Busch Gardens Tampa: Howl-O-Scream 2011 Trip Report

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    Sep 30, 2011 9:33 PM GMT
    Last night my friend Frank and I went to Howl-O-Scream 2011. Frank is good buddy of mine who works for Universal. And as I work for Busch, he wanted to check out our park's event and how it compares. His previous experience was super huge crowds and not even being able to park in the main parking lot! So we went Thursday hoping the crowds.

    We arrived at the parking lot a little after 7pm and to are pleasant surprise, only the parking lot around tram stop 1 had. And not even to full capacity either. Quickly got onto the tram and were on our way to the main gate. Upon getting the tram drop off, Frank spotted a group of zombies in the parking lot right near it with a ravaged mini-van. Unexpected fun surprise and helped set the mood for the evening to come. We quickly went thru the ticket counter to get Frank's ticket and to the main turnstiles.

    In the front square, there were a handful of zombies and props that were apart of the main Darkside of the Garden theme. While a little unnerved, Frank and I bravely went thru this first horde to the Little Shop of Horrors. Frank wanted to check out the souvenirs and start thinking what he'd like to bring home. The cool surprise was the small, slender shot glass....with an eyeball painted on the bottom. Upon exiting we found a map to start planning our evening. ; I went over the various houses we had Being as I was the host, I let Frank decide where to go first. We both wanted to Nevermore as our number one house to do. So we proceeded to head over to Nevermore. On our way thru Bird Gardens and past outside Sesame Street, we encountered our first roaming zombie horde. There was a huge amount of fog/smoke and Frank could see shadows and hear the moans. Realizing its the only way to get to Stanleyville/Nevermore, we knew we had to go in there. The zombies roamed past. Good makeup and definitely unnerving. Upon approaching the bridge between Sesame Street and Stanleyville, I knew that in terms of landscaping (yes, this bridge is my baby I'm trying to get a beautiful tunnel of green) fit the theme exceedingly well. I thought to myself..."Oh no....there's going to be something there"...and guess what...I was wrong. Fog...but no zombies. We proceeded down into Stanleyville and onto Nevermore which had basically no wait.

    Nevermore: As we approached the house, we immediately were plunged into the world of Edgar Allan Poe and that gothic atmosphere. We heard a quoting of the Raven. All this helped to set the stage of the actual house. Entering the house, we went into the round foyer and knew there is no turning back. The house was truly brilliant in its design. We were able to pick up some of the references to Poe's work, as well as a number of sections which are very memorable and unnerving. Statues that jump out and that fiendishly design section of pitch black. Upon exiting, we were both laughing hysterically. This house seriously impressed us and put on our list for a repeat later on. I would just love to go thru it without the scare-actors or special effects to take in all the rich detail put into that house.

    We then headed over to Sheikra and pretty much walked on the back row. I loved riding all the coasters during Summer Nights, so I enjoyed once again being able to do so. Sheikra delivered a great ride. And coupled with the adrenaline coursing thru our bodies from Nevermore, I was definitely buzzing. We then headed up to do Zombie Mortuary. On the way, we encountered another group scare-actors that jumped out from the bushes, as well as some unique scare-actors on stilts. We then did the lead haunt house, Zombie Mortuary.

    Zombie Mortuary-Upon entering the queue, we were welcomed by the team members and hoped we'd have a good stay. Right outside the actual house, we encounter members of the living dead. The zombie dragging a dead dog (at least I think a dog) was a nice touch. The story went on the whole funeral process and such, with zombies and others things jumping out. The unique part...and will be my abiding memory of the evening......was one of the zombies didn't stay in their corner, but came out and chased us a little ways. The story line progressed with us eventually looking up at burial service. The house was just a ton of fun of startles, scares and creepy things. This probably is my favorite and closely followed by Nevermore.

    Deathrow-After the Mortuary, we headed to the next house in the circle, Death Row. This one was the one I was probably the most unsettled facing, as haunted prison stuff sort of gets me. We were greeted by a handful of zombies outside. The house was pretty creepy and scary. With an electric chair scene to a firing squad, it really got our adrenaline going. We were yelling and jumping all the way till the end.

    After Death Row, we started heading over to Cheetah Hunt to check the wait time, as I was as interested in the coasters at night as the houses. Hitting the Cheetah HUnt tower plaza. They had a news cast being projected up on the Moroccan Palace. Helping to add to the immersive theming throughout the park. Our next house was one I wasn't looking too forward to as I'm not big on gore.

