Arguably my favorite time to visit a theme park is during a halloween event. I’ve only been to a handful so far, but I’ve enjoyed each one that I’ve visited tremendously. Last year I attended Halloween Haunt at Kings Island for the first time and had a lot of fun, despite the high levels of crowds. A couple weeks ago I made a return trip to the park to see if the event was just as good as I remembered.
Usually theme park Halloween events are extremely crowded no matter what day you visit. However, I think the earlier in the month you visit Kings Island for Halloween Haunt, the less crowded it is. Last year I visited towards the end of October and it was absolutely packed. This year I went right at the end of September and it didn’t start to get busy until around 8 pm. This meant there was plenty of time to get on some coasters without much wait.
That said, I would never want a theme park to feel completely empty during their halloween event. Having a crowd-filled midway amplifies scare zones and the scare actors that reside in them. At first it didn’t feel like their were a ton of scare actors roaming the streets, which was a bit worrisome. Last year the park was populated with monsters at every turn. I don’t know why it seemed so understaffed towards the beginning of the night, but luckily more actors showed up over time. Every scare actor that we had an interaction with was in perfect character, which is obviously very important for a halloween event. Even if the scare zones felt somewhat baron at times, the actors that were there were giving top notch performances and scares.
Surprisingly, my favorite part about Haunt’s atmosphere isn’t the “live” elements of the scare actors. It’s actually the countless decorations they put up throughout the park. Not only are the scare zones and haunted mazes decked to the brim with theming, but basically everywhere else in the park has at least a little bit of spooky decor built into it somehow. Here are a few pictures of my favorites:
I can really appreciate how Kings Island seems to go the extra mile to make sure the park feels transformed into a completely different place. Sure, it might not be as detailed as something like Universal’s Horror Nights, but it still stands out as a major positive during the event.
I believe we walked through all 7 Scare Zones at least once during our visit. This part of Haunt was pretty hit or miss, to be honest. I feel like the fact that I’m unsure as to whether or not I walked through all the scare zones speaks to how some of them felt pretty bare bones. That’s not to say they all weren’t decorated with some sort of theme in mind, but it seemed like some of them had far stronger themes than others. “International Street of Fear” and “Rivertown Reaping” were super forgettable, albeit with a few decent scare actors. “Coney Maul” and “Zombie Mall” were a bit better, but they weren’t necessarily anything we haven’t seen before.
Luckily, there are three excellent scare zones that make up for the mediocre ones. “Pumpkin Eater” and “Dance of thze Macabre”, two of the returning scare zones, are just as well-done and creative as I remember. I still feel that the former is the best scare zone I’ve ever seen, with its numerous pumpkin decorations and excellent pumpkin-themed scare actors. The latter is a brilliant and horrifying masquerade ball featuring scare actors that the park dubs as the “creme de la creme of society”. Scattered throughout the zone are various banquet tables and other creepy party decorations. It’s such a unique idea for a scare zone, even if it does end up being more fun than scary.
The New-for-2019 scare zone “Shipwrecked” is also a fantastic example of thinking outside the box to develop a unique scare zone. Instead of just going for another uninspired zombie or clown zone, Kings Island created a haunted pirate-themed zone with immersive structures and characters. There’s even a full pirate ship that greatly adds to the overall seaside environment. Oh, and beware the mermaids in the pond adjacent to the ship. They’re easily some of the scariest actors at Haunt.
Kings Island’s haunted mazes are arguably the biggest draw to Halloween Haunt, so therefor all of them tend to get very long lines. Going into our visit we knew we had to pick and choose mazes that had the shortest queues, in order to maximize our time at the park. Last year I went through KillMart and CHAOS, so those weren’t high up on our priorities at all. That said, if KillMart is anything like it was last year, I highly recommend making that your must-do maze at Haunt. The supermarket location is the most obscure theme for a haunted maze I’ve ever seen.
The three mazes we went through this year were Blackout, Wolf Pack and Slaughter House. The worst of these three was probably Wolf Pack, as it felt pretty bare-bones and lacked any outstanding scare actors. Sure, the idea of a wear-wolf themed maze is kind of creative, but the execution left much to be desired. If Kings Island could do one thing to improve that maze, it would definitely be adding more set pieces in order to make it feel fuller and more memorable. The giant wolf puppet at the end is incredible, though.
Next I’d probably place Blackout, which was a cool take on the whole “not being able to see where you’re going” shtick that some haunted houses do. You’re placed in a group of about 6 people, and each group has to hold onto a rope while you navigate the maze by keeping your hands on the walls. Of course, the walls are covered with creepy and weird-textured things that make you jump. There’s also those fun latex tunnels that you have to push your way through. I’d say that the maze would be more fun with scare actors, but we did it before 6 pm, and apparently after 6 pm they fill the maze with monsters to make it scarier.
The best maze I went through was by far Slaughter House. The maze is themed to the gory Rivertown butcher, a fictional establishment serving all kinds of meat, including human. This theme might be a bit tired, as it tends to be used in all sorts of haunted houses, but I think Kings Island does a good job at executing it. There’s tons of props and set pieces that really bring the whole thing together, and all the actors are pretty frightening and intense. It also feels like a rather long maze, so it’s definitely worth the hour long line it usually has.
Is It Worth It?
Of course, I have a bit of positive bias when it comes to Halloween theme park events, but I’d say Kings Island Halloween Haunt 2019 is entirely worth it. The event offers tons of extra fun in addition to the attractions that can always be found at Kings Island. The scare zones and haunted mazes are, for the most part, really well done and deserving of the crowds that they draw. It also seems like the event has a lot of entertainment options, and although I didn’t get to see any of them, they sound like a lot of fun There might’ve been some short-comings in comparison to last year’s Haunt, but for the most part its a must-do event if you’re a theme park and/or haunted attraction enthusiast–or if you just love a good scare.
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