Florida scares up spooktacular -- and early -- Halloween festivities
Whether you like your Halloween festivities to be super-spooky or perhaps not so scary, chances are very good that Florida has you covered with all manner of both ghostly -- and ghastly -- fun. And what is more: in Florida many of the Halloween happenings start weeks ahead of Oct. 31. Here are some events, arranged chronologically by beginning date, to get your Halloween revelry off to a good start this year. Some Halloween happenings are family-friendly; some may not be suitable for young children: some the organizers themselves say are not recommended for youngsters.
Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista. A family-friendly event, it is presented on select nights in Sept.-Nov. Visitors are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the park. Ticket prices start at $53.95 for ages 10 and over; $47.95 for ages 3-9 (advance purchase). Event hours are from 7 p.m. to midnight. Visit www.disneyworld.com.
-- Beginning Sept. 23 -- On select nights in Sept.-Oct., Halloween Horror Nights 21 at Universal Studios in Universal Orlando Resort dares guests to enter a world of haunted houses, scare zones and other worldly live shows. The event featuring the creative juices of Universal's "scream team," the park warns, may be too intense for young children and it is not recommended for kids under 13 years old. No costumes or masks are allowed. General admission tickets are $81.99 (if you are a Florida resident there is a special offer with up to $40 in savings in conjunction with Coca-Cola products). Frequent Fear passes allowing for 15 visits sell for the price of one visit, $81.99. Visit www.halloweenhorrornights.com.
-- Beginning on Sept. 29 -- Terror takes root at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on select nights this fall during Howl-O-Scream 2011. A "Freaky Preview" takes hold of the park on Sept. 23-24. Event hours are from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. during Freaky Preview and on Thursday nights; Friday and Saturday hours are 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. The park's 335 acres will be overgrown with dark, sinister, adult-oriented fun, including new haunted houses, thrilling stage shows and the chance to ride Cheetah Hunt in the dark. And on the streets, guests can bump into hoards of devious creatures pouring forth from the shadows. General admission for this separate ticketed event is $77.95. Special offers are available. No costumes are allowed and the park warns visitors that, "Howl-O-Scream is intended for a mature audience. This year's event contains intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood." Visit www.HowlOScream.com.
-- Weekends in October beginning Oct. 1-2 -- SeaWorld Orlando's Halloween Spooktacular adds the sea to Halloween as children trick-or-treat among pumpkin fish, friendly sea witches, mermaids and other fanciful characters. For this family-friendly event, children may dress up and play with sea fairies and dance with an ice witch. Festivities begin at noon on select days and are included in park admission. Visit www.SeaWorldOrlando.com.
-- Oct. 14-16, 21-23, 28-30 -- The Brevard Zoo in Melbourne offers up Boo at the Zoo, a family-fun Halloween event with live entertainment, a haunted trail (not recommended for children under 10). Younger kids can enjoy Ooz Draverb, a carnival-like play area with dancing. The event features a themed Boo Choo train ride for everyone, a costume contest, witch's lair, and trick-or-treating at more than 30 treat stations. The Brevard Zoo is at 8225 North Wickham Road. Admission fee is $8 the first weekend, $10 thereafter. Children under 2 are free. Admission price is all-inclusive. Event hours are from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with last admission being at 8 p.m. Visit www.brevardzoo.org.
-- Oct. 20-23, 27-31: Spooktacular 2011 at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens offers trick-or-treating, hundreds of pumpkins, music and dancing on October 20-23 and 27-31. Giant slides and bounce houses are featured as well as three scare zones. Admission at the gate is $10. Event hours are from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The zoo is at 370 Zoo Parkway. For details, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org.
-- Oct. 21-30 Fantasy Fest in Key West is one of Florida's biggest and most outrageous Halloween celebrations. Parties (some risque), costume contests, celebrity look-alike contest are among the events. One of the highlights is the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade kicking off at 7 p.m. on Oct. 29. Many events, like the Fantasy Fest Parade, are free; others are ticketed. Family-friendly happenings include the Pet Masquerade & Parade at Casa Marina Resort at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 (free to watch, $25 to enter and proceeds benefit Lower Keys Friends of Animals). Visit www.fantasyfest.net.
