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Our Haunting Guide to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

by Leap on September 8, 2023 29 Orlando

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Howl-O-Scream is back with a vengeance! In 2023, this haunting Halloween event will once again take over Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, promising its usual screams and shrieks all night long — and tickets are now on sale! With five haunted houses and six scare zones, you'll be constantly looking over your shoulder. And don't miss all of the electrifying entertainment and the chance to hop on your favorite thrill rides in the dark.

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - Scarecrow in Raven's Mill

 

Overview of Howl-O-Scream Tampa

Every year, Busch Gardens knocks it out of the park (or should I say graveyard?). Nowhere is safe in the haunted houses, as scares can come from all directions. The scare zones are also devilishly entertaining as the scare actors always use lots of creative improvisation for their interactions with guests. As always, the entertainment is also top-notch and the event even provides frogs with the opportunity to conquer their favorite coasters and thrill rides in the dark. If you're up for the frights, keep reading to learn all about Howl-O-Scream!

Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2023 Dates & Ticket Information

Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream is a separately ticketed event that runs on select nights from Sept. 8 to Oct. 31, 2023. Save some green by purchasing a single-night ticket valid for a visit on any event night through Undercover Tourist. The park typically closes to daytime guests at 6 p.m. before it turns into a place of terror from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 7 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays and Sundays. However, you may enter the park as early as 5 p.m. You'll receive a wristband, so team members will be able to know you're there for the event (and they may ask you to show it before entering certain sections of the park before it is cleared of daytime guests). Howl-O-Scream Tampa is taking place on the following dates:

  • Sept. 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30
  • Oct. 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-31

Best Dates to Attend

In general, crowds are historically lighter on Thursdays and Sundays and gradually increase as it gets closer to Halloween. The best time to attend Howl-O-Scream is during the first few opening weeks of the event — luckily, tickets are valid on any event day! Advance pricing will not be available after 6 p.m. on the event night at the front gate. If you can't get enough of the scares, spring for the Unlimited Admission ticket which provides admission every night of the event!

Special Experiences

Maximize your fear by splurging on any of the four evil upgrades to have the most epic Halloween ever. Get single-use front-of-the-line access to five haunted houses of your choice with the Front Line Fear pass. Add on single-use front-of-the-line access to Falcon's Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Tigris, Iron Gwazi and the all-new Serengeti Flyer with the Front Line Fear Extreme Pass.

Curate your own eerie experience with the Ultimate VIP Tour, a customizable private tour that includes admission to Howl-O-Scream, unlimited front-of-the-line access to haunted houses and thrill rides, a complimentary dinner at Dragon Fire Grill, a private lounge, as well as select bars offering complimentary beverages, such as beer, water and soda, reserved seating for shows and complimentary preferred parking (subject to availability). You can also book a Behind the Scenes Tour for just $29.99 per guest where you'll learn what goes into the scares and see one of the iconic houses in a new light, with a unique photo opportunity. This tour also includes one-time priority access to one of the houses at night during the event! Daytime park admission is required for the Behind the Scenes Tour.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa Park Plan

Unless you splurged for a Front Line Fear pass, arrive at Busch Gardens at least 45 minutes before the event opens. There's a possibility the gates will open early — allowing you to knock out a house or two within the first hour alone!

While some certain zones are off to the side such as "The Junkyard" in Morocco, you do need to walk right through all of the others to get from Point A to Point B, so be sure to keep your guard up. Terror has been unleashed and no corner is safe.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2023 Haunted Houses

Are you brave enough to enter the haunted houses? You never know what specters and spooks could be lurking around every corner.

NEW! D.H. Baggum's Circus of Fear

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - D.H. Baggum's

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Renowned ringleader D.H. Baggums has come to town with his truly terrifying troupe of freaks. Don't get distracted by the merriment and magic, though. The midway's a lot more menacing than it appears. Each place this sinister sideshow stops, unsuspecting patrons go missing. Does D.H. have some pernicious plan? Only one way to find out. Grab a ticket for the most grotesque show on earth.

As the only new house this year, D.H. Baggums has replaced the long-reigning Voodoo Queen and bloodthirsty bayou werewolves from the Death Water Bayou house (which you can see a nod to in The Junkyard scare zone!). Flora let out the loudest scream of the night in this house, thanks to a carefully placed carny and a loud honk of his horn.

Stranglewood Estate

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - Stranglewood Estate

Are you ready to return to the haunted halls of this sinister estate? Madame Gwendolyn is back to claim more unsuspecting souls who dare to enter this once lively home. Don't let the opulence and grandiosity fool you. Darkness and the spirit of evil now permeate through this menacing manor. Step into Ms. Stranglewood's secret basement room where her servants faced their untimely demise. If you're not careful, you may join them in the afterlife.

The house returns for its second year, and it's no less scary. Flora and I went through while it was still light outside, which made it much harder for our eyes to adjust — and so much more frightening.

The Residence: Home for the Holidays

The weather outside isn't the only thing that's frightful. The Clark family is back and celebrating the most wonderful time of the year the only way they know how — with gold, frankincense ... and murder. You're going to have to run as fast as the Gingerbread Man to escape this house of ho-ho-horrors. Scary Christmas to all, and to all, a good fright!

