BUSCH GARDENS EUROPE
Howl-O-Scream 2007 -
Williamsburg, Virginia (Abbreviation: BGE or BGW)
Formerly: Busch Gardens: The Old Country
& Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Busch Entertainment Corporation
(10/15/07) Last weekend the Scream Team took a little trip to the Williamsburg area to enjoy a little Halloween fun at Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Europe. As in past years, this great event starts in mid September and takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through to the end of October. Even better, unlike the Florida version, Howl-O-Scream is included for free with your regular park admission and takes place at night at the end of a regular day in the park. When the sun goes down, the freaks come out to scare the guests in Scare Zones and several haunted houses.
The Scare Zones really aren’t all that scary, which is fine because Busch Gardens still remembers that there are tons of little kids still in the park. They even went so far as to allow the Land of the Dragons kiddie area to stay open until 9pm (on a 10pm close) so that there was still a safe spot for them. Unlike last year, the Train ride around the park also remained a fairly safe spot for kids, just moving through the dark spooky woods, past graveyards and spooky lights and fog.
The Scare Zones, though lacking big scares, are still well done however, decorated with life-sized figures all day long on the buildings, in the bushes and hanging from trees. After dark they add some real living version of these same characters now thrown into the mix to spice things up. There were wolf men near the Wolf exhibit, pirates near the entry plaza, clowns all over Italy, and even a lone Bagpipe player standing atop a small hill in the fog in Scotland. I didn’t go in, but apparently they even were haunting the queue line for DarKastle after dark.
Now lets quickly turn out attention on the meat of the matter… the four Haunts themselves, which really was more like five. Standing in place of last year’s Sleepless Hollow Manor in the old Drachen Fire site was Busch Garden’s new extra scary area, The Never After. Off the normal guest flow pathways, there is no way for little ones to enter here by accident, so once you cross the line your fair game in this area “devoted to the macabre and loosely based on the fables of the Brother’s Grimm.” Officially The Never After has two haunts and a scare zone, but the way they run this attraction, it’s like going through one giant haunt with three stages. You have to experience them in order and the exit of each one leads you right to the entrance of the next one.
You start off taking a trip through Grimm Hollows: Deadtime Stories, “a maze based on the childhood home of the Brothers Grimm.” This is a well themed indoor theme park haunt, and the scare factor has really been increased in here from last year. Capacity seems fairly high, but if your spending the day at the park, I recommend you hit this haunt first because it’s the furthers away from the entrance and anyone coming in just for the haunt after dark.
Exiting Deadtime Stories, you take a brief walk over to the entrance of Tormented Tales where you get to see the dark versions of classic fairy tales gone wrong where there is no happy ending to be found. The entrance here is great, looking like your walking right into the torn and somewhat bloody pages of a giant book. This haunt is a bit shorter than Deadtime Stories, but it’s got a completely different theme.
Upon exiting Tormented Tales, you’ll be forced to walk down The Beaten Path. Officially this is one of the park’s Scare Zones, but honestly I think I heard more screaming inside of here than anywhere else in the park that night. It’s not often you catch monsters chasing their victims out of a scare zone at a full sprint, screaming their heads off. At the end of this fantastic 1-2-3 combo, you just need to get yourself back to the front of the park again for the last two.
Wicked Woods is back, a copy of the same haunt I experienced last year, starting near the front of the park by the skyride entrance and exiting right next to Curse of Pompeii, which happens to be the site of the last haunt, so this is a good order to experience them in. The overall there has you traveling back in time a bit to the England of old, where you experience a bit of a plague, a little bit of Jack The Ripper, haunted graveyards, burnt buildings and more, venturing through both indoor and outdoor sections. Unfortunately the scares seemed to be lacking a bit in here the night I went, or it just paled in comparison to The Never After haunts. It’s still a great haunt… it just needs a little something new to spark it up again.
The last haunt of the night was the returning Curse of Pompeii, which also seemed to be the same maze we saw last year. It’s in a great location however, built into the structure under the ride building, allowing you to enter it by walking up to and inside the ruins themselves. From here it’s an entirely indoor maze and has a great variety of sections to enjoy, with scares from both live and animatronic figures. I think my favorite section however was the weird hallway that shifts side to side, the remains of previous victims attached to the moving walls, some of which on tracks to slide from one side to the other. There was also a good amount of screaming in here as well, though some of the animatronics were starting to look their age and may be in need of replacement.
In summary, I’m glad I went once again as Busch Gardens Europe is the perfect park to hold a haunt, and they really do a great job all around. Tons of shows (that I didn’t have time for), all the rides still open for the thrill seekers, and a decent number of haunts with lines that all seem to move very quickly. The end result is that you can really tell they know what they are doing by now and have hit their stride when it comes to Halloween entertainment.