Thanks to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for inviting us to the media day to preview this year’s Howl-O-Scream!
By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
Halloween season is upon us and that means it’s time for thrills and chills. At Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the next few weeks, you can experience thrills in the form of exciting rides and great fun, and chills from haunted houses and “Terro-tories.” Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream is a daytime and nighttime event that lets you enjoy the park in a spooky — and sometimes terrifying — new light.
If you don’t like scary stuff, fear not: the truly terrifying attractions do not open until evening and most of the scarier decorations are covered up during the day for The Count’s Spooktacular with family rides, Sesame Street character meetings and shows, and more.
But nighttime is all about scary thrills and chills with the annual Howl-O-Scream! As we mentioned in our preview post in August, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has added some new attractions to the event. We had a chance to tour these during a media preview recently and want to give you a sneak peek!
Busch Gardens Howl-o-Scream opens Sept. 23, 2017, and runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through Oct. 29. There will be more chances to feel the fear this year, as the park will stay open until midnight on Saturdays in October and will add two Thursdays, Oct. 19 and 26, to its schedule. Here’s some of what you can enjoy:
New haunted house, FrostBite
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl-O-Scream FrostBite Haunted House
Located in the Curse of DarKastle building in the park’s Oktoberfest area, FrostBite is a new haunted house that you walk through. You follow along the same track, but you’re not in the cars as in the regular DarKastle ride, and it’s not the same story. The story here is that “a fire-breathing giant that once guarded the enchanted dark castle has met his chilling demise.” With this theme, you go through “fire” and “ice” areas, and while it’s creepy and may make some feel a bit claustrophobic at parts, I thought it was beautifully done!
Outside FrostBite, you may find some interesting characters roaming about. They will stay in character but are happy to pose for photos with visiting “victims.” Nearby is another haunted house Lumberhack, that returns this year, again near Das Festhaus and the Black Forest picnic village.
New Terror-tory, Axe Alley
“Norsemen came to invade, but what they got was their own Viking funeral.” Such is the description for the park’s new Halloween “terror-tory,” Axe Alley, located in the New France area, near the new InvadR coaster. Here you will find zombie-like Vikings roaming about, some leaping out of nowhere trying to spook you.
As always, Busch Gardens Williamsburg decorates with elaborate sets and lively actors that really set the mood. Even during the daytime, when the scary activities aren’t going on, you get a sense for what to expect. I will honestly say that I was initially disappointed that he Wendigo Woods Terror-tory is gone (Axe Alley replaces this), as it was my favorite part. Its backstory of a terrifying create set loose, “security guards” running amok, and tense sounds and eerie lights set a scary mood. Axe Alley is totally different but still sets a scary tone… so much so that my husband and son refused to go through that part of the park with me!
Other Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Terror-tories at the Williamsburg, Virginia, park (there’s also one in Tampa, Florida) include Demon Street, Ripper Row, Sideshow Square, and Vampire Point.
New escape room, Haunted Hotel
In addition to scare zones and seven haunted houses in total, Howl-O-Scream features escape rooms. The newest is No Escape: Case of the Haunted Hotel, where you may check in, but not ever check out. The only way you can get out is to make your escape!
The other escape room is The Case of Mr. Karver, a creepy doll maker. Here, you must work together to find your way out of his creepy workshop before he brings more monstrous dolls to life! Either of these escape room experiences, unlike the haunted houses and shows, are NOT included in park admission. These are run like typical escape room places, with very small groups. Tickets start at $30 per person and are only for guests age 16 and up, with no more than six players per session (the park recommends buying tickets in advance).
Along with the terror-tories, haunted houses, and escape rooms, during your visit to Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream you can enjoy four live Halloween-themed shows (included with park admission), photo opps, specialty bars, and rides. During Howl-O-Scream, three thrill rides — Griffon, InvadR, and Mach Tower — are open, along with many family rides.
One of my favorite parts to visit, though, which requires no line and no waiting, is the music and dance area near New France. Here, a DJ spins great dance music atop a giant skull filled with fire and smoke. It is one of the best places to hang out and relax, dance, enjoy a drink, or just people-watch. Don’t let it scare you… it’s plenty of fun!
Remember, Busch Gardens becomes a seriously scary place at 6 p.m. when the Howl-O-Scream haunts come out. Guests should consider the park’s elevated scare factor when deciding whether Howl-O-Scream is appropriate for young children. Please visit www.howloscream.com/va
All photos by and (c) P. Hall
Disclosure: I am a Busch Gardens Thrill Chaser (ambassador) and my family receives complimentary membership and other benefits to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA in exchange for promotions. We were invited to attend the media day to preview Howl-O-Scream. The opinions in this post, as always, are strictly my own.