Where To Stay

Halloween arrives at Florida theme parks

Halloween at Florida’s theme parks will be scarier than ever this year, with more ghouls and ghosts, more houses with haunts and horrors, and more bloody bodies and berserk baddies. 

Universal Orlando will stage its Halloween Horror Nights for a record 30 nights. Busch Gardens in Tampa has scheduled 19 nights for its Howl-O-Scream. Walt Disney World has expanded its Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party from 20 to 25 nights. Legoland in Winter Haven is adding new dates and features to its Brick-or-Treat event. SeaWorld Orlando will stage its annual Halloween Spooktacular but has not finalized plans yet.

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream aim to to give guests the fright of their lives with multiple haunted houses, mazes, scare zones, zombies and demented beings that target guests as their next victims.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat and SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, on the other hand, are more kid-friendly and do not feature scary experiences.

Universal, Busch and Disney set their spooky events at night, and these are separately ticketed events. Halloween events at Legoland and SeaWorld are daytime events aimed at younger guests and are included in the regular admission price.

Halloween events start Sept. 15 at Disney and Sept. 18 at Universal; in late September or early October at the others. Many discounts and packages are available, among them Florida resident, advance purchase, and UPC code discounts from select products. Prices for some events increase as Halloween night approaches.

Here are details on what guests can expect at theme park Halloween programs:


Howl-O-Scream is intended for a mature audience, as it contains violence, gore and blood. New this year at the Tampa park is Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge, a haunted house in which Scarlett uses dark magic to prey on unsuspecting guests. Other haunted houses include Zombie Containment Unit 15, an interactive zombie hunting experience; Dead Fall: Thirst for Blood; Death Water Bayou, with the Voodoo Queen casting spells; The Basement; Circus of Superstition; and Zombie Mortuary.

Freaky Preview takes place Sept. 25 and 26. Guests are not allowed to wear costumes. The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights in October and on two Sundays, Oct. 18 and 25. This is a separately ticketed evening event; prices start at $35 per person. HowlOScream.com.


Halloween Horror Nights will have nine haunted houses this year as well as more “scareactors.” New is the Freddy vs. Jason haunted house, featuring A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Kreuger and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. Also new are mazes based on the Insidious films, with guests transported into sinister scenes from all three films.

Back this year are several chilling experiences, among them An American Werewolf in London, with a larger and more ferocious wolf pack; The Walking Dead, based on the ABC series; The Purge, based on the Universal Pictures films; and Jack the Clown, an evil character who has graced many Halloween scenes at Universal over the years. Guests may not wear masks or costumes. Halloween Horror Nights, a separately ticketed evening event, will run Sept. 18-19, 24-27, Oct. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-31 and Nov. 1. Prices start at $49.99. HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando.


Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, as is obvious from its name, is aimed at younger guests and not intended to scare. A separately ticketed evening event in the Magic Kingdom, it features a twice nightly parade, Disney characters in Halloween costumes, trick-or-treating, and Halloween eats. New this year is an evil Halloween show thrown by the Sanderson Sisters from the movie Hocus Pocus that features special effects and appearances by Disney villains Dr. Facilier, Oogie Boogie, Maleficent and other Disney villains. Kids in costume are welcome.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will run on Sept. 15, 18, 20, 22, 25 and 27; Oct, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31; and Nov. 1. Prices start at $63 for ages 3-9, $68 for those 10 and older. Click here for the official website.


This year, Legoland’s Brick-or Treat Halloween celebration will have more dates and showcase some new Lego models at the Winter Haven park. Aimed at younger children, the event features a costume contest, scavenger hunt, Lego-building contests, character meet-and-greets, fireworks, and trick-or-treating. Kids in costume are welcome. New this year are Vladimir’s Castle, a Lego brick hearse for photo ops, and a giant Lego vampire. Halloween activities are included in park admission and take place on weekends, including the last two Fridays of the month: Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-25 and Oct. 30-31. florida.legoland.com.


This Orlando theme park touts its Halloween Spooktacular as a family-friendly experience, not a scary one. Specifics had not been finalized by press time, but the event will include treat-or-treating, sea-themed arts and crafts, up-close animal encounters, and a musical, Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween. The Halloween Spooktacular is a daytime event included in regular admission. It will run on weekends, Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, and 31. SeaWorldOrlando.com.


Besides the theme parks, Halloween is celebrated all over Florida, in dozens of ways and in dozens of locales.

There are haunted houses, haunted mazes, scream parks, zombie hunts, spook walks, ghost tours and haunted hay rides, as well as pumpkin patches and some kid-friendly Halloween sites that aren’t too scary. Even several Florida zoos get into the spooky spirit with “zoo boos.”

A website, floridahauntedhouses.com, provides detailed information about all kinds of Halloween events all over the state, including descriptions, locales, reviews and scare ratings, event websites, and contact information.