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[Review] Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Williamsburg

howloscream busch gardens vaFriday night we had the pleasure of attending the media event for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Howl-O-Scream. Now in its fourteenth year, the Busch Gardens fright-filled event has grown considerably. Speaking of its evolution over the years, Scott Gasparich, VP of Entertainment, shared how they started with a few light bulbs, pumpkins, and ghosts, to now housing three warehouses full of Howl-O-Scream decor. While the park has a fall/harvest feel during the day, once the clock strikes 6 p.m. it’s an all-out scare-fest. The Busch Gardens team stressed the importance of reminding parents that due to what they call an “elevated scare factor,” Howl-O-Scream is not advised for young children. After witnessing a child crying last night and scared to walk pass a scare actor in one of the TERROR-tories, I absolutely agree. If you have young children or even older children that scare easily or are afraid of monsters, etc, Howl-O-Scream is NOT for them. I would advise leaving the park before the scares start at 6:00 p.m.

I have to be honest, I have not attended Howl-O-Scream in a couple of years due to my scaring easily; I am a big scaredy cat. I hate being frightened, so I would always leave the park before 6:00 p.m.  But, once I received the invite for the media event, I did not want to miss out on a great opportunity to review Howl-O-Scream for my site. I was also interested to see how things have changed since I last attended. I was a little apprehensive, but prepared to be scared and have a good time. I have to admit, Busch Gardens did not disappoint. I was most excited to check out the different TERROR-tories. After reading the description in the press release and hearing Scott describe them during the media meeting, I couldn’t wait to see the vision come to life.


Ripper Row® (England)Things are looking a bit unsettling in England; a murderer is on the loose plucking unsuspecting victims from the city streets to satisfy his grizzly curiosity. No one knows what Jack the Ripper looks like or who he will strike next. Authorities hunt furiously among the crowds in search of the killer nabbing anyone who looks at all suspicious. Keep your head down and your wits about you or you might not make it out alive.

My Review: I LOVED the facades in England! Very well done, it is feels like you have been transported to a different place in time. I think it was executed wonderfully. Unfortunately, my camera was dead so I couldn’t get any good shots with my camera phone due to it being dark. The headless Victorian women with the umbrella walking around were my favorite! Very nice job!

Vampire Point™ (Germany)Even vampires need a vacation once in a while and Vampire Point™ is the perfect destination for bloodsuckers. Watch your step and your neck or you might end up the main course. Dawn is hours away, your last salvation lies in escaping the vampire village before the inhabitants sink their fangs into you.

My Review: The theming here was nice. Although it is not a lot, it is enough. The standout of this area is the Blood Banquet dining experience. It was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise. The buffet was great (especially the chili and polenta) and the show was a lot of fun. Scott described it as “dinner theater” and that is very accurate. By the time we ate, we were some of the last people there and it was close to closing time (they close at 9 p.m.) I didn’t expect much of a show for just us, but I was wrong. The actors came out and hammed it up as if it were a full house. Being it was just us, they played up to us more but also interacted with the crowd standing at the fence and looking in. They never break character (from the wait staff on) and I loved it. Excellent job by all. I definitely want to go back and eat there again and take the kids.

Demon Street™ (France): Paris is burning. Can you escape before the city is engulfed in flame? Let the smoldering ruins light your way, but beware, fiery fiends lurk around every corner ready to put you on the coals. The smell of a burning inferno fills the air and rumor has it unsuspecting souls will be roasted on a spit. It’s about to get very hot in Paris, stay cool or you may find yourself going up in smoke.

My Review: I think this area is so much fun! I am ashamed to admit I loved the demon DJ on the skull. It is very impressive in person. The scare actors with the chainsaws are awesome, along with the “flames.” I unfortunately didn’t make it over to see this again once it got dark, but I heard it looks even better. Great job in this area!

Ports of Skull™ (Italy): The Jolly Roger has risen over a ship graveyard filled with lost souls doomed to haunt the vessels they once sailed. Chart your course through Cut Throat Cove™ or cozy up to the Pirate Baarrrgh™ for a swill ‘o the grog, but keep a weather eye open or you may find yourself keel-hauled by cut-throat buccanee.

My Review: I really enjoyed this area. I love the “Pirates of the Caribbean” type theme. It’s great, especially for the younger ones, if they choose to stay. This area is more kid-friendly because it isn’t horrifying. But that doesn’t mean you will not got a good scare from one of the actors near The Jolly Roger. That is all I will say for those who do not want it to be spoiled 😉  There are also great photo opportunities here, including walking the plank, standing on the ship and even getting in a cage. If I wasn’t enjoying the atmosphere so much I would have had more pictures; but I was too busy taking it all in. Captain Barghbie’s Booty store looked amazing! My husband enjoyed browsing the store and taking pics of some of the creepy things for sale while I got my face painted.The pirate scare actors were great, including the Captain fashioned off of Johnny Depp. Their characters were a lot of fun.


Haunted Houses

NEW Cut Throat Cove: Heed the warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter. Cut Throat Cove™ is the haven for bloodthirsty, dangerous rogues – where the scurvy dogs, buccaneers and scoundrels go for shelter. Proceed with caution. Alas, something has gone terribly wrong. Within this macabre market, the pirates have been slaughtered and mutiny is afoot. The way out lies with the buried treasure and the blood-curdling screams you hear just might be your own.

My Review: I really liked the decor/theming of this house. I had quite a few scares and I really enjoyed the set-up. Very good job for a new house! The only thing I did not like was the strobe light that was used in a section of the maze. It was really bad. If you have problems with strobe lighting you may want to avoid this house.

Dead Line: Deep underground, construction of the newest line of the Pompeii Metro was moving smoothly until an ancient pipe was accidentally struck. At first, it seemed like steam. Then the mist became thicker, more sinister. Now the strange gas is leaking quickly, and everyone trapped inside is infected. The difficult decision was made to cut off all communication to the outside world. The Dead Line is off the grid.

My Review: I really enjoyed Dead Line! A little slow in the beginning but it really picks up at the end.  Great house!


Dig It Up!Relics long forgotten and buried in the vaults of the Museo di San Marco have recently been dug up, dusted off and brought to life through song. Cavemen, Egyptians, Romans, and even an alien encounter make their musical debut in this eclectic energy packed anything goes at Halloween show

My Review: I was a little late getting to the show and we left early, but from what I did see, it was great! I am really looking forward to seeing this from beginning to end with the kids.

We unfortunately ran out of time and were not able to visit anything other than what I reviewed. Overall, I highly recommend visiting Howl-O-Scream this year. The park has shown a concerted effort to improve the Howl-O-Scream experience for park guests and I think they have a winner this year.

*NOTE: Howl-O-Scream is a very popular event and the park often reaches capacity, especially on Saturdays. I would advise arriving to the park  ahead of Howl-O-Scream’s start time (6:00 p.m.) if possible to avoid crowding issues (parking, lines). Friday and Sunday evenings may also be a better time to visit due to the possibility of fewer people. If you are interested in Quick Queue passes for Howl-O-Scream to avoid the long lines, they are available for purchase for $30-$55 depending on the day and type of pass (one-time use or unlimited).

DISCOUNTS: I recommend the Fall Fun Card for $72. You pay for one day’s admission and receive unlimited visits to the park until October 27, 2013. There is also a great deal on Living Social for a one-day ticket for adults to Busch Garden’s Williamsburg for only $36 and $31 for children. Take advantage while the deal is still available!

For pictures from our visit, see our Instagram !

See Howl-O-Scream schedule for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. For all things Howl-O-Scream, visit the official website,


*TERROR-tories & Haunted House descriptions are courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.