Universal, SeaWorld and Disney definitely have found their sweet spots for the Halloween season. The selling points for their special events run from mild to wild and cover a wide demographic.
Each have delightful high points — the trick-or-treat equivalent of full-size chocolate bars. But also in the bag are disappointing bits — stale, off-brand morsels that have been parked in the pantry since last October. Let's pick out the good stuff and chew on what we wish were better.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- 'No place safe' promised at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights
- Orlando theme park Halloween roundup: Where to find parks' tricks, treats
- SeaWorld Orlando: Halloween Spooktacular on horizon
- Photos: Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights through the years
- Pictures from Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream
- Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
See more photos »
•The treats of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom: My favorite theme-park parade, seasonal or year-round, is Mickey's Boo to You Halloween Parade, which runs twice on Not-So-Scary nights. It's appropriately themed — Disney characters in Halloween garb — and superbly organized. I like the Haunted Mansion segment, complete with real-life dancers decked out to resemble the ghostly ballroom performers and gravediggers that literally give the unit an extra spark by dragging shovels across the pavement. Boo to You also is special because it's never incorporated into the daily Magic Kingdom routine, unlike its sister parade, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime.
I also like how cast members regulate the distribution of candy. Folks are allowed to return to lines over and over, but they can't stand there and double dip. (Related Not-So-Scary tip: Look for large-handed cast members at the trick-or-treat stations. The better to grab lots of candy, my dear.)
•The tricks of Not-So-Scary: The pricing structure is a nightmare. I'm not talking sticker shock — Disney can charge what the market will bear, after all — but the confusing, sliding scale for the event, which requires a separate ticket from regular Magic Kingdom admission. The price depends on day of week, phase of the moon and Mickey's whimsy, apparently. There are discounts for annual passholders and advance purchases, sometimes.
I'm putting a note in the Not-So-Scary Suggestion Box. Let's have one price for September and another one for October. Beware, the pricing is just as willy-nilly for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which kicks off Nov. 9.
•Remaining Not-So-Scary nights: Oct. 26-28, 30-31 and Nov. 2. Prices range between $53.95 and $64.95.
•The treats of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios: Theme-park officials love to talk "immersive environments," but Horror Nights walks the walk. The haunted houses, or mazes, are frequently referred to as "movie-set ready," and in the twilight they're even more realistic. This year, I've enjoyed the partnering with Alice Cooper, magicians Penn & Teller and the makers of "The Walking Dead," which bring realism, in a weird way, to the fictional event.
•The tricks of HHN: Its pricing is slightly less complex than Not-So-Scary, but oh-so-scary are the lines for the houses. The average wait time at 9 p.m. Sunday was almost two hours. There's an express option around this, but it costs you.
•Remaining Horror Nights: Oct. 26-28 and Oct. 31. Single-night general admission is $88.99.
Kids and kaboodle
•The treats of SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular: The under-the-sea atmosphere, so to speak, is a winner and nicely accessible to kids. Even the "party zone" area is a haven for youngsters. The trick-or-treating is organized and not overwhelming. And it's all included in regular park admission.
•The tricks of Spooktacular: Having a boatload of beer so near the party zone dance floor was a little off-putting for a family-style event. And this is quibbling, but those kiddos look overheated in their costumes. Perhaps the event should start at 10 a.m. instead of high noon.
•Remaining Spooktacular days: Oct. 26-28. Single-day general admission is $84.99 general, $76.99 ages 3-9.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5477