Just in time to take our minds off the scary roller coaster ride that is the economy right now, Busch Gardens revealed its new features and prices for its annual Howl-O-Scream attraction on Friday.
A zombie mortuary, a vampire casino (True Blood, take note!) and the return of the Alone experience are just a few of the highlights of the annual Halloween fright fest that runs on select nights starting in late September.
As usual, there are a dizzying array of prices to the event, which requires extra admission on top of the park's regular general admission of $77.99 plus tax.
With a theme called "the Dark Side of the Gardens," Howl-O-Scream turns Busch Gardens' normally sunny theme park into an elaborately designed and choreographed collection of brain-eating zombies, demented musicians and shriek-inducing bogeymen who fly out of darkened corners at every turn.
Each year the event draws hordes of thrill seekers who wander the park for hours checking out the haunted houses and riding roller coasters in the dark.
Here are the things that are new this year, according to a Busch news release:
Nevermore: This ode to Edgar Allen Poe's works features beating hearts, swinging pendulums and a raven's cries at a manor called Lenore.
Zombie Mortuary: After an epidemic, zombies in a small-town funeral home feed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners.
Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino. Beware of the seductive games and high-stake thrills at Revivara Casino, which features an All-THEY-Can-Eat buffet.
Midnight Hour: This live show at the Desert Grill features the mythical Hellfire Club. But beware the devilish owner when he promises his panel of sinister celebrity pop-culture coaches will help make you a star.
Returning is the Alone experience, where you and up to three others can pay $40 for a solo trip through the Minotaur Storage facility that houses artifacts and remains. (Admission is in addition to Howl-O-Scream admission, and pass discounts do not apply.)
The event runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22 and 27-29. Freaky Preview offers a sneak preview on Sept. 23-24 for discounted rates as low as $32.99. Operating hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. during Freaky Preview and on Thursday nights. Friday and Saturday hours are 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Reduced advance-purchase rates and special offers are available for Busch Gardens Pass members at TheDarkSideOfTheGardens.com.
Savings on general admission tickets are available in advance at participating Publix Supermarkets or with promotional codes found on select Pepsi Max and Mountain Dew products and at participating Taco Bell, Applebee's and Lifestyle Family Fitness locations in Central Florida. A special Facebook promotional code also is available.