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Jun 5, 2014
I am planning a trip to Busch Gardens on September the 12th to September the 14th. Very excited about this! because, my grandmother has decided not to be a hermit and join the family on an outing. This is the first weekend of Howl O Scream, and I am trying to get any suggestions or warnings concerning the content that will be featured in the park, as well as how severe the night time hours become for younger kids (10 years old) and also older adults with potentially faint hearts. Also, does anyone know anything concerning possible shuttle services to and from the park, provided by local hotels.


Getting aHEAD of myself
Advisory Panel
Feb 12, 2011
RE: Planning a trip for September 12-14th- Howl O Scream

As far as content in the park, at night certain areas can be intense and I would be especially leery of staying late for older folks with faint hearts. If the park does anything like last year the "scary" areas should be broken up into different isolated hamlets throughout the park, but keep in mind that means nightmarishly-dressed scare actors are creeping up behind you and startling you. Couple that with loud noises and a tense environment and you have a recipe for nightmares for younger ones and possible medical concerns for older folks.

Some areas of the park (historically, Killarney and Oktoberfest in particular) have more of a "Halloween party" atmosphere and have nothing more than decorations, classic rock music, and bars. Some areas play gloomy, eerie, or intense music but have nothing more than dense fog and decorations- nothing popping and startling you (in 2013, this included the Wild Reserve, Heatherdowns/Scotland, and Festa Italia). But Aquitaine, Rhinefeld, San Marco, and Banbury Cross all had scare actors and intense scares.

People will say that the park's scares are weak, and indeed they are less intense lately than they have been in past years, but they can still give you a good scare or plain-out startle you. I scare somewhat easily and the tense atmosphere keeps me on my toes, as undead monsters and bloody murderers get up all in my face. Again, this could really startle a younger or older person. Imagine hiding and jumping out at your grandmother yelling "BOO!" times maybe three or four. If you think she could handle that times three or four, she should be okay, but still be cautious. Children vary greatly in how they handle things. If a ghost story is enough to keep your ten year old up at night, then HOS won't be fun for you!

By warned that A.) It's essentially impossible to make a loop around the park without encountering at least one of the scare zones, and B.) Ripper Row, one of the more intense scare zones, takes place in Banbury Cross so you are forced to go through that area and its scares when exiting the park. If you stay at the park past 6 when the scares open, be forewarned that you'll be forced to go through Ripper Row even if you wish to a void the scares.

As someone who gets startles easily, for me part of the fun of HOS is seeing the park decked out for Halloween during the day. The park always looks great when the creepy decorations idly compliment (not replace) the park's landscaping. Also, last year I thought all of the shows were amazing. One of them, Dig It Up (music show) is rumored to be gone for 2014, and if that's true that's a shame. But still, be sure to check out all of the HOS shows during the day- you'll regret it if you don't. Night Beats in the Festhaus is one of the best HOS shows in the park's history. I personally like Fiends in the Abbeystone Theatre, but be warned of the "naughty nurses" which give the show a rather adult theme. A lot of the adult jokes may go right over your ten-year-old's head, and I see young ones watching Fiends all the time, but be warned that it may be offensive to younger ones or older folks.

My grandparents (now in their 80's) visited HOS three years ago and loved it. They enjoyed the shows and the scenery during the day. At night we continued to just enjoy the park like normal, because back then the park had smaller scare zones instead of hamlet-wide scary areas, so the scares could easily be bypassed. When a scare zone couldn't be passed, we quickly walked through it. Most of the time, the scare actors were observant and respectful of my grandparents being older, and rather than trying to scare the crap out of them, simply played with them and teased them a bit (my grandfather loved it when the puppetmaster clown came up to him and had the puppet climb on him). It was good. Whilst I was riding Griffon, though, my grandparents unknowingly wandered into Catacombs and within the first thirty seconds of entering realized their mistake and had to be escorted out of the maze by security. So yeah. :p

Oh, and as far as hotels go, I'm not very familiar with that, but I do see various hotel shuttles pulling into the park frequently. Any major hotel would likely offer shuttle service to the park.

