Howl-O-Scream Review: Friday, October 1, 2010
Rating Scale: 1-10, 10 being excellent.
We had the fortune of winning passes to their "Bleed-Up" VIP party this night. We got some great perks including free tickets, front-of-line passes and swag. We had already planned on attending later in October, so it was great to be able to go earlier. (Hopefully we'll be able to make another visit.)
Unfortunately, the party didn't turn out to be as VIP as we where hoping for. Parched after waiting a good 20 min to check-in to the event, we headed to the bar to grab a refreshment. Much to our surprise and displeasure, alcohol was not being served inside the VIP room. We weren't expecting free drinks, but the thought of not even being able to buy a beer at the party never crossed our minds. Have you ever been to a dry VIP party? Unheard of. A manager I spoke to said the party was 18+ so they were not allowed to serve liquor. The invitation we received stated you had to be 21+ to attend this event, so something had changed in the planning. Still, the 18+ rule doesn't make sense - the event sells alcohol out at drink stands so...
The hors d'oeuvres selection was an interesting one. Bite-sized egg rolls, meatballs, breaded wings, assorted cheeses with crackers, and salsa. We give the food a 3/10. Egg rolls and wings were mushy (shouldn't be kept sitting out in a steamer) and please show me how you are supposed to eat a rolly-polly meatball on a little plate while standing and juggling other items? There were a few tables, but filled up quickly.
The Sliderz performance was great, and they kept it up outside the VIP room later throughout the night. There were some dancers, a DJ and a raffle, and then Sylvie performed her song on stage for the group. Photo-ops with her were available afterwards. We didn't hang around here long - it was time to get this party started!
Deconstruction: The Doctor is Out of Control
Scare Factor: 9/10
Immersive Detail: 8/10
Probably the best house in terms of scares and immersion into the storyline. This was also the one that gave the best scares last year too. It was very similar to last years, but with a few changes here & there to freshen it up. Loved the indoor queue with the wall decorations of limbs decorated with christmas lights. This is one horrific hospital with a ton of easy startle scares that seemingly come out of nowhere. One of us actually jumped. I'll let you decide which one. They do a lighting effect that messes with your night-vision, so you can't see what's coming at times until it's suddenly right in front of you. Very intense and gory. If we had to pick a favorite, it'd be this one.
Death Row Vengeance: No Escape
Scare Factor: 8/10
Immersive Detail: 7/10
The prisoners think it's your fault for not helping them escape certain death-and they're pissed. Some of the scareactors get very close and have more personal comments for you rather than just screaming or yelling short phrases. More great startle scares here thanks to a good use of misdirection, along with nicely detailed sets. The jailblock section is our favorite of this house - be sure to look up! We really like the unique way in which you 'escape' the house. This is a house that has been done before, but with a few updates.
Trapped In The Walls: Ghostchasers
Scare Factor: 7/10
Immersive Detail: 7/10
Very similar to last year, with serveral "ghosts" coming at you from inside the walls and ceiling, except they added a "ghost-hunters" layover to the house. Some pretty gory scenes - like the bathroom one - that's great!
Taste of Blood: A Different Vein
Scare Factor: 6/10
Immersive Detail: 5/10
Your typical vampire house with some decent scares, like the train-tunnel effect that got us pretty good. Nice nod to Ms. Vayne in here. This house was much better all around last year when it was themed around Ms. Vayne.
Nightshade Toys: Son of Nightshade
Scare Factor: 4/10
Immersive Detail: 6/10
One of the weaker houses of the night. Went through most of the house without many scareactors and where they were we could easily see them coming so didn't provide much of a scare. The thought of toys coming to life totally creeps me out, but this just didn't have it. Repeat from last year too and wasn't a big fan then either.
Delta Epsilon Delta: Extreme Rush (D.E.D.er)
Scare Factor: 5/10
Immersive Detail: 7/10
Last year the DED house was in our top two of best houses, but this year something was lacking but we can't quite put our finger on it. This year they are inducting Sylvie into the sorority so there is a lot of references of her and a song by My X playing overhead. We're thinking it was the scareactors - last year it was a stellar performance, this year it felt weak. Still a good themed, humorous-at-the-start house that is a fun scare.
Scare Factor: 4/10
Immersive Detail: 7/10
This one had a one-of-a-kind plot - you are being snuck backstage at a My X concert and while wandering backstage and seeing Sylvie's dressing room you become witness to things you probably shouldn't be seeing. The tone of the house quickly changes and you need to escape-now. The best scenes are the behind the "stage" during the band's performance, and running through her dressing room - be sure to check out the mirror. Rather weak on scares, but it was entertaining.
Unfortunately tickets were already sold out by the time I went to book them so we didn't get to experience this one.
You'll find multiple roaming hoardes and other scares along with the well done actual scareszones. One thing to note is that they do not put the location of the scarezones on the event map - you just end up wandering into them.
Light of Doom - Lots of thick fog with crazy blue lights while ghost-like scareactors come after you. Good scarezone with some sneaky actors.