-- Oct. 22 -- The Central Florida Zoo in Sanford puts on ZOOloween from 7 p.m. to midnight. It's a fright-filled event with adult potions and concoctions, bizarre foods, zombie dancing, laser hunting for Zombies, dead music by live bands, a wicked costume contest, haunted laboratory, creepy carnival games, ghost train and more. Call 407.323.4450 ext.100 for tickets or to learn more about the event. $35 per person; $40 at the door; $15 for designated drivers. Visit www.centralfloridazoo.org.
-- Oct. 22, 23, 29, 30 -- The Central Florida Zoo puts on Zoo Boo Bash from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The family-friendly event offers children the opportunity to wear costumes and go trick-or-treating in the "wildest" neighborhood in town. Activities include face painting, a haunted hayride and a pumpkin patch and learning about the myths and realities of some misunderstood animals. Admission is $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for children 3-12. Children under 3 are free. For more information, call 407.323.4450 ext. 100. or visit www.centralfloridazoo.org.
-- Oct. 28-29 -- The Tallahassee Museum hosts the 17th Annual Halloween Howl. Goblins and ghosts will be lurking at the mseum, which will be transformed into a fantasy land of terrifying haunted trails and childhood make-believe. This fright night of fun for all ages begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. each night of the two-day event. The museum is at 3945 Museum Drive. There is an admission fee. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for children. Visit www.tallahasseemuseum.org.
-- Oct. 28-29 -- Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park gets in the spirit of the season with Haunted Tram Rides. Visitors are treated to a haunting trip along the Pepper Creek Trail with various spooky scenarios. Price is $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under. A Haunted House is also on the agenda ($2 per person). Among the Haloween features will be costume contests, face painters and clowns. Refreshments and souvenirs will be available. The special event runs from 6-11 p.m. The park is at 4150 South Suncoast Boulevard (U.S. Highway 19). Visit www.homosassasprings.org.
-- Oct. 29 -- Guavaween in The Ybor City section of Tampa is a Latin-style Halloween celebration that begins with the Family FunFest during the day with activities for the entire family. When dusk falls, revelry starts with the "Mama Guava Stumble," a parade through the streets of historic Ybor City and continues with concerts ranging from rock to reggae. The main strip of Ybor City is closed to traffic during the event.
-- Oct. 29. -- Pumpkinpalooza in Destin offers costume contests, trick-or-treating and live entertainment at Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village on Pumpkin decorating, free arts and crafts and face painting are part of the activities from noon to 4 p.m. HarborWalk Village is at 10 Harbor Boulevard. Admission is free. For details, visit www.harborwalkdestin.com or call 800-676-0091.
-- Oct. 28-29 -- It's easy to get into the Halloween spirit as Panama City Beach sets the scene for the Third Annual Scarecrow Festival. Scarecrows will start appearing in the Historic St. Andrews community in preparation for the festival that takes place in Oaks by the Bay Park on 1 Beck Avenue. Scarecrows entered in the contest will be placed along Beck Avenue and public spaces and they will be scored by judges and by popular vote. Winners will be announced in various categories and prizes will be awarded on Oct. 29. The festival also features activities for the whole family including games, storytelling, entertainment under the gazebo and a trick-or-treat trail. Those who wish to design and enter a scarecrow can do so free of charge and local residents are expected to decorate their homes and yards to give the community a festive Halloween ambiance. For information on the event and details on entering the scarecrow contest, visit www.historicstandrews.com.
Florida gets its dark side on with Halloween events around the state
From Key West's Fantasy Fest to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal and beyond, there are many options to celebrate the Halloween season.
Halloween Horror Nights is one of the best Halloween events in the country. (Universal Orlando)