Forget the coaster wars. When Arthur Levine About amusement parks, who’s from Massachusetts, and Robert Niles from California from Theme Park Insider, it’s coastal wars. Veteran park journalists will cover the topics and defend their regions’ alleged superiority in a series of concurrent articles. In proportion to their professional conduct, the exchanges will be collective and respectful. Oh, who are we kidding? You’ll take the gloves off for cage match fights, and drag, right through to the end. The two begin by taking a stab at Halloween events at the theme park. Who will draw the first blood?
Certainly, Theme Park Insider readers voted Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando as the best theme park event in the industry last year. So I can’t envy Arthur for the event of declaring the East Coast the best coast for the Spooky season. But of all people, those of us in Southern California know that one or two stars isn’t enough to win a championship. If so, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Shohei Ohtani will both wear the World Championship rings.
No, you also need a deep seat of supporting players to win the title. This is what makes Southern California the best location in the country for a Halloween hunt. [See what Arthur has to say in Why Florida Slays California.]
Arthur has to expand his focus to the entire East Coast to find enough Halloween events to make a compelling case in his favour. In the meantime, I can stay within three California counties just to make my own. Let’s start, as Arthur predicted, with the event that started it all – runner-up among Theme Park Insider readers for best Halloween event – Knott’s Scary Farm.
There is no place more spooky during the Halloween season than the mist-strewn horror area of Ghost Town during Knott’s Scary Farm. This is a bloody heart that beats with Halloween terror. Knott doesn’t revamp the movie scenes for her Halloween event – every maze here is an original concept, often presented with innovative and stunning production design, and several terrifying actors who bring talent and expertise to motion picture, television and professional theater bios for their roles.
But if you want all those movie nods at your Halloween event, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights have you covered. Despite what Arthur said, Universal had their first horror night in Hollywood in 1986, not in Orlando, as the event began under the name Fright Nights in 1991. The Hollywood event might not be as big as its younger brother in Orlando, but when do you get off the Terror Tram? To Universal Studios Hollywood, you’re walking through the same place where horror films were born in Hollywood in the early 1900s. Talk about chills.
What about Disney? The Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure beats Walt Disney World’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party by giving Disney heroes their own oomph with Villains Grove – the first Halloween maze at a US Disney theme park. California Adventure’s after-hours Halloween party mode allows Disneyland to run a special nightly Halloween Screams show for all guests, who can also enjoy Halloween overlays on many of the two park’s attractions, including Haunted Mansion Holiday and Guardians of the Galaxy Monsters After Dark, And two wild rides. Good luck finding a lot of Halloween outside the Wizarding Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Down in San Diego County, we have Brick or Treat in Legoland California and Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld San Diego, matching their sister events in Florida. But back at 5 to L.A. County, we have Six Flags Fright Fest at Magic Mountain, another Halloween event that Florida lacks.
But here is the real secret from the inside. Southern California wins countless world-class venues located outside of its theme parks. The 13th floor produces great events throughout Los Angeles County, such as the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, the illusion interactive theater experience at the real-life Haunted Mansion in Pomona, and the new Shaqtoberfest next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Or just drive around town and stop by to enjoy some of the many homey venues created by fans with professional entertainment or theatrical design experience. Southern California is the entertainment capital of the world, and we’re not taking off on Halloween.
Finally, Southern California is also home to Midsummer Scream, the world’s largest Halloween-themed convention, which previews the season and starts at its Long Beach home each summer.
Sorry, Arthur. You can wander the East Coast in search of Halloween spirit. But I can find everything here at home. Check into Hotel California, Halloween lovers. Because once you get here, you’ll never want to leave.
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