Halloween has become such a huge business that the frights start as early as August at theme parks and local attractions, where fans find elaborate haunts, creative costumes and super-spooky decorations.
It wasn’t long ago that the season consisted of a Charlie Brown special and maybe a costume party. But these days the season starts early with everything pumpkin spiced. The haunted houses at theme parks are pricey, but also crowded with fans ready to get their scare on. And a number of indie operators have stepped up to show the big brands how to bring the fear.
Tampa Bay lifestyle blogger Laurie Schroeder knows all about them because she goes to pretty much every one of them during the scary season.
The Wimauma resident goes to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights every year. She has already checked out Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream, and she’s looking forward to Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City and Sir Henry’s Haunted Trail in Plant City, two of the better indie haunts that create elaborate houses and scream-worthy scares in their backwoods settings.
“I have always been a big Halloween fan, I think because living in Florida we gravitate to Halloween and Christmas time because it kind of brings us to weather changes we are not receiving,” Schroeder said. “My family brought me up on horror movies but they always stressed that this is fake, that’s ketchup, not blood. ... You get an adrenaline rush but you know you are safe.”
We have been stalking the many purveyors of panic and came up with a guide for Halloween fans in the Tampa Bay area. We checked out Universal’s movie-worthy horrors. We caught up with Howl-O-Scream, which has a 24-year record of creating scary and hilarious settings, including this year’s new creepy Circus of Fear. And we found a number of not-so-scary Halloween events you can bring the little ones to so they can dress up and get an early jump on candy.
The National Retail Federation expects this year to bring a record $10.6 billion in Halloween spending. Next to Christmas and the summer travel season, Halloween has become the third-busiest time of year for many theme parks.
Read on to find out why.
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights
Fans of the fourth season of “Stranger Things” will immediately recognize scenes inside the show’s atmospheric new haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2023. You’ll also find Chucky, the killer doll and The Exorcist over a record-breaking 48 nights through Saturday, Nov. 4.
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Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream
With haunted houses, scare zones and drinks delivered via a syringe, Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream ups the horror factor for the after-hours event at the Tampa theme .
Kid-friendly fun at Legoland, Busch Gardens, ZooTampa, SeaWorld
While the gory and ghoulish get the most attention, there are plenty of nightmare-free options for the little ones going on right now. They can get an early jump on trick-or-treating and dressing up. Here about it here.
Scream-A-Geddon, Sir Richard’s offer locally produced scares
Without the deep pockets of theme parks, two indie haunts, Scream-A-Geddon and Sir Henry’s Haunted Trail, manage to earn a loyal following using their backwoods settings to add a layer of terror.
Get out your calendar. From haunted houses to family-friendly theme park attractions, there’s plenty to do from now through October in the Tampa Bay area. Click here for a comprehensive roundup.