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Tips & Budget Tricks for the Best Haunted Theme Parks in the U.S.

Travel Team | Aug 31, 2023

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Halloween themed amusement park with creepy pumpkin man.

Looking for a way to (pumpkin) spice up your Halloween?

These amusement parks organize some of the scariest Halloween activities that will be sure to spook you out of your mind. These aren’t anything like your small-town haunted houses … unless your small town is Amityville, that is.

For those who aren’t feeling the Halloween spirit just yet, we’re also sharing our guide to tamer thrills and family-friendly advice. Because some of us prefer Casper over The Conjuring. Stay until the end for some cheap Halloween theme park deals.

Tips for Surviving Haunted Theme Parks

Haunted houses and theme parks are supposed to be a bit scary, but we all have different thresholds for what’s simply spooky and what’s downright terrifying. These tips are great for introducing little goblins to haunted amusements and for those who prefer a little creepiness without over-the-top gore.

1. Start small.

If you’re a haunted house beginner or are thinking of taking the kiddos to their first spooky attraction, start small. Instead of a full haunted theme park, try an evening corn maze or hayride first. You can also look for parks that have daytime activities for a tamer experience. Cedar Point below is on example.

By taking baby steps, you’ll be able to gauge their reaction better without wasting a bunch of money when you find out they’re too young or that you just hate haunted activities.

Bonus tip: Look for descriptors like “spooky” and “scary." Although not a concrete rule, we’ve found that attractions listed as “spooky” tend to be less intense and better for the little ones than those listed as “scary.”

2. Skip the haunts and head for other attractions.

The draw for many of the theme parks-turned-haunted for Halloween is the spooky stuff. That means the other attractions like rides and shows are less crowded. Take advantage of the shorter lines.

Even if you don’t go on that roller coaster five times in a row, you can always tell your more enthusiastic friends that you’ll meet them at the exit of one of the haunted houses. Good friends will understand, and you can sit back and people watch. We guarantee there will be plenty to see.

3. Take a trusted buddy.

There’s safety in numbers. If you’re a bit jumpy, going to haunted houses with friends can put you at ease. It’s even better if your friend is bigger than you — someone to hide behind — and if they let you enter in the middle of the group. Going first or last in your group makes you an easier target for scares.

4. Ask to be let out.

If you or the kids decide a haunted house is too much, simply ask the staff to be let out. They can escort you to an exit (including hidden ones for a quicker getaway, in some cases) with minimal scare and panic.

5. Laugh it off.

Assuming you aren’t truly frightened and are just self-conscious about your reaction, try to laugh off the scares. Remember that half the fun is to be a little ridiculous. Embrace it.

On the other hand, recognize that some people genuinely do not like being frightened. Laughing at them will not win you any friends. Try to be empathetic.

Best Haunted Theme Parks in the U.S.

1. Halloween Haunt at Kings Island

USA TODAY readers voted Halloween Haunt the country’s “Best Theme Park Halloween Event” in 2021, so if you’re in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area this fall, it’s worth a stop.

This one isn’t for little goblins under the age of 13, though. If you’re older — and game for a little heart-stopping fun — try not to panic while sinister monsters and creatures roam the park and appear from the fog as you make your way through terrifying mazes, blood-curdling scare zones, and horrifying live shows.

2. HalloWeekends at Cedar Point

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, offers activities that fall across the entire Halloween spectrum — from fun to fright — at HalloWeekends. Enjoy the light-hearted Halloween fun with the Magical House on Boo Hill, a costume contest for kids 12 and under, and fun foods like candy corn cupcakes and pumpkin bread pudding.

Only the boldest of souls should return at night when evil slowly takes over the park. Fright zones, fog-covered and scary trails, and more terrifying thrills await.

3. Fright Fest at Six Flags

Arguably the country’s scariest haunted parks during Halloween, Fright Fest will not disappoint. Each of nearly a dozen Six Flags locations has its own attractions, but all of them transform from brightly colored theme parks into an alternate realm scattered with harrowing creatures.

Daytime visitors can hit the Trick or Treat Trail and take in family-friendly shows, while those braving the night can check out mazes, haunted houses, and scare zones filled with ghouls, zombies, and other creatures.

4. Hersheypark Halloween

What better place to trick or treat than at a candy-themed amusement park? Make your way to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for family-friendly Halloween fun.

There’s a glow dance party where you can boogie with Hershey characters (think an anthropomorphic Reese’s Cup), trick or treat trail, and lights-out rides on some of the roller coasters.

Older kids and adults at Hersheypark Halloween might like the Scare Zones, which are rated for different levels of scariness, and multiple haunted houses.

And don’t miss the ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park to see creepy, crawly, nighttime animals.

5. Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens

If attractions like Motel Hell and Death Water Bayou don’t send you running for the hills, you might need to stop by Busch Gardens this Halloween. The parks in both Tampa Bay, Florida, and Williamsburg, Virginia, have several haunted houses among other petrifying attractions that are bound to satisfy any thrill.

When one park just isn’t enough, look for the combo Howl-O-Scream ticket with Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando. Beware, though. While these sites are usually great for all ages, Howl-O-Scream is not recommended for children.

Cheap Halloween Theme Park Deals

Family at a theme park.

It’s no secret that theme parks at any time of year can get pricey. And many of them charge extra for a Halloween event ticket on top of general park admission.

Your dwindling bank account shouldn’t be the scariest part of your trip, though. Here’s how to save money on Halloween theme parks.

1. Consider an annual pass.

Especially if you live near the theme park, buying an annual pass could end up saving you money when you head to the Halloween events.

Even if the park requires you to purchase a separate ticket for the haunted festivities, you won’t also have to pay regular admission thanks to your pass. Plus, they may offer Halloween discounts to season pass holders.

Other parks include their Halloween activities in the cost of the annual pass. The Kings Island Gold and Prestige passes, for example, include unlimited access to Halloween Haunt. Add to that the perk of bring-a-friend discounts, and the whole squad can be scared for less.

2. Check Groupon.

Just like those restaurant deals at home, theme parks across the country will pop up on Groupon. The deal may only be available for a limited time, so stay vigilant if you’re looking for a steal.

3. Buy online in advance.

Planning can save you some money. Instead of waiting until you get to the gate, get your tickets early.

This has the added benefit of avoiding the ugly surprise of an event being sold out when you get there. Some of the most popular haunted theme parks do have limited admission.

4. Check AAA and local grocery stores.

Travel organizations like AAA often offer discounts for members. The discount might not be huge, and it may only be valid on certain days, but it’s certainly worth a look.

Grocery stores like Costco near the park you’re visiting may also offer deals. Ask at their customer service desk while you’re stocking up on snacks.

5. Pay attention to local promotions.

If you’re in Southern California or headed that way this fall, San Diego has some great family vacation deals. Many of the city’s museums, hotels, and attractions participate in Kids Free October.

SeaWorld San Diego’s promotion, for example, gets you one free child admission with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket. If you’ve ever wanted to experience SeaWorld Spooktacular, this is your sign.

Buy an adult Hopper Ticket to LEGOLAND California Resort, and you can also get a free ticket for a kiddo. This could give you big savings for the famous Brick-or-Treat Inside the Park.

Other cities may have similar deals, so look at their tourism website before you hit the road.

How to Avoid Travel Horror Stories

Travel is great, but mishaps can make your hair stand on end. One way to avoid some of the horror stories of vacations gone wrong is with travel insurance. Visit SevenCorners.com or talk with one of our licensed agents to get expert guidance on the best travel insurance for your spooky adventure.

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