Whelp, I hope that helps!

tl;dr Everyone takes scares differently, but be cautious with younger and older folks. Sometimes just HOS during the day is enough, but if they're good with the scares, then have at it!
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Dec 23, 2011
RE: Planning a trip for September 12-14th- Howl O Scream

As far as hotels go, only Kingsmill offers a shuttle derive directly to the park. Most hotels are small time hotels, yet still known brands. Lots of bed and breakfasts in the areas as well.


avid coaster enjoyer
Sep 20, 2013
RE: Planning a trip for September 12-14th- Howl O Scream

Well I would like to thank Joe for scaring you and possibly not taking your ten year but I'm here to change all that. I've been going since 2001 when I was in a stroller so I think I got this in the bag. After many years of going through houses since 2009 I've made a few ways to calm my anxiety down with ways to go through houses.

The first Person Movie or Video Game
The first ever Haunted House I did was cursed on a full moon in the last weekend of HOS in 2009. I had no clue about what was going to happen inside of the house. I was in the back of the group so I was last to enter the house. A few minutes before I entered I told myself it's just a video game. I have to make it through the witches village to get to the next level which would be Caverns of Darkness. I closed my eyes before and plugged my ears before entering I told myself in my head "I'm sitting on my couch playing a video game at my house." I opened my eyes and walked in. I was Connor the adventurer who was ready to explore this cave not run out like a little girl. With my ears plugged the house sounded very quiet, all I could hear was my thoughts. I heard a very light cackling and then saw a witch standing next to me cackling. I jumped then laughed. As I ventured deeper into the house I realized it was just like walking through a themed queue at Walt Disney World with actors. I really started to start take in the theming even though I was only like 8 or 9 I really enjoyed it. I left the house unplugged my ears and felt like I had just completed the first challenging level of a video game. I unplugged my ears and reentered Howl-O-Scream. I did all of the haunted houses that night. I had the best time of my life at the park. Now this is how you do the position. The child always goes in front so the scare actors know "Oh we have a kid we should probably go easy on him." The parent goes in the back with there  arms on the child's shoulders for one because if you can barely see in the dark it is a tremendous help. Without me my dad wouldn't probably be able to navigate some of the houses. It also gives them a sense of safety and security. The main reason there in front is because if there behind all they do is bury themselves behind you grabbing onto your sweatshirts causing the scare actors to actually go full scare on you. This then leads to them terrified and never doing a haunted house again. Now that both of you are connected nobody can get lost and are always at the same pace in the same direction. ( I learned the hard way during catacombs in 2010.) If followed all the tips they should be just fine from experience.:)

•Read the websites description of each house and look at pictures on the site.
•Watch the videos made by the park showcasing the haunted houses and Terror-Tories. Keep in mind all of the videos make everything seem scarier than it really is.
•If you know there ready for it but there on the verge of doing it offer an ice cream or a little treat for last resort.
•Go through a Terror-Tory so they know what the actors will be like.
•And #1 overall if they don't wanna do it don't push them into it. Let them try another time.

Ah the shows this was my second favorite part of HOS for a while. ( It dropped to #3 when they got rid off my beloved Monster Stomp.) This year there should be three shows. Night Beats in the Festhaus. Night Beats is your dancing singing show with no plot while you eat. It's a nice family friendly show that I would recommend for anybody. It really is a good show. The second should be Fiends in the Abbey Stone Theater. The show is about Dr. Freakenstein and his Naughty Nurses bulding a monster with some jokes and dance. The only problem is the naughty nurses look like this:
as you can see there not exactly wearing appropriate outfits. Also some of the jokes aren't exactly appropriate for the younger audience. My whole family went and saw it even with my 9 year old brother. Some of the jokes he didn't understand but the ones about Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, theme parks, ETC he was cracking up. My family said the only problem with the show was the nurses. It really is a tough decision but in the end we all agreed it wasn't worthy of Monster Stomp but was still a show that puts you in the Halloween spirit. And the last one is rumored but hoping it's true, Monster Stomp: on Ripper Row in the Globe theater! Now I have no clue about what's going on in this show but in the past previous versions it was singing and dancing to rock music with scary monster costumes. The show was perfect and every age group loved it but it got old do they got rid of it. The first year they took it out somebody asked the question "When is Monster Stomp coming back?" The park responded "2014." I imagine this year will be a different plot and all new music. I would really recommend seeing this.

