By Jessica Bartels
My experience at Busch Gardens annual Howl-O-Scream event this year fell short compared to previous years. I went in hopes of complete thrills and a spooky adrenaline rush. What I received was a long list of closed coasters. Closed rides caused the wait time for haunted houses to be the main terror of Howl-O-Scream.
After waiting a dreadful 35 minutes, I visited the “Death Water Bayou”. I was greeted by a voodoo queen in a rocking chair. There were many zombie looking creatures lurking and jumping out of every shadow. I did not like walking through the spinning tunnel. However, I really enjoyed the shady men in bondage face masks lunging out and quickly flying back with their elastic ropes. They were the scariest part of the haunted house. It was a nice touch at the end of the three-minute walk through. I rate this with 3.5 skulls out of 5.
During the four hours it took me to walk the park I was disappointed to find many areas closed. Jungala along with all of the vendors in that area were completely dark. The only attraction in this area was a dance floor hosted by a D.J. For a thrill seeker like myself these dance zones leave little to desired. The space seemed wasted to me, as it could have added some scare factors. There was one dance area and a stage set up the entrance and exit. It was called Club 13. They put on a great music show and dance competition. In my opinion this would have sufficed for the dance scene.
One of the major bonuses of visiting the park at night is riding the coasters in the dark. The thrilling rides are great but added with the dark autumn nights the intensity doubles. I am a true roller coaster fan. Another disappointment came as I walked up to closed attractions. The Kumba was closed all night. The Sheikra, Gwazi, Scorpion, and phoenix were temporarily shut down for an undetermined amount of time. This left two major coasters, Cheetah Hunt and Montu, for guest to enjoy. But there is nothing enjoyable about waiting over an hour for a 90 second ride.
Because of the ride closure the haunted housed filled quickly. The wait times became unbearable. The screen read over 120 minute wait for some haunted houses. I noticed many guests getting frustrated along with me. Maybe this was a plan of Busch Gardens. They raked in the cash as people flocked to restaurants and gift shops.
I was unimpressed with my experience at Howl-O-Scream 2013 to say the least. The scare zones were far and few between. Unlike prior years there were not any character lurking in the shadows outside of scare zones. I liked to see the people painted as trees jumping out everywhere. I think the three major scare zones at Busch Gardens are shorter and less frightening than any other year.
My review on this event is not a great one. I found some things that I enjoyed such as the themed gift shops. They were decorated to perfection. I like the lights and special effects. The characters themselves were good. They were scary. However I did not get to enjoy the haunted houses because long wait times and most of the roller coasters were closed. I rate Howl-O-Scream 2013 a 2.5 out of 5.