TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS BUSINESS:
So, we’ve posted our overview of the evolution of Howl O Scream and our review of Blood Banquet. What did we think about the haunted attractions/haunted houses at Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2013 Howl O scream in Virginia?
The Haunted Attractions at Busch Gardens Williamsburg are not to be compared to the high-scare level of it’s Tampa sister, but I don’t think they are trying to do that yet. I think they are evolving toward that point. Keep in mind that Harknell and I are notoriously hard to scare. After going through hundreds of these we can see almost everything coming. For a normal person there would be more scares than there were for us because we are basically superhuman haunted house machines.
We love the construction of these houses and where they are going with the scares. We definitely recommend them to anyone in the area looking for a good time this Halloween season. As with last year, we also recommend that you get Quik Queue (starts at $30) if you want to be guaranteed to get into all of the houses. We did have Quik Queue for Cut Throat Cove but still we barely made it through all of them on a day with lower crowds than usual.
The best plan for doing Howl O Scream in Virginia:
It is impossible to do all of the shows and houses from 6-10PM.
If you plan to do Busch on one day and want to hit it all you have to attend during the day and see as many shows as possible. Then get Quik Queue for the Haunted Houses at night. The lines will be long. Plan accordingly.
If you wait until 9:30PM (30 min before closing) many of the lines will go down, but you shouldn’t rely on that if you only have 1 day.
We arrived at 6ish and didn’t get a chance to see any of the shows or shop. Our recommendation to the park is to stay open until at least midnight. I would have purchased merchandise and drinks and more food if I had been able to take advantage of that extra time. I left the park wanting more but not being able to come back the next day because I live in NJ.
13 is always a pretty good haunted attraction. We like the idea of a theme that goes through a narrative pathway. The idea is that you are going through 13 phobias. It isn’t the scariest haunted attraction ever, but we always enjoy it. There are a lot of great places for distraction scares in here, but unfortunately the actors didn’t take advantage of them. Hopefully they will get into the groove of working together as the season goes on.
Root of all Evil was GREATLY improved form last year. They brought in more hanging stuff to close in the space. Last year it felt like walking through an open greenhouse. This year it felt a lot more foreboding.
Our one complaint was that the line seemed to move extremely slowly at this attraction. It was about 12 people per 5-10 minutes while the line swelled to be past the queue capacity. We also saw no trace of The Lady of the Gardens. She was missed.
NOTE: Root of All Evil is not enclosed. Don’t do this one when the sun is still up.
Catacombs is probably the strongest and scariest attraction they have. It doesn’t change from year to year but it’s always solid.
Bitten is well-constructed, but the vampires within still are relying on can shaking to the point that it was almost comedic – like a baby rattle. Of course we always see it on opening night, so it goes without saying that the actors will get their bearings later in the season. It’s a fun house, but the can shaking and the fact that the actors were mostly working alone and not in tandem made it enjoyable, but not as scary as it could have been.
Deadline is always strong, but for some reason it was quieter this year. We still enjoyed ourselves.
New for 2013 is Cut Throat Cove. Maybe it’s because we were always unlucky enough to go through when it was still light out, but we never cared for its predecessor, Fear Fair. CTC seemed to be a lot better constructed, but the actors were (of course) still getting their bearings.
NOTE: Cut Throat Cove is not enclosed. Don’t do this one when the sun is still up.
The Terror-tories were really well done. The stand out star was France, which was on fire and infested with demons complete with demon DJ and dance party. I mean look:
London was very foggy and had some great costumed actors (including a headless woman) at the gate and decor:
Vampire Point had heads on spikes. They are actually named after Busch employees:
The pirate area was great. It had a photo op where you could walk the plank with some great pirate actors, bungee cord pirates, and a really fancy gift shop:
Of course Cut Throat Cove was at the end of the pathway:
Lots of decor was throughout the park – a big improvement from the level of decor they had last year:
We have overall great things to say about Howl O Scream. It gets better every year. The dining experiences are the best I have ever seen anywhere, period. OMG.
That said, we would like to see less can-shaking and more scare actors partnering for distraction scares and improv within the haunted attractions themselves. We also think the event should run from at least 6-midnight. There is so much here that it is impossible to even taste it all with the park closing at 10. Many things such as photo ops, bars, shows, and gift shop had to get skipped so that we could get through the main haunted attractions.
Even if it were open to midnight this would probably still be a 2 day event, but that extra time would have been enough to prevent me from feeling sad that I totally missed something on just 1 day. BGW HoS gets our recommendation for teen and above. We are excited to see what they will do next year and are thinking that we want to go back this year all the way form NJ. Because Awesome. :)
We did not get a chance to experience the shows. If you did, please comment below.
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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