Tampa, Fla. – Crazy to think we are already into the scare season! With the screams comes Tampa Bay’s “premier” Halloween event, Busch Gardens Howl- O- Scream. Happening weekends from Sept. 25 to Nov. 1. guest can experience open air scare zones, limited capacity and of course night time rides. But this year was going to be, or should I say, had to be different. So, how did all these changes with zero houses, reservations required, limited capacity, a smaller budget and face coverings required work out? Well, I was there opening night and here is my review: Howl O Scream 2020.
Health & Safety
If you have been to a Theme Park recently, you are aware of the procedures that have been put in place by the parks to try and keep guests and employees safe. Those same measures have been extended to Howl O Scream. Both Employees and guests will go through temperature screenings before entering the park. Face coverings are required for all. Physical distancing of 6 feet is required, with reminders placed through-out the park. And a dedicated cleaning team is continuously sanitizing the park.
Now, I am sure some of you are gonna ask, “how strict are they with wearing your face covering?”- VERY!
Besides the continuous reminders I heard from staff giving guests as they walked through certain parts of the park, from what I saw, 99% had them on. It should also be noted they have “relaxation” zones where you can remove your mask. They are located all over the park. I STRONGLY suggest you take advantage of a few of them. On this night it was warm and humid, and even though it was doable, we enjoyed the relaxation zones as well. This also reminds me, not a bad idea to bring a sweat towel. It is a must in my Theme Park survival kit, but hey thats just me.
For a full list of all the official rules and safety procedures, you can head over the the Howl O Scream website.
I'm In Now What
If you followed me long enough or know me you know I like to have a plan. Now, you by no means have to follow mine, or even have a plan. But, since I was with the whole family, they sorta expect there to be one.
For us Howl O Scream is a long time tradition. And with that tradition comes our first part of the night, walking through the Dia De Los Muertos zone and heading to Cheetah Hunt Coaster. Oh, I forget to tell ya, I’m old. So our usual arrival time is shortly after they open. This means it around sunset when we make it on to Cheetah Hunt. Now you see where im going with this?! The ride is and has always been at the top of my lists when it comes to coasters. But to experience it at night, or in our case dusk, it’s just incredible. Your wait, with the limited crowds and them sanitizing the ride was around 10 minutes.
See The Show
Remember how I say you don’t always need plan. Well, you should at least plan on seeing the fan-favorite FIENDS show. This adult themed, horror spoof features Dr.Freakenstein and his frightful entourage.
In years past the show has been held in the Stanleyville Theater. This year it will take place on the largest stage ever for outdoor performances on Festival Field. (that’s what the website says)
This years show was just as good as the past. With some great one liners….including one aimed towards the theme park on I4.
The music was fantastic, choreography was fun and energetic.
The show itself was full of some much needed chuckles. Some jokes aimed towards the times we are in now, and some were more sexual in context. I could tell from the muffled laughs from the others in the crowd, we all were feeling a bit of relief and much needed fun. And again that energy coming off the stage from all the performers was just fantastic.
The Scare Zones
With the changes in this years event, Howl O Scream 2020 has 10 open air scare zones, four being new for this year.
We got to experience them all, and they were all themed very well. Most we had no issue moving through with plenty of space. At “The Shortcut” they did have a line set up to move through the zone. This was actually very refreshing. It gave us a chance to enjoy the scares, instead of sometimes being in that group that just happens to miss them. We also got a nice surprise while waiting in line. new park president Neal Thurman gave a quick and socially distanced hello as him and a few other executives got to experience the scare zone as well.
HOS 2020 Merch
If you are like me, ya gotta check out the merchandise. And this years selection did not disappoint me.
I did notice that the t-shirt selection was minimal, this may have changed since opening night, but there is still a wide and large variety of items, from shot glasses and skull cups, to light up HOS hats and killer pin sets.
First off, this is not a huge production like those guys up the road, and as someone who also attends that event, I first had to remind myself of that. And that is not meant in any kind of negative way. But I will also remind you the price tag for the two are not comparable either.
I then thought more about my whole night experience….
The first thing right away… “I got to ride all the coasters I wanted to, AT NIGHT, with limited capacity and minimal waits. Big Plus there.
I was also able to enjoy a show from some very talented scare actors, who kept my head bobbing and the smile and laughs going through-out the energy packed production. Another plus!
And finally I got some good scares! All the scare actors we encountered not only did their best to make the night enjoyable, but they also did it while respecting social distancing rules and wearing facial coverings. Plus!
So my review of Busch Gardens Howl O Scream 2020, I LOVED IT! And it was totally worth the price. If you just gave me a theme park with coasters at night it would be worth the price tag, add all the other things I have outlined above and it is a totally worth wild time.
The kiddos (they are in their 20’s) the wife and I had a great time getting to watch each other get caught off guard with some great scares, coasters and a show, for under $50 a person.
Howl-O-Scream is a separately ticketed event, available during 18 horrifying nights at Busch Gardens beginning Sept. 25 – Nov. 1, 2020, every Friday through Sunday.
To help maintain physical distancing during the event, advance online reservations are required. Guests are encouraged to make reservations early, as space is limited.