DUN DUN DUNNNNN! Here is my final word on this year’s haunts. These are the best attractions I was able to find in 2010.
1. Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O Scream – Tampa, FL: Click here to read my full review and click here to read my Alone house review. Tampa’s Howl O Scream delivered the goods again this year. 7 Houses,1 phenomenal premium house, and a creative theme that was marketed very well via Twitter and viral videos leave no doubt in my mind that these guys are the new innovators of Halloween. They may have a smaller budget than Universal Studios, but they plan, implement, and package like that is a non-issue. If you go to one event this year, I have to recommend this one. A combination of both scary and fun houses, great scarezones, and fun shows make this a win. I haven’t had this much fun at an event since Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights 2008.
2. Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights: Click here to read my full review. HHN is the big guy on the block. They take a budget that you could probably make a horror film with and use it to scare you. They have the most terrifying houses I have ever been in. You will have a great time at HHN. One caveat – they have been steadily going downhill since 2008. They still deliver great houses, but the theme, storyline, website, scarezones, and marketing seems to be something that they no longer care about because they know they are the biggest show in the country. What once were uniquely-designed scarezones have turned into random reused throwaway props with endless cheap chainsaw guys. I love chainsaw guys but I’m really freaking sick of them thanks to HHN. The prop and concept reuse inside the houses has become noticeable even to casual fans and their icon this year was just a guy with wings on stilts for no apparent reason.
Universal draws great crowds and many of them use Fastpass. The way that Uni implements Fastpass is nothing less than criminal. 20 minute posted wait times become 40 minutes or longer without warning because the regular line will not move due to the overselling of Fastpass. If you want to have a relaxing night at this event, you pretty much have to shell out for the Fastpass. I love HHN and would cry if I didn’t go every year because they always deliver a great event, but they are no longer the innovator or the most fun event to attend.
3. Eastern State Penitentiary: Philadelphia, PA: Read my full review here over at NJ.com. This attraction is built inside a real prison. During the day you can tour the building which is scary on it’s own. The haunted house is a walkthrough of four separate sections. It is actually really well done and pretty scary. All told – you can spend hours here enjoying yourself. Surrounding the prison are so many great food choices. All of these amenities make ESP a great, well-rounded attraction.
4. The Bates Motel: Glen Mills, PA: Bates has a great hayride, a corn maze that is actually long and scary, and a great haunted house. They can actually touch you at this haunt, which is pretty unique. If you don’t get there early there is a good chance that the concession stands may run out of food. They ran out of pretzels when I was there this year. Another unfortunate thing is that I noticed a few of the effects were not working when compared to what I experienced last year. If this is your first time going you will not notice this – it’s still a great place.
5. Schaeffer Farm Fright Fest – Flemington, NJ: Click here to read my full review. Schaeffer Farm Fright Fest may not be the most terrifying haunt on the block, but it serves up the best DIY scares I have ever seen. I was entertained from the moment I entered until the moment I left.
Out of the many (over 30?) attractions that I did this year, these are the best of the best. What haunts in your area are awesome? Did I miss any?
Now back to the art, parks, and mayhem until haunt season 2011 begins…
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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