Crazed Love: Excellent scareactors here with humorous comments. They were trying to break up my husband and I and asked to marry us. Liked the wedding cake couple that was missing a head. Not very scary, but entertaining.
Road Trip: Road-trippers with a broke-down van find some very scary creatures waiting to attack. The scareactors did an excellent job of playing this role, and got some good scares here. A great zone to stand back and watch them interact with everyone.
Spiders & Snakes: Lots of creepy-crawlies on attack here. Liked the bungee effect. I'm not a fan of spiders, but this didn't freak me out too much.
Xtreme Fanatics: Crazy fans that think you should be to. Didn't get many scares here, but was interesting to watch.
Fiends - So there's naughty nurses in pink wigs, and other monsters doing a dance party...or something. Wasn't a fan of it last year, and didn't win us over this year either. Skip it.
Blood Relations - Missed this one. Wish we'd skipped Fiends and seen this instead. I've heard it's very similar to HHN's Bill & Ted show.
My X Performance - Set up on a small stage near Gwazi, the Sylvie's band performed a few songs to the crowd. Added to the party atmosphere, but we liked the large fashion show that was continually running at the entrance last year better - the band only plays twice a night.
Atmosphere is where Howl-O-Scream takes the cake. HHN could learn a lot from how they do atmosphere here. Do you want a Halloween party scene? Well you're in luck here. There are two DJ booths spinning hits encouraging everyone to dance. In addition to the scarezones, there are multiple roaming hoardes and "interactive" props - talking statues that shout insults and jokes, randomly hidden guys in suits made of leaves to scare you when and where you least expect it (these guys are the best - don't ever get rid of them!) scattered throughout the expansive park (not just in the "scarezones"). The whole park just feels alive with excitement and fun, there isn't an area you walk through that doesn't have at least a lighting effect, a foggy tunnel or someone waiting to scare you.
If you have never been to HOS before, we highly recommend you attend for entertaining scares in an energized environment. The crowds were so low this night that we didn't even need our front-of-the-line passes, and yet we didn't have time to see everything available (we did make time for ribs!) As we approach Halloween, the crowds will only get larger, so you may want to consider a front-of-line pass. While we didn't make it into Alone, the low crowds made most houses 'alone' to us anyway which allowed an even better and more personal experience.
Everyone always asks "Well, how does it compare to HHN?" We've experienced the last 7 years of HHN and now 2 years of HOS, and we both enjoyed HOS more than HHN the past two years. HOS doesn't have the same budget as HHN has, but they do a great job with what they have and it shows through in creativity and just pure fun. Some of their houses' detail comes extremely close to what you'll find at HHN. (One interesting house note - we didn't see one employee stationed in a house waving a flashlight at your feet encouraging you to move along - they really take me out of the mood) If you are an HHN regular, go with an open mind and the goal of having a good time!
Did you get rocked by Sylvie this year? Discuss your favorite houses and thoughts in the comments.
Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is going on it's 11th year. This year's event has a rock 'n' roll vibe, with a jilted-lover icon named Sylvie. Last year was our first time experiencing HOS and it exceeded our expectations while giving HHN a run for it's money. I can't wait to see what they have in store for this year, and to see if we just had a "honeymoon period" with it last year being something new. NEW-Full review now posted below.
Freaky Preview: Sept. 24-25 (cheaper tickets this weekend)
Select Dates: September 24 - October 31, 2010
Fridays & Saturdays: 7:30-2am
Halloween Night: 7:30pm - 1am
For ticket pricing and more information visit the official website here.
FULL HOWL-O-SCREAM REVIEW | HOWL-O-SCREAM DRINKS | HOWL-O-SCREAM TIPS | HOWL-O-SCREAM RUMOR MILL
Howl-O-Scream Review: Friday, October 1, 2010
Drinks available at Club X and several beverage stands throughout the event.
My X - $8.50 | $10.50 Souvenir Goblet or Glow Cup | $7.50 Souviner refill
Specially blended flavors of rum, pineapple, cherry, vanilla and a splash of fizz.
Sylvie's Rockin Punch - $8.50 | $10.50 Souvenir Goblet or Glow Cup | $7.50 Souviner refill
Fruit punch, RockStar Energy Drink blended with vodka and a sweet splash of grenadine.
Rock Bombs - $8.50 (served only until 11pm)
Jagermeister and Mango RockStar
Premium Mixed Drinks
Single Shots - $8.50 | $10.50 Souvenir Goblet or Glow Cup | $7.50 Souvenir cup refill
$7.25 | $9.50 Souvenir Goblet or Glow Cup | $6.25 Souvenir cup refill
Yard of Beer
$14.75 | $7.25 Refill
Budweiser, Bud Light - $8
Imports - $8.50
They both have a strong cherry flavor so we know they're using grenadine as a solid ingredient instead of the more typical splash for color in most cocktails. These are our best educated guesses on these recipes. (And I'm sure they're dang good guesses!)
