2013, Attractions, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia: Busch Gardens Howl O Scream 2013 review: Haunted attractions in a theme park! Yay!

We had the opportunity to attend the Media Event for Busch Gardens Howl O Scream 2013 in Williamsburg, Virginia this past weekend! BGW is one of our favorite theme parks. Their Food and Wine Festival, Christmas Town, and this Howl O Scream Halloween event are highlights of our year.

We never pass up the opportunity to check out Busch Gardens even though it is a 7.5 hour drive for us!

Each year Howl O Scream gets better and better in Virginia. We believe that this year is a landmark year for the park. We got to take a shuttle backstage and see a cool presentation about the evolution of the event and this year’s direction!

Kevin and Scott told us about some of the things that were new in the event:

And they got heckled by some really great Pirates. These guys were hilarious! (You can find them in the Italy Terror-tory at the Walk the Plank photo op! Yes, you can get your photo taken on a plank with these guys!)

We got some cool stuff!

I got to meet cool people! this is Chuck from Theme Park Review and my friend whom I am sorry but I didn’t get your name! Please email me!

Decorations!

During the presentation it was said to us that we should spread the word that small children are not the target audience for this event after 6PM. This was never before said by park management. This is huge and, we believe, a step in the right direction.

Before you get mad, let me explain to you why.

In past years, BGW’s Howl O Scream was more family-friendly for all ages for the entire day. The idea was a good one: serve both families with small children and a group of teens and adults. The problem was that this didn’t really work well together from what we saw.

In the past they had kid-targeted events interspersed throughout the park along with the haunted houses that appealed to an older demographic. What we saw happening was kids would go into areas that were for the teens. Kids would get scared, parents would get mad. We saw parents yelling at scare actors just for doing their job. This resulted in scare actors who seemed more tentative to us. I shared this feedback with the park management.

The challenge for BGW was to please these 2 groups. We personally still believe that Howl O Scream should be a hard ticketed (as in, not free to season pass holders) event to cut down on the crowds, but we also believe that they are making great decisions in how they are handling the event’s evolution.

Today, they are serving families with children before 6PM and they switch to teens and adults after 6PM. You can still bring kids in, but they caution you that it may not be appropriate unless your kid is not afraid of scary monsters.

I feel that this is an excellent solution to give the best experience to both kids and adults.

Obviously we enjoy the adult-targeted events. Even though we do not drink we have been heartened each year by their inclusion of bars and the more adult-targeted things such as the “Fiends” show. For example, new this year is a Pirate Bar in Italy:

Its a sign to us that they plan to stand behind good entertainment for both kids and the adults like us with disposable income. The latter demographic is something that Disney has fallen flat on in the last 5 years. Disney has historically left money on the table by not giving us enough things to buy. I’m more than happy to spend that with Busch if they care to make stuff for me – and they are.

I am not surprised that Busch took the plunge this year and separated the day product from the night product – even in a simple way such as making this announcement. At this point I am even more confident than I was last year that Busch Gardens plans to evolve some great experiences into their park’s Halloween event each year. I absolutely can’t wait to see where they are going with this. This is the first year that I have felt like I wanted a second day in the park to take it all in. Prior to this year one day would have been enough for me.

But how were the attractions? More on that in the next blog post. Part 2 is the Blood Banquet dining experience review which will be followed by reviews of the haunted attractions!