Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream Adventure in COVID-19 Times

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Emily Kay

Busch Gardens’ annual Howl-O-Scream celebration is still taking place throughout October 2020, though it does look a bit different from previous years.

Mia Cabrera, Staff Writer

Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream:

Our Rating: B

One of the many Halloween activities held in Florida, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream annual event has returned for its 21st year. Although multiple Halloween attractions have been canceled this year due to the Coronavirus, Busch Gardens has decided to host Howl-O-Scream on select nights, Sep. 25 – Nov. 1, 2020. Remaining open for the event, however, does not mean Howl-O-Scream will be the same as always. Many modifications were implemented in order to be COVID-19 appropriate, such as limiting capacity, requiring masks, completely removing indoor haunted houses and cutting back on the number of scare actors.

One of the crowd’s most favorite aspects of a Halloween themed event is the haunted houses presented each year. Because of COVID-19, though, indoor haunted houses do not make for the safest environment, leading Busch Gardens to altogether scrap their indoor houses. With the loss of one of their most popular attractions, Busch Gardens decided to introduce outdoor haunted houses: narrow, guided walkways with props and scare actors, perfectly planned to give the most scares.

This year, Howl-O-Scream featured two outdoor houses, The Junkyard and The Shortcut. The Shortcut was eerie and exciting with lots of jump scares, creepy music and effective props. While The Shortcut was fun, it really was not too scary, leaving you with nothing much other than a few giggles. On the other hand, The Junkyard was quite a pleasant surprise. This outdoor house was a lot longer than The Shortcut and was engineered very well, planned to the T with jump scares, noises and distractions to make the real scares even scarier.

Although the outdoor houses were a great feature, they ended up being the scariest part of the event, leaving the overall scariness of the event to be somewhat of a letdown. With 10 different scare zones, only one stuck out as the best and that one was still not that scary. Little Nightmares, a scare zone including creepy childhood-themed frights, was one of the best scare zones Busch Gardens had. An ingenious element to this scare zone was the addition of camouflaged actors hidden in the bushes, scaring and making noises as people walk by, catching everybody off guard.

In addition, this scare zone also had really well-done distractions, such as making somebody look to one side, while a chained actress comes swinging from the other side, yelling loudly at that person. Despite the cleverness of Little Nightmares, the rest of the scare zones were not as memorable. Zones such as Lycan Landing and Hell on Wheels were fun to walk through and admire the costumes, but that is about it. Other than the chainsaws used to trigger a fight or flight reaction in those walking through, nothing else in the scare zones was adrenaline-inducing.

Both the scare zones and outdoor haunted houses, unfortunately, did not have the best timing with their scares. They were not spaced apart very well, thus spoiling a good shock for many walking through. The same actor trying to scare each person that walks through does not achieve the best results, as each victim will know when the scare is coming by hearing the screams of the party in front of them.

Even though the scare zones were not quite as scary as was hoped, Busch Gardens did a pretty great job for what they could do during these times. A reason the scares might have not been as good this year is because of the requirement of social distancing. Without as many scare actors and without them being able to get any closer than a couple of feet, a proper fright will be hard to achieve, seeing as a lot of fear comes from repetitive scares.

“I thought Howl-O-Scream was very fun, although it wasn’t that scary for me. I loved the rides though, the rides are always fun,” said junior Catalina Castro.

Though it was not a terrifying experience, the experience in itself was still pretty great. The ambiance, the decor, even the scare zones, regardless of how scary they were, all made for a super fun way to get into the Halloween spirit. Most importantly, regardless of the scare factor, a ticket for Howl-O-Scream grants access to all the roller coasters in the park, probably the best part of the event.

Some of the coasters include Sheikra with a 200 ft, 90° drop, Tigris with carts going over 60 mph both backward and forwards and Falcon’s Fury, a drop tower with a 300 ft, 60 mph, 90° drop. Not only are the coasters and overall experience very enjoyable, but the prices are unbeatable for everything included. A normal day at Busch Gardens can cost anywhere from $85 and up, while a Howl-O-Scream ticket can cost one as low as $30 for one ticket, granting park-goers access to all the roller coasters, all the Halloween features and time at the park from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Despite the fact that Howl-O-Scream may not have been as fearful as planned, the overall experience was an extremely enjoyable one. Busch Gardens’ roller coasters are some of the best coasters in Florida, so regardless of the mild scares, one can be sure to have fun during their time there. Though the scare zones were not as frightful as expected, they were still pretty likable, providing a fun experience when walking from coaster to coaster. Overall, Howl-O-Scream is an enjoyable experience, making up for its lack of intense thrills in the scare aspect with the adrenaline rushes from the roller coasters and putting people in the Halloween spirit.

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