Things are starting to get a little spooky at Busch Gardens Tampa. The long shadows of fall are beginning to dominate the landscape, and very soon soon the evenings will become the domain of zombies, vampires, and more other-wordly spirits during Howl-O-Scream.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, members of the media were invited to participate in a walk-through of this year's newest haunt; Death Water Bayou. Although your favorite local getaways examiner was unable to attend, he called upon his legion of dedicated supporters and found two victims (volunteers) willing to sacrifice their very souls to the power of the Voodoo Queen! Unfortunately life, and a broken truck, intervened, and they were unable to make it. Perhaps voodoo got the truck?
"Deep in the bayou the #6 Voodoo Queen mystically transforms lost wanderers into her minions of evil with black magic," stated Travis Claytor, Media Relations Manager for Busch Gardens Tampa. "Here, her night servants roam with a zombie-like hunger and seek to grow her collection, and the darkest evils lurk in shadows. Can you get out before you fall victim to her spell?"
In 2012, the preview event was held in the dark of night, allowing terrified members of the press to pass through the gates of the Blood Asylum. The dark, unholy weather added to the fear factor, as well as the cost of the preview event. For 2013, the preview was moved into the daylight hours, but the scare factor was kicked up notches unknown to mankind. Although the media were only given a preview of roughly half of the house, the stage was set for yet another successful year of guts, gore, and more at Howl-O-Scream!
Opening weekend for Howl-O-Scream 2013 is Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28. The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26. Operating hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on all event nights. The Local Getaways Examiner is looking forward to his second year of trying to survive the event that is Howl-O-Scream. Stay tuned for all the gory details!
General admission is $89 plus tax. Reduced advance-purchase rates and special offers are available for Busch Gardens pass members online. Guests can save $39 on general admission tickets in advance at participating Publix Supermarkets and AAA locations or with promotional codes found at participating Taco Bell, Applebee's locations in Central Florida and on Fanta products in participating Walgreens.
Perhaps he best way to see Howl-O-Scream is with all-inclusive VIP Packages, which include event admission, a tour guide and your choice of three levels of terrifying special treatment: The Super experience is a three-hour group tour of haunted houses that includes front-of-the-line access. The five-hour Mega experience adds reserved show seating, front-of-the-line access to several roller coasters and preferred parking, and the Ultimate experience adds the Fright Feast dinner buffet and an exclusive tour guide for your private group. All tours include commemorative photos, merchandise discounts and complimentary beverages. Packages start at $65, and pass member discounts are available.
For those who prefer to self-guide themselves through the event but want the front-of-the-line perks, there’s the Front Line Fear pass for $40, which grants no-wait access to seven houses, excluding The Experiment. The Front Line Fear Extreme pass ups the access and also lets guests skip the line at five freaky coasters for $50.
The Thrills & Chills Weekend Pass lets true Halloween fans face their fears over and over again with a long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) of unlimited access to Busch Gardens’ thrills by day and Howl-O-Scream’s chills by night – all for just $89! Or, if you need to keep your adrenaline pumping all month long, the Recurring Nightmare Pass offers unlimited Howl-O-Scream visits on Thursday and Friday nights for just $89 (available only at the ticket windows.)
For out-of-town guests, Wicked Weekend Vacation Packages include Howl-O-Scream admission for two, plus one-night accommodations at one of Busch Gardens’ preferred partner hotels. Prices start at $89 per adult, tax inclusive, based on double occupancy. Stay two nights as part of the Thrills and Chills Weekend Package, and get in to Busch Gardens day and night, and enjoy two nights of accommodations. Prices start at $175 per adult, tax inclusive.
And if there’s one thing worse than being terrified, it’s being terrified on an empty stomach. Fright Feast is the most deranged dinner show in town, featuring a buffet of monstrous main courses and devilish desserts, plus an exclusive performance of Fiends. Fright Feast guests are also the first to brave the dark with a half-hour of early access to the all-new haunted houses and front-of-line privileges until 8:30 p.m. Fright Feast is $26 per person, with group rates and discounts for pass and Fun Card members available.
Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following this column for news on other spooky events and more. If you know of another local event that needs additional undead light shone upon it, please tell me about it!
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