Sunday, September 21, 2014

Haunt Review- Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt


Haunt Review of Dorney Park's "Halloween Haunt".

When we got the invite to the Media Event for Halloween Haunt from Dorney Park, we really had no idea what to expect. We were unable to visit Dorney Park for a normal Park Review this year, so it's easily been a good ten years since we've visited. So we really had no clue what to expect, more so since so much has changed since our previous visit, which wasn't for Halloween Haunt.

With our invitation came an offer to participate in the "Mansion Meal" which is a four star dining experience inside one of the parks haunted houses, all while mingling with several actors from the haunted house. Naturally, we loved the idea in general and jumped at the chance to be guests of both Dorney Park and Chef Jan Giejda.

 They completely blew us away. Wow, People.
 Just Wow.

Haunt: Dorney Park
Event: Halloween Haunt
Date: 9/13/14
Review Team: Carrie and Kitsune (Special Guest- Filip)
Cost: $$31-$36 (Online)
Overall Opinion:  GREAT!
Opinion: Shut up. Stop Reading. GO!
Website: Halloween Haunt at Dorney Park 

!Disclaimer!
As stated above, we were invited for the Media Event for Halloween Haunt and for the Mansion Meal. This has in no way altered our opinions of the event, they never do! 


To begin, we were escorted into the park and directly to the 'Mansion House Hotel' where we got a quick look around the opening area of the haunt by the Food and Beverage Manager Katie. Getting a sneak peek before the event even began, from here we were taken into the large ballroom area and our seats at the tables. 

 First we got to chat with some of the actors, who stayed fully in their characters throughout the entire thing. They mingled around, chatted with us and did their best to keep us entertained. These folks where firmly grounded in their characters and work well together, it's the perfect combination of light entertainment and great food!

Now, the Mansion Meal normally comes with a cost of $99 (including Admission, Fright Lane with Skeleton Key and your meal). Your given a series of choices before you arrive as to your meal, I chose the Apple and Sausage Stuffed Chicken as the main course. Not entirely sure what to expect but when I was presented with the best Amusement Park meal I've ever seen, this surely couldn't be correct.. was it? 


It was, Mother of Food, it was!
Chef Jan is either a genius with food or a wizard, I'm not sure which because food at Amusement Parks simply isn't suppose to be THAT good. It was that good, this man took ingredients my normally picky-eater self would push away, yet I ate them with pleasure. We had a Mozzarella with Oven-dried Heirloom Tomatoes as an appetizer, Baby Greens with a Honey and Fig Vinaigrette as the salad. Apple and Sausage Stuffed Chicken with Au Gratin Potatoes as the main course. Finally, a Deconstructed S'more as desert. Everything was just simply wonderful. It was fantastic. I don't have enough descriptive words to keep babbling about just how good the food was. Considering this comes with your admission, the fright lane and the skeleton key addition? I don't understand why more people aren't buying this package! 

Seriously, Just Buy It.
It's easily the best priced deal I've seen from an Amusement Park in several years. As it is, I'm trying to find the time to go back to Dorney Park just to experience this event again! 

Wow, The Food.

Okay, Let me stop about the food.

After our meal was complete, we where given our Fright Lane passes and the new Skeleton Key program. This is the new thing Cedar Fair wide, which only premiered at Knott's Berry Farm last year. It allows guests who purchase the upgrade to experience an interactive room within the haunt that only Skeleton Key holders can see. 

*Pro-Tip* These can also be physical challenges. You will have to be in good physical and mental shape to really take part, including some climbing and tight spaces. You will be required to think and the actors inside will focus on you, you're expected to free yourself from the space! So take that into consideration. Yes, it's worth it. No, I'm not telling what the rooms are.

Along with the Mansion Meal, we also got to experience Mansion House Hotel first, before anyone else. This is house is well themed and your escorted into the Skeleton Key room right away, to find your way out. 

Themed like an old mansion owned by Mr. Dorney, which has turned into a hotel, it's got exactly what you would expect. Bellhops, Angry Departed Guests, A Bride and Groom, In-laws, Twisted Workers and other fun, ghoulish types. Since it was so early, it was still rather bright out when we went thought the house. I can imagine it's much better in the dark but we still found it rather fun. It also seemed like the full cast wasn't in place yet, leaving a few empty spots (although I'm sure those filled out after we passed through). 

