HowlOScream at Busch Gardens Tampa ended its 2012 run last Saturday. Here are my impressions of this year’s event, which was a pretty standard example of a typical HowlOScream year:
HowlOScream at Busch Gardens Tampa always delivers a mix of both old and new haunted houses. One of this year’s new offerings was the 3-D superstitions house. It was a great use of 3-D and a very creative topic (and it featured evil clowns, which are always the stuff of nightmares). This house was definitely my favorite of the new 2012 offerings.
The houses that roll over from the previous year often get changed up a little. my favorite change was to Vampire Casino, which went from a thriving Las Vegas gambling palace to a creepy, dark, abandoned casino. Early in the year, your group went through with a flashlight. That was abandoned later in the season, but either way, the darkness made for some excellent scare opportunities.
Overall, HowlOScream continued its tradition of being a very old-school event in terms of its houses. It may not have the elaborate set design of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort, but its sets are actually quite detailed and its scares are always aggressive, which is a very important factor for me in Halloween events.
HowlOScream at Busch Gardens Tampa is always strong with scare zones because the park lends itself so well to them. It has lots of dark, narrow passages and lush landscaping where scareactors can easily hide.
Although most of the scareactors were roving (one of whom scared the heck out of me while I was in the middle of playing one of the games), Faded Memories was a set zone featuring tributes to icons and houses of the past. It was more of a photo opportunity that a place to be terrorized, although the scareactors did their best to be aggressive.
Although there were street shows, I stuck with Fiends, which moved to the Desert Grill this year. Fiends is a HowlOScream staple, and it was as amusing as always. The only thing I was sad about was that I really liked the show in the Desert Grill last year, and I would have liked to see another original stage show for 2012, along with Fiends.
I like the HowlOScream offerings for skipping the lines, and I always try out a few of them each year. This year, I did Front Line Fear, which is a pass that lets you use an express line for the houses (and major roller coasters, if you buy the more expensive version). I also did a group tour and a private tour, which includes a creative presentation about the event. All three experiences were great fun and helped make my night go more smoothly.
You can also do Fright Feast, which gives you a buffet meal while you watch Fiends, then lets you have half an hour of exclusive access to the haunted houses and other half hour of front-line access.
One big advantage to the Busch Gardens Tampa tours (if you’re a drinker) is the beverage stops, which are included in the price. You can drink beer to your heart’s content, or opt for the non-alcoholic options if you don’t drink or you’re the designated driver. The tours are very reasonably priced for what you get, and annual pass holders get a discount. I enjoyed them just as much this year as I have in years past.
Overall, nothing stood out strongly, either good or bad, about 2012. That’s not a bad thing, as HowlOScream is always a solid event, and I like the fact that I can rely on its consistency.
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