Florida Travel

Florida: Celebrating Halloween at the theme parks

THE ZOMBIES: The Walking Dead returns to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando.
THE ZOMBIES: The Walking Dead returns to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando. Universal Orlando

With Halloween about six weeks away, Florida’s theme parks are ready to launch their celebrations — and one already has.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is under way at Magic Kingdom, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream starts Monday, and Universal Orlando’ Halloween Horror Nights starts Sept. 19. These three events take place on select evenings after regular park hours and are separately ticketed.

Halloween events at SeaWorld Orlando and Legoland, both offered during regular park hours, are included in park admission. SeaWorld’s Spooktacular and Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat will be offered only on October weekends.

Many Halloween doings, including the Universal and Busch events, are intended to scare, with demented zombies, grisly goblins, sadistic deviants and other unsavory types lurking in dark corners, haunted houses and such. However, the three other theme parks — Walt Disney World, Sea World and Legoland — offer non-frightening aspects of Halloween, among them costume competitions and trick-or-treating.

▪ Universal Orlando: Eight new haunted houses and four new scare zones have been added to this year’s big Halloween Horror Nights experience, which runs for 28 nights this year. But the park’s big news is that The Walking Dead, based on the AMC television series, is back for a third year with new terrifying mazes.

Just the very names of the unholy experiences at Universal can inspire dread in visitors. Consider: Among the new haunted houses are Dollhouses of the Damned, Giggles and Gore, Inc. and Roanoke — Cannibal Colony. The new scare zones are MASKerade: Unstitched, Bayou of Blood, Face Off: in the Flesh, and the Purge: Anarchy.

Admission to the evening event starts at $45.99 for Florida residents. Prices vary depending on date of visit. Packages that include admission and lodging at an on-site hotel are also available. Event dates are Sept. 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27; Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 16-19, 23-26 and 30-31; and Nov. 1 and 2. www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando.

▪ Busch Gardens: Another haunted house, slash mobs and a cursed front-gate experience are new at this year’s Howl-O-Scream. In Dead Fall, the new haunted house, spirits from the past prey on visitors. Slash mobs will roam throughout the park, and curses flung at visitors as soon as they enter the event gates.

Returning haunted houses are the Voodo Queen in Death Water Bayou, Momma’s grisly recipe in The Basement, bad luck in Circus of Superstition, the escaped Creature in Blood Aslyum, and insatiable mourners in Zombie Mortuary. Visitors are subjected to fear tolerance tests in The Experiment (additional fee). Halloween themes also are offered in a special show, DJ club and shop of horrors.

Howl-O-Scream at the Tampa park will operate for 18 nights, starting with the Freaky Friday Preview on opening weekend, Sept. 26 and 27. Other dates are Thursday through Saturday nights Oct. 2-Nov. 1, plus one Sunday, Oct. 19. Hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission for this separately ticketed event starts at $89, but advance purchase and special offers can reduce pricing. www.HowlOScream.com.

▪ Walt Disney World: Three more days have been added to this year’s Halloween event aimed at younger children. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, already under way, will run on select nights through Oct. 31 in the Magic Kingdom. Highlights during the evening event include a parade, fireworks, Disney characters wearing Halloween outfits and candy treats. Participants, of course, also can enjoy the Magic Kingdom’s other attractions. Event hours are 7 p.m. to midnight.

Remaining dates for the Not-So-Scary party this year are Sept. 16, 19, 21, 23, 26 and 28; and Oct. 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 30 and 31. Prices vary depending on the date, running $62 to $77. www.disneyworld.com/halloween.

▪ SeaWorld will stage its annual kid-friendly Spooktacular events from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on four fall weekends, Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 18-20 and 25-27. Two million “sweet treats” will be up for grabs at several trick-or-treat stations. A live DJ will lead kids in singing and dancing at Penelope’s Party Zone. Youngsters will be able to work on sea-themed arts and crafts, create their own treats at a cookie decoration station and pose with sea-themed characters. New this year for an extra fee is Dine With Shamu Halloween Spooktacular Brunch, eating at a reserved table close to the killer whales. A Spooktacular Dance party an hour before closing will end Spooktacular days.

Halloween events are included in regular park admission. www.seaworldspooktacular.com.

▪ Legoland: This Winter Haven park’s kid-friendly Brick-or-Treat Halloween celebration will entertain youngsters with a half-dozen special events on October weekends. Kids will be able to help build an eight-foot tall brick ghost model, go on a Scary Scavenger Hunt in Miniland, follow the Brick-or-Treat Trail, compete in a costume contest in three age groups, meet Lego Halloween characters and see the world’s largest Lego jack-o-lantern.

Halloween events are included in park admission. http://florida.legoland.com/.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed some new Halloween Horror Night haunted houses and scare zones as returning.

Elsewhere

Beyond the theme parks, Florida offers many other Halloween activities. Haunted houses, scare zones and the like are found in dozens of cities. A number of zoos offer “Zoo-Boo” evening programs in October, and jack-o-lantern carvers can pick a plump pumpkin at several pumpkin patches.

Check these web sites:

Zoos: More than a half dozen zoos in Florida offer special “Zoo-Boo” Halloween evening events. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has one of the largest. Zoo Miami will have a dance party for adults only, as well as events for the youngsters. http://goflorida.about.com/od/eventsfestivals/a/Florida-Halloween-Zoo-Boo-Celebrations.htm.

Haunted houses and scare zones: You’ll find these all over the state. www.floridahauntedhouses.com.

Pumpkin patches: You may not see the Great Pumpkin, but you can pick a plump pumpkin to carve. Some sites also offer corn mazes. www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.

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