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October 18, 2017

Halloween Thrills at Theme Parks Around the USA

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This is the 45th year that Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif. transforms into Knott's Scary Farm during the fall. The granddaddy of theme park Halloween events, it revolutionized the industry by capitalizing on the holiday. Today, nearly all American parks follow its lead and present monster-filled haunted houses and Halloween-themed stage shows along with their coasters and rides.

Knott's is offering its Scary Farm on select nights through October 31. Among its nine houses are Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out. Guests are issued flashlights to navigate the pitch-black lair of the Green Witch. The flashlights are rigged to flicker off just when they are needed the most. To amp up the maze's scare factor, they also double as devices that trigger unsettling special effects. In the new Dark Ride house, sinister clowns (really, are there any other kind?) wreak havoc at a creepy carnival. The park says that Elvira, the famous "Mistress of the Dark" and a Scary Farm perennial, is starring in her final round of variety shows at this year's event.

As with most parks that present Halloween events, it's not all screams and grisly gore. During the day, visitors can enjoy family-friendly fun featuring the Peanuts characters at Knott’s Spooky Farm.

All of the parks in the Cedar Fair chain, which includes Knott's, offer similar events such as Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va. Evil voodoo priests cast malicious spells in the newest maze, Blood on the Bayou. Following Knott's template, there are also scare zones with chainsaw-wielding creatures and other no-goodnicks causing mayhem along the midways.

Some parks trick out their rides during the spooky season. For example, California's Great America in Santa Clara, Calif. adds fog, music, and a blood-red waterfall on the (appropriately named) Demon roller coaster during its Halloween Haunt. I'm assuming sinister clowns play a role in one of the park's shows, Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus of Magic and Mayhem.

The new maze at Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt in Allentown, Penn., is the cleverly named Tourist Trap. Set in 1893 at the time of the World's Columbian Exposition, guests meet horrible fates at a seedy hotel. One of the park's scare zones is the pirate-themed Cut Throat Island.

The SeaWorld parks in Orlando, Fla., and San Diego, Calif., celebrate the holiday on the mild side with Halloween Spooktacular. Kids can come in costume and trick-or-treat at the toned-down events, which are included with admission. There are stage shows and dance parties, and Sesame Street characters, including The Count and Elmo, join in the fun.

SeaWorld San Antonio also presents Halloween Spooktacular during the day, but goes for the jugular after dark with Howl-O-Scream. The Busch Gardens parks in Williamsburg, Va., and Tampa, Fla., which are part of the SeaWorld chain, also present Howl-O-Scream. Horror meets sci-fi in the mind-bending Demented Dimensions, one of the new houses at the Tampa event.

Every Six Flags park goes to the dark side in the fall with Fright Fest. For example, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., fills its streets with green fog and otherworldly creatures in the Demon District scare zone. And — yet another sinister clown alert! — wicked circus performers invade the park's Boardwalk area. Monsters sing and dance in The Dead Man’s Party Graveyard Rock show. As with other Six Flags parks, kids can trick or treat during the day and enjoy Halloween activities without having to worry about the PG-13 ghouls that emerge at night.

Beware the Goblin Attack Squad, one of the Fright Fest shows at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Apparently, its members have a tendency to leave the stage and attack the audience. Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio is unleashing Day-Glo, eye-popping, sinister clowns in its Carnevil 3D house. As if the end of the world isn't bad enough, flesh-eating undead creatures roam the streets in the Zombie Apocalypse scare zone.

In addition to its indoor mazes, Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valenica, Calif., terrifies visitors with the large outdoor maze, Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising. To make them even more thrilling at night during Fright Fest, the park turns out the lights on many of its coasters, including Full Throttle and Twisted Colossus.

Copyright 2017 USA Today. All rights reserved. From
By Arthur Levine, Special for USA TODAY.
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