A Spook-tacular Time at Howl-O-Scream

Trick or treat yo’ self to a night at Busch Garden’s annual Halloween event


Photo Zoe Thaxton

Two doors wait in the distance, welcoming and warning guests at Howl-O-Scream. They are only two of many doors that reside in the scare zone called “Little Nightmares.”

Zoe Thaxton, Online Managing Editor

I hate horror. Never in my life have I cared to watch thrillers or horror movies. I have bad anxiety about things that hide in the dark or jump-scares. However, I love Halloween. I love the aesthetics, colors and costumes surrounding the season.

So, every year since my freshmen year, I’ve found myself at Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream event.

I don’t hate it, far from it. Actually, every time I’ve always enjoyed it. The mix of the adrenaline kicking from my fear and being with my friends generally makes a really good time.

Before going into some details about this event, I’ll put a little disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend young children at this event. If you can’t see a PG-13 movie alone, then you’re probably too young. Blood and scares might be too much for a younger audience. To each their own I suppose so if you feel old enough to go, then don’t let my restrictions hold you back. Just a warning.

As much as I’d like to gush about the inside, let’s talk about the pain that was entering this event. It started at 7 p.m., so the logical thought would be arrive around that time. My group did exactly that, but ended up waiting forever to just park. Seems like everyone else wanted to get there right when the park opened. Lots of people meant long lines just about everywhere, but again, going to an amusement park, waiting in lines is bound to happen.

Not a big deal. It happens every year, so I didn’t expect any better. I went a Saturday night after all.

Truth be told, the lines actually helped calm my nerves before entering any sort of house.

So, at this event, there are five haunted houses and eight scare zones (the indoor houses are back due to not being allowed last year with the COVID restrictions in place). They have shows throughout the night and a majority of the rides are open.

With those long lines I mentioned, I was only able to go into two houses and one ride. Many waits for rides varied around the 45-65 minute mark and its impossible to tell how long a wait is for a house simply based on the line size (but they were all long)

I was able to go into Cell Block Zombies and Death Water Bayou: Blood Moon.

Cell Block Zombies takes in a maximum security prison, Purgatory Penitentiary. With blaring red lights, bloody walls and zombies within the cages, one must wander through the banging and yelling from the zombies and security guards of the prison. Death Water Bayou: Blood Moon is themed around dark voodoo magic and the swamp. Monsters/Werewolves lurk in the darkness with howls and jumpscares.

Between the two, my personal favorite was the Zombies. This was the one that scared me the most because of the loud noises in the dark and shouts from the security guards.

In the “Short Cut” scare zone, I managed to ask for a selfie with one of the actors. He held a (prop) machete close to my face, but for being a scary creature, he was very nice. (Photo Zoe Thaxton)

For me, the absolute best part is the scare zones. I simply like walking the park to see the entire event so I got to go through every single one. Everything is so immersive, all around you. There is no escape. To get to other events like the houses or a show, more than likely you’ll have to walk right through them.

They’re super cool. “Short Cut” is graveyard, old Puritan American themed with faceless nuns and other sinners. “Deadly Toys” and “Little Nightmares” take a page out of one’s childhood nightmares and put them right in the park.  My least favorite was the hidden scare zones as the actors hid in the bushes, practically completely hidden, and scream at the top of their lungs, jump out or swing on a bungee cord their attached too. This was a little too much for me. Other than that, they’re exciting to go through.

To even talk about the houses and the scare zones, I must acknowledge the wonderful work from the actors. They’re amazing and incredibly professional, especially the ones who wander in the scare zones. They don’t ever break character and tend to play along with little things like conversations or will get in for a picture. Usually, they scare you right after, but the picture is worth it.

All in all, the event is spectacular and always fun to go back to every year. The point of going to Howl-O-Scream is to get scared and have a good time. It’s Halloween season after all. For even scaredy-cats like me, it’s still an extremely enjoyable event, especially if you go with a group.


If You Go:

Dates: Oct. 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-31

Times: Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. – 1 a.m., Sunday: 7 p.m. – midnight
(you may be allowed to enter as early as 5 p.m., but you will be given a wristband to identify that you are there for the event)

Address: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612