- 1 part white rum, 1 part Stoli Vanil vodka, 2 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts Sprite, 1/2 part grenadine
Review - Very heavy on the pineapple flavor, sweet yet mildly tart. A nice fruity cocktail.
Sylvie's Rockin Punch:
- 3 parts RockStar, 1 part vodka, 1/2 part grenadine
Review - The tart, almost medicine-y flavor of the energy drink with a kick of vodka and extra sweetness of cherry.
PTTP is very pleased to see that mixed drinks are available at more locations this year - more options is always a good thing!
The rumors are basically over, but I wanted to post a couple awesome videos by Busch Garden's own HOS Insider. HOS Insider has a YouTube channel to find more videos from this event, including some fun "Behind the Music" style ones about the band.
Just one of the reasons we fell in love with HOS last year? The awesome party vibe throughout the entire event. There were two DJ booths spinnin hits that I dare you not to dance to (especially after a couple). The good news is that they are back, and with the addition of the twice nightly performance by My X, this is gonna be one scary rockin' party! The DJs can be found this year in the Timbuktu area by Desert Grill and over by the Crown Colony restaurant. Last year they also had some crazy green lasers making patterns in the fog above you as you walked down the paths - we love lasers. Especially green ones. We hope those return. Anyway, the My X concert will reportedly be doing two performances nightly, at 10:30 and midnight.
Also back is their 21+ club, Club X, that they charged a cover for last year, but it looks like they learned their lesson, since this year it is free to get in. We got in free at the end of the night last year anyway because it was empty. Last year we did get a private fashion show by Ms. Vayne, and this year they say there will be "appearances by Howl-O-Scream's most terrifiying celebrities". Neat.
Well the speculation is over! The full website has opened with information on all houses, scarezones, shows and more. Check it out at MyXRocks.com
Looks like HOS will be turning up the party atmosphere this year! A concert by My X and DJs spinnin' all night? (I assume that you're keeping the DJs, right?!?) That's what we call taking the party to the next level!
We've just received the release of My X's music video. Great production quality - looks mainstream.
HOS billboards are now starting to pop up around town as well. You can keep up with Sylvie at her facebook and myspace pages. There's some interesting info here. Like her background of getting into the rock band (her lead-singing boyfriend went missing mysteriously and now she's lead)...hmmm.
New updates to the official HOS site now include the Rockin' Updgrades page. There are 3 different categories available: Dinner & Show, Fear Packages and VIP Packages. But forget that, the interesting part is what upgrades they include: a "Blood Relations" show, and "VIP Section at My X Concert". So it sounds like we'll get a performance by Sylvie herself! My guess for the location would be Gwazi park, but we'll see.
Yesterday afternoon the official website was updated to introduce us to the icon of the event. We met Sylvie, head rocker of the band My X. She's on twitter @SylvieMyX so follow her for updates and interesting conversations. Only released so far have been band photos and some music.
According to several sources, this looks to be the line-up for the houses this year:
- Taste of Blood
- Trapped in the Walls
- Death Row Vengence
- Delta Epsilon Delta
- Nightshade Toy Factory
- NEW: My Ex-Revenge Rocks
- NEW: Alone
Sounds like there will be all new scarezones as well. Fiends will be returning and the Desert Grill will be getting a new show.
This is our second year of attending Howl-O-Scream and here's a few tips that we learned from last year and after this year's Oct. 1 visit.
This year your event ticket gets you into the park at 5pm, so you'll have plenty of time to grab some food and get ready before the event officially begins at 7:30.
If you are a beer drinker, you are set - there are several stands pouring cold ones throughout the park. If you prefer mixed drinks your options are more limited with only a few stands scattered around that also serve liquor. The Crown Colony bar is closed during the event because of construction.
While some visitors swear on the 'Fright Feast - Dinner & Show with early house access', we have not experienced that, so we won't comment. We'll stick with the eat before, or small snacks during the event which are available at the various beer/snack stands. Or our favorite, the Zambia Smokehouse for some ribs...
Update 10/1/10 - Much to our surprise and pleasure, there were about 5 cabs waiting out in front of the entrance. The cabbie mentioned that there aren't usually many taxis parked waiting so on the busier nights they are taken early and are harder to come by.
Unlike Halloween Horror Nights over at Universal, the two nights that we attended the event, taxis were nearly impossible to find. We had planned on taking a cab back to our hotel, and to our surprise there wasn't one to be found waiting out in front. We made a phone call to a cab company, who laughed at us for wanting a cab for a block, so we ended up walking back to the hotel one of the nights (not recommended). The other night we spotted one waiting out front and quickly grabbed it. The cabbie even said they don't usually park there. They should. So take our experience and plan accordingly. Have a taxi # pre-programmed in your phone in the event there are no taxis to be found.
#1 Piece of Advice
Do not wear flip-flops to this event! If you value your toes, wear sneakers. I promise you - your feet will get stepped on as the person in front of you jumps backwards after a good scare.
What would be your number one piece of advice? Share it with everyone in the comments!