How the Top Theme Parks Are Celebrating Halloween

How the Top Theme Parks Are Celebrating Halloween

With so many options, it’s easy to match clients to the right Halloween experience By: Samantha Davis-Friedman
<p>Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion gets extra spooky during Halloween time. // © 2015 Disneyland Resort</p><p>Feature image (above): Legoland’s...

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion gets extra spooky during Halloween time. // © 2015 Disneyland Resort

Feature image (above): Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat Ghost Cruise // © 2015 Legoland

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It’s that time of year again: Summer is winding down, kids are back in school and store displays all over town are filled with Halloween candy. Believe it or not, Halloween is just around the corner, and what’s also lurking is a spook or two just waiting to startle unsuspecting theme park guests.

“The important thing to note when selling Halloween theme park packages is the children’s ages and if they enjoy being scared,” said Meredith Wallace of Minnie Memories Travel in Bedford, New York.

Fortunately, whether guests seek chills and thrills or just a little holiday fun, there’s something for everyone at this year’s theme park Halloween events.  

Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Fright Fest features seven mazes and seven “enter at your own risk” scare zones, plus the park adds an ominous element to its already heart-stopping coasters with “Terror Tracks,” where the lights are turned off, forcing riders to face their fears in total darkness.

For Noah (age 19), just watching horror movies isn’t enough. 

“The [theme park] Halloween attractions bring me into the horror films I grew up watching,” he said, which, for a fan of horror movies, adds a whole new dimension to the experience.

The mazes at Fright Fest are intended to do just that. By incorporating state-of-the-art props and make-up, they create horrifying experiences that are not for the faint of heart. In Red’s Revenge, both the wolf and park guests are hunted by Red Riding Hood and her demonic minions, and in The Aftermath, one of the largest and most popular mazes in Southern California, bloodthirsty post-apocalyptic warriors terrorize unsuspecting park guests.

Two new scare zones are also being added to this year’s event: The mechanical beasts of Terrortory Twisted will ruthlessly hunt down their victims, and the maniacal comic characters of Sinister Circuit are released into the park amid a burst of mind-boggling lighting effects. With seven scare zones located throughout the park, Fright Fest guests literally have nowhere to hide.

Note: Fright Fest takes place at all Six Flags parks.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios
Every fall, the streets of Universal Studios Florida are taken over by monsters. But it’s not just the roaming monsters that will be scaring park-goers. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios also features nine hair-raising haunted houses and five spine-chilling scare zones, where creatures lurk around every corner.  

Drawing from well-known movies and television shows, the themed haunted houses at the 25th Halloween Horror Nights include The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead, where guests are surrounded by hordes of walkers; Freddy vs. Jason, an epic battle between two of the most notorious villains in horror history; and Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem, where unwary guests are attacked by classic Universal monsters as well as by the fiends of Horror Nights past. 

“Halloween Horror Nights is fun because it’s scary,” said Rachel (age 17). “And I really like the Walking Dead maze because it looks just like the show.”

Not to be outdone by its Orlando counterpart, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights has six horrifying mazes including Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home, a terrifying new haunted attraction based on the classic movie, and Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness, a frighteningly immersive experience inspired by the new motion picture by Guillermo del Toro.  

The park’s world famous back lot tram also takes on a scary twist as it is transformed into Terror Tram: Survive The Purge.

Knott’s Scary Farm
At this Southern California theme park, visitors should be wary of the Ghost Town Streets, which are overrun by bands of half-human, half-animal monsters and by notorious Sliders who can attack from around any fog-filled corner. In addition, the normally fun-filled Boardwalk becomes Carnevil, where freak show clowns vie for the “undying attention” of unsuspecting park guests.  

“Knott’s Scary Farm is not for the faint of heart,” said Jake (age 17). “And the actors really keep you on your toes.”

The park’s 11 terrifying mazes include Black Magic, where Houdini’s ghost summons demonic illusions to play tricks on those who enter his haunted theatre, and The Calico Mine Train attraction, which is transformed into My Bloody Clementine, the tale of poor Clementine and her father whose spirits cannot rest until they find their murderers. 

Combining interactive gaming technology with immersive wilderness terrains, Special Ops: Infected Patient Zero delivers an experience that is both challenging and terrifying. The first interactive attraction of its kind in North America, it involves a mission to eradicate the park of bloodthirsty zombies. Armed with specially designed laser guns, groups of Knott’s Scary Farm guests must fight an all-out war against the undead before time runs out. But be careful: If a zombie drags their body too close, the un-infected’s guns will temporarily deactivate, putting the team in jeopardy. 

