How to Enjoy a Theme Park Halloween in California
As summer winds to an end and the calendar marches into September, Theme Parks start gearing up for their annual Halloween events. To get you ready, we put together a run down of all the major Theme Park Halloween events happening on the West Coast, and some of the new features at each one.
Halloween Haunt California’s Great America
Great America’s Halloween Haunt kicks off on September 23 this year, with the biggest new attraction being a new VR experience. The attraction, called Fear VR: 5150, puts guests into the role of a patient in a demonic mental hospital. Details of the terrifying attraction can be found in Brady McDonald’s review in the LA Times. Halloween Haunt has also added five new “skeleton key” attractions this year, adding “a new level of interactivity” for guests. Along with the new VR and skeleton key experiences, CGA returns 8 mazes and 3 scare zones to the park, along with four returning live shows to round out the Haunt experience at California’s Great America. Be warned though, Fear VR is an extra cost attraction, and the five skeleton keys require a skeleton key purchase, so to get any of the new attractions you’re going to have to pay extra. Full details on Halloween Haunt at Great America (including ticket prices) can be found on their Haunt website.
Knott’s Scary Farm
One the biggest (and best) Halloween events in the country Knott’s Scary Farm returns this year September 22. Like with Great America, Knott’s is adding the Fear VR: 5150 attraction to its Halloween lineup this year, but they’re also adding two new mazes, multiple new skeleton key rooms, two new shows, and a new scare zone! The new scare zone will be an expansive area themed on the legend of the Headless Horseman and Sleepy Hollow. Kind of a cool idea to use a well-known actual legend as the basis for the scare zone. The two new mazes are the Red Barn, for which Knott’s has a fun “back story” post on its blog, and Shadowland, themed as an ancient Japanese temple infested with the souls of fallen samurai. That sounds awesome. The new shows include a return (by popular demand) of Elvira, Mistress of the Night, being the face of Knott’s Scary farm in one show, and the gory comedy show “The Hanging”.
Along with all this new stuff, the park will be returning three scare zones and multiple mazes, for a total of 9 mazes and 4 scare zones. Important to note that one of the mazes is a new version of the interactive zombie fighting scarezone from last year, “Black Ops: Infected”. Glad to see that coming back, since fighting killer zombies with a laser gun is about as awesome as a Halloween event can get. For a complete rundown of all of the attractions at the giant Scary Farm event this Halloween, and details on tickets, check out the Knott’s page for it here.
Of course, Knott’s also has things for younger kids during the day. They’ll be doing plenty of activities like trick-or-treating and costume contests, plus special festivties in honor of the 50th anniversary of the classic Peanuts Halloween special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” A good run down of all the kid-friendly Halloween stuff (and there are that sound pretty fun) is over at the Orange County Breeze, so check it out if you, like me, don’t like be terrified.
Fright Fest Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Back up in Norther California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom returns Fright Fest for Halloween this year, starting on September 24. The biggest addition for Fright Fest is one we reported on last month, the addition of a gargoyle themed virtual reality addition to Kong, Discovery Kingdom’s SLC roller coaster. The new VR roller coaster will add an interactive element to the ride, as you try to fight off flying monsters while zooming around the track. Since I was a big fan of the New Revolution VR at Magic Mountain, and it means Kong is getting new (better?) restraints, this is a pretty awesome upgrade.
In more traditional Halloween attractions, Discovery Kingdom will have a bunch of events for kids during the day, like trick-or-treating and cookie decorating. At night, five mazes open up, including the new “Dark Oak Asylum” maze, themed after and old, uhh, Asylum. Three scare zones will dot Discovery Kingdom, and several Halloween themed shows, including one water based Fright Fest show in the Dolphin Stadium will also be part of the festivities. Full details of the Fright Fest attractions is on the Discovery Kingdom Fright Fest page.
Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Magic Mountain kicks off their Halloween Fright Fest kicks off earlier than most of the other parks, with the first Fright Fest night coming up on September 17, and running on days scattered throughout the rest of September and October. Magic Mountain is tapping into the DC license for Fright Fest this year, adding a new scare zone themed off the major DC summer movie, Suicide Squad. The DC Universe section of the park will be transformed, and according to the press release, “state-of-the-art digital imagery and fiery special effects will create an inferno as buildings burst into flames and creatures attack from every angle.” It also sounds like some of the “heroes” from Suicide Squad will be roaming the area.
