Each year, Busch Gardens manages to step it up with new and exciting aspects for Howl-O-Scream, its annual Halloween event. Last year, it was themed dinner shows and the introduction of terror-tories. This year, the park brings back a familiar favorite and updates it with dazzling technology and spellbinding special effects.
Howl-O-Scream 2014 kicked off Friday, September 12 and will run through October 26 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The park is open during the day, all decked out in fall colors for your viewing pleasure. However, at the stroke of 6:00, it takes a turn to the dark side and is quite intense.
Howl-O-Scream is intended for older audiences, so if you have small children, you may want to use caution after it gets dark. My 10-year-old was perfectly fine – and actually enjoys all of the special effects, make-up and creepy costumes – but some kids might not enjoy it so much. I personally saw two younger kids crying as they were exiting a fairly mild haunted maze. Just please consider your child’s scare level. Now, on to the review!
Monster Stomp on Ripper Row
Gone from the Howl-O-Scream lineup for several years, Monster Stomp on Ripper Row (previously known as Monster Stomp) combines the favorites of its past lives – let me just say “dancing skeletons!” – with all of the technology and special effects of the newly renovated Globe Theatre. The Globe Theatre is in the England village. You can’t miss it. It was renovated this year for the park’s new musical “London Rocks,” a celebration of the music of the British Invasion of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Top 40 songs, energetic dance numbers and creative percussion performances make “Monster Stomp on Ripper Row” a feast for the eyes and ears. The main storyline is that of the infamous Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in the 1800s of London’s East End. Video mapping technology projects images onto the stage, allowing it to be covered in flames and other images. Being the story of Jack the Ripper, these simulated images include blood splatters. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but I feel I must warn parents about that aspect of the show. It is a quite startling, yet incredibly cool, simulation.
My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the show and will be back for a second, or third, viewing before the season is over. I particularly enjoyed the number done to a certain Michael Jackson song. And it’s not the one you’re probably thinking of.
Take a minute to check out the above video to get just a peek of what Monster Stomp on Ripper Row has to offer. Video is courtesy of AskNaoma.
The other new addition to Howl-O-Scream is the Wendigo Woods terror-tory. If you’re unfamiliar with terror-tories, they are the exterior areas of each European-themed country in the park. Busch Gardens has taken dark, scandalous and legendary pieces of history from each country and brought them to life with spot-on decorations, roaming scare actors and immersive environments.
Pirates and other scallywags lurk around every corner in Italy while blood-thirsty vampires roam the streets of Germany and the Oktoberfest area. France is engulfed in flames as a demon DJ spins tunes atop a giant skull and chain-saw wielding creatures cause a commotion. England has been transformed into Ripper Row, where headless women walk forlornly along the street, body parts hang from overhead and frenzied Bobbies ask guests if they’ve seen Jack. Watch out or you just might run into Jack the Ripper himself.
Wendigo Woods, located in New France, is all about the fear of the unknown. Set up like a research facility gone awry (think: military base, quarantine and a little bit of Area 51). A mysterious creature called the Wendigo, thought to be a legend, has been spotted in the woods and is causing terror in the compound. Supernatural sounds and a caged creature will startle and scare anybody who dares to enter the compound.
Dinner and a Show
Live entertainment and dining are two things that Busch Gardens does better than anybody else. Last year’s popular dinner show Blood Banquet is back and better than ever. A new stage area is in place, and I’ve heard that there are new characters. I loved this show, and food, last year. I did not get a chance to attend the Blood Banquet on opening weekend, but I will be back. A new dining option is Igor’s Fright Feast. This buffet dinner and show takes place at Castle O’Sullivan in the Ireland section. You can read more about Igor’s Fright Feast by clicking right here.
Haunted House Mazes
There are no new haunted house mazes this year, but I have several favorites from years past so I enjoyed every bit of my eerie evening. Haunted houses include: Bitten, Root of All Evil, 13: Your Number’s Up, Deadline, Cutthroat Cove and Catacombs. Click here for a brief description of each attraction. My favorites would have to be Deadline and Root of All Evil. What’s your favorite?
Don’t forget to take a selfie. You could win some cool prizes from Busch Gardens.
Disclosure: The author received complimentary admission to the Howl-O-Scream Media Day event at part of Busch Gardens’ Thrill Chaser ambassador blogger program. All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.