Sunday, September 21, 2014

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream 2014

Busch Garden’s in Williamsburg for the 15 past years has taken its peaceful and beautiful park and turned it into something a bit more sinister and scary for most of September and October, though it is just as beautiful.

In fact, it may even be a tad bit more so with the elaborate lighting and decorations throughout the park. Everywhere you look there are pumpkins and twinkle lights..and rats, spiders and creatures too. But none that can actually hurt you, they are made from plastic and rubber after all. So for those who don’t really do rides, the park is still a wonderful place to explore and savor in the fall. Food helps too, all of it here is delicious. You can find more pumpkin this and that, as well as other Halloween themed desserts.

Howl-O-Scream events begin every evening at 6 p.m. and are designed for the type of audience who wants the crap scared out of them, so most of the time that is not little kids. Actors fill the park dressed as ghoulish characters to jump out and scare guests. There are often people with chainsaws (minus the blades of course) and the noise will startle most adults. None of them hang out in the Forest of Fun, (the Sesame Street area for little kids)but you still have to exiting through England and Ripper Row. So keep this in mind when visiting with children. Not that I should have to warn you (BG posts signs up to make you aware ) It's not called Hallow-Fun, or Not-too scary...Its HOWL or SCREAM, with those words in the title, you should know what you are in for.

There are several things to enjoy while you are here.  All of the rides are open with the exception of Europe in the Air (one of the Haunted houses takes over the space).  Water rides are open weather permitting.  The train and boats are still running as usual with spooky music and theming. There are still the same animal shows, the Wildlife Reserve is still open as well as Highland Stables and all of the other normal shows are replaced with Halloween shows. 

The food menus are relatively the same with some additional fall themed desserts like Pumpkin Cheesecake, Monster Cake, and spooky pudding with gummy worms. In addition the park has opened a few new places to grab some grub. There is a chicken shack in Oktoberfest,  roasted pork shank in Ireland and outside of Trappers Smoke house; 2 different buffets,Vampire Bites (Wraps)in Germany, Pizza and Taco “cones” at Vesuvius outside Pompeii/Deadline and Gourmet hot dogs in “Port of Skulls” in Italy at the Crow’s Nest Grill. One thing I say all the time, is the food here is well above average, it isn't your typical fast-food or carnival type fare (or like many other theme parks I have been to with the exception of Disney). The prices are very reasonable, desserts are usually $2-$3 and meals are about $8-$9. The few that are more are so big you can share them.

                                                   Eating some "Monster Cake"

One of the most exciting elements this year is the return of Monster Stomp. The popular show that was missing from the park for a few years is back at the request of numerous guests and will be shown in the Globe Theater (which previously held London Rocks). Since the Globe theater received an update with new projection equipment, more lighting and new speakers expect an even more dramatic and darker version of Monster Stomp. There will be elements from the original that debuted back in 2002 with the “dance of the skeletons” and a few of the favorite songs which launched Monster Stomp’s popularity. Monster Stomp is loud, but it leaves you wanting more. I could have sat through it a second time and I generally do not like concerts or live theater. The opening scene is a bit scary for kids,(Jack the Ripper claims a victim behind a scrim so you see him holding a head in silhouette) but you can just have yourself or your kids close their eyes for those few seconds. I wouldn't miss out on it because of that. Here is a clip from fellow Busch Gardens Ambassador Naoma Doriguzzi

Terror-torys are placed through all of the villages. These areas have a unified theme and are additional decorations to the village. 

In England there is Ripper Row, where you will have to keep an eye out for Jack the Ripper. This is also where Monster Stomp is showing.
Demon Street in France has a haunted DJ spinning some tunes and the place appears to be on fire from a distance. Feel free to do some dancing, if embarrassed by dancing maybe grab a Demon Drink.

Wendigo Woods is the newest Terror Tory to come to the park and is in New France (French-Canadian). Here a mutated creature is on the loose after some experiments go wrong.  Sirens will go off to warn you.  

Vampire Point in Germany is loaded with vampires and this is where you will find the Blood Banquet all-you-can-eat-buffet and entertainment. The food served here is a bit better than the lower priced buffet in Ireland. Characters interact with guests in the outdoor dining area.

