On the thirteenth day of the sixth month of the thirteenth year of the twenty-first century, Busch Gardens Tampa announced some of the details for the fourteenth edition of one of the most frightening, spine-chilling, and fun Halloween themed events in Florida; Howl-O-Scream!
“Once every century, on precisely the thirteenth year, evil comes out to play,” stated Kelly Heckinger, Busch Gardens public relations. “This fall, for 14 select nights, Howl-O-Scream® 2013 returns to Busch Gardens® Tampa with tormenting surprises around every corner and unexpected terrors.”
According to the event website, opening weekend for Howl-O-Scream 2013 is Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28. The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26. Operating hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday nights and 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
With so many haunted attractions to choose from, you might b wondering why should you visit Howl-O-Scream? There are lots of very good reasons, but here are the top 13!
13. Elephants – You may think that the animal exhibits at the park are all secured for the night. You’d be mistaken, as the park’s herd of Indian elephants stand vigil as the terrified guests look on.
12. Fright Feast Buffet – People can’t be propely scared on an empty stomach! Fright Feast is the most deranged dinner show in town, featuring a buffet of monstrous main courses and devilish desserts, plus an exclusive performance of Fiends. Fright Feast guests are also the first to brave the dark with a half-hour of early access to the all-new haunted houses and front-of-line privileges until 8:30 p.m. In 2012, the Fright Feast cost $26 per person, with group rates and discounts for pass and Fun Card members available.
11. Naughty Nurses – Some people have a fear of doctors, but these nurses will do their best to ease your fears! Most of them are simply eye candy for the ladies and gentlman in attendance, but a few of them have the privelage of serving various alchohlic potions to the assembled masses.
10. Roaming hordes – Howl-O-Scream is famous for their roving hordes of scareactors, who turn virtually all of Busch Gardens’ 335 acres into a giant scarezone, which will once again be overgrown in 2013 with dark, sinister, adult-targeted fun.
9. Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors – Sometimes, simply browsing the many macabre trinkets available for purchase is almost as good as the haunted attractions themselves. Of course, every good theme park experience is not compete without at least a t-shirt, hat, or zombie teddy bear!
8. Scarezones – These themed areas are basically outdoor, walk-through haunted attractions. Several are marked on the map, but you will notice some areas where the hordes have taken over that turn into de facto scare zones. Remember, the only truly safe place is in the bathrooms!
7. Club XIV – This dance club of the undead gives patrons a chance to try out some of the adult beverages on hand, and dance the night away with some of the scariest creatures this side of the grave! In the past, it has been housed in the Marrakesh Theater.
6. Icons – Howl-O-Scream has always had an icon; a deviant of some sort whose evil mind dominates the theming of the event. Early indications point towards multiple icons for 2013, but one never knows.
5. Alone – As the name implies, this haunted maze is intended to be experienced by yourself. It costs a little more to get in, and requires reservations, but might be the perfect house for someone who finds the other haunted attractions to be just a bit too tame!
4. Coasters at night – If you’re a certified coaster chicken, and find the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens overwhelming in the daylight, imagine how insane they are at night! The brave (or foolish) have the chance to ride adrenaline-fuelled coasters at night, including Florida’s first triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt.
3. Front Line Fear Pass – This wonderful pass grants no-wait access to six houses, excluding Alone. In 2012, the pass cost an additional $35, but considering that the lines for some of the houses reached in excess of a 2 hour wait for the “regular” customers last year, the pass more than pays for itself. For those of you who aren’t as much of a coaster chicken as my wife and I, the Front Line Fear Extreme pass ups the access and also lets guests skip the line at five freaky coasters for $50 (again, 2012 price).
2. Fiends – This signature naughty nurses show features Dr. Freakenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, Igor, the Wolfman, and plenty of nurses who boogie down just feet away. It’s fist performance of the night is included with the Frght Feast Buffet, and who can say no to dinner and a show!
1. Haunted attractions – Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a point to attend a halloween themed event without the haunted houses! Howl-O-Scream is interesting in the fact that they reuse some of the haunted attractions from year to year, giving them a chance to improve and tweak the experience. All of the attractions do not return, however, which allows the new blood to replace the old. After all, what kind of vampire or zombie likes old blood!
Halloween lovers can save on advance tickets by purchasing them early. For a limited time, any single-day admission to Howl-O-Scream 2013 is $47. Of course, if you’re too terrified to tackle the terror on your own, you and three friends can save on a pack of four tickets to Howl-O-Scream on Thursdays for only $30 per person.
Being a passholder for the park has its advantages as well, as Busch Gardens Tampa pass members can take advantage of their exclusive discount on any single-day admission to Howl-O-Scream for only $37.
Remember, Howl-O-Scream is a separate ticketed night event. No costumes are allowed. Howl-O-Scream is intended for a mature audience. This year’s event contains intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood.
If you’re not already a fan, “like” Busch Gardens Tampa Bay at facebook.com or check out the park’s blog at BuschGardensTampaBlog.com to get insider updates on all of the park’s happenings.
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Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following this column for news on other spooky events in the Palm Beaches and beyond. If you know of another local event that needs more press, please tell me about it!