About Theme Parks, who is from Massachusetts, and California's Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider tangle, it's coastal wars. The veteran park journalists will be tackling topics and defending the alleged superiority of their respective regions in a series of concurrent articles. Befitting their professional demeanors, the exchanges will be collegial and respectful. Oh, who are we kidding? The gloves will be coming off for knock-down, drag-out, cage match fights to the finish. The two start by taking a stab at theme park Halloween events. Who will draw first blood?Forget the coaster wars. When Arthur Levine of
Sure, Theme Park Insider readers voted Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights as the industry's best theme park event last year. So I cannot begrudge Arthur leaning on that event to proclaim the east coast the better coast for Spooky Season. But of all people, those of us in Southern California know that one or two stars are not enough to win a championship. If they were, the LA Angels' Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani would be wearing World Series rings.
No, you need also a deep bench of supporting players to win a title. That is what makes Southern California the best location in the country for Halloween haunts. [See what Arthur has to say in Why Florida Slays California.]
Arthur has to broaden his focus to the entire east coast to find enough Halloween events to make a compelling argument for his side. Meanwhile, I can stay within just three California counties to make mine. Let's start, as Arthur predicted, with the event that started it all – the runner-up among Theme Park Insider readers for Best Halloween Event – Knott's Scary Farm.
There remains no spookier setting during the Halloween season than the fog-filled scare zone of Ghost Town during Knott's Scary Farm. This is blood-spurting, beating heart of Halloween horror. Knott's does not regurgitate movie scenes for its Halloween event – every maze here is an original concept, often presented with innovative staging, jaw-dropping production design, and many scare actors who bring the talent and experience of motion picture, television, and professional stage résumés to their roles.
But if you want all those movie references in a Halloween event, Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights delivers. Despite what Arthur said, Universal held its first Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood in 1986, and not in Orlando, where the event started under the Fright Nights name in 1991. Hollywood's event might not be as big as its younger sibling in Orlando, but when you step off the Terror Tram onto Universal Studios Hollywood's backlot, you are walking the very ground where Hollywood horror was born in the early 20th century. Talk about chills.
What about Disney? The Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure beats Walt Disney World's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party by giving the Disney baddies an attraction of their own with Villains Grove – the first Halloween maze in a Disney theme park in the United States. Putting the after-hours Halloween party at California Adventure allows Disneyland to run its special Halloween Screams nighttime show for all guests, who also get to enjoy Halloween overlays on multiple attractions across the two parks, including Haunted Mansion Holiday, Guardians of the Galaxy Monsters After Dark, and two Cars Land rides. Good luck finding much Halloween outside the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Down in San Diego County, we have Brick or Treat at Legoland California and Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld San Diego, matching their sister events in Florida. But head back up the 5 to LA County, and we have a Six Flags Fright Fest at Magic Mountain, another Halloween event that Florida lacks.
But here is the real Insider secret. Southern California wins with its countless world-class haunts located beyond its theme parks. The Thirteenth Floor produces outstanding events across LA County, such as the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, the interactive theater experience Delusion at a real-life Haunted Mansion in Pomona, and the brand-new Shaqtoberfest next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Or just drive around town and stop to enjoy some of the many home haunts created by fans with professional themed entertainment or theatrical design experience. Southern California is the Entertainment Capital of the World, and we do not take Halloween off.
Finally, Southern California also is home to Midsummer Scream, the world's largest Halloween-themed convention, which previews and kicks off the season from its home in Long Beach each summer.
Sorry, Arthur. You can wander about the east coast looking for the Halloween spirit. But I can find it all right here at home. Check into the Hotel California, Halloween fans. Because once you get here, you never will want to leave.
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