Howl-O-Scream Is on for 2020 at Busch Gardens Tampa

August 11, 2020, 11:58 AM · It's on. As teased yesterday, Busch Gardens Tampa is going ahead with its annual after-hours, hard-ticket Halloween scare event, Howl-O-Scream.

Other major theme parks have been canceling their Halloween haunt events due to the pandemic and the need for safe physical distancing. How can you stage a haunted house or maze with everyone six feet apart? These events typically feature jam-packed conga lines of guests snaking through tight quarters, with scareactors waiting to jump at every turn.

Busch Gardens is addressing this challenge by dumping the houses in favor of open-air scare zones at its event. And it is limiting event capacity to help promote physical distancing, as well.

"The creative production team has been consulting with medical experts and has modified this year’s event content with a focus on open-air scare zones and entertainment, as well as enhanced health and safety measures, while staying true to the core of this fan-favorite experience," the park said in its press release today.

Howl-O-Scream scare zone
Photo courtesy Busch Gardens Tampa

Howl-O-Scream will run for 18 nights — every Friday through Sunday from September 25 to November 1. Tickets will cost from $29.99-44.99 a night, depending upon when you visit. The number of tickets available for each night will be sharply reduced from previous years, due to the lower capacity for the event, so the park recommends buying tickets in advance online ASAP.

Announcements about the scare zones are to come, but Busch Gardens said that the event will feature the Fiends show on the Festival Field Stage, which bench seating arranged to support appropriate physical distancing between guests. Masks also will be required for all guests, as well as temperature screenings prior to entry.

Busch Gardens' sister park, SeaWorld Orlando, also announced today that its Halloween Spooktacular event, which is included with park admission, will return on September 19, running through November 1. Leading up to that, the park's Craft Beer Festival will run Saturdays and Sundays through September 20. And SeaWorld Orlando's Christmas Celebration will run select nights from November 23 through December 31.

For tickets to SeaWorld Orlando, please visit our travel partner's SeaWorld Orlando tickets page.

Replies (14)

August 11, 2020 at 5:11 PM

Mixing with people during a deadly pandemic is indeed scary, so I guess it will be a success in that regard.

August 11, 2020 at 9:25 PM

I finally got to go to Howl-O-Scream last year as part of my annual Halloween Horror Nights trip and I have to say, Busch Gardens beats Universal on Scare Zones pretty handily so this could be quite fun, particularly with fewer people in the park. I've been to many HHNs and while the houses at HHN certainly beat HOS, both in variety as they change them all each year and in obvious overall general quality, I actually found the many, many Scare Zones and Scare Zone costumes and actors to be far more interesting in Tampa than probably 90% of what I've seen in Orlando over the years. The layout and walkways certainly add to the effect as Busch Gardens' lengthy, dark, narrow, meandering pathways lend themselves so we'll to immersive scares far better than Universal Studios, but I just really enjoyed the genuinely unsettling and creepy feeling in the variety of Busch Gardens zones than the typically too loud, too crowded, and trying-too-hard nature of the Orlando ones. This could be a really great compromise event if they pull this off well!

August 12, 2020 at 4:19 AM

I agree with nrainone, BGT does do great scarezones especially walking up on the left of the park. The very dark, narrow walkways, flanked by bushes and trees are as nervy as any house. The first time we walked up them scareactors camouflaged as bushes jumped out in front of us from the right while scareactors attached to bungee ropes flew out of the trees over our heads, on our left..............and we were totally alone on the path.

This appears to be a pretty sensible compromise providing they limit attendance so social distancing can be adhered to and marshalled and people abide by the rules.

August 12, 2020 at 7:15 AM

I definitely plan on checking it out - Florida’s rate of infection is dropping and based on statistical estimates, millions of Floridians probably have had the virus now so we may be getting to significantly reduced transmission possibilities. That doesn’t mean it’s completely safe or to that you shouldn’t wear masks and social distance, just that the risk should be reduced at the parks if it’s mostly locals at BGT.