Ports of Skulls is at the entrance to Italy from the bridge of Pompeii and it is full of pirates. You may wind up walking the plank.

There are 6 Haunted Houses, all are included with your admission.

13 your number is up (Ireland) This haunted house is housed in the castle that normally holds Europe in the Air, thought the main entrance is in the back of Ireland just outside of the Nature Reserve. Here you tour 13 "floors" of various fears. (no stairs)This house in particular uses the most optical illusions and sensory scares. It is my personal favorite.
Deadline (Italy) This walk through maze is located in the bottom of Pompeii and the story is there was a deadly gas released in a subway. This maze uses optical allusions, scary people, props and a lot of winding around to scare you.
Catacombs (France) Is probably one of the tamest haunted houses because it is pretty straight forward. It’s a catacomb, there will be creatures banging and trying to spook you.
Bitten (Oktoberfest/Germany) Vampires and vampire scenes are what awaits you in this haunted house maze set in the 1800's.
Cut throat Cove (Fiesta Italy) Is a mostly outdoor haunted house maze full of pirates and scurvy.
Root of All Evil (Oktoberfest/Germany) is a more sinister version of little shop of horrors without the show tunes. Plants have gotten mutated in this green house, most of it is outdoors.

The Shows in Busch Gardens are included with ticket price, with the exception of the all-you-can-eat buffet dinner shows. They generally cost $22 for adults and $15 for kids. Fiends in Ireland (Abby Stone)-is an adult themed that I haven’t seen yet so I can't report much about it. It is based on Frankenstein and is very popular. I hope to get to see it eventually since it looks like fun. 

Night Beats in Germany (Festivus House) is a musical revue with Halloween themed costumes, special effects and music.  Music is from the '20's to today. You can eat your meal at the Festivus house here while you enjoy the show for no additional charge.

Igor’s Fright Feast in Ireland is an all-you-can-eat buffet and show. The show is cute, it isn’t adult themed like Fiends so kids can go, the highlight for kids is Swampy (sort of like the creature from the black lagoon) who gave my son a lot of laughs. Igor is assisted by some of the sexy nurses but  the very few adult jokes will go over their heads.  The food is just ok overall, if you love wings you will love the buffet. There is also a small salad bar and mashed potato bar. The toppings on the mashed potato bar are excellent and include beef, pulled pork, cheese, bacon bits and sour cream so you can decide what you want to add to your potatoes. The mashed potatoes themselves were the only real disappointment as they were instant. But I figure they chose this to keep costs low since they are giving you all these great toppings. The desserts were delicious too, a spiced brownie type cake with a whisky caramel topping. And do it yourself parfaits with cake pieces,  whipped cream and jimmies. Over all it's a good value.

 Noah was resisting going in to Fright Feast at first, but then saw it looked like a "VIP room" so he was then happy.

Howl-O-Scream occurs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from September 12th-October 26th until about 9 or 10 p.m. each evening, the park generally is open by 10 a.m.

Ticket prices are standard prices $75 for adults and $65 for kids 3-9 (the $75 funcard allows you back all fall) and pass holders do not need a separate ticket for this event. If you haven’t purchased a season pass yet, you may want to consider one. Prices start at $10 a month and include free parking and a 10% discount on everything in the park

                                                   Its' the little touches I appreciate most.

Howl-O-Scream is great fun for all, for those who don’t care for the scare you can enjoy yourselves until 6 p.m, after that you may want to get the heck out. Monsters aren't in the Forest of Fun or Land of The Dragons (both close at 7 p.m.) but you still have to exit the park. There isn't trick or treating, but they do supply plenty of free'tricks' and treats, well you just have to pay for those.

You get the most bang for your buck if you are a pass holder or live close enough to use a fun card a few times.  We are season pass holders and have taken the journey to Howl-O-Scream for 4 different years from NJ, (that's 300 miles one way)it has always been worth it. I love Disney but still prefer this to their “Not too Scary” event (which is perfect for little ones). Even if you don’t ride, you can greatly enjoy yourself.

                                  Noah's "mad moves" on Demon Street at Howl-O-Scream. 

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