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Apr 5, 2011
Feeling burnt by the disappointing Halloween at BGW, this year I decided to spend my time doing other Halloween events in the area to see what I've been missing by going to HoS every week the last two years (Thanks for giving me this chance, BGW). Hunt Club was pretty decent for a local event, Haunted Ship at Nauticus was simply amazing, and Spooky Acres is on my list as well. I also decided to check out BGW’s closest competitor to see what I’ve been missing the last few years.

With no one else being available, I joined with the closest thing to a Kings Dominion expert we have, Evan, and spent the day riding rides, being evacuated from rides, and frankly being dumbstruck by the difference in quality between the two Halloween events (“F**king Busch Gardens…” was a phrase mentioned many times that day). First, let me go down the houses then I'll go talk about the other aspects about KD.

This maze has cool props (which is pretty much a given for all the houses, they all have better props than BGW), but I remember two years ago the pacing and layout was a lot better. Kind of disappointing.

Zombie High School:
Fantastic maze. I had reservations given the high school theme, but I was pleasantly surprised. One of the cool things about it was they had a principal character who was making announcements over a PA system in the house, this added so much to the theme. There's a rather impressive prom scene as well where actors were able to hide really well in plain sight.

Club Blood:
Vampire club thing, pretty much what you would expect. I would actually consider Bitten the better vampire house, but this is not a bad house either.

No Vacancy:
Holy Crap, this house was amazing. It was better decorated than any BGW house, it had some amazing effects like Harry Potter-esque paintings that even shook on the walls. The actors here were simply amazing (a theme among the entire park, but I'll get into that later). Best house of the night and easily in my top five scare attractions ever.

Blue Ridge Bloodbath:
This was improved bit since last time I went, but I still wouldn't call it a good attraction simply because driving on the loud cars out in the open kills the tension. I will give it points for being unique.

Miner's Revenge:
They did some cool things here by trying to simulate a cave using only fabrics, but I still prefer Camp Kilaluwe (forgot how you spell it). The rope things also stuck onto your clothes once outside the maze, which was a bit annoying.

AMAZING. This was probably the house I've gotten the most scares out of. The actors, just standing against the wall, were almost invisible until they moved. A nice long maze that felt confusing (in a good way) and was well paced.

Doll Factory:
Another fantastic maze. Great props include preserved animals and a ton of really creepy stuff. Two big highlights here. At the end, Evan turned away from the exit, thought he saw a different exit, and derped straight into a mirror. The second half of the maze had what has to be the best actor costumes I've ever seen in a maze. They were women in doll type dresses, but with full body makeup to make them look like props. I genuinely thought they were props until one of them moved and proceeded to give me the biggest scare I had all night.

Slaughter House:
I loved the theming in this one. They played John Denver in the actual cafe area with waitresses and pumped the smell of BBQ in the maze at times.

Medieval Macabre:
The decor was really weak, but the actors were giving it their all. One of the most amazing things I've seen an actor do was in this maze. This woman crawled out of a well pretty much on her back almost like Sadako/Samara from The Ring.

Children at Kings Dominion

One thing I made note to check out at KD was what they offered to kids. I saw plenty of children in costumes (no masks though), so I thought it would be worth seeing what they offered.
-Pumpkin Painting/Coloring
-Petting Zoo
-Trick or Treating Area
-Three Halloween Shows
-KD staff in costumes (pirate, cowboy, ect)
-A lot of the scary decorations around the park were covered by black sheets.
-At 7, all this ends and the kiddy areas close down.

I thought most of this was really cool and something BGW should have been doing a long time ago considering that BGW is supposed the more Family Friendly park out of the two. I then remembered that the houses and scares at KD are more intense than BGW.

Pretty much what I’m getting at is that BGW’s excuse for toning down the scares at night because it's more family friendly is kind of BS. If KD can manage lots of options for kids during the day but still provide intense scares at night, there is no reason what so ever that BGW can't do the same thing. If you offered lots of things for kids to do during the day, then if feels like they've gotten their tickets price worth of stuff to do before night comes.

