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2011 Florida Theme Park Halloween Events

Scaredy-Parks Guide to All the Scary (and not-so-Scary) Fun

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2011 Florida Theme Park Halloween Events

Kids will find things not-so-scary at Walt Disney World for Halloween. Other Florida theme parks, however, will amp up the gore and fright factors.

Walt Disney World. Used with permission.
Halloween has become a major deal at many theme parks with elaborate haunted houses, scary mazes, spook-filled shows, ghouls running amok down midways, and Halloween-themed rides. Screams, albeit a different kind than the coaster-induced variety that prevails in the warmer months, continue at theme parks into the fall. So, it's no surprise that Florida's theme parks features some mega-scary (and a couple not-so-scary) Halloween events.

Halloween Horror Nights 21

Howl-O-Scream

    Location:
  • Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay
  • 2011 Dates: "Freaky" preview dates are Sept. 23 and 24; Event dates are Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29.
  • 2011 Times: The theme park closes at 6:00 p.m. on Howl-O-Scream< nights and reopens at 7:30 p.m. for the Halloween event. It continues until 2 a.m. (1 a.m. on Thursdays and for the Freaky Preview.)
  • Cost: $77.99 at the gate. $52.99 if purchased online in advance. $32.99 "Freaky Preview" online price for Sept. 23 and 24. Note that there is a special Facebook offer (info is available at the Howl-O-Scream site) which discounts the advance purchase price to $42.99. Group discounts are available. The event requires a separate ticket from daytime theme park passes. A combo "Thrills and Chills" pass is available that combines daytime theme park and nighttime Howl-O-Scream tickets.
  • The park also offers extra-value packages that include features such as dinner front-of-the-line access to the houses, and private tours.
  • Busch Gardens Tampa official Howl-O-Scream Dark Side of the Gardens Web site

The zoo/ride park hybrid will transform itself each evening during Howl-O-Scream with a zombie theme that it is calling "The Dark Side of the Gardens." The event will include zombie-infested scare zones, haunted houses, live music, and Halloween-themed shows. Among the haunts will be Zombie Mortuary, Nightshade Toy Factory, Deconstruction, and Vampire Casino (where the house must really be out for blood!).

For the second year, Busch Gardens will be offering the Alone House. As the name suggests, instead of going through a haunted maze with the security of your friends and other guests, for an extra fee ($40-- now that is scary), you have to tough it out on your own. Sounds freaky -- and expensive.

Howl-O-Scream is not for the squeamish and parents should use discretion. Like Universal's HHN, Howl-O-Scream is also quite popular. On weekend nights especially, the crowded haunted houses can become less an individual journey into nightmarish hells and more a conga line dash through some dimly lit rooms.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

As the name implies, Mickey hosts a Halloween party for the young and gutless, er, young at heart. No blood-curdling screams, knife-wielding zombies, or gotcha haunted mazes here. Just Mickey and the gang offering trick-or-treaters some goodies (but steer clear of the apple-bearing Wicked Witch from "Snow White"), a Halloween-themed Boo-to-You parade, storytelling, a special Happy HalloWishes fireworks presentation, and selected Magic Kingdom rides, such as the entirely appropriate Haunted Mansion. Unlike other theme park Halloween theme park events where they want to be able to tell the guests apart from the zombified staff members, kids (and adults, if they so choose) are encouraged to come in costume to Mickey's Party.

SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular

Considerably less spectacular (and spooktacular, for that matter) than the Halloween events at Universal or sister park Busch Gardens Tampa, SeaWorld Orlando stakes out the same G-rated territory as Walt Disney World's mild-mannered party, but without the Disney pizzazz. Then again, SeaWorld isn't charging extra for its Halloween hoohah. There will be no bloodthirsty sharks here (come to think of it there ARE sharks at SeaWorld, and killer whales too--but you know what I mean), just low-impact Halloween fun with trick-or-treating (for "sea sweets,"), walk-around characters, and special entertainment, including a Sesame Street-themed Halloween show. Kids can come in costume.

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