By day, families by the thousands flock to them for games, rides, shops, snacks, thrills and laughs. By night, only the brave dare enter these theme parks. Halloween has become the commercial highlight of October in the United States and theme parks are taking advantage of the opportunity: haunted attractions during the first months of fall. If you or someone you know is looking for a scare, we’ve compiled a list of the best theme parks in the U.S. offering haunted houses and attractions this fall. We recommend sitting this one out for the faint of heart.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios – Orlando, Florida / Hollywood, California
For over 25 years Universal Studios has been offering one of the most frightening theme park experiences in America. This yea, fans of the FX anthology-horror series American Horror Story can experience their fears first hand with Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, in both the Orlando and Hollywood theme parks. Beginning September 16, those brave enough will enter a three-part haunted experience featuring iconic scenes from the show’s first, fourth and fifth seasons: Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel. Guests will visit the Harmon Estate and encounter the tortured souls unable to leave the home, meet a troupe of biological misfits on the run from the murderous Twisty the Clown and end their night succumbing to The Countess at Hotel Cortez. Those who don’t know American Horror Story need not worry, as there are five other horrifying attractions to experience. Enter the mind of Chance, if you dare, or experience other classic Hollywood horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Exorcist and Krampus. There are various deals and offers for those visiting the theme park during the day or staying on site at a Universal property to add Halloween Horror Night tickets to their existing packages.
Halloween Time at Disneyland – Anaheim, California
Disney fans have an all-new reason to visit the park the park this October, with the introduction of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Final Check-Out event at the Disney California Adventure Park. The invitation to check in to the Hollywood Tower Hotel is even more urgent now as the ride is set to close January 2, 2017. A final tribute begins September 9 honoring the haunted hotel's eerie past and exciting adventure at Disney. Guests who arrive after dark are invited to participate in “Late Check-Out,” something never offered at the park before. Brave riders will experience the Tower of Terror completely in the dark. The celebration also includes special musical performances, commemorative merchandise and specialty food and beverages items. Also new for Halloween at Disney this year, and good for families, is the Frightfully Fun Parade during Mickey’s Halloween Party, a separately-ticketed event offered 17 nights out of the Halloween season. Among new characters at the event include The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Visitors should be sure to stay for the Halloween Screams fireworks display after the parade.
Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens – Williamsburg, Virginia/Tampa, Florida
The curtains go up on seven different Howl-O-Scream attractions at Busch Garden’s Williamsburg, Virginia and Tampa, Florida, locations at sundown (or approximately, 6 p.m.) September 23 for the parks’ 2016 haunting season. New attractions for this season include Cinco Sinistro, an experience offering “room roulette,” making each visitors experience completely unique each time they enter the tent. Also new to experience this year is Mr. Karver’s Workshop, where Mr. Karver created wooden dolls who came to life and performed for audiences, before audiences mysteriously disappeared. Mr. Karver has since locked himself and the dolls in his workshop and set it on fire, killing himself and destroying all inside. This year, for the first time, guests are invited to explore what remains of the Workshop. Other haunted houses this year include Bitten, Catacombs, Cornered, Deadline, Lumberhack and Unearthed – Scarlet’s Revenge, an all-new house from the producer of The Blair Witch Project. For those avoiding entering the haunted areas, be aware of Terror-tories like Demon Street, Ripper Row, Sideshow Square, Vampire Point and Wendigo Woods, immersive themed areas scattered about the park.
HalloWeekends at Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
Cedar Point is celebrating 20 years of fear during this year’s HalloWeekends. This year, the park is offering 21 different attractions including mazes, scare zones, shows, restaurants, rides, events, fortune tellers and fast passes for those eager to enter the chaos. Themes of this year's attractions include Eternity Infirmary, Slaughter House, Hexed, Zombie High School, G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate and Eden Musee, a museum where the wax figures range from classic to creepy and have been known to come to life. The Ultimate HalloWeekends Package offers guests a two-night stay, admission to Cedar Point and HalloWeekends on Saturday and Sunday, free Friday night admission, early entry to the park on all three days and parking for the entire duration of stays and is available at Hotel Breakers, Breakers Express, Sandcastle Suites, Lighthouse Point and Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark. Guests and agents should call 419-627-2106 to book the package.
Fright Dome at Circus Circus – Las Vegas, Nevada
Fright Dome at the Circus, Circus hotel in Las Vegas rolls out the Black Carpet this year on September 30. Not suitable for children under 12, Fright Dome was voted one of the most extreme haunted houses in the world by The Travel Channel. Located within the Vegas hotel district, this haunted attraction is great for anyone looking for the full Vegas experience. With 250,000 “scare feet” complete with six new haunted houses and four new scare zones, Fright Dome offers fear junkies the adrenaline they crave. Guests are invited to ride any of the property’s 25 rides; all premium rides are included in park entry and are ridden in the dark. Fright Dome offers nightly live horror-themed shows, though non-horrifying productions can be caught in other areas of the Circus Circus property. Unlike other haunted-houses, the Fright Dome at Circus Circus is handicap accessible, offering ramps and elevators for those in wheelchairs.
Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure – Jackson, New Jersey
Available for 24 nights of the Halloween season, Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure offers frights to guests from September 17 through Halloween night. New for the 2016 season are a variety of new shows, including Slash, an unsettling production of hard rock, violence, gore and dark humor featuring illusionists John Bundy and Morgan; Bilkum, Burnham & Haugh’s Side Show Spectacular featuring Murrugun the Mystic, Lizardman and beautiful sorceress Catalina Askew as headliners of the freak show; and The Donniker Bros. Worlds of Mirth, where sinister clowns invite guests to step up, sit down and shut up during this adult-humor show. A new maze for the 2016 season, Cell Block 6, takes guests through the escape route prisoners have been using to escape from the Great New Jersey Prison. While shows and scare zones are included in park admission, guests should be aware that eight of the park’s haunted houses and mazes require additional tickets. Visitors should take advantage of theme park admission, though, as rides are generally shorter in line length during the Fright Fest season.
Nightfall at Old Tucson Studios – Tuscon, Arizona
Nightfall takes haunted attractions up a notch by inviting the inquisitive to visit an entire haunted town. Throughout the “town” will be various hidden characters, live shows, haunted attractions, shops, food and drink stops and more. The park’s main haunted attractions include Psychomania, where guests enter the mind of a psychopath; The Bunker, where visitors enter a safe-haven bunker five years after the apocalypse; and Iron Door Haunted Mine, taking guests on a journey of subterranean tunnels, haunted by cursed miners. For travelers looking for the ultimate scare, guests can participate in Fertile Ground, where a group of friends go camping on a not-so-abandoned farm. Those interested in Fertile Ground should contact Nightfall prior to the 31 for bookings.
Nightmares Fear Factory – Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada
Not in the United States and not a theme park, Nightmares Fear Factory deserves a spot on this list as it’s an attraction that brings horror junkies from across the globe to Ontario to experience. Open year round, the attraction boasts more than 130,000 people have entered the haunted house but have had to use the “safe word” out of fear and to exit the walk-through early. Guests should know that there are no refunds for being too scared to complete the house. Those who brave Nightmares Fear Factory are haunted by Abraham, owner of “Cataract Coffin Factory” who died on site after he was pushed into a stack of coffins which ultimately crushed him and caused his death. Abraham’s coffin was found empty at his funeral, and now it’s said he haunts his abandoned factory, now the sight of Nightmares. Nightmares Fear Factory is located right atop Clifton Hill in Niagra Falls, within walking distance to many of the Niagra Falls and Ontario tourist attractions. A discounted is offered to those who purchase tickets for Nightmares Fear Factory online.