How scary is Halloween at amusement parks?

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Halloween is one of the best times at amusement parks around the country. Taking advantage of the holiday, parks often hire tens if not hundreds of new employees to portray park-roaming monsters, hide in corn mazes, perform in new shows and, in many cases, completely transform the park into heavily themed Halloween celebrations.

Now that late September has hit, these Halloween festivities are in full swing. Six Flags parks celebrate Fright Fest; Carowinds turns into SCarowinds; Dorney Park has begun Halloween Haunt; Knotts Berry Farm has made the adjustment to Knotts Scary Farm; the list goes on!

Halloween Six Flags Great Adventure
Parks go into stunning detail when making the transformation for Halloween events. Here, a skeleton leans against a blood-red fountain at Six Flags Great Adventure.

For fans of October 31, Halloween at amusement parks can be a blast. Between heavy theming, a haunting atmosphere, and monsters lurking around every corner, these Halloween events can make for the coolest park visits all year. Of course, not everyone loves the chills. For the jumpy or easily frightened, stepping foot in these parks over the next month and a half can be a harrowing experience.

So, how scary is Halloween at amusement parks? Well, it depends on a particular guest’s affinity and/or tolerance for scares. It is wise to check out your park’s website before visiting, just to get a sense of the overall experience during Halloween events. But, there are significant ways to adjust the experience. Here are the major ones to consider:


Day vs. Night

Cedar Point Halloween parade
Daytime still offers great Halloween activities. Here, a special parade makes its way through Cedar Point. Image (c) Cedar Point on Facebook

Day visits and night visits during Halloween activities are, both literally and figuratively, day versus night. Scare actors typically do not roam the parks during the day. If they did, you’d see them coming a mile away!

Day visits (on Saturdays and Sundays, as most parks have now ended weekday operations) offer access to all park rides as well as the Fall and Halloween theming, without the terrors after dark. Some parks offer special daytime activities, too, like “Six Flags Spooktacular Street Party” at select Six Flags parks.

If scares aren’t your thing, plan your visit during the day and leave before nightfall.


Warning systems

Parks may offer zombie repellants, or ways to force scare actors away from young kids who may be easily frightened. Some parks, for example, will issue whistles to small kids. They can blow those whistles to keep park monsters away.

Different parks have different systems – and there is also no guarantee that the park you’re visiting will even have one at all – so visit your park’s website or contact Guest Services beforehand to see if something is available. If not, parks will recommend visiting before 6pm, since the monsters don’t like daylight.


Scare-free zones

Great Adventure Fright Fest
Expect to see lots of monsters at parks. Image (c) Six Flags Great Adventure on Facebook

Yes, the zombies have their favorite parts of the park. Other areas, they won’t visit at all. This is, again, why it is so critical to check your park’s website before visiting.

Six Flags parks, for example, offer Fright Fest guides which highlight “scare-free zones.” These areas are suitable for children and the whole family, and no frightening actors will roam here. Here’s an example from Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.


Haunted mazes

Young kids and the easily frightened should always avoid haunted mazes at amusement parks. Whether indoors or out, you can be guaranteed that monsters will be lurking around every corner. These are typically the most frightening experiences at parks during the Fall months, so avoid them if you’re looking to lower the scare factor. You also may save some money if you avoid the mazes, as in certain parks these are up-charge attractions.


A final note about scare actors

The plethora of monsters roaming the park have one very clear job: Look horrifying and scare people.

They will, therefore, do everything they can to complete that mission. (Just think: If you were hired to be a monster, you’d have some fun with it, too!)

In practice, this means scare actors (who, remember, only appear after dark) will ambush you from behind, travel in packs, make loud, unexpected noises, and get very close to you (though they will not touch you). They’ll also target the weak; anyone who looks skittish will be their go-to targets. There’s not much you can do about them, but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting yourself into during a visit.

And, again, experience will vary by park and by event. If you’re cool with Halloween, the added ambiance and fright-themed shows make Halloween at amusement parks the number one reason to visit during September and October. Enjoy it!