Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream 2017: FrostBite and Axe Alley carve up the competition

Step up to the big top in Sideshow Square.

Busch Gardens has opened the gates on Howl-O-Scream 2017 to fanfare, ice and axes and stiff competition. The Williamsburg park has unveiled a completely new haunted house/maze, a new terror-tory and a new Escape Room theme to go along with past favorites.

Photo: Busch Gardens

FrostBite

Dragons, knights in armor and lots and lots of ice have consumed the Curse of DarKastle attraction. This newest haunted maze takes guests through a wintry wonderland gone stark raving mad.

I’ve heard Frostbite described as being very “Game of Thrones,” but I don’t watch the show (I know, “gasp”), so I can’t really attest to that.

Watch out for the frost. It bites.

What’s really cool about FrostBite is the sheer size of the attraction. You actually walk through the DarKastle ride (don’t worry, the ride doesn’t operate during Howl-O-Scream). You enter through the ride queue as if you were getting on the ride, but the tracks have been covered up to allow walking access.

FrostBite is one of the biggest haunted mazes I’ve ever been through, in terms of open-ness. I’m used to mazes with narrow walkways and more closed-in walls. Consequently, to me, FrostBite didn’t seem as dark and scary as other mazes. I plan to go back for a second run-through as my group was one of the first to go through this house, and I felt like maybe the house wasn’t fully staffed with scare actors yet. But all in all, it was very well done, and I enjoyed the theme. I especially liked the surprise at the end.

Other Haunted Mazes at Howl-O-Scream

I won’t rehash what you may have read in previous year’s reviews. Besides Bitten being gone, the rest of the lineup is pretty much the same as in the past. Not a whole lot has changed with the design and decor of the houses, though it seemed like some of them may have been freshened up a bit. I really enjoy Circo Sinistro’s tent set-up as well as its opening “show” (where guests are gathered before being sent through the maze) in the Big Top.

You can get the scoop on Howl-O-Scream 2016 by clicking right here.

Circo Sinistro

Axe Alley

Axe Alley

Axe Alley is the park’s newest terror-tory, or scare zone. If you’re unfamiliar, a scare zone is a section of the park that has been decked out in ghoulish decor and runs amuk with scary characters. In this case, it’s New France (or Canada, to many of us). Busch Gardens chooses to call its scare zones “terror-torys,” and I can’t help but like that choice.

In previous years, this scare zone was known as Wendigo Woods and had a supernatural/alien/research facility type of theme. To go along with the park’s new wooden coaster, InvadR, it’s been transformed into a Viking village of axes and mayhem. Personally, I think this is a much better fit for this section of the park. It fits the rustic shops and rugged atmosphere much better. Oh, there will still be creepily clad characters yelling at you to get out, but this time they’ll be Vikings instead of distraught supernatural researchers.

Watch out for the random Viking InvadR in Axe Alley.

Other terror-tories in the park include Ripper Row in England (my personal favorite), Demon Street in France (always very well done), Sideshow Square in Festa Italia and Vampire Point in Germany.

Ripper Row
Photo: Busch Gardens

Demon Street

Demon Street

The main Demon DJ of Demon Street. This is a fun place to listen to tunes and watch chainsaw-wielding demons chase unsuspecting victims.

The only problem with Demon Street … the demons.

No Escape: Case of the Haunted Hotel

It seems everybody is in love with escape rooms these days. The concept involves getting a group of friends, or perfect strangers, together to solve clues designed around a theme. You have a set amount of time (usually an hour, but they can vary) to solve the mystery and be declared the winner. What if you don’t solve it? Well, I don’t really know. Maybe your friends will laugh at you. Who knows. But it’s fun regardless of the outcome.

Check in to the Haunted Hotel. Be careful. You might not check out.

This year’s new room is called the Case of the Haunted Hotel. I did not actually participate in a real clue-solving experience, but I did get to go in and look around. I love anything to do with hotels, and when they’re haunted, all the better. The actor playing the desk attendant is awesome. He looks very “Jack the Ripper-ish.”

Mysterious locked doors in the Haunted Hotel.

Could your task be to unlock this mysterious restraint?

Returning to Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream’s Escape Room scene is the Case of Mr. Karver … dolls and all. The clues and riddles are all new, though. So even if you solved this one last year, you’ll find a completely different experience this year. I do need to note that the Escape Room experiences are at an additional cost.

Props from The Case of Mr. Karver escape room.

Mr. Karver’s antique Singer. Who knows what he sews with this.

Hours, Shows and Other Info.

Howl-O-Scream takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from September 23 – October 29. There are also two Thursdays – October 19 and 26 – that the event will be open. Howl-O-Scream is included with park admission.

Please click here for information on shows and Passholder Bring-A-Friend-For-Free dates.

Note:  As always, please take into consideration your child’s scare level when deciding to bring young children to Howl-O-Scream. The park becomes seriously scary after 6:00 p.m. I have a 13-year-old who has adored this event for many years. But I’ve also seen grown adults run screaming out of mazes, so I always feel the need to warn parents.

Disclosure: I received entrance to Howl-O-Scream as part of Busch Gardens’ Media Day event. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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