(If you haven’t read my previous post about the spectacular job Busch Gardens did with their marketing of this event, read here first.)
How many hours away will Harknell and I travel for a haunted house? Apparently the answer is 24.5 hours from our home state of New Jersey. (So far we have been through 26 haunted houses this season. We are aware that we have a bit of a haunt abuse problem, but that will be addressed later.) For now all that matters is that Harknell and I were able to go to Busch Gardens Tampa for the first time and attend Howl O Scream 2009. Here is my personal review of the things I liked and did not like about the event. Unfortunately, I only have a few photos because I let the battery for my fancy DSLR in my hotel room. *facepalm*
Neither Harknell or I have been to a Busch Gardens before. Unlike the common metal coaster parks that are so popular today, Busch Gardens Tampa is themed to look like Africa. It is kind of like a hybrid zoo and theme park. You feel like you could actually hang out at this place and enjoy yourself with the elephants, birds, and fish.
We arrived early at 7PM for the 7:30PM event. Getting from my car to the front gate was quite easy. There was a tram that picked you up from the lot and took you right to the front. The drivers were very nice and friendly.
After this, it became confusing. We weren’t given maps at the gate. They had someone pointing us to go back to Timbuktu to wait for the event to start.
Err…we don’t know what Timbuktu is. We thought we went the way she directed us, but a lack of signs had us second guessing if we were going to the right place or not. I started getting annoyed because the park was empty and we were far away from everyone by the time we realized we should probably ask someone. We kept wandering in the direction that she told us until finally we saw a sign that said “Timbuktu” (and some employees).
When I got to Timbuktu, I had no idea what we were supposed to do because we were early and did not buy an upgrade meal package that gave us early entry to the houses. After wandering around confused for a few minutes, I found out that the coasters were running and I was permitted to ride. I quickly shifted from WTFcranky to very overjoyed. This is a HUGE value-add. I cannot tell you how awesome this was! No other park allows you to come in before the crowds and ride for free! I got to ride every coaster that I wanted to with no wait. Sometimes they even sent us through twice because there were no lines at all. Wow!!! My very own Busch Gardens, just for me!
I felt that the organization for the HoS event itself seemed to rely on you having been to the park before. I think that it could be made better by distributing maps when you arrive that explain what you are and are not allowed to do until the event starts. However, the fact that I was able to ride everything with no wait while waiting for HoS to start was an epic win. Prior to this I had no interest in the daytime Busch Gardens park. Now, I will include it in future trips, tell my friends that they need to check it out, and I’ll be posting ride reviews here!
Here is my video of the vampire runway show that was done to open the event:
This was really cool. I’ll let the video speak for itself. I had no idea this was happening and just stumbled on it. This was not on any of the map signs so at first I was disappointed thinking that I had missed the opening ceremony. I saw that it was repeating throughout the night later on and was able to get the video.
I thought this was exceptionally well done!
Houses and Scarezones:
I’ll just come out and say it. I’m a big Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights fan. I also had a lot of fun at HHN this year, but my honest opinion is that the houses at HoS beat my beloved HHN this year in terms of scare factor. If you want my opinion on which show to see, I will tell you that you must come to Howl O Scream Tampa AND you must also go to HHN. You have two events that are only an hour apart from each other that both do different things very well and are can’t miss shows.
HoS got really creative with their scares! I always say that when you have a lower budget to work with that you have to innovate – HoS did just that this year.
The two strongest houses are Reconstruction: The doctor is in and Nightshade Toy Factory Being chased by a crazy plastic surgeon and insane toys really worked and in my opinion gave the best scares of all of the 25 houses I have been through this season. Trapped in the Walls also gave us a nice scare.
One of the new houses for this year is Delta Epsilon Delta: Pledge Week . It seemed to need some work. I am not sure if our timing coming through the house was off or not, but some of the scares didn’t work well. It was a very fun idea and I think this could grow into something even better.
I liked every house except Death Row Vengeance. I don’t think that house worked well at all.
The scarezones were the most creative that I have ever seen. I particularly liked the Day of the Dead skeletons on stilts and the Banshees on rollerblades.
New for this year was a 21+ club called Club enVy. You could get admission to this club if you bought an upgrade package or if you paid a $10 cover. This was a great idea, but I don’t think it worked well on the night that I was there. I didn’t end up going in because I could not see inside very well and didn’t want to pay a cover and immediately leave if it was not for me. When the door opened I didn’t see many people inside.
I’m thinking that if they offered a “Frequent Fear” pass like Universal does that only gets you into the Halloween event and club, that the club might be an easier sell.
BG does have a “Thrills and Chills” weekend ticket that gets you unlimited daytime admission but only 3 HoS admissions and no club admission. I did not buy this because regardless of the math, it felt like less of a value when compared to my HHN Frequent Fear pass. It’s proportionally pricier (!!) than the Universal Frequent Fear ticket option and it would give me daytime admissions that I didn’t have time to use because I am visiting just to do the Halloween events.
My god, HoS kicked the living crap out of Universal in terms of merchandise. They had notebooks, girly shirts, posters, hoodies, and random spooky things like bears. Here is my video of the shop:
There was a nice men’s shirt that had a grey skull design on it that Harknell wanted. Unfortunately, the XXL fit like a slim fit teen boy L. The sizing was way off. He takes an L or XL in every other T shirt brand. The brand that they used for these shirts was epic fail.
I hope for next year that they fix the sizing and add a baseball hat for Harknell and a tank top for me. :)
You must go to Howl O Scream Tampa. You just have to. You can tell that they put a lot of love into it. The atmosphere was wonderful. The merchandise was the best I have ever seen. The houses were innovative and had the best scares of the season inside. Other Halloween events in the area are crowded and hard to navigate through, but this place was just perfect. The fact that I got to ride every coaster without a wait was amazing. The lines were not long at all at the beginning of the night and so I was able to get through every house by 9:30PM and then have a tasty snack. My only problem was that the logistics when I entered the park were confusing.
So far this is the best Halloween event that I have been to in 2009. Congrats, guys.
4.5 Onezumi heads: