Boo! Halloween at the theme parks

Be warned: If you wander into the Death Water Bayou, you may fall victim to the Voodoo Queen and her Zombie servants, who transform lost visitors into her minions of evil. And you better stay away from Momma’s Basement, or she and the Butcher will make a secret sauce — out of you!

These are two of the new haunted houses that will chill visitors during Busch Gardens’ annual Halloween attraction, Howl-O-Scream. On select autumn evenings, Busch will transform its 335 acres into a frightful quagmire of Halloween-oriented horrors. You may run into the walking dead, demented deviants, werewolves, vampires and other sinister creatures as 13 evil beings “take over” the Tampa park.

Florida’s other theme parks also stage special Halloween experiences.

Universal Orlando, whose annual Halloween Horror Nights is one of the nation’s largest, this fall is erecting eight haunted houses for terror-seeking visitors. Among them are grisly adventures based on several horror movies — Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London and Cabin in the Woods. Also new will be a haunted house based on the video game series “Resident Evil” in which guests encounter bloodthirsty zombies, packs of Cerberuses (hellhounds with multiple heads) and even Nemesis himself.

Deliberately less frightening is Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which will run for 23 nights at the Magic Kingdom. Legoland also puts on less chilling Halloween doings for its young visitors, and SeaWorld’s Spooktacular confines its Halloweenish activities to daytime.

Halloween presentations at Busch Gardens, Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World are separately ticketed night events. Those at SeaWorld and Legoland are daytime events included in regular park admission.

Beyond the theme parks, dozens of special Halloween-themed activities are planned all over Florida.

A number of zoos, for instance, have “Zoo Boo” activities suitable for families. Among them are the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, Jacksonville Zoo, Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Palm Beach Zoo and Zoo Miami.

For a list of haunted houses, mazes, pumpkin patches, petrified forests, spook walks and the like in Florida, click on www.flori da haunted houses .com.

Here’s a rundown on the theme park events:

• BUSCH GARDENS: Howl-O-Scream, which is adult-themed, will open Sept. 27 and run for 14 nights. New this year are The Basement, Death Water Bayou and The Experiment. Returning are Circus of Superstition 3-D, Blood Asylum, Zombie Mortuary and Nevermore. The Shop of Horrors has been transformed into The Butcher Shop.

Several all-new scare zones will threaten guests, and creatures of the night will perform nightly in “Fiends,” a deranged dance party.

Dates for Howl-O-Scream are Sept. 27 and 28; Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26. General admission is $89, but advance purchase and special offers can reduce the cost as much as $39. No costumes allowed.

• UNIVERSAL ORLANDO: Halloween Horror Nights 23 opens Sept. 20 and runs through Nov. 2. Besides the recreated movies and Resident Evil house, the park is devising terrifying mazes based on AMC’s

The Walking Dead

television series as well as scenarios with a serial killer in “Afterlife: Death’s Vengeance” and genetically engineered soldiers bent on mayhem in “Havoc2: Derailed.”

For the first time, all street experiences will stick to a single theme, The Walking Dead, with its hordes of flesh-eating walkers roaming the West Georgia Correctional Facility, Atlanta and Hershel Greene’s dismal barn.

In another addition, Horror Nights will bring to life the Mexican legend of La Llorona and her tale of murder, tragedy and fatal love.

Halloween Horror Nights dates: Sept. 20-21, 26-29; Oct. 3-6, 10-13, 16-20, 23-27, 31; Nov. 1-2. Prices vary by date and day of week. Florida resident price starts at $42.99 for a single night with advance purchase and certain UPC codes. General admission $91.99. Multi-day tickets, hotel packages and other options available. www.hallo ween horror nights .com/ orlando.

• WALT DISNEY WORLD: New this year at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which opens Tuesday at Magic Kingdom, are the debut of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and Sally, the rag doll, from Tim Burton’s

The Nightmare Before Christmas

and Mike and Sully of

Monsters, Inc.

hosting a Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball.

Young guests will enjoy Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween parade featuring the Headless Horseman, as well as orange and green fireworks.

Guests are invited to don costumes and go trick-or-treating.

Party dates are Sept. 10, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and 29; Oct. 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29 and 31; and Nov. 1. Cost varies by date, ranging from $54 to $68 for ages 3-9, and $59-$73 for ages 10 and up. www.disney world .com/ halloween.

• SEA WORLD: Every weekend in October, starting Oct. 5, SeaWorld guests can take part in the park’s Halloween Spooktacular. Activities include Penelope’s Party Zone, Sesame Street’s Count Down to Halloween, trick-or-treating, dancing with sea fairies and pumpkin fish, and making of sea-themed arts and crafts.

Spooktacular dates are Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 18-20 and 26-27, noon to 8 p.m. Except Count von Count’s Spooktacular Breakfast, activities are included in park admission. www.sea world parks .com/ en/ sea world-or lando/ spook tacular.

• LEGOLAND: The park’s second annual Brick-or-Treat Halloween celebration, opening Oct. 5, will feature the World’s Largest Lego Jack-O-Lantern, made of 26,550 Lego bricks; a Spooky Scavenger Hunt, trick-or-treating, a dance party and Kids Costume Contest.

Brick-or-Treat takes place Saturdays and Sundays in October, closing at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, 5 p.m. on Sundays. No extra cost; activities are included in admission to the park.


Several new hotels have opened or are about to open around Florida:


The Pearl, Rosemary Beach:

This 55-room luxury boutique hotel overlooking the Gulf of Mexico opened this summer. Hotel rates start at $279 in low season, $459 in high.

850-233- 6405



Alfond Inn, Winter Park:

This 112-room hotel ownd by Rollins College opened in August. Introductory rates start at $99 through Sept. 30, after which the starting rates goes to $159.

407-998- 8090



Aloft Orlando:

This downtown Orlando hotel is part of a new chain. The 118-room property will open Sept. 26. For rates, call

407- 380- 3500



• Wet ’n Wild water park is offering half-price admission to Florida residents ($27.50) through the end of 2013. The deal is available only online and must be purchased in advance.

www.wet n wild orlando .com


• Looking for some hot stuff? Lovers of spicy foods can pig out at the I Like It Hot Festival in Largo Sept. 14-15. Brave visitors can compete in the Jalapeno Pepper Eating contest.

• A new sculpture garden and a new outdoor cafe will open Sept. 21 at Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens as parts of a $4.5 million project. A new parking lot and a major renovation of the Olmstead garden, which now runs 450 feet along the river, opened earlier.