Back in the day, many theme parks would call it a season around Labor Day. But that all changed in 1973, when Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, decided to celebrate Halloween with a three-day affair. The event was a hit, and now it’s marking the 47th season of Knott’s Scary Farm.
Other companies took notice of the event’s success, and today virtually every theme park extends its season well into the fall with Halloween events. Most follow Knott’s template by offering monster-filled mazes, outdoor scare zones, shows and re-themed rides.
Let’s explore a sampling of the spine-tingling scares that await visitors along parks’ menacing midways.
Knott’s Scary Farm
There’s a reason the the wax figures at Knott’s Scary Farms’ “Wax Works” look particularly lifelike. (Photo: Cedar Fair Entertainment Company)
The granddaddy of gore, Knott’s Scary Farm, runs on select nights through Nov. 2, and tickets start at $43. This year, the event features nine mazes, including the new “Origins: The Curse of Calico.” Set in the park’s famous Ghost Town, visitors are accosted by townsfolk who have fallen prey to a witch’s evil curse.
The demented doctor presiding over another new maze, “Wax Works,” takes a shortcut in creating the figures for his wax museum. Rather than crafting them, he simply dips live humans into a vat of hot wax. Suffice it to say, Knott’s Scary Farm is not for the squeamish.
Knott’s Spooky Farm
For younger guests, there’s Knott’s Spooky Farms. (Photo: Cedar Fair Entertainment Company)
It’s not all blood and chainsaw-wielding baddies at Knott’s. The park also presents Knott’s Spooky Farm, a toned-down ode to Halloween designed for younger children and their families. It’s offered on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27, and on Oct. 31 and is included with park admission.
The daytime event includes trick-or-treating, shows featuring the Peanuts characters, pumpkin decorating and attractions tricked out for the season such as “Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny.”
Cedar Point and CaroWinds
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, presents Haunt at HalloWeekends. (Photo: Cedar Fair Entertainment Company)
Knott’s isn’t the only Cedar Fair park that gets into Halloween. Eleven of its other parks have their own events, like Haunt at HalloWeekends at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, (select nights through Oct. 27; tickets begin at $45). Mazes include “Slaughter House,” where the butchers pursue guests as if they are lambs being led to the – well, you get the idea.
Meanwhile, CaroWinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, transforms into ScaroWinds on select nights through Oct. 27 while Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri, offers Halloween Haunt on select nights through Oct. 26. (Tickets for both begin at $39.99.)
Among the haunted mazes at Six Flags New England’s Fright Fest is Midnight Mansion. (Photo: Six Flags)
All of the Six Flags parks go to the dark side with Fright Fest (check individual parks for dates and ticket prices). There may be nothing creepier than malevolent clowns, and Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts, lets them run amok in “Slasher Circus 3D” (select nights through Oct. 27).
The undead figure prominently in the parks’ Halloween events. Case in point: Six Flags America in the Baltimore/Washington area dares visitors to make their way through its “Zombieville” scare zone (select nights through Nov. 3).
SeaWorld and Busch Gardens
Jack’s back for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia. (Photo: SeaWorld Entertainment)
SeaWorld Parks also celebrate the sinister season with Howl-O-Scream, offered as part of admission and available on select nights through Nov. 2 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida (select nights through Nov. 2), as well as select nights through Oct. 27 at SeaWorld San Antonio, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia.
Recurring character Jack returns to Williamsburg with a show and a haunted escape room experience, “Jack’s Twisted Terror.”
The SeaWorld parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio keep things on the mild side with family-friendly Spooktacular events. (Photo: SeaWorld Entertainment)
The event is also offered at SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando through Oct. 27. Features include a “Sesame Street” parade, complimentary trick-or-treating and a Halloween edition of “Pets Ahoy,” starring the parks’ animals.
Among the mazes at Kentucky Kingdom’s HalloScream is (creepy clown alert!) “Die Laughing – A Clown Funeral.” (Photo: Kentucky Kingdom)
It’s been a while since Louisville’s Kentucky Kingdom scared the daylights out of its guests, but this year, the park is bringing HalloScream back from the dead. The event runs every weekend night in October.
Among its mazes is (creepy clown alert!) “Die Laughing: A Clown Funeral.” And, as if horror icon, Jason, isn’t scary enough in two dimensions, the park is presenting “Friday the 13th in 5D” in its theater.
Silver Dollar City
Pumpkin Nights at Silver Dollar City’s Harvest Festival offers intricately carved jack-o-lanterns. (Photo: Herschend Family Entertainment)
For its inaugural Halloween event, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is foregoing the frights. Instead, it offers Pumpkin Nights at its Harvest Festival (through Oct. 26) with intricately carved jack-o-lanterns and other seasonal fun. (Note: Costumes are not permitted.)
The park is also presenting “Cirque Éloize Lumberjacks Show,” featuring a troupe of acrobats.
Want your Halloween horror-filled or Not-So-Scary?Pick your poison at Disney or Universal
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