TAMPA — For its 23rd year, Howl-O-Scream will have new haunted houses and seven scare zones scattered throughout the park. And for kids, Busch Gardens will have a new daytime family-friendly Spooktacular of Halloween fun starting this weekend.
First, the Tampa theme park brings a treat. The newly imagined Spooktacular is included with admission. It started Sept. 10 and runs from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends through October. It introduces a new character, a friendly witch-in-training named Kandy. She will lead story time, and costumed kids can join in a parade at the Festival Walkway. Bring a bag to collect goodies at the trick-or-treat stations.
Then come the tricks. For adults, the more intense Howl-O-Scream opened Sept. 9 with five haunted houses and a wide range of creepy zones where scare actors are likely to sidle up beside you for a fright or a selfie. You never know when a ghoul might pop up, even sitting next to you on a roller coaster. And drivers at the Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars will find the Crash Test Zombies chasing cars around the track.
Unlike the family event, Howl-O-Scream requires a separate ticket for the horrors that run from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Returning haunted houses are Death Water Bayou, a werewolf encounter; The Forgotten, a vampire haunt; Witch in the Woods; and the revamped Residence, a longtime staple of Howl-O-Scream that this year has a Home for the Holidays overlay that “sees merriment turn to murder at a suburban family home.”
A new house called Stranglewood Estate is set in a grand home that was once lively but is “now filled with darkness and the spirit of evil.”
The scare zones set up along the sidewalks and pathways of the park include a new scary cornfield called Ravens Mill, fairies and orcs in Beyond the Veil and returning favorites set among a creepy junkyard, dark woods, a pirate shipwreck, cemetery and voodoo bayou.
Besides the haunted houses and scare zones, there are entertainment options during Howl-O-Scream for when you need a break from running away from ghouls.
Fiends, a musical comedy show, has lots of fun dance numbers and horror humor. A new show this year is called 50/50: Choose Your Fate, described as a game show that “decides your fate.” Acrobats get a Halloween twist with Cirque X-Scream, and for music fans the Rolling Bones offer a mashup of classic rock tunes at the Dragon Fire Grill.
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And when you have had your fill of the haunts, you can go for the park’s resident scares by riding its many roller coasters in the dark, including the new Iron Gwazi, which opened this past spring.
If you go
Howl-O-Scream: It’s the 23rd year for this Halloween horror show that has become one of Busch Gardens’ biggest events. It runs select nights Sept. 9-Oct. 31. It is open 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m.-midnight Sundays. Tickets are $44.99-$66.99 at buschgardens.com/tampa.
Spooktacular: During the day, the new family-friendly weekend event brings out a witch-in-training named Kandy to greet kids and lead story time. Costumed kids can join in a parade and collect goodies at the trick-or-treat stations. It runs from Sept. 10-Oct. 30 from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends. Included with admission.