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Most menacing Halloween haunts at theme parks in 2021

Howl-O-Scream launches at SeaWorld, Fright Fest returns to Six Flags, and PortAventura World celebrates the Day of the Dead.

Operators had to modify or cancel many of last year’s Halloween haunts due to the pandemic. Even Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) took a hiatus. Now, the attractions industry is bouncing back in 2021, with theme parks returning and renovating their usual eerie events.

Keep reading for some of this year’s most innovative and exciting Halloween offerings. This includes SeaWorld Orlando’s first-ever Howl-O-Scream, the first HHN exhibition and blindfolded roller coaster rides.

1 SeaWorld Orlando’s first-ever Howl-O-Scream

seaworld orlando howl-o-scream

SeaWorld Orlando’s first-ever Howl-O-Scream is in full swing, with visitors being chased around the nighttime event’s haunted houses or scare zones. SeaWorld Orlando’s ticketed Halloween event is running through October 31. It joins SeaWorld’s other fall offerings, including the return of the family-friendly Halloween Spooktacular and its daytime trick-or-treating.

“SeaWorld Orlando fans love our extensive event line-up which includes a special event taking place every weekend of the year,” said SeaWorld Orlando park president Kyle Miller. “Adding Howl-O-Scream to the calendar provides the missing element of a fright-filled Halloween event that we know our guests will welcome.”

“With this addition, we become the only theme park in Orlando to offer both a daytime family-friendly Halloween and a nighttime horror Halloween for thrill seekers,” Miller added. “We are very excited to announce Howl-O-Scream today and look forward to sharing all of the amazing details of the event over the next few months.”

Dark passageways and shadowy corners can be found at Howl-O-Scream’s haunted houses, while scare zones and roaming Halloween haunts are available for immersive scare experiences.

Musical dance performances and outdoor shows with special effects are on offer, and SeaWorld Orlando guests can find DJs and party zones throughout the park. Visitors can also take on SeaWorld Orlando’s horrifying coasters and rides in the dark, and find sinister interactive surprises at their favourite F&B haunts.

2 Universal’s first Halloween Horror Nights Exhibition

halloween horror nights exhibition top halloween haunts

Universal Studios Singapore is marking this year’s Halloween with the first-ever Halloween Horror Nights Exhibition, running through November 7. Horror fans get the chance to revisit some of the Halloween Horror Nights scare zones, haunted houses and shows at the nightmarish exhibition at Resorts World Sentosa.

The exhibition is showcasing nine years of Halloween Horror Nights, with a killer line-up of daunting displays, petrifying props and frightening facts about the event. As well as the exhibition, Trick or Thrills is running at Universal Studios Singapore through November 7, offering trick-or-treating, Halloween-themed meet-and-greets, a costume contest, and themed F&B.

Trail of Treats participants can collect terrifying treats from ‘candy ambassadors’, and an assortment of snacks is on offer at the Minion Monsters Bites food cart. Minions and Universal Classic Monsters are crossing over, with appearances from Wolfman Minion and other Minion Monstersat the park during Minion Monsters Tricky Treats.

Count von Count, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby can be seen on the streets of the New York zone during the Sesame Street Candy Cavalcade, a new Halloween meet-and-greet. Universal Studios Singapore is also holding an After Dark event where Universal Classic Monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein emerge from Universal Monsters Scream Alley to scare guests.

3 20 years of Halloween Fest at Ocean Park

ocean park top halloween haunts fest

Ocean Park’s annual Halloween Fest is returning for the park’s 20th anniversary as a vast haunted playground in Hong Kong brimming with otherworldly outdoor experiences.

Pumpkins are plentiful at Jack O’Lantern’s Kingdom, which is described as a garden full of freaky creatures and ghastly ghouls. Elsewhere, Old Hong Kong’s Murder Mysteries takes visitors back in time to the 1960s where they attempt to solve an infamous murder.

Three interactive Halloween haunt experiences are available – Survivor of the Undead, Forbidden Rainforest Treasure Hunt and Supernatural Ghost Tour. Guests can also check out the park’s spooktacular light show, Shadows in the Dark, and take a photo with an entity at Wedding of the Undead.

