In Central Florida, Halloween is frightfully fun
- Last Updated: 2:29 AM, October 11, 2011
- Posted: 5:29 PM, October 10, 2011
October, when the kids are back to school, was once a dead period in Orlando. Now, it's the undead period.
Halloween now does monstrous business in O-Town. The big parks each mount massive, separately ticketed events, and combined with relatively cheap off-season airfare in October, Halloween in Orlando has become worthy of a trip all its own.
Walt Disney's World's shindig, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, held on various nights through November 1, has a name that speaks for itself. It takes over the Magic Kingdom for six hours (a special ticket is required), when the paths are jammed with costume-wearing families going trick-or-treating at 10 candy stations spread around the park.
Mickey's party climaxes with a special Villains-themed fireworks show that's more fiery than the standard show, and its twice-nightly parade, the blacklight-drenched Boo-to-You, is the resort's best despite the fact it only happens 26 days a year. Its dancing gravediggers are a fan favorite -- they send off sparks as they drag their shovels on the streets.
You won't get free candy at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, now in its 21st year, but you may get chased by a zombie with a chain saw. The event, running through Oct. 31, mounts eight complicated haunted houses and half-dozen themed "scare zones." It's the prime spook show in town and, it's easy to argue, the country.
Each year, a full-time team of Universal creative staff devises and creates what amounts to a whole new theme park laden with expensive custom effects that only lasts six weeks. Some 1,000 locals vie to be disfigured with movie make-up and plague visitors as "scareactors."
It's like Burning Man for Fangoria readers, with thick crowds of party-minded visitors drinking Jell-o shots out of plasma bags and piling into the event's bawdy annual send-up of pop culture featuring '80s characters Bill and Ted.
This year, Universal's effort includes heady, story-rich shorelines such as ones based on World War I trenches, Edgar Allan Poe, and the effects of acid rain taken to a gnarly extreme.
While Halloween bashes rage, most regular rides remain open at the parks, too, with shorter lines than usual.
Milder than Disney's party is SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular, a todder-ready daylight trick-or-treating circuit filled with silly sea creatures. Busch Gardens in Tampa, known for its thrilling roller coasters, mounts the adult-intense Howl-O-Scream, an answer to Universal's epic extravaganza.
Even second-tier attractions such as antique plane museum Fantasy of Flight have joined the spook show, adding a "Haunted Hangar Walking Tour" of aviation mysteries to its ticket during October.
Between them all, a visitor could spend four full days in Orlando just getting their zombie on.