The season of terror is well under way at this time of the year, with both Universal Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa reigning supreme in Central Florida and drawing crowds both across the nation and the world. But what about people like me who live in South Florida? I’ve already been to both parks, so what else is there? Well surprisingly, there’s a couple good scares to be had much closer to home. While neither of these parks are to the grand scale that’s offered in Orlando they still manage to pack a punch where it counts.
House of Horror Amusement Park
Miami International Mall, Doral
I had never been to this place before this year, and I don’t recall ever hearing about it before although it seems they’ve been around for some time now. While admittedly there may be a little too many teenagers than most people would like (unless you’re a teen yourself I suppose), it’s still an enjoyable experience overall. While there are a few shows, some scare actors do wander around the park, and the amusement park rides are nothing extreme, it is the single haunted house that stands ominously over the park that is the real show.
Don’t let the idea of a single haunted house put you off; I thought it wasn’t large either, but it is a lot bigger than I imagined it would be. In fact, the size of it rivals some of the haunted houses in Orlando easily! I won’t go into much detail about it, but suffice it to say that the sights, sounds, and even smells will get to you, and there are quite a few moments that will make you cringe and maybe a little queasy. I would say there is something for everyone in this haunted house, and there is not a single stone left unturned.
I recommend getting there early if you want to get on all the rides and see the shows before the massive crowds move in as it does get crowded but it’s not unbearable. For the haunted house, I suggest waiting for nightfall to get the most out of it. While they do break the line into groups to move into the house, if you go later (after 11pm or so) the line is much smaller and you will likely be alone, or with a very small group of people making the experience much more terrifying.
South Florida Fairgrounds, West Palm Beach
I had actually first attended Fright Nights last year and was happy with what I experienced. Fright Nights doesn’t start until this Thursday (October 14), but I’m confident that this year will be the same. The summary below is based on my experience last year.
Similar to the House of Horror Amusement Park, there is a small carnival leading up to haunted houses to except they also offer scare zones. What further divides the two is that there are three unique haunted houses with their own theme and story, quite similar to the sort of setup you find in the bigger parks up north. The detail in the sets aren’t something to scoff at and again you’ll find something to fill all your senses. Waiting in line isn’t boring either as they’ve a few forms of entertainment, from fire breathers on a stage that the queues wrap around to monsters that will actually walk in line with you. While Orlando may be touting that fear is everywhere, at Fright Nights it really is everywhere and they go to great lengths to make the entire experience enjoyable.
This year they are doing something different. Like Busch Gardens Tampa’s Alone, Fright Nights has a separately ticketed house called The Creature where you voluntarily feed yourself to a gigantic monster and walk trough its internal organs. Personally I can’t wait to try this out!
As usual, I recommend getting there early to ride the rides. The lines to the houses definitely take a good chunk of time but it is certainly worth it. I found waiting an hour and a half or so is left until the park closes before getting into the lines is the best option, but I suggest you gauge the time for yourself and how fast the lines are moving.
These parks are fairly cheap ($22 and $25 respectively) and both prices cover unlimited rides and one entry to the haunted houses. Though the rides leave much to desire for a thrill junkie, the houses definitely make up for it an I urge people to go.
Know of any haunted houses that are worth going to that I should mention here? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be glad to experience it myself. Happy haunting!