Tone/Path Scares/Shows

The tone of the event compared to BGW has been mentioned before here, but I’d like to take a stab at it. Overall, KD had the better Halloween tone. The entire park eerie at night as opposed to a one or two sections at BGW so that moving through KD has a nice flow as opposed to moving from “creepy” to “party” to “normal park at night” at BGW.

The path scare are actually designed to hold scare actors opposed to BGW. There are plenty of places for the actors to duck down, hide, and simply do their job where BGW’s areas were built for something else and they decided to put scare actors on the paths instead of the original plan at 5:55 opening night of HoS. Just like the houses, most of the actors were at the top of their game, more than I typically see at BGW. The scare zones also had lots of large and elaborate props for theming, props that I felt do a better job than at BGW.

I want to single out Ironworx here as well for a second. This was a really solid scare zone that was themed off of Steampunk. What I wanted to point out here is that they actually used techno for the music. However, it was a selection that had darker tones than Demon Street’s music, so it didn’t break the creepy factor of a location designed for scares.

Overlord's Resurrection is simply a really cool way to kick off the event. Pretty much scare actors from the scare zones and houses gather to the front of the park, the overlord does his thing, and sends them off into the crowds and into their respective locations scaring people on the way. Given Scott's flare for the showy, I don't get why there's not a big, central version at BGW, which is a shame.

One thing I did not like about the shows was that none of the non-kiddy shows had any performances before Haunt started. That's really a nice option to have during the day so you can see the shows before Haunt starts so you can focus on the houses. This is especially important at KD since they have almost twice as many mazes than BGW.


I can not say enough about the actors here, most of them were into their roles in a way I haven’t seen at BGW for years. They were crawling on the floors, jumping up and down, climbing on things, putting their bodies in very unnatural poses, and the list goes on. The acting here sold the houses for me. Nothing really felt understaffed either, which does put it at a big advantage over BGW.

The costumes were also pretty fantastic. A lot of them were at least BGW level and at times surpassed them. The one thing that did bother me is that cheap masks were used too often. It had the same problem as the hordes at BGW last year, where they lose their effect because they look all the same. The actors with the makeup on looked well though.

BGW or KD?

I felt that out of the two parks, KD had the better Halloween event as a whole. Busch Gardens does beat out KD in a few things like food and entertainment. However, KD has the better houses this year and despite the still amazing Ripper Row, it also has the better path scares. The decision of which one I prefer ultimately came down to what I like the most about a Halloween event, and that’s the scares and the eerie atmosphere of Halloween events.

The sad thing is that BGW used to easily beat KD when it came down to themeing and eerie decoration. And while the scares were never as intense as KD, the actors used to do a lot more than they do now and houses were always well done. It really does suck because I want BGW to be the better event because it's nice to do, but the park can’t decide exactly what direction they want to take HoS these days so in the end we have this muddled mess with a few highlights.

I'm going to do this next year probably more than once since I don't see BGW worth going to every week like I have before during HoS like I have in the past. I simply had more fun at KD than BGW, which does suck in the end.

tl;dr: KD wins, will be going back more in the future.
May 3, 2011
Richmond, Va
Can I just go out on a limb here and say that the "Doll" was covering up the exit door so I thought there was a bit more (even though i've been through this maze a bunch before) so I saw a bit of blackness to my right and mirrors to the right. I ended up making a nice thud into a mirror.

Very nice review! It was nice meeting you and having the experience of being evacuated off of Boo Blasters!


Jul 22, 2013
Arlington, VA
Evan said:
Can I just go out on a limb here and say that the "Doll" was covering up the exit door so I thought there was a bit more (even though i've been through this maze a bunch before) so I saw a bit of blackness to my right and mirrors to the right. I ended up making a nice thud into a mirror.

They did this to me too! It may have been the same house; can't exactly recall.
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