Escape rooms, zombie fights and carnival sideshow freaks are a few of the themes popping up at this year's Halloween attractions.
But if you're not up for extreme frights offered by hard-core haunted houses and nighttime theme park events, there are lots of low-key alternatives, with some venues avoiding scary stuff altogether. Disney World in Florida hosts Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, with a similar Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, offers 12 acres of corn mazes, a talking pumpkin, a laser light show and more. An overnight stay at Great Wolf lodges includes Howl-O-Ween activities like trick-or-treat trails and a Monster Bash dance party. SeaWorld San Diego's Halloween Spooktacular includes "Sesame Street's Who Said Boo?"
Some theme parks host family friendly activities on Saturdays and Sundays, then ramp up thrills and chills at night on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Many Six Flags parks have child-friendly activities during the day, then transition to nighttime Fright Fests, with creepy roaming creatures, haunted houses and scare zones.
At Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, HalloWeekends include daytime family friendly activities like the Great Pumpkin Fest, a parade and hay-bale mazes. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the park becomes a more intense experience, with outdoor scare zones, haunted houses and edgy shows.
Great America in Santa Clara, California, also offers family friendly activities during the day, while nighttime thrills include roving monsters, nine mazes, scare zones and the park's thrill rides.
Carowinds park in Charlotte, North Carolina, recommends its Scarowinds extravaganza — including a homecoming at Zombie High — for guests age 13 and older.
Busch Gardens Tampa partnered with Robin Cowie, producer of "The Blair Witch Project," to create "Unearthed," about a woman named Scarlett who comes back to life after a construction crew digs too far. Busch Gardens Williamsburg gets scary with five Terror-tories and seven haunted houses.
HAUNTWORLD'S TOP 15
HauntWorld.com's list of top 15 haunted houses is topped by Haunted Overload, in Lee, New Hampshire, described by HauntWorld as "an original outdoor haunt in a class of its own" with "handmade sets, gigantic monsters and spellbinding costumes with spectacular sound and lighting ... set in an eerie dark New England forest." Haunted Overload also won a $50,000 prize, named America's scariest display by ABC's "The Great Halloween Fright Fight."
The other 14 listed by HauntWorld are Headless Horseman, in Ulster Park, New York; The 13th Gate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati; Netherworld in Atlanta; 13th Floor, San Antonio, Texas; Bennett's Curse, Baltimore; Erebus, Pontiac, Michigan; Bates Motel, Philadelphia; The Darkness, St. Louis; Cutting Edge, Dallas; Spookywoods, Greensboro, North Carolina; House of Torment in Chicago; Hex House, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Fear Experience in Cleveland.
UNIVERSAL'S HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS
At Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, Halloween Horror Nights draw thousands of visitors, ranking among the parks' busiest times of year. The experience is worthy of Hollywood, inspired by famous horror films, sci-fi shows and stories, with movie-quality special effects, technology, sets, costumes and makeup.
At Universal Hollywood in Los Angeles, the extravaganza includes a new "terror tram" experience through Universal's film studio back lot themed on "The Purge," a film about a 12-hour period in which crime is legal. There are also six themed mazes based on movies and TV shows: The Walking Dead, Insidious, Crimson Peak, Halloween, This Is The End and Alien vs. Predator. Crimson Peak, for example, is inspired by a horror movie being released in mid-October by director Guillermo del Toro, taking visitors on a journey with the main character, Edith Cushing, to a haunted estate in the English countryside. The Walking Dead maze is based on season five of the AMC series.
Universal Orlando, which is marking its 25th year of Halloween Horror Nights, has nine haunted houses, including "Freddy vs. Jason," ''The Purge," ''An American Werewolf in London" and "The Walking Dead." The Florida park also has five scare zones.
Eastern State Penitentiary, the historic former prison in Philadelphia, is celebrating its 25th season hosting Halloween madness. Its massive haunted house, "Terror Behind the Walls," has been redesigned for the anniversary.
In Reading, Pennsylvania, Shocktoberfest offers Zombie World and Prison of the Dead Escape, which requires guests to escape from multiple rooms. Because November's calendar has a Friday the 13th in it, the attraction will stay open through that date.
In Pittsburgh, ScareHouse attractions include The Summoning, a haunted attraction set in October 1932 that tells a story of secret societies, rituals and demonic inhabitants.
Sixteen miles west of Detroit, the Hush Haunted Attraction's Detroit Experiment Facility brings visitors through the collapsed ceilings, overgrown greenery and flickering dungeons of a science facility where experiments have gone wrong.
Freakshow in Wabash Valley, Illinois, introduces guests to sideshow freaks including evil magicians, mimes and clowns.
Wisconsin FearGrounds in Waukesha, Wisconsin, just outside Milwaukee, offers three haunted houses.
At Lookout Mountain in Ruby Falls, Tennessee, Haunted Cavern includes one haunt in the mind of a madman and one in a cave featuring creepy night creatures.
Enigma Haunt in Boca Raton, Florida, includes a blackout maze, The Abyss, and themed chambers in the Realms of Terror.
Attractions at Spooky World Presents Nightmare New England in Litchfield, New Hampshire, include a tractor ride through the woods to a spider-infested campground, plane crash scene and torture compound, along with a showcase of "rejected carnival misfits ... clowns to demented sideshow freaks."
Finally, the annual New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival isn't supposed to be scary, but last year's was marred by alcohol-fueled parties and 100 arrests. It's relocating this year from Keene to Laconia.