 Moving right along, we passed thought "Head Hunters" which is a scarezone. Themed to the idea of a Tribe of dead people who want your head.. or soul, as their own. It's large, spread out and well populated with actors. No typical Amusement Park problems here, Dorney has plenty of actors infesting their scarezones and all of them are really out to get a scream from you. 

This area is big and top it off with the fog sitting so perfectly that night, it really was rather hard to see. Which gave the actors here a serious added boost. People were jumping out left and right, trailing after us and making all kinds of crazy noises. Alright, this is really looking promising!

Coming along, we headed into the dark depths of the park towards "Asylum" which is exactly what it sounds like. An asylum where the inmates have gotten loose and pretty much killed anyone in their territory, including you. 

While this theme may be old and boring to some, it was done right here. Everyone we saw had a good grasp of what they were doing and simply did it. They didn't just scream- they talked at you, crowded you, babbling at you and did their level best to make a jaded group of Haunt Reviewers uncomfortable. It was well populated and well done, Kudos to Dorney for not skimping on the details! The Skeleton Key room in this haunt was one of my favorites.. but I'm not telling you what it was. Go find out. 

Up next was "Grave Walkers" which made me think- Oh boy, Zombies in a Cemetery, how original.

WRONG. 
Okay, Cemetery and Zombies happened but this haunt is kind of like a 'chose your own adventure' type deal. There isn't a set path of travel in the first half of the house, it's set up exactly like an open cemetery and filled with the expected Zombies but we also saw a full funeral going on along with a ghost or two!

Not at all kind what I had expected out of the name. The actors here are also very good, chasing and running, jumping out and zombie moans. Then you move inside and things just go bonkers, totally bonkers. although a lot of it is open so I'd wait until dark to go though this haunt. The Skeleton Key room here was easily my favorite- the actors inside the room are simply excellent and what they want you to do to escape? Awesome!

Age of Darkness is another scarezone. We passed this way as we traveled around the various haunted houses. In this one, you seem to walk into the plague infested renaissance era. At first this area seemed a little slow but suddenly actors just began popping out like rats from a sinking ship, they where laying in wait for us. 

Between the peasants, the jailer, the crazy knights and the details of the set, this was really a great Scarezone. Well themed and populated with plenty of people. Although a little long, you could wander around in it a while on a foggy night like we had. 

At this point we stopped and caught a showing of "Blood Drums" which is an outside band invited in by Dorney Park to preform for Halloween Haunt. They use some odd items as drums, from buckets and barrels to electric sanders.  Very good and fun, the band members are high energy, but I would liked to have heard more of the percussion rather then the heavy-duty professional drum set which was pounding away in the background. It's a fairly short show, so one can easily fit it into their night. 

Carn-Evil is new for the 2014 season, based on another familiar theme of "Carnival Gone Wrong". I have to say, this is the only one I wasn't really impressed with. While they had plenty of folks here and trying to scare you (along with what seemed like nearly a dozen 'sliders') I'm just checked out of the whole Clowns/Carnival theme. 

That doesn't mean it wasn't good because the actors where on top of the game for opening night. They moved around, acted totally bonkers and did their best to cover the huge area which makes up the scarezone. It was also fairly varied up from a juggler, a person with a hula-hoop and even a crazy clown on a bicycle. The themeing is rather well done, giving you that kind of carnival feel with the various props. They do the theme proper justice even if it's something I don't care for.

Up next? Desolation- Operation Latchdoor. It's like a 1950's school scare film come to life. Nuclear fallout, people gone crazy, military invading to keep it contained. All the goodies you come to expect from this type of theme. 

The house is well done and well themed, more so then I had expected. The actors here also had their game-faces on and followed along with the theme well, keeping with the whole "Fall Out, Gone Crazy" feel of the place.

The Skeleton Key room here is a little complicated but can be figured out, the only downside that I can say is the actor fell out of character surprised how quickly our group figured out the trick. Otherwise, the other actor was spot on.. but you'll have to figure out the trick here yourself. 

