From cute pumpkin figures and trick-or-treating to chainsaws and Brain Eaters, Halloween events at Florida’s theme parks cover the full sweetness-to-horror spectrum.
Unlike the other parks, Busch Gardens will have two sets of events — a horror-filled one for adults and Sesame Street-themed activities for the little ones.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld and Legoland have events aimed at kids, with costumes, trick-or-treating, and maybe a meet-and-greet with a character who’s only slightly scary — or not at all.
Universal Studios and Busch Gardens are targeting teens and adults with fear, blood and gore and are strongly discouraging attendance by children.
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Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens hold night events that require separate tickets; the event ticket can’t be used for park admission during the day, and daily admission won’t get you into the night event. Many of the regular rides and attractions will be open.
SeaWorld and Legoland offer daytime activities that are included with regular admission, as are the kids’ events at Busch Gardens.
None of the parties runs daily; most run on weekends and select weekdays. Check the websites listed below to find dates.
Here’s a rundown, in order of the parties’ opening dates.
▪ Disney’s Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Fireworks, a parade, a stage show, trick-or-treating and other entertainment are the highlights of this party. The villain-themed stage show stars the Sanderson Sisters from “Hocus Pocus” on the Cinderella Castle forecourt stage. The fireworks show includes a sing-a-long and projections on the castle. The “Boo to You” parade is led by the Headless Horseman, and Cadaver Dan’s Barbershop Quartet performs in Frontierland.
Steve Bloom of the touringplans.com blog recommends focusing on activities available only during the Halloween party, including character meet-and-greets, the parade, fireworks and trick-or-treating, while not spending time in lines for rides that are available year-round.
Mickey’s party opened Aug. 25 and runs through Nov. 1, for a total of 32 nights. Admission depends on date but starts at $74 per person ages 10+, $69 ages 3-9. Hours 7 p.m.-midnight. Costumes encouraged for guests 13 and under. Information: http://bit.ly/1douMKV, 407-WDISNEY (934-7639).
▪ Universal Studios: Halloween Horror Nights. Among horror fans, Universal’s event — now in its 27th year — is one of the premiere Halloween events in the country, with scare zones and haunted houses tied to movies, TV shows and video games or dreamed up by Universal’s creative team. This year the event will include five scare zones, nine haunted houses and two live shows.
Among the highlights: A new maze based on “SAW: The Games of Jigsaw;” scare zones based on “Trick ’r Treat,” and “The Purge”; haunted houses based on “The Shining” and “American Horror Story;” and Bill and Ted’s final Halloween show, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure 2017: The Farewell Tour.”
Orlando Informer on its blog advises fans to choose one of the slower nights — definitely not a Saturday — to avoid lines for haunted houses that can stretch for two to three hours.
Opens Sept. 15 and runs 34 nights to Nov. 4. Hours: 6:30 p.m. to 1 or 2 a.m. Ticket price depends on date, starts at $59.99 with a UPC code from a can of Coke. No costumes or masks. Information: www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/, 407-363-8000.
▪ Busch Gardens: Howl-O-Scream + Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends. For adults, this Tampa Bay horror fest will feature seven haunted houses and five scare zones, plus thrill rides where a zombie or other monster might take the empty seat next to you for a truly dark ride.
Two haunted houses are new this year: the post-apocalyptic Undead Arena: Live, a gauntlet that has been invaded by Brain Eaters; and Demented Dimensions, involving “a vortex of other-worldly energies.” Three new scare zones revolve around “savage school kids [who] punish their cruel headmaster;” Carnie Camp, with carnies on the prowl for involuntary test subjects; and Meat Market, where cannibalistic creatures feast on the weak.
Howl-O-Scream runs Fridays and Saturdays, plus select Thursdays and Sundays — a total of 19 nights — Sept. 22 to Oct. 29. Hours: 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets start at $39.99, if purchased online in advance. At the door: $104.99. No costumes allowed. Information: www.howloscream.com, 813-884-4FUN (884-4386).
Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends will take place on four October weekends during the park’s regular hours and will feature a hay bale maze, fall festival activities, character parades, and trick-or-treat candy stations. Children may wear costumes. Each weekend will have its own theme, with activities from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Oct. 7-8 Monsters & Fairies; Oct. 14-15 Super Grover; Oct. 21-22 Spooky Safari; and Oct. 28-29 Rosita’s Halloween Fiesta. Information: BuschGardens.com, 888-800-5447.
▪ SeaWorld: Halloween Spooktacular. Highlights of this child-friendly celebration will be “Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween,” a stage show; Penelope’s Garden Party, set in an underwater environment and featuring sea-themed characters; trick-or-treating; a dance party; and “Pets Ahoy Halloween,” a live show starring dogs, cats and other creatures.
Spooktacular runs Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 23 to Oct. 29. Hours: 11 a.m. to park close. Tickets: Included in regular park admission. Guest may wear costumes; children age 12 and under may wear masks. Information: www.seaworldorlando.com, 407-545-5550.
▪ Legoland: Brick or Treat. This weekend party will feature Halloween-themed fireworks over Lake Eloise (except Halloween night); trick-or-treating; meet-and-greets with Lego Halloween characters, including Vamprye and Mummy; Lego building activities and giant Lego models.
Children are encouraged to wear costumes; in fact, prizes will be given for “awesome” costumes.
Brick or Treat runs seven days, Oct. 14-15, 21-22, 28-29 and 31. Park hours are extended, running 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Halloween activities starting at 2 p.m. and ending with fireworks at 8 p.m. Activities are included with regular park admission. Information: www.legoland.com/florida, 877-350-5346.