Note: Only a limited number of Special Ops missions are available each night, and guests must pick up a reservation card to receive a time.

During the day (and included with the regular park admission), Knott’s Spooky Farm is a scare-free Halloween celebration with shows and activities designed for kids ages 3 to 11. With trick-or-treating on the Ghost Town Main Street and a costume parade with Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang, this event is focused on fun, not fear.

Mickey’s Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland
For younger kids (or for big kids who aren’t quite so daring), Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World is the perfect choice.

This family-friendly Halloween celebration features trick-or-treating throughout the Magic Kingdom and the Boo-to-You Halloween Parade.  Also, this year, Mickey has a few new tricks up the sleeve of his Halloween costume with Hocus Pocus Villain Spell-tacular, a not-so-spooky Halloween party hosted by the Sanderson Sisters from Disney’s “Hocus Pocus,” and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular in the skies over Cinderella’s Castle.

Disneyland is also getting into the holiday spirit with two Halloween-themed attractions that are exclusive to Disney’s Southern California park.  

“I like Halloween at Disneyland because they decorate the park with tons of Halloween decorations,” said Aden (age 12). “And I also like that they change some of the rides to a Halloween theme.”

In Haunted Mansion Holiday, the residents of Halloween Town from Tim Burton‘s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” take over New Orleans Square for a spooky (and kooky) holiday makeover, and in Tomorrowland, Space Mountain gets a Halloween twist when riders are hurtled into a haunted sector of the universe called Ghost Galaxy.

For even more Halloween Time fun, Disneyland guests can also attend Mickey’s Halloween Party. With special trick-or-treat stations in Disneyland Park, this (not so) scary Halloween celebration also features photo locations with Disney villains and Halloween Screams, a “boo-tiful” fireworks spectacular.

Brick-or-Treat at Legoland
Another great Halloween theme park option for families with young kids is Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat Halloween event.

At Legoland Florida Resort, ghosts and goblins have transformed Miniland USA into a haunted scavenger hunt through the famous Lego miniature cities. This Halloween event also features trick-or-treating along the Brick-or-Treat trail, an all-kids costume contest, a nightly fireworks display and the largest Lego Jack-O-Lantern in the world.

In the California Legoland Resort, the Brick-or-Treat Party Nights also includes fun-filled trick or treating on the brick or treat trail (with two new treat stations inside Sea Life Aquarium).  

In addition, the Coast Cruise is transformed into the Ghost Cruise for even more spooky fun, and this year, the costume contest has a group category so family and friends can enter together to win “Brick-tacular” prizes.

According to Asher and Elijah (both age 6), the coolest thing about Brick or Treat at Legoland is that they give away special Brick or Treat collectors LEGO bricks —a  definite draw for anyone with LEGO fans in their family.

Agents should advise clients that special nighttime Halloween events are separately ticketed and are not included with regular park admission.  Also, since people are “dying” to get into these special events (and tickets are limited), agents should advise clients to book as soon as possible because they do sell out (especially on Halloween night).

Dates and Times
- Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain begins on Sept. 26 and runs every Friday through Sunday in October plus Saturday, Nov. 1.  Park hours vary by date, but the frights begin at 7 p.m.

- Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida begins on Sept. 18 and runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Nov. 1 (plus on every Thursday night from Sept. 24 through Oct. 29). Time of Death: 6:30 p.m. - 1 a.m.

- Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights begins on Sept. 18 and runs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights through Nov. 1 (plus on every Thursday night in October). Time of Death: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. (early entry at 6:15 p.m.)

- Knott’s Scary Farm takes place Sept. 24-27, Oct. 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 21-26 and 29-31. Time of Death: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 7 p.m. - 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. - 2 a.m.

- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is on Sept. 15, 18, 20, 22, 25 and 27, Oct. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31 and Nov. 1. The party is from 7 p.m. to midnight.

- Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland is on Sept. 25, 28 and 30 and on Oct. 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31. The party is from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays (including Sunday), and from 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

- Brick or Treat at Legoland Florida is on Oct. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 30 and 31. The fun is from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. 

- Brick or Treat Party Nights at Legoland California are Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, and 30. The fun starts at 5 p.m.

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