Oni and I visited Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O Scream as media guests this year. We’ve been to the Tampa Howl-O-Scream every year since 2009 (you can see all of our other reviews on our Haunted Attraction review portal), and we’ve been very happy with the event every time we’ve gone. This year was no exception, it was a fun event.
They had 7 houses this year, with one upsell house (which required an additional fee above the cost for regular entry to the event) called “The Experiment”. Five of the houses were rethemed houses from the previous year (which is a typical thing Busch does, but it’s quite cool in that they use this to add a narrative to the house and act like the new version is a new chapter in the story of the house), with 2 new additions. The new houses, “Death Water Bayou” and “The Basement”, were both our favorite houses for this year. The Basement was an adaption of the former “Alone House” (their former upsell attraction), and Death Water Bayou was a Louisiana themed house using Voodoo and other elements.
All of the houses we went through were nicely done and had the requisite amount of scares we’ve come to expect from Busch. We did not do “The Experiment” though, since as opposed to the narrative style of the “Alone House”, this event was advertised as more of an “extreme” style haunted experience (as in the NYC Blackout variety), which we typically don’t find as interesting.
One thing that was disturbing though this year, was a noticeable lack of wandering scare actors. Over the last few years the Tampa Howl-O-Scream has made it almost their trademark of having huge numbers of wandering scare actors, all in different outfits and themes, moving across the park. This year we practically saw almost none. It used to be a standout thing that you were never safe anywhere in the Tampa park. Once we noticed this, we noticed that it seemed that maybe the budget for this year had been cut a bit, since the overall feel of the event seemed a bit squeezed. Only someone like us, who’ve been to the event for many years, and have an eye toward these kind of details, would have noticed this, but we really hope this isn’t an indication moving forward that Busch is pulling back funding for what is usually our high point of the Halloween haunted attraction season.
So, it was fun, it was definitely worth it, but was a slight step down in overall atmosphere from their most recent years–though that could be simply because we’ve felt that they’ve been on an upward trajectory and moving in the right direction so a faltering would be more noticeable to us. (and maybe a bit unfair in some ways to criticize).