It's September! Which means Haunt Tour 2014 is ready to begin and following our normal patterns, we opened up the season with the Media Preview of Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Howl-O-Scream. Always a favorite for our Theme Park Reviews, we're always interested in seeing what they've pulled out of the bag for their Halloween Event.
Location: Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Williamsburg, Virginia.
Review Team: +Carrie H.C. and +Kitsune Hazard
Overall Event Rating: Good (Please Visit Our Rating Scale for More Info)
Opinion: Visit if Nearby.
Please note that we were invited to the Media Event for Busch Garden's Williamsburg's "Howl-O-Scream" event. This included the 'Igor's Fight Feast" meal. It was also opening night so not all scares or actors may have been in place. This has in no way swayed or altered our opinions.
Overview and Complete Ratings
As always, Howl-O-Scream is a good event. Taking place inside Busch Gardens Williamsburg with all their excellent normal themeing and rides, which lends the event an added bonus when it comes to decorations. We've always enjoyed this event but we've spotted some problems with the 2014 offerings.
Honestly, I hate to give this rating but NOTHING is new for 2014 in regards to the haunted houses. Many of them have even suffered from previous seasons with the removal of theme elements which added to the atmosphere. They also have a very scarce population of actors, which might be due to opening night.. but also might not. Overall, I can't rate their haunted houses any better simply because nothing has changed!
It kills me to say it but I'm rather disappointed that the park didn't even attempt to change things up somewhat from last season. So rather then bore you with a run down of the same exact houses from last season (which you can read about on the Howl-O-Scream 2013 Review), I'm simply going to go over the few problems I noticed with these same houses.
Scarce Actor Population- It seems like in some houses, like"Bitten", all the actors congregate at the back of the haunted house. While it's well themed and fun to walk though, the actors only tend to scream and hiss at you. Not really scary nor effective. Yes, it was the first night but this house has the same exact problem last year also. The house "13, Your Numbers Up" is still anti-climatic and I believe I only counted five actors in the entire house. Entire rooms and areas which could and should have actors, are devoid of any sign of activity. Finally, "Root of All Evil" which has always been a favorite, has suffered. Many elements have been removed, such as the fountain which once graced the maze. Also scarcely populated with actors, it's become a walk though the garden section of Home Depot while closed. I can't put my upset into words, this was once an amazing house which warranted the long lines. Now, I don't even want to talk about it. So I won't. The other houses are also in the "Fair" condition because of the lack of actors, lack of change and overall lack of effort we saw including "Deadline" and "Catacombs". Although I give the best credit to "Cut Throat Cove" who seemed to be having fun and trying their best to scare people!
If you can expect one great thing from Busch Gardens, it's Good Shows. This season saw the return of "Monster Stomp" which has long been a fan favorite. While I'd like to see more of the percussion, this show is a MUST SEE. It's also perfectly themed for being in the Globe Theater, following the story of Jack the Ripper. The best part is that Monster Stomp runs all day, so if you get in early you can catch it during the day and still make it through all the rest of the event without having to dedicate time to a showing! While we didn't get to see Fiends this season, it's also a great show which gives you the grins and giggles. The shows for Howl-O-Scream don't disappoint and are still some of the best I've ever seen.
Honestly, this season it seems the park finally listened and invested some actors into several of their scarezones. While not all of them are good, they're much better then previous seasons. The new addition this year was "Wendigo Woods" which I really enjoyed. Not only did you walk though a 'containment zone' filled with a mix of Military and Civilian Personal, it had good themeing and excellent actor population! These folks where trying to get you and really worked the crowd. While we didn't spot a Wendigo during our visit, reports are out that they're present now. Making this by far the best addition I've seen at Howl-O-Scream in a while (with the exception of the TERROR-tories).
"Vampire's Point" and "Ripper Row" have also improved, we saw more actors out and about. Going after the scare or trying too, but on a busy night I suspect these zones still would need more people to be effective. Sadly, I can't say the same for "Port of Skull" which still appears lacking. Between the "Giant Photo Op" area and the small pathway between Pompeii and Italy being the only part having actors, I still don't get the point of it. With the house being at the far back section of Festa Italia and the Scarezone way at the front, there is a huge empty zone full of nothing Halloween related. This just seems odd and feels like a gap in the excitement.
Rating- Very Good
One point, you will NEVER get bad food at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This park has some of the best theme park food around and I've got ZERO problem banging it into everyone's heads over and over again.
The new Dinner Show this season is "Igor's Fright Feast" which involved Fresh Carved Turkey, Mashed Potato Bar, Wing Bar, Pasta Bar and a Cash Bar for Alcoholic Drinks. The show is just great, it's comical for adults and has enough jokes included that your kids would enjoy it also. Plus it's decently priced at $22 per person (kids are $15) and they run two shows, one during the day and a second show later on. The actor who plays Igor is just excellent, he bantered with his crowd and pulls you into the story. Wherever Busch Gardens found this fellow, KEEP HIM!
The second option is"Blood Banquet" which is also a buffet style meal and at the same price of $22 per person (kids $15). Honestly, I enjoyed both and would highly recommend checking out one or the other during your visit. Just keep in mind, Blood Banquet is only open during the night-time Howl-O-Scream hours.
Overall, I still enjoyed Howl-O-Scream and think it's a great event. However, it needs some heavy duty work. New things need to be added to keep the event from getting stagnant and repetitive. New Houses are a MUST before I can bump up my ratings of the event, while other things are good and getting better, that is the one part which is dragging down the review.
There are some problems, as I said. For example, the park also has to wake up and realize that 10pm isn't an acceptable closing time, it doesn't give you enough time to do everything on a remotely busy night or to even really enjoy it. While we managed to hit everything, it was a very slow night due to the threat of rain or it would easily take two days to visit everything they have to offer. I also suspect they would benefit greatly from making this a hard-ticket event (not included with daily admission). Giving them time to clear the park, get actors into places and really bump up their production levels.
If you haven't seen it, Go.
If you have, Go if you enjoy it.
Otherwise, I can't recommend people travel a long distance for nearly the same offerings as last year had.. No matter how much it kills me to say that. It's still a Good Event.. just not as great as it has been in the past.