Halloween at the Parks
Orlando's theme parks go all out for Halloween
With fanciful costumes, spooky treats and creative pranks, Halloween is a wonderful celebration of the imagination. Nowhere is that more evident than at Central Florida’s theme parks each fall. From over-the-top frightening to oh-so-fun, here are the Halloween highlights at Orlando's theme parks this fall.
Around the globe, Universal Studios Florida is known for pulling out all the stops for its Halloween Horror Nights. Team members spend all year trying to up the scare factor from the year before. The event, which has grown from a three-night event to 30 days of frightening fun, has developed a cult following, with fans eagerly counting down to opening night.
“Our event changes year after year," says Michael Aiello, creative director for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort. "For 25 years, we’ve been giving our guests a new and unique Halloween event that offers different terrifying characters and horrific environments every year they visit. This is what separates Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando from other Halloween-related events and makes it the nation’s premier Halloween event.”
This year’s event features nine elaborate haunted houses, including one maze that combines Crystal Lake and Elm Street in "Freddy vs. Jason," two live shows and five scare zones. Scare zones mean exactly that: You can be walking peacefully down the path or tying a shoe and out jump horrifying mutants, monsters and maniacs.
“I’ve always noticed that scary equals fun … Being scared in a controlled environment is thrilling and gets your heart racing, along with giving you a rush of adrenaline,” explains Aiello, who owns a pair of custom Michael Myers Converses. “We give them that heart-stopping thrill that allows that release of tension in the form of a scream. We turn that scream into a laugh because it’s so much fun to experience.”
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is for ages 13 and older and is offered select nights from Sept. 18 to Nov. 1, general admission tickets are $101.99 with discounts for Florida residents. Many of the theme-park rides are closed since the focus is on the haunted houses and scare zones.
Halloween Survival Tips for the Wimpy but Curious
You’ve been curious for years what the hype surrounding Halloween Horror Nights is all about, but haunted houses and scare actors really aren’t your thing. Should you go? Here are some tips for braving Halloween Horror Nights if you’re faint of heart.
- It’s not real. Not to be a buzzkill, but it’s a simple reminder as you’re being stalked by a toothless, blood-splattered witch
- Breathe. Inhale deeply and exhale and your heart will stop pounding out of your chest.
- Just say no. Going out of your comfort zone can be fun, but know when you need a break. Offer to hold everyone’s drinks and jackets and promise to be first in line for the next haunted zone.
- Laugh it off. A good, hearty chuckle is an awesome antidote to fear.
Last year's guests came face to face with characters from The Walking Dead (©Universal Orlando Resort)
Down the road at SeaWorld Orlando, Halloween is less about tricks and more about treats. Halloween Spooktacular, included with regular admission, takes place every Saturday and Sunday in October from noon to 8 pm. The event, aimed at preschoolers and elementary-age children, features Penelope’s Party Zone, trick-or-treating around the park and Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween, a live show featuring The Count, Elmo and friends. Children are encouraged to wear costumes. The event is included in the normal admission price.
Halloween Spooktacular (©SeaWorld)
Young children also will get a kick out of Legoland Florida’s Brick-or-Treat, where guests can trick or treat, participate in Lego building activities, ogle the largest Lego jack-o’-lantern in the world, go on a haunted scavenger hunt, enjoy fireworks and compete in a children’s costume contest.
“This is a Halloween celebration that is completely designed with kids in mind, and is unlike any other,” says Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida Resort. “Families will find all of the traditions they know and love in a style that is completely Lego.”
Dates are Oct. 3-4; 10-11; 17-18; 23-25; 30-31, and special events are included with park admission.
Brick-or-Treat! (©Legoland Florida)
The Magic Kingdom
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is like a big private party for special-ticket holders, who enjoy fewer crowds, shorter lines for the rides and magical Halloween touches everywhere. The family-friendly festival features a Boo to You children’s parade, trick-or-treating throughout the park, face painting, a barbershop quartet of “dead cowboys” and a Happy HalloWishes fireworks show over the castle. Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up (and they certainly do!). The Halloween Party is held on select dates, beginning Sept. 15 and ending Nov. 1, from 7 pm to midnight. A special ticket is required, with prices starting at $63.
Mickey and Mickey at the Haunted Mansion (©Walt Disney World)