Finally we came to Blackout, which is the exclusive maze for folks who have Fright  Lane and Skeleton Key. This one had me fairly interested because the concept of the maze.

As expected, your taken in and blinded by very bright lights, given a rope (to keep your group together) and sent into a very dark maze. The only complaint I had here was that it wasn't totally dark, with some lighting leaking in from outside which made it rather easy to work your way around the maze. Other then that, it's rather good! The actors inside are all in black and can pop out at random to scare guests. Overall a good concept and idea, but I still wish it was a little darker inside! Since this maze is exclusive to Fright Lane, it didn't have a skeleton key room.. but it really didn't need one either.

Moving along to Chamber of Horrors, which also had a pretty crazy concept- A Wax Museum Gone Wrong. I'm not sure how but they even managed to get the smell of melting wax inside, which really set the atmosphere for the haunt.

You go though a series of rooms and quickly figure out something has gone terribly wrong inside. From half completed wax figures to the poor murdered people inside being turned into their wax selves, this place is a delightfully twisted haunted house!

The actors are all good at getting scares and screams inside and pop out of some great spaces. This is one of the other houses which doesn't have a skeleton key room but really, you don't need it here either!

Bloodshed, what would any haunted event be without their very own hillbillies? Dorney didn't disappoint and we found them hidden inside this haunt.

You go through a delightfully twisted house and out into the fields where you encounter a TON of actors, which have enough room to really move around. They will come at you from all directions and even misdirect you really well. The skeleton key room in this one was a nicely wicked idea, let's just say you have to touch stuff you'd probably rather not. It also spits you right back into the maze in a good location, giving you the second half of the haunt to finish up before your free from the completely crazy folks.

We'd reached the end, CornStalkers was our last stop. Which is conveniently located in the same area at BloodShed. I'm not sure if this is by accident or on purpose but I really liked how they kept the HillBillies and the outdoor 'Corn Field of Horror" thing together. It had a nice rounded feeling.. or maybe that was just me but they fit together perfectly.

While CornStalkers was good, it's also a maze which many of the Cedar Fair parks have in their Halloween event. The actors were going out of their way for scares, this maze is truly just HUGE and could have benefited from having more actors inside. There were large sections which didn't have any actor population, other then that I really can't say anything bad. The smell of corn gets to you and gives you that feeling your really in a corn field. The actors did a good job overall and the Skeleton Key room? Great. This is one is also physically demanding, so be prepared!

The final scarezone of the night was pirate themed, called Cut Throat Island.

SO MANY ACTORS!

Dorney gets it, you don't skimp on your scarezones. Here their well done and highly effective, these folks were getting screams and scares all over the place. They had a huge area to run wild in and the set pieces which the park has for this area are beautiful. Really setting the mood and lending the idea that your really on an island with a bunch of murderous pirates who'd really like to make you part of their crew of crazies.

Overall, I was HIGHLY impressed with the show Dorney Park produced and offered for my joyous consumption. This is really an Amusement Park that has the right idea and doesn't skimp on the important parts! Great actors and good population of them in ALL the areas. They do their ScareZones right, and for the first time in many years, I've haven't had to complain about them. 

Folks, take the time and visit. It's worth the time and effort for such an amazing time. 

This is Amusement Park Haunting done RIGHT. Good Job, Dorney Park. You're on the ball and setting the standard for other parks around the country. If one of the smaller Cedar Fair parks can do this so well, no one else has any excuse and they've set the standards high early in the season! So wake up fellow Amusement Parks, take the time and do it right- Because the show your guests get is always worth the time! 

Thank You, Dorney Park. Your Halloween Haunt has restored my faith that Amusement Parks CAN produce excellent Halloween events. You skimped on nothing and it shows in every area. Personally, I can't wait for a return visit!s

Plus, it was great to hang out with Chef Jan and other Media (Special Shout Out to Oni and Harknell of Onezumiverse, Chef Keisha and Chef Baribe as well as Kathy Williams from the Allentown Morning Call) who ran around through all the haunted houses and scarezones with us this night.