August 12, 2020 at 7:20 AM

The atmosphere of the scare zones at BGT are second to none, besting Universal for sure. But if you visit HOS annually, the repeating of the houses can get tired. Especially when revisiting for the third year in a row. I wonder how effective the scare zones will be this year when the scare actors must adhere to social distancing. Sounds like they might be relegated off to the sides and unable to mix with the crowd. They certainly won't be getting up in anyone's face to scare them. Which is much of what the scare actors do.

HOS and alcohol are inseparable. Social distancing and drinking generally don't mix well. Sounds like a lot of safety theater could be taking place. I will be skipping this year, for sure.

August 12, 2020 at 8:24 AM

They have done such a poor job in implementing/enforcing their social distancing and face mask requirements. I would have no confidence in their ability to make this event any better.
Sorry but SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa are a mess right now. They have become a part of Florida’s virus problem, not part of the solution.

August 12, 2020 at 2:51 PM

Rave5 - That’s kinda harsh statement of SEA/BGT - not sure if that’s your personal experience or reports from others but I haven’t seen any infections lately attributed to theme parks in Florida although I have no doubt some transmission has occurred. I think, like all businesses and other theme parks the initial introduction of risk reduction measures might have been rocky but those experiences and additional CDC guidance allowed for subsequent improvements. If these businesses remain closed it’s likely entertainment choices will dwindle significantly as well as those employed by these businesses.

August 12, 2020 at 3:23 PM

jeremygary, do you honestly get tired going through Motel Hell? My all-time favourite house inc those at HHN when I have attended. I usually do it 3-4 times per night and never get bored of it.

August 13, 2020 at 10:47 AM

Tiptop22 - I have been to the parks a few times, including last week. I stand by my statements. They are still a mess and I have no confidence they will change anytime soon.
Universal and Disney have done a much better job of enforcing their safety protocols.

The only parks in Orlando doing worse is the Fun Spot And IslandsH2Olive parks.

I love going to the parks and have for years. I want them all to thrive along with the Orlando economy. Disney and Universal has show how this can be done with limited risk. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are just adding to the spread, making the recover take longer and longer.

August 13, 2020 at 5:48 PM

Rave5 so you were so worried that Sea\BGT parks are a mess yet you still visited them - ummm ok lol ?? Gotcha

August 13, 2020 at 6:41 PM

Tiptop22 - I visited each park once when they reopened (left after 1 hour). Visited SeaWorld last week to see if they had improved, which they had not. (left after about 1 hour)

Before I make comments about a park I check it out for myself.
So no - “ummm ok lol??“

I do find their lack of safety enforcement frustrating because we paid for an annual pass that we feel unsafe using. (And SeaWorld is not offering reimbursements.) I can also tell you many visitors and passholders are unhappy with their poor performance on safety. It will be interesting to see if their short term cash grab plays out as well for them long term.

August 14, 2020 at 8:23 AM

Ah I see you have a pass and don’t feel comfortable using it now - especially if you have an underlying condition - that’s understandable. I think that’s different than proclaiming that they are purposefully spreading the virus all over Florida. There are lots of places that could be spreading it like people’s own homes, schools, offices, grocery, etc. Hopefully SeaWorld will satisfy your refund request and you’ll feel better about it.

August 14, 2020 at 4:56 PM

Tiptop22 - That was not the focus of my point. They have only about 50% of their guests wearing mask and following social distancing markers. I have multiple photos and so do many other guests and bloggers. When management is confronted about not enforcing their state approved guidelines they have frequently responded that it’s to hard to get the guest to comply with their rules. (I have personally been told that by 2 managers.) Others have been told the same. In my short visits I have even seen staff not wearing masks correctly.
If you have several thousands guest, with this lack of safety protocols being enforce, you are spreading the virus in Florida with its current numbers.

Have you been to SeaWorld or Busch Gardens since they reopened? If yes what have you seen as far compliance and enforcement of their stated safety rules?

August 15, 2020 at 3:02 PM

Rave5 I’d just see if you can get a refund - I think you’ll be happier and feel safer. . I wonder what’s driving the much high infection rate in S Florida- the lack of enforcement of safety protocols at theme parks or something else ...

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