Additionally, Ocean Park is offering a Halloween-themed ‘Starry Summit’ glamping package, where guests will spend the night in a restricted area.

Seemingly a new trend for scare attractions, the park’s ’20 Years of Horror’ exhibition marks the 20th anniversary of Halloween Fest. Much like Universal Studios Singapore, Ocean Park‘s exhibition explores the event’s history and experiences. On display are costumes, designs and immersive sets.

4 The Haunting of Hill House at Universal Orlando

haunting of hill house universal orlando halloween horror nights top halloween haunts

For the first time ever, Netflix’s hit show The Haunting of Hill House is the scary star of a menacing maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021, in both Orlando and Hollywood. HHN includes iconic scenes from the blood-curdling show, including the Red Room and the harrowing Hall of Statues. Apparitions lurk in every corner, from the Tall Man to the Bent-Neck Lady.

“I have loved Halloween Horror Nights for so long,” said Mike Flanagan, The Haunting of Hill House director. “Some of my favorite memories of Halloween were made at Universal Studios, screaming and laughing with my friends.”

“It is such an honor to be included among such fantastic haunts, and I’m so glad that fans will be able to walk the halls of Hill House this Halloween,” Flanagan added. “This is, without a doubt, one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to us at Intrepid. We are so excited to visit the Red Room again – we hope to see you all there!”

Halloween Horror Nights runs through October 31 at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. Charles Gray, senior show director for entertainment creative development at Universal Orlando, said the eerie series “brought true horror to the masses, similar to what we’ve provided for our guests at this event for nearly 30 years”.

“Mike Flanagan has elevated the horror genre with his supernatural thriller, The Haunting of Hill House,” added John Murdy, executive producer of HHN at Universal Studios Hollywood. “The goal is to make our guests feel as if they are walking in the footsteps of the Crain family, re-living all the horrors that they experienced.”

Universal Orlando is serving up some terrifyingly tasty treats at Halloween Horror Nights, too. F&B is inspired by The Haunting of Hill House as well as 1974 American slasher movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Universal Pictures’ 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein.

Based on the Red Room tea party, Hill House-themed F&B includes stuffed brisket grilled cheese, jalapeño bacon grilled cheese, and tempeh reuben and sauerkraut, as well as an iced tea beverage called ‘Poison Tea Party’. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style food is ‘carved to perfection’ by Leatherface’s chainsaw and includes roasted lamb spit and severed ribs. Inspired by the The Bride of Frankenstein’s setting in Germany, guests will enjoy ‘Bride of Frankenstein’s Swirl’, as well as Flammkuchen and Reibekuchen.

5 PortAventura World celebrates Day of the Dead

top halloween haunts

PortAventura World is celebrating its 21st Halloween with Europe’s first walk-through experience inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead. La Muerte Viva is a colourful attraction that passes through the heart of an old hacienda, with visitors meeting mourning widows and corpse brides. Halloween runs through November 14 at PortAventura. Additional shows and experiences include La Isla Maldita, Apocalipsis Maya, Halloween Forever, Horror in Texas, and Bang Bang Halloween.

There’s even an official experience based on REC, the hit Spanish horror film franchise. “We are happy to be able to celebrate this year’s Halloween season,” said David García, PortAventura World managing director and CCO. “[PortAventura’s] Halloween offer is unparalleled in Europe,” García said.

“A terrifying and pioneering venture in equal parts, PortAventura World has been organising special activities to celebrate Halloween since 2000,” he added. “Since then, more than 9 million people have visited the park to enjoy one of the most spectacular events of the season, in a pioneering venture in Spain.”

6 Fright Fest’s triumphant return to Six Flags

six flags fright fest

Six Flags confirmed earlier this year that Fright Fest is back for 2021 – and it’s bigger, better and scarier than ever. The company’s signature Halloween party features miles of haunted mazes, new Halloween-themed shows, petrifying scare actors and thrilling rides in the dark.

“When it comes to Halloween, our guests tell us that Fright Fest is always at the top of their ‘must-do’ list,” said senior VP of operations Bonnie Weber. “After a one-year hiatus, our entertainment teams have created an immersive and thrilling experience, while also adhering to jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction safety protocols.”

