WEEKI WACHEE — A family can easily spend hundreds of dollars going to Halloween events at theme parks in Orlando or Tampa. Locally, it's easy to find similar Halloween thrills — and for a lot less money.
One of the local favorites each year is Wild N' Wicked Nights at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which begins this weekend and continues next. The event features haunted mazes, an underwater Freak Show, haunted trails and a number of other activities.
"One of the new things we're doing this year is the 'Final Destination Tour,' combining the haunted trail with a boat ride," said John Athanason, marketing coordinator for the park.
The tour starts with a bus ride to a haunted trail. Survivors who make it through the trail will then board a boat for a dark, spooky ride along the river.
"It's going to be really good," Athanason said, though he warned it might be "a bit intense for the younger kids."
Young children — and those with weak hearts — can enjoy a variety of less-scary activities, such as hayrides, a carnival and three different mazes.
Guests can also catch several shows. Freak Show will be performed by the Weeki Wachee mermaids in the underwater theater. It is styled after the carnival freak shows of yore — but with a spin. Guests can also catch Pirates: Quest for the Fountain of Youth, as well as The House of Horror, a show presented by students from John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts in Spring Hill.
Kids can also enter costume and scream contests, while adults can shop at the Bizarre Bazaar.
"It will be a lot of fun, with something for all ages," Athanason promised. "And it's very affordable, especially in these times, if you have a big family."