My tip that I tell everybody when they ask what should we eat in the park I respond "Don't eat in the park." Your taking time out of that day when you could be doing something.For example it takes about 45 minutes to order eat and the whole shazam. The food at the park is good but it cost quite a pretty penny when you buy for your whole family. I would recommend eating dinner outside of the park around 5 so you save time and money. Close to the great wolf lodge there's this great BBQ place called pierces which is cheaper and a little better than trappers. It's a place where you go up order and bring back tubs of BBQ and sides. It really makes your money worth. The link is here for the menu: Pierces Menu.
This way you get to the park around six and an hour later you won't be like "Man I'm hungry." Then when it's 8:30 go and get some dessert from somewhere and sit down at the Festhaus to catch an 8:30 showing of NightBeats. It really does help quite a bit to eat out of the park.

This will be themed areas of the park with scare actors. Some of these are meant to be fun and exciting for everybody like the pirate photo ops in Ports of Skull. Some will be like a Dance party where I saw a lot of little kids dancing and having a great time. Keep in mind Ripper Row and Vampire Point aren't like those. There main goal is to scare you. You can easily find ways around Demon Street, Vampire Point, and Ports Of Skull. You can ride the train or the Sky Ride so you don't get anywhere near the actors. It also is really pretty to se the fog and lights from the sky so I would recommend doing it. Now as for Ripper Row there is no Second Option you have to go through it. The only good thing is if you wait till close there's so many people leaving that it isn't that easy to get scared. So you have to remember all of the Terror-Tories are different.

Anyone can go to HOS and enjoy HOS. Halloween is the kickoff to the holiday season. If you know what you can do and what you can't do and do what your comfortable with. If you walk in never gone to anything like this you'll be stuck with nightmares for weeks. As I said earlier I've been going to HOS since 2001 so I always know what to expect and what I like and don't like. But Overall the #1 rule is it's your decision not mine. Nobody is forcing you on anything it's all about the fun of Halloween.


Jul 22, 2013
Arlington, VA
My husband and I have attempted to take his daughter to HOS a couple of times. For context, she loves all of the roller coasters and has no problem with scary and gory TV shows and movies. So, you would think that HOS would be easy for her. You would be wrong. For whatever reason, having real people jumping out at her scares her much more than the worst monsters on Doctor Who or the most violent torture scenes on Arrow. She tried HOS most recently last year, when she was 12. She was OK in CTC and the Terror-tories (since they really aren't scare zones anyway), but the rest of the houses were too much for her. We tried Catacombs and 13 and she decided she didn't want to do anymore houses. We spent the rest of the evening riding roller coasters and doing things like the Skyride, which was fun anyway. (The Skyride is really cool at HOS, BTW, as is Griffon.)

In any case, my point is that it is probably impossible to predict how kids will react to HOS. I suggest starting with CTC at dusk to get a feel for how your kids and faint-of-heart adults will react to BG's approach to scares (really, they rely mostly on startles).

On another note, if you eat in the park (which I encourage), and you decide on Trappers (which I also encourage), I suggest having some light source on hand. Mobile phones work in a pinch. It gets very dark at HOS, and eating can become a high-difficulty sport.


Team Instinct
Jan 12, 2012
in the rear
Most of the basics have been covered a bit before so I'll try to make this as short and sweet as possible.

- Since you're going the first weekend of HOS, expect the park to be a bit more crowded than a normal September weekend. Saturday will probably be about as busy as a typical summer Saturday. Opening night will also bring a good sized crowd.
- The scares won't be as consistent the first weekend since the actors are still trying to break into their roles. The first weekend is typically good to get your feet wet with the event. Go around the first two weekends of October for better scares and reasonable crowds. Just stay away from Saturdays.
- The park seems to change up the path scares every year, so don't expect them to be the same as last year or the year before.

Kingsmill resort does a direct shuttle to the park. Not sure about other hotels. I'd recommend asking them up front before you check in.

As always, how much your family members can handle the scares is up to them. I'd suggest walking them through the scare zones to give them a taste of what the mazes are like. If they can handle those, they should be able to handle the mazes well.
May 17, 2012
I am going tomorrow (coming from DC). I saw some of this a few years ago and didn't phase me in the least, but I give the employees credit for trying.
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