The other major addition to Fright Fest at Magic Mountain is the largest outdoor maze ever built at the park, “Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising”. The 40,000 square foot maze takes the form of a post-apocalyptic city populated by roaming warriors and wandering zombies. The are outside Aftermath 2 is also a new scare zone, similarly themed in a ruined city of the future.
In total Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest will feature seven mazes, seven scare zones, and several of the coasters will be run in complete darkness. A couple of Halloween shows are also part of the lineup. The full list of Fright Fest dates, information on the maze pass price, and the complete list of attractions is on their Fright Fest page.
Halloween Time at Disneyland and California Adventure
Disneyland’s Halloween time has actually already started, beginning last weekend on September 9. The main highlight of Halloween this year is an ongoing special tribute to TwilightZone Tower of Terror before it closes for it’s conversion to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. According to the press release for the tribute, “During the celebration, guests who arrive after twilight will enjoy “Late Check-Out”–-a chance to venture beyond the fifth dimension into complete darkness. It’s something guests have never experienced before: free-falling in the attraction’s haunted elevator shaft with all the lights out.” There will also be special musical performances and commemorative merchandise and food honoring the attraction before it departs.
The other new event at Disneyland this year is the “Frightfully Fun Parade” as part of the separately ticketed “Mickey’s Halloween Party’ on select nights leading up to Halloween. The parade will feature famous Disney villains, and halloween-y Disney characters like Jack Skellington.
Other Disneyland Halloween time favorites are back, including the Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion overlay, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, the Dia De Los Muertos attractions in Frontierland, and more. All the details on Halloween Time at Disneyland can be found on their site, although the biggest tip for it: if you go on a day that “Mickey’s Halloween Party” is happening and want to stay into the night, YOU MUST PURCHASE A TICKET FOR THE EVENT. And the party ticket doesn’t get you access to the park until three hours before the party. So, if you want to spend a full day at the park as cheaply as possibly, go on a date that the party isn’t happening. Some good tips for the party and some more explanation of the ticketing is in this post over at the great Disney Tourist Blog.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
Finally, maybe the biggest Halloween event of the year anywhere, Universal Studios always elaborate Halloween Horror Nights. This years line-up will include seven total horror mazes, including the now permanent Walking Dead maze. The mazes all tap into well known TV and movie properties. Three are based on famous slasher flicks, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Freddy vs. Jason. One is based on the more recent film, Krampus, and one is based on the popular TV show, American Horror Story (featuring three vignettes from the show). But, maybe the most exciting, the finals maze is based on one of the ultimate horror films of all time, The Exorcist. There’s a great piece by Brady McDonald of the LA Times with John Murdy, the director of Horror nights, on the new maze, highly recommend checking it out if you’re a film or horror geek.
Along with the mazes, the park introduces an all new “Terror Tram”, featuring an original story by horror film maker Eli Roth, which traces the story of a clown turned Hollywood serial killer. Additionally, the masked hip-hop dancers Jabbawockeez return for the second year in a row as the only show at Horror Nights after drawing crowds last year. Finally, Universal has done away with the traditional “scare zones” of past years and other parks, and is instead theme the entire park after the “Purge” series of films. Weapon wielding vigilantes will spread chaos throughout the entire park this year.
Horror Nights begins Friday September the 14th, and actually runs into November a little bit, with the last night being November 5. The park does offer some combo afternoon/night tickets if you want to make a nearly full day of your stop at Universal, but you can also get just night tickets. Everything you might want to know about the attractions at Halloween Horror Nights, and details on the tickets, can be found on the Universal site here. Take note, Wizarding World of Harry Potter won’t be open at night during Horror nights, so you might want to get the combo ticket if you want to fill up on butter beer before getting scared.
That covers the major California parks, although just to cover all of our bases, details on the SeaWorld “Halloween Spooktacular” can be found here. For Legoland’s Brick-Or-Treat nights (including extended park hours) check out their page here. Have any plans to make it to any Halloween events this year? Let us know in the comments below, and of course, if you’re not on the West Coast, Coaster101 might still have you covered. Check out our preview of SCarowinds, for example, and of course follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest info. Heck, yell at us what park Halloween stuff you want us to write about and we’ll do our best to get on it!