Tampa may have its Howl-O-Scream and Orlando its Halloween Horror Nights, but Hernando County has some creepy haunts that can scare some of the toughest crowds, yet offer some family-friendly fun — at a fraction of the cost or travel time.
While many Halloween events kicked off last week, two favorites continue this week, including the Wild n' Wicked Nights at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and the Halloween Haunted House and Fall Festival at the Hernando Heritage Museum in Brooksville.
Both events promise several new scares to keep the blood pumping.
In Brooksville, the Halloween Haunted House and Fall Festival offers a few changes this year. For parents of small children who wish to enter the haunted house, there will now be a "Child Swap" pass available.
The haunted house offers three floors of "terror" and upon exiting, there are even more scare zones outside. It is definitely not for little ones, or those faint of heart.
"We strongly suggest not bringing any child who is easily frightened, especial those under 8 years old, into the haunted house," said organizer Amanda Mullen. "It is very, very scary."
Mullen said one parent can wait in line while the other takes the young ones to the children's area. Once at the ticket window, the parent in line can request a Child Swap ticket, which allows the second parent to cut the line and enter the house without waiting.
For the children, there will be a Halloween maze, games and candy (bring a trick-or-treat bag or bucket). All ages can enjoy stories around the fire, a palm reader and appearances by the Spring Hill Power Rangers.
On the west side of the county, Wild n' Wicked Nights also offers up something for all ages. There are carnival games and a Halloween maze for the little ones and a "Creature from the Deep" mermaid show for all ages.
"Every year there is something new to see," said John Athanason, marketing coordinator at Weeki Wachee Springs.
For those who like a good scare, there is the adrenaline-pumping haunted trail through the woods. "I'm in my late 40s and it gets my heart pumping," Athanason admits.
New this year will be the Area 51 tour, a maze through the famed secret government base known for housing aliens.
"The aliens have escaped and are on the loose," Athanason warned. "So you must make your way out of there alive."
The main goal, Athanason said, is to offer families an affordable way to celebrate Halloween.
"We can't compete with Busch Gardens and Universal Studios," he admits. "But this is something affordable that the whole family can enjoy."
If you go
• The Halloween Haunted House and Fall Festival will be 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Hernando Heritage Museum, 601 Museum Court, Brooksville. Games are free. A children's maze for ages 2 and older is $1. Tours of the haunted house are $5. Call (352) 835-1535.
• Wild n' Wicked Nights will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. Admission is $6; $4 for ages 6 to 12, and free for ages 5 and younger.
Other Halloween events
• YMCA Spooktacular Fall Festival: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Hernando County Family YMCA, 1300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. Includes games, crafts, spooky face painting, snacks, a mad science lab and trunk-or-treat. The cost is $10 per family, up to two adults and two children; additional adults are $3. Volunteers are needed for the trunk-or-treat. Contact Lisa Cunningham at (352) 688-9622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Haunted Trail on Golddust: 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5277 Golddust Road, Spring Hill. Take a guided tour through the mysterious woods and help hunt down the witch to put an end to her terror. This is a wooded trail; appropriate footwear required. Admission is $5, to benefit Humane Society of the Nature Coast. Call (352) 263-8044.
• Haunted Train Ride and Show: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Crews Lake Wilderness Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive, Shady Hills. Includes actors, singers and dancers to entertain visitors during the Central Pasco and Gulf Railroads haunted train ride. The show features Halloween songs, dancing, skits, special guest appearances by a professional storyteller and dance academy. Admission is $3. Call (727) 267-7161.
• Haunted Hayride and Haunted Trails: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, 7200 County Road 603, Bushnell. On the haunted hayride, visitors will unexpectedly meet soldiers, Seminoles and pioneers from the past. There will be a kid-friendly haunted trail, as well as a scarier trail. There will also be a bounce house and music. Candy and drinks will be provided to children at no cost. Admission to the park is $5 per carload, up to eight people (no cost for annual park pass holders). Call (352) 793-4781.
• Haunted Tram Rides: 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa. The rides will be down Pepper Creek Trail, behind the Visitor Center. The event also includes clowns, face painting, a Halloween costume contest, refreshments and trinkets for children. There will also be a haunted house for children. The cost for the tram ride is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and younger; the children's haunted house is $2 per child. Call (352) 628-5343.
• Crystal River Haunted Halloween at the Park, 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Crystal River Preserve State Park, 3266 N Sailboat Ave., Crystal River. Includes a scary tram tour, a creepy clown fun house, piratical boat trips and other activities. Visitors may have their fortunes told. The Florida Public Archaeology Network will host a "Mortuary Photography" studio. Food will be available. Sponsored by the Friends of Crystal River State Parks. Admission is $5. Parking will be west of Museum Pointe on State Park Street (take a tram to the main area). From 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, there will be a free children's event that will include games and crafts, treats, food and a costume parade. Visit floridastateparks.org/crystalriverpreserve/events.cfm or call (352) 563-0450.
• Rutland Haunted Forest: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Thousand Palms RV Resort, 6545 W State Road 44, Lake Panasoffkee. Featuring a trail to an undead cemetery, an insane asylum and a haunted jail of a historic Cypress Lumbering Camp in Rutland. Board the hay wagon before taking a walk through 10 to 14 vignettes along a trail. The cost is $13, 8 and younger $6.50. Proceeds benefit numerous charitable organizations. Call (352) 748-2237 or visit RutlandHaunted Forest.com.
• Marine Corps League Detachment 708 Halloween Party: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, 8405 Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville. With music, dancing and a costume contest. 6 to 9 p.m. $5 admission; bring a dish to share. Call (352) 597-7979.
• Latin American Civic and Cultural Association Halloween Dance: 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Suncoast Dance and Party Center, 13383 County Line Road, Spring Hill. With music by DJ Mambo. Prizes for best costumes (adults and children). Guests may bring their own beverages (no large coolers). The cost is $8 members, $10 nonmembers; children 11 and younger half price. Call (352) 340-5066 or (352) 666-6848.
• Trunk-or-Treat: 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31, Christ Lutheran Church, 475 North Ave. W, Brooksville. There will be candy, games, hot dogs, soda, popcorn, snow cones and bounce castles. Free. For information, call (352) 796-8331.
• Harvest Festival: 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 31, Grace World Outreach Church, 20366 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. There will be free games, rides and candy. For information, call (352) 796-3685.
• Harvest Festival: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 31, Christian Life Assembly of God, 13065 Jacqueline Road (behind Sears), Spring Hill. Includes games, inflatable slide, bounce house and gladiator joust, dunk tank, candy, prizes and a drama presentation in the sanctuary. There will be door prizes. Admission free. Call (352) 597-1139.