Howl-O-Scream 2013: Busch Gardens ups the ante for Halloween events everywhere

 

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point.

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point.

How do you take an already great Halloween event and make it even better? If you’re an ordinary theme park, you add themed dining to the venue and call it a day. If you’re Busch Gardens, you add themed dining and insert amazingly talented actors into it for an extraordinary dinner theatre experience. Oh, and you also create terror-tories with unique storylines to go along with the historical backgrounds of each section of the park. Then, you open on Friday the 13th.

I had the pleasure of attending Media Day, which took place on the opening night of Howl-O-Scream. Being that it was Friday the 13th made this event even more spooky and fun.

Howl-O-Scream 2013 Media Day

Howl-O-Scream 2013 Media Day

Spooky decorations and park merchandise. After purchase, this mug can be used for free refills for the rest of the Howl-O-Scream season.

Spooky decorations and park merchandise. After purchase, this mug can be used for free refills for the rest of the Howl-O-Scream season.

We were greeted by park representatives as well as a few of the park’s animal ambassadors, including Bob the boa, a scorpion and a trained rat (one of the little guys that runs across the stage at the beginning of the wolf and predator show). I thought they were the most appropriate of choices for a Halloween event.

Rats are actually quite soft. Who knew?

Rats are actually quite soft. Who knew?

Park representatives from Communications and Entertainment spoke about the evolution of Howl-O-Scream and how it had evolved from a few strands of lights into nearly three warehouses of props, decorations and other spooky accoutrements.

Park representatives speak about the evolution of Howl-O-Scream.

Park representatives speak about Howl-O-Scream 2013.

Scott from Entertainment.

Scott Gasparich, Vice President of Entertainment, speaks about the evolution of Howl-O-Scream.

A couple of rowdy pirates heckled the speakers, which made for hilarious entertainment. These two rogues can be found in Italy and will pose for pictures, on a gangplank no less.

Pirate entertainment.

Pirate entertainment.

We were given a warning to pass along to parents. Howl-O-Scream in NOT intended for young children. Obviously, all kids are different, and some may be perfectly fine. But some may not. The park has all kinds of natural fun and festive fall diversions during the day, but at 6:00 Howl-O-Scream begins and it is intended to be seriously scary. Of course, you may bring kids if you like, but please be aware of your child’s scare tolerances.

I attended Howl-O-Scream last year as well. I have to say that as awesome as it was then, 2013 is even better. The haunted houses are always great, and I will speak about a couple of them in anther post. With this post, I want to talk about the new additions to the Howl-O-Scream lineup for 2013. The addition of dining and the themed terror-tories puts the park over the top and off the chaaainnn (as Mel B would say on “America’s Got Talent” – she’s my favorite, what can I say). Speaking of dining, let’s get right to it.

Howl-O-Scream Dining

New Halloween dining experiences at Busch Gardens Williamsburg include the Blood Banquet in Germany, Fright Feast in Ireland and Buccaneer Galley in Festa Italia.

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point Hotel.

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point Hotel.

We were treated to the Blood Banquet buffet, which takes place at Vampire Point Hotel, the holiday hot spot for hip vampires everywhere. Blood Banquet is $20 per person for a buffet that features a wide variety of choices, including pasta salad, pork bites on a skewer, slaughtered lamb stew, polenta, vegetables exhumed from the garden, a meat-carving station and desserts such as red velvet cupcakes, lemon raspberry cake and chocolate tarts. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the lamb stew.

Blood Banquet buffet.

Blood Banquet buffet.

A very friendly Blood Banquet attendant.

A very friendly Blood Banquet attendant.

Fun place cards identify everything. Don’t let the names fool you, everything was delicious. Much kudos to Chef Justin and the culinary team.

Fun and frightening tags.

Fun and frightening tags.

Piercing placecards.

Just so you know what you’re sinking your fangs into.

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point Hotel.

Blood Banquet at Vampire Point Hotel. The red sauce is O-negative just in case you were wondering.

Lemon and raspberry cake.

Lemon raspberry cake.

Red velvet cupcakes.

Red velvet cupcakes.

The really cool thing about Blood Banquet is that you are entertained throughout the whole meal,even while waiting in line. Mr. and Mrs. Vampire and their Goth daughter flit and flurry around talking and mingling among the diners. Mrs. Vampire has a high shreaky kind of voice (think George Costanza’s mom on “Seinfeld”) and just loves the “decrepit architecture” of the place, while Mr. Vampire snaps pictures of everything and their darling daughter skulks around in her basic black attire. The bellhop calls out to let people such as Carmen Diaz know that their rooms are ready, or that “Kim Kardashian, your lights are on. But nobody’s home.” Fun stuff like that.

Mrs. Vampire is absolutely adorable.

