Not So Scary, its OK but now that Disney realized it can be a cash cow I just don't enjoy it anymore because its just too crowded and hot. I try not to use that as a knock against Disney because the reality is the Halloween events at every park are typically cash cows for them (Disney certainly doesn't sell nearly as many tickets to their Halloween parties as Universal does for HHN), but I don't think the event is good enough to justify the crowds and heat. I think the park needs more decorations and more characters (at least to combat the long lines), and i'm not a big fan of the parade compared to the regular day parade.

Then there's Food & Wine, another sh*tshow display of the human condition. I think this pretty much speaks for itself. I've always been more of an attractions and overall park atmosphere guy than a food guy, it's so funny to me that people will pay big bucks to get into a theme park just to spend even more big bucks going around eating and drinking the whole time but hey to each his own. Food and alcohol are obviously cash cows so parks are happy to hop on that train. Nowadays I pretty much just avoid Epcot in September and October.

I absolutely love going to the parks for their Christmas events: Disney, Sea World, Busch Gardens, hell even Six Flags all have phenomenal events. Between the decorations, shows, and weather the parks are just a pleasure to be at. Fall is the exact opposite.

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