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Amusement Park News
Amusement Park News
Halloween events boost attendance at amusement parks this fall
Thursday, October 25, 2018
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It’s a scary season when it comes to amusement parks – scary in a good way, with guests clambering to participate in Halloween events that offer, scares, chills, and Halloween-themed fun. It may seem that attractions are trying to out scream each other in a competition for customer attention this year, but after all, Halloween events bring in howling hordes of guests long after the summer season has ended.

At Six Flags St. Louis, six contestants competed in a promotional event in which they stood to win $300, two Golden Season passes, and more – all for spending 30 hours in a 2 by 7 foot coffin. The event, held Saturday, October 13th, was designed to celebrate the 30th year of the park’s annual Fright Fest. All six participants went the distance, winning the passes, cash – and their own coffin to keep. The concept was the spooky brainchild of Six Flags spokesman Elizabeth Gotway, and it was a resounding success for the park, going viral on the ‘net and drawing 45,000 applicants. Participants were fed in the coffins, allowed some cellphone time, and bathroom breaks – but were also visited by creepy Fright Fest Freaks after hours.

At all eleven Six Flags amusement parks nationwide, Fright Fest runs through October with a haunted maze, hospital-styled haunted houses, scare zones, and live shows. Roller coasters get even scarier, too, operated without the lights on, to take riders plunging into darkness. Those thrill-ride screams never sounded more blood-curdling. The Coffin Challenge event was so successful in St. Louis that it was also offered at other Six Flags parks, from Boston to Texas, as well.

Universal Orlando and its sister park, Universal Studios Hollywood, offer what may arguably be the cinematically best Halloween experiences in the country. Sets are elaborately detailed and look just like the iconic TV and film experiences they’re designed to recreate. A large cast of extremely talented scare actors are another strong part of the Halloween Horror Nights event, which has been taking place for 28 years. This year mazes and haunts in Orlando include Halloween 4, Happy Death Day and The First Purge in a combined attraction, and a much-promoted Stranger Things haunted house filled with demonic demigorgons straight out of Netflix’ hit series. Adding to the Stranger Things fun is a food treat at both parks: character Eleven’s favorite food, Eggo waffles, will be fudge-dipped and sundae-topped. On the west coast, Universal Hollywood adds its studio tour into the Halloween mix, reshaping the back lot into an extensive walk-through area with cannibals, clowns, and torture factory; additional mazes are devoted to classics including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and more current chillers like the tech nightmare in Unfriended.
Family fun is the focus at Disneyland, where Mickey’s Halloween Party is a separate ticketed event. Participants in the now-sold-out party can enter the park three hours before the event starts - after regular operating hours. Once the event -- which runs on select nights from September 19th through Halloween itself -- begins, guests receive a treat bag. They follow a map or the Disneyland app to find a treat trail and score the sweets. Special Halloween attractions enhance the evening’s family-friendly adventure, such as costumed character greetings, Halloween Scream fireworks, and a pre-Main Street parade thriller, the Headless Horseman Rides Again. Both rider and the Frightfully Fun holiday parade are produced exclusively for Mickey’s Halloween party participants. Passholder tickets are priced at $95, regular ticket prices vary by day, ranging from $105 up to $130.

Open to the public, with or without admission to Mickey’s Halloween Party, Disneyland also offers a new look at the Haunted Mansion attraction, reimagined as the Nightmare Before Christmas. Space Mountain also receives a re-do as the Ghost Galaxy, and Halloween decorations are everywhere throughout the park.

Halloween happenings also abound at a September through November Harvest Festival at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. There’s a Southern Gospel Jubilee that brings more than 500 concerts to the park, and events are free with park admission. Autumn decorations are also omnipresent; but the highlight of the season are the Great Pumpkin Luminights. In the evening, pumpkin décor and large-scale displays are aglow in the dark, for a non-scary take on Halloween that is fit for all ages and more than welcoming to families.

The Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa, Fl. and Williamsburg, Va. are also popular entries in the Halloween market. Here, guests can visit seven horror-filled mazes and scare zones featuring scary clowns, Viking warriors, and crazed haunted asylum residents. Enjoy a haunted bayou, a deserted motel, live rock n’ scare entertainment, and more. Admission to the Halloween event is included with regular park tickets at the Williamsburg location; in Tampa Bay, the horror filled fun requires a separate admission. Both parks’ events run through October 28th this year.

Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., is transformed into Knotts Scary Farm, home to scare zones and thrill rides. Mazes include a haunted hospital and an abandoned carnival, as well as an interactive zombie maze with laser tag components. Guests are encouraged to get their scare on more than once: Knotts offers a Halloween season pass for $95.

Little kids get a uniquely Legoland experience at both the Carlsbad, Calif. and Florida locations, with LEGO displays set up in the Halloween spirit, LEGO Frankenstein character greetings, and “Brick or Treat” for kids. Fireworks and live entertainment add to the fun that’s fit for all ages.

Other amusement parks with large scale Halloween events for 2018 include the Scarowinds event at Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C.; Haloweekends at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; and Phantom Fright Nights at Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pa.

SeaWorld locations also offer Halloween events – nothing fishy about it. At the San Antonio SeaWorld location, the Halloween chills that run on select nights September 28 through October 28th are free with park admission. They include the London-themed Ripper Row, zombies, Halloween-centric live stage shows, and even a vampire bar and zombie watering hole for some adult beverages.
All in all, Halloween events have become major income generators for theme parks throughout the country.


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