Mrs. Vampire is utterly adorable.

Mrs. Vampire.

Mrs. Vampire.

A beautiful gypsy plays haunting violin music as Goth daughter stomps around.

A beautiful gypsy plays haunting violin music as Goth daughter stomps away. The bellhop looks on.

There is a beautiful gypsy violinist, and the group eventually performs a song and dance routine complete with burlesque-outfitted dancers and sparkly capes. All in all, it is al fresco entertainment at its best. Since it is outside, you don’t necessarily have to have dinner in order to see the show. Just stand around and see everything (but watch your neck, you are in Vampire Point, after all).

The Vampire family, Count Vlad and a trio of burlesque dancers perform.

The Vampire family, Count Vlad, the bellhop and a burlesque dancer duo perform a song and dance routine.

Dinner and a show.

Dinner and a show.

Blood Banquet as one of the most entertaining, yummy and unique shows I’ve experienced, and single-handedly makes me give the park two or even three thumbs up. I’m sure I could find an extra thumb lying around somewhere. It is Halloween, after all.

Fright Feast

The Fright Feast in Ireland is $25 per person. It is also a buffet and includes a traditional dinner theatre experience. When purchased online, Fright Feast includes priority access to the 13: Your Number’s Up haunted house. I did not attend this dining experience, so please feel free to let me know how you like it. I plan to go back to Howl-O-Scream at least a couple of times this season. Please click here to purchase dining reservations online.

Buccaneer Galley is a pizza buffet and does not include a show.

If it’s just a drink or two you’re looking for, bars include Demon Drinks in France and Pirate Baarrrgh in Italy. Both of these are new. The Open CASKet bar is also available right in front of the Fest Haus in the Oktoberfest village. I really love the vampire bartenders at this one.

Jell-O shots and shooters at the Open CASKet bar.

Jell-O shots and shooters at the Open CASKet bar.

Howl-O-Scream Terror-tories

You may be asking, can you enjoy Howl-O-Scream without going into a haunted house? Yes. Yes, you can. The creation of terror-tories (notice the spelling?) makes just walking through these normally quaint countries a spine-tingling experience (but in an entertaining kind of way).

Italy has been transformed into Ports of Skull. It reeks of pirates and murky waters. Vampire Point in Germany has vampires and underworld creatures, while Ripper Row in England harkens back to the days of London’s East End and Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Paris is burning and you can smell the smoke in the air (yes, you really can). On Demon Street, you can watch a devilish DJ spins tunes from a giant flame-engulfed skull while chainsaw-wielding creatures walk around (they also do photo ops). There are even balloon-like “flames” to give the full effect of fire.

Paris is burning. You can smell the smoke in the air.

Paris is burning. You can smell the smoke in the air.

A devilish DJ spins tunes on Demon Street.

A devilish DJ spins tunes on Demon Street.

Guests must walk through England’s Ripper Row to get into and out of the park. I am a bit of the morbid history buff so I absolutely loved this aspect. British bobbies walk around asking if you’ve seen Jack (he wears a top hat), and headless creatures dressed in black carrying umbrellas wander forlornly around the street. At the time that I walked through, Ripper Row did not have the jump-out-and-scare-you factor of some of the other streets – Vampire Point to name just one.

Vampire Point in Germany.

Vampire Point in Germany.

Vampire Point during the daylight.

Vampire Point during the daylight.

Watch your head on Ripper Row. How insanely cool is this?

Watch your head on Ripper Row. How insanely cool is this?

Howl-O-Scream Shows

Howl-O-Scream Shows include Fiends at Ireland’s Abbey Stone Theatre, Dig It Up at Italy’s Il Teatro di San Marco and Night Beats (the coolest night club this side of the afterlife) in Das Festhaus. I have not had a chance to see any of the shows this year, so please let me know what you think of them. I did see Fiends last year and highly recommend it.

If you go

Busch Gardens has several coupon and ticket offers for the fall season as well as Christmas Town. If you plan on going, be sure to check them out.

Again, I want to pass along this warning … please use caution and take note of the elevated scare factor when deciding to bring young children to Howl-O-Scream. The park does become seriously scary after 6:00 p.m.

Read more about all of the shows, haunted houses and attractions at Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream 2013 event by clicking right here.

Busch Gardens Wiliamsburg opened the 15th annual Howl-O-Scream event on Friday, September 13, 2013. The event runs through Sunday, October 27 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The park opens at 10:00 a.m. At the stroke of 6:00, the haunting begins.

Thank you to the media, entertainment, culinary, communications and entire Busch Gardens team for the most excellent Howl-O-Scream 2013 Media Day event.

Disclosure: The author received complimentary admission to Howl-O-Scream as part of Busch Gardens’ Media Day. All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

 

%d bloggers like this: