I also really love the holidays that come in the fall - Halloween and Thanksgiving. What's not to love about Halloween? Cute/spooky decorations, scary haunted houses, and CANDY! This weekend my husband and I went to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens, a holiday event at an amusement park in Williamsburg, Va. We've gone to Kings Dominion's Halloween Haunt in the past, but we really wanted to go to Busch Gardens this year because it has a reputation for being a bit more upscale. The long and the short of it is: Kings Dominion's Halloween Haunt is SO MUCH BETTER!
We spent the day going on the various rides. Verbolten, the newest ride, was really cool - there's a twist in the middle that really took us by surprise. :) I think that Busch Gardens has more roller coasters than Kings Dominion, but we went on far fewer rides because we couldn't navigate our way around the park. We actually started following a crowd of people, hoping they were going towards a ride, until we heard them saying they couldn't find their way around either! Also, I think that Kings Dominion's "medium" rides (not full-blown roller coasters, but ones that aren't for children) are much better than the comparable ones at Busch Gardens - for example, the Beserker at Kings Dominion goes all the way around and is thrilling, while the Battering Ram at Busch Gardens... isn't.
We made sure we were in line and waiting for one of the haunted houses when they opened at 6 P.M. Busch Gardens has six different ones. While we were waiting, no fewer than seven people cut in line in front of us. Some of the Busch Gardens security guards noticed and commented on it, but did nothing. We were towards the beginning, so I assume there were others cutting behind us as well. I asked the lady who was in control of letting people into the house what their line-cutting policy was. She said that they did not allow people to cut in line and that line-cutters would be removed... clearly that was not true. Kings Dominion has an extremely strict line-cutting policy that I have actually seen enforced. You wouldn't think that was a big deal, but considering the wait for the first house was 30 minutes, then for the second was 45 minutes, and the third was an hour, it was extremely annoying that people could just by-pass the entire line. A different park employee told us that the waits by end of the night was going to be around three hours. I don't know if that made sense, because she said that at 8:00 P.M. and the park closed at 10:00.
We ended up only seeing three houses because we decided the other three just weren't worth the wait. They weren't very scary. It seems that Busch Gardens decided that they'd rather have employees man the inside of the houses instead of the lines outside. That didn't make any sense to me because: a) having people standing around in the houses in black Busch Gardens shirts and khakis really broke the mood and b) the majority of visitors at any given moment weren't outside the houses, not in them.
Also - the number of small children who were in line for the haunted houses was astounding. There were signs and oral announcements that parents were strongly discouraged from bringing their children to the haunted houses. The kids were so high-strung that several burst into tears when they saw park visitors who had paid to have their faces painted to look like ghouls or zombies. The ones who actually got into the houses didn't last long. If I had a nickel for every sobbing kid I saw... I would have a couple bucks. :-p I'm not sure if Kings Dominion has a different policy about children at their Halloween Haunt, but I didn't see anyone under the age of ten when I went in the past.
In the future, we'll definitely skip Busch Gardens and head to Kings Dominion instead. Kings Dominion also has the added bonuses of being closer to my house and a lot cheaper. Don't get me wrong, Busch Gardens is a great park - their food is infinitesimally better than Kings Dominions, and their shows were high-quality. But, for me, the draws to these parks are their rides and their haunted houses and Kings Dominion has Busch Gardens beat on both of these.
How about you - do you have any favorite amusement parks or Halloween events you like to go to?