Howl-O-Scream runs on select nights through October 31 at Busch Gardens Tampa, bringing scares to Florida’s west coast area. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida tends to dominate Central Florida in terms of major haunt events, but Howl-O-Scream has some advantages that make it a must-do for haunt fans. Here are three areas in which Howl-O-Scream has an edge:
Better transition between park closing and the start of Howl-O-Scream. At Halloween Horror Nights, if you have a day ticket, you can wait inside a holding pen between the time the park closes and the event starts. The pens are pretty boring, although I do like the fact that you can wait in Diagon Alley now. Busch Gardens has a big advantage here because even though the Howl-O-Scream haunted houses don’t open until 7:30 p.m., your event ticket gets you into the park at 5. Many of the major rides are open during the transition period, typically with minimal lines, so you can ride your favorites, like SheiKra or Cheetah Hunt, until the haunts open.
Short express lines. I don’t like waiting in lines, so I get an express pass for Halloween Horror Nights every year. Unfortunately, the concept of “express” has changed over the years. What used to be a minimal wait now spans half and hour or more. At Howl-O-Scream, a Front Line Fear pass still gets you into the haunted houses with just a few minutes of wait time. Howl-O-Scream also has the Fright Feast option, where you get a nice buffet dinner and showing of “Fiends” before you go out into the park and enjoy an hour of exclusive haunted house time, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. It’s a nice alternative to the front line pass because you can get almost all of the houses done in that hour span.
Dark scare zone areas. Halloween Horror Nights is very strong with its scare zones this year, but Howl-O-Scream has one advantage they can’t match. The park’s wooded terrain, with so many dark areas, gives it the perfect ambiance for scare zones and sets guests up for scares because the scareactors have so many great hiding places.
I’m a huge fan of both Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights, and I recommend going to both events. Each has its own strengths, and if you know what they are, you’ll maximize your experience.