By Charly SHELTON
Halloween is here again, the time of year filled with screams, pumpkins and scares. L.A. is a special haunt hot spot because there are so many great haunted houses in the area. Chief among these would be theme parks, namely Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood. Every year these parks provide an array of haunted walk-throughs, rides and scare zones woven among the streets of the parks.
Knott’s Scary Farm is more for teenagers. With fewer authentic scares, the experience is more about hanging out with friends, seeing a cool show, hitting up a few walk-throughs and riding some great roller coaster-type rides.
For real scares, Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights is the place to be. Whether marveling at the artistry of the incredibly well-made, detail-oriented walk-throughs, linking arms with a bunch of friends to make your way through a scary house or just taking a leisurely stroll with a few spooks along the way, this is the place to be for the best scares, houses and overall Halloween experience.
The benefit of Knott’s as a Scary Farm is in the wait times. The wait for each maze isn’t too bad, about 45 minutes even on a heavily attended night. But for just a few dollars more, Fright Lane access with the skeleton key room is well worth the price. This provides front-of-the-line access as well as access to an extra room in certain mazes. One maze, Voodoo (the best maze at Knott’s if not the best maze they’ve done in years), has a skeleton key room. The wait for Voodoo, even with a front-of-the-line pass, is a little bit longer, but it’s totally worth it.
In groups of five or six, guests are led into a coffin storage room where they are addressed by an old voodoo priestess and then placed into individual coffins. I won’t go into detail on what happens when Baron Samedi arrives, but it’s really a cool effect and worth the extra cost to have a skeleton key.
The rest of the skeleton key rooms, though, are pretty disappointing. Pinocchio Unstrung, one of the mazes featuring a skeleton key room, had a 30-minute wait to get into the skeleton key room. After gaining access, the performer gave a lackluster performance, barely caring whether or not there was an audience. The effects weren’t very good, either; he had to leave the room to trigger his own special effects.
Universal Studios, on the other hand, almost requires a front-of-the-line pass. Gate A passes give priority access to the front of the line once per maze. The VIP pass gives unlimited access to the front of the line.
At over $100 for the Gate A pass and over $200 for the VIP pass, you’re looking at spending a little bit for this experience. But with wait times for most of the mazes ranging between 90 and 140 minutes with eight mazes offered in all, there is no way a ticketholder can go through all of them in one night without a Gate A pass.
For those who decide to make Universal their Halloween haunt, they won’t be disappointed. Mazes from “The Walking Dead,” “Aliens vs Predator,” “From Dusk till Dawn,” “Dracula Untold” and several others terrify and leave guests spellbound when taking in the majesty of the walk-through. Being a theme park nerd, I walked through AVP with an open jaw. This was one of the coolest mazes I have ever seen. It feels like you are actually in-between the two species at war with each other. Really a clever maze.
Each park has its benefits; each one offers something for a different crowd. For adults with a little spending money, it’s Universal all the way. For teens and young adults who want to go in a group and make it more of a social event than a Halloween scare fest, Knott’s is for you.
Whichever one you choose, Knott’s or Universal, have a happy and safe Halloween.