    Deconstruction-Entering the queue we had a group of drunk and obnoxious guests. Being as both Frank and I are park staffers, we get annoyed by behavior such as this. But fortunately, this was pretty much our only encounter with obnoxious behavior for the night and they were let thru the house a good ways ahead of us. The house was definitely good. Gruesome. Nice effects such as a sound of someone being cut in half (at least I presumed in my head). However, I had a hard time tying what I was seeing with the theme of the house. It felt more like a repeat of gags used in other houses. I did jump however as we exited the house.....which all of you will find out and those who have been will know what I'm talking about. I think this house will need to be cut (nice pun) next year. I'd suggest a house themed after Egyptian mummies or something. It would fit nicely with the Egypt area.

    Vampire Casino-After Deconstruction, we trekked over to Vampire Casino. I was really interested in this one as I've passed by this one every day at work. I got to see it transform from a simple open air pavilion to the house it is now. At one point, they put up the sides and I was always curious what they were doing in there. The outside greeting was pretty good. The initial part of the casino was nice. We definitely enjoyed as we progressed into the back areas of the casino to the final climax. At the end I knew there was a chainsaw guy waiting for me as I heard it going into the house. And guess what...I still jumped! LOL. This is a definitely good house, but I would put it in the middle of our order of what we liked the most.

    Thirsty, we hit up Zagora's for some drinks and time to sit down. We realized...we hit up all 6 of the main houses in about 2 hours. Not too shabby! With amply time to enjoy the rest of the night, we decided to hit up the shows. Our first was Midnight Hour. The A/C was most welcomed. A chance to sit, rest and cool off. Granted, I work at Busch outside in pants and have become quite adapted to working in the heat. I still welcome a chance to cool off. Midnight Hour is a good show definitely, with some terrific humor. However to me, it was a show that really didn't tie too well with the overall HOS theme. Granted it was all about signing a deal and such. And its a good show definitely. I just don't think it works well in a HOS theme. Our next show we saw was Fiends. This is a pretty good show too, and was a nice tribute to all things Halloween, monster or otherwise. If I'd have a choice again...I'd skip Midnight Hour and do only Fiends.

    We did want to do Nevermore again, but as wise theme park staff and frequent park goers, we knew with the show letting out....the queue was g
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    Oct 01, 2011 2:04 AM GMT
    I could never go to one of these events. I have a very vivid imagination, and would have nightmares for years. Sorry... icon_eek.gif
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    Oct 01, 2011 8:20 AM GMT
    Riding Shekra (or however it's spelled) at night is probably the single most scariest ride right next to MGM's tower of terror.

    The only thing I ever missed about Tampa, was those annual Busch Gardens passes. 6 flags can't even touch it.
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    Oct 01, 2011 5:02 PM GMT
    @NakedBudd: Then definitely do not do our Alone haunt house. This our upcharge house where as the name implies....you do it alone. But this year you can with up to 3 additional people go thru it. And Alone....is our scariest house bar none. It takes scary to a whole new level and the house is a major hit. You can understand the level of this house when you understand its our only one with a stop word. When you say the stop word, it all stops and you're allowed to exit without anymore scares. There are a fair number of people each night who have to use that stop word. icon_smile.gif

    @MochaMuscle: Yeah Sheikra is pretty cool at night. But the back on Kumba and Montu are even more intense. And the canyon section on Cheetah Hunt is really special at night. But you are right....SF really can hold a candle to our parks. Having grown up in CA and been a number of times to SF Magic Mountain, I can say Busch parks, as well as all the Orlando parks, just have that quality SF just doesn't have. Sure SF has some great coasters, but you can't take the greatest coaster and build it in a parking lot. If you haven't had a chance yet....take a trip to Sea World in Orlando and fly on Manta. It is one seriously awesome coaster experience.
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    Oct 02, 2011 4:41 AM GMT
    muscleman19 saidIf you haven't had a chance yet....take a trip to Sea World in Orlando and fly on Manta. It is one seriously awesome coaster experience.

    I haven't done SeaWorld yet. But unfortunately at this point, the chance of me returning back to Florida on my own is quite slim.

    See, now I remember...that's what my hobbies were. All this mountain hiking, biking and skiing stuff is foreign to me. I spent my summers going to Universal Studios and Busch Gardens. That was my outdoor activities and it sure filled a weekend LOL.

    Anyhow, Kumba to me wasn't ALL that great. Thing is, I didn't go to Busch Gardens until I was like 18. So for 18 years, all I seen was Kumba but never rode on it. By the time I went, Gwazi and all the other shit was out except Sheikra.

    However, I remember Kumba being the longest ride of them all. Sheikra was just very short. Like what, 1 minute LOL? Montu was just sick. Probably the best of them in terms of time and thrill. But for someone being 6'0 I was almost certain I'd lose my legs.