Fright Fest provides Thrills by Day and Fright by Night. By day, Six Flags is home to trick-or-treat trails, storytelling, interactive dance parties, and character meet-and-greets. By night, parks become fog-filled mazes teeming with sinister sights and sounds, thrilling theming and spooky special effects.

Fright Fest is running at the following parks, through October 31:

  • Six Flags Fiesta Texas 
  • Six Flags Great Adventure 
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Six Flags Over Texas 
  • Six Flags Great America 
  • Six Flags Over Georgia
  • Six Flags Darien Lake (through October 30) 
  • Six Flags St. Louis 
  • Six Flags America
  • Six Flags New England
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Frontier City
  • The Great Escape
  • La Ronde

7 Howl-O-Scream debuts at SeaWorld San Diego

seaworld san diego howl-o-scream halloween

SeaWorld San Diego followed Orlando’s lead, announcing its own first-ever Howl-O-Scream event last month. Swarming with haunted houses, scare zones, roaming haunts and creepy Halloween cocktails, Howl-O-Scream takes place at SeaWorld San Diego through October 31.

“We are putting our own unique spin on classic haunt themes so there are unexpected surprises around every corner at Howl-O-Scream,” said SeaWorld San Diego’s VP of entertainment, Randolph Borden. “All our haunted attractions are designed by leading experts in the Halloween production industry and have helped us create the most terrifying houses, scares and experiences for our guests.”

“The expectations are extremely high for our first year and we are ecstatic to welcome our fellow Halloween and horror fans to what will surely become a yearly, must-experience event,” Borden added.

Haunted houses

Nightmare Experiment – guests are involved in a secret, experimental project and must find safety before ‘The Doctor’ locates them.

Simon’s Slaughterhouse – visitors end up at an abandoned meat-packing plant with a sordid history that serves up their darkest fears.

Death Water Bayou – guests have to escape the black, murky waters from their worst nightmares but are cursed by the evil ‘Swamp Witch’.

Scare zones

Deadly Toys – ‘These aren’t like the dolls you grew up with. Playtime starts now, and it’s not over until they’ve had their fun.’

First Fright – ‘Clown, skull, or snake? The choice is… not yours. Subject yourself to a triple dose of horror right out of the gate.’

Graveyard – ‘There are evils that can’t stay buried forever. Some of this cemetery’s long-term guests are dying to meet you.’

La Llorona – ‘Don’t believe the legend? Just ask the deadly beauty who wanders here, dragging victims to a watery grave.’

The Sirens – ‘Their allure is powerful. Their motives are terrifying. Steer clear… this is one call you don’t want to answer.’

The Hauntings – ‘This forest is not what it seems. Evil is watching… hiding in plain sight. You’ll need more than luck to avoid being taken.’

Themed bars

AmBARlance – boozy ‘medications’ administered via IV bags and syringes and vodka-soaked ‘vitamins’ in medicine cups.

Simon’s Screamatorium – drinks include ‘Vomit Shots’ and ‘The Bloodiest Mary’.

Murder She Float – serves cursed concoctions on Ouija boards and in skulls.

Additionally, SeaWorld San Diego’s Howl-O-Scream includes the Vampire Circus show, set in a ‘twisted acrobatic fantasy universe’ where ‘chaos and craziness give way to a haunted celebration’.

8 Blindfolded rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

top halloween haunts blackpool pleasure beach

Blindfolded roller coaster rides are a horrifying highlight at Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s ‘Journey To Hell Freak Nights’ event this year.

The experience features scare zones, haunted ride areas and live entertainment after the park closes for the day. Offerings include Hell Tunnels, Valley of Carnevil Freaks, the Legend of the Cursed River Caves, the Big Dark Abyss, Day of the Dead Ghost Train, Scare Maze and Blind Faith.

Blind Faith seemingly refers to the blindfolded coaster experience:

“Do you have the faith where speed, stealth and darkness dwells?” Blackpool Pleasure Beach asks. “Dark warriors sense that your minds are weak. Dare you test them and prove your Blind Faith?”

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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