Witch of the Woods

The lengthiest house in Howl-O-Scream history is returning once again. You've heard tell of the dark magic that looms in this ominous forest where bone-chilling cackles make way to spine-tingling screams. Enter The Witch's demonic domain, if you dare, and do your best to escape her diabolical disciples who hunt down any invasive intruders. Once you set foot in their seemingly abandoned village, there's no going back. The wicked woodland has claimed you.

The Forgotten: Uprising

Beyond the rubble and rocks of an unsuspecting quarry and behind a hidden gutter entrance, the Forgotten army has lurked in the shadows. Dark secrets and urban legends make way for visceral fear when you come face-to-fangs with a swarm of starving vampires who have spent years plotting their vengeance against the humans. Lately, more and more travelers have gone missing. The ferocious battle has finally begun. Do you have what it takes to survive the night?

Howl-O-Scream 2023 Scare Zones

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a large park that covers a lot of ground, which means plenty of space for the creatures of the night to scare you while you walk around. In 2023, brave frogs will need to venture through six sinister scare zones if they want to make their way around the park.

NEW! Sin City Zombies

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - Sin City Zombies

Take a gamble for your life. Zombies have overrun the small town that lies on the outskirts of the Vegas strip. Are you ready to risk it all? We loved this new scare zone! You can even pose with an Elvis-wannabe zombie next to a blood-splattered "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign.

NEW! Big Ed's Demolition Derby

Talk about twisted metal. Big Ed has recruited Howl-O-Scream's roughest and toughest baddies to compete in this adrenaline-fueled automotive nightmare. That being said, he's always looking for fresh faces to step into the arena. See how long you can survive before getting rear-ended. Our favorite scare actors in this zone were the wickedly wacky inflatable tube men.

Ravens Mill

Ever get the feeling someone's stalking you? At Raven's Mill, that may very well be the case. Within the confines of the cursed cornfield lies a horrific nightmare you can't wake up from. Birds aren't the only thing these sinister scarecrows aim to terrify. With tight corners and sudden roars of chainsaws, this is the scariest zone, hands down.

Beyond the Veil

The fantasy creatures from our childhood fantasies are much more sinister than you could ever imagine. Do you have what it takes to go beyond the veil and face the dark fairies and orcs who reside there? You'll definitely need to go through this one twice if you arrive when it's still light outside, as the luminescent colors outshine the complete darkness. But don't let that fool you — maybe steer clear of the bushes.

The Junkyard

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - The Junkyard

The loud clanging of baseball bats and metal cutters against scrap metal and spare parts soundtrack your stroll through this ominous junkyard. Think you can make it out in one piece, or is it off to the incinerator with you? For Howl-O-Scream fans, you may spot hidden Easter eggs from previous houses and scare zones from years past.

The Shortcut

What seems like a quick jaunt through the cemetery turns into a fight for your life as evil spirits, depraved demons and corrupted corpses rise from the dead — only to drag you back down to the underworld with them.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2023 Entertainment

We always have a blast cackling at all the eerie entertainment that haunts the Busch Gardens stages. We're deviously delighted to see two returning shows but also welcome some brand-new performances to Howl-O-Scream.

NEW! Rock The Grave 

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens

Experience this explosive, high-energy live stage show on the Festival Field that merges the epic worlds of alternative rock, classic rock and pop hits — including "Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance "Victorious" by Panic at the Disco, "Misery Business" by Paramore and a Taylor Swift medley — into a journey to find your inner rock spirit. Prepare to be bewitched, thrilled and thoroughly entertained as the Rock the Grave band, singers and dancers fuse haunting melodies and heart-pounding beats together with mind-blowing special effects — unleashing their spirit on you.

Cirque X-Scream

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa - Cirque X-Scream

Head to the Stanleyville Theatre and watch in awe and amazement as talented acrobats and aerialists perform exhilarating acts and stunts that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

The Rolling Bones

Jam along to epic covers of classic rock anthems as this skeleton band lights up the night at Dragon Fire Grill.

NEW! Scare-E-Oke

Select a song, grab the mic and conquer your stage fright at this all-new karaoke experience at Gwazi Plaza. You even take home a commemorative photo to remember your petrifying performance!

Rides Open During Howl-O-Scream

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - Iron Gwazi at night

Can’t get enough screams from the haunted houses and scare zones? Busch Gardens’ most popular thrill rides are open during the event, including the latest ride, Serengeti Flyer! Here’s a full list of the rides that will be available during this year's event:

  • Tigris
  • Cobra’s Curse
  • Cheetah Hunt
  • SheiKra
  • Montu
  • Kumba
  • Scorpion
  • Iron Gwazi
  • NEW! Serengeti Flyer

In 2023, to end our night, we went on Iron Gwazi, which had a 25-minute wait. Most of the rides had minimal waits (not exceeding 30 minutes) throughout the night.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2023 Dining and Merchandise

Howl-O-Scream has food and drink booths around the park, along with four themed bars.

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - DrinksSome of the restaurants such as Zagora Cafe remain open as well. The event's infamous alcoholic shots in syringes return year after year, so you can use that liquid courage to fuel an adrenaline rush that's needed for the haunted houses and scare zones. At the Coke Canopy, find the all-new Raveyard featuring electrifying music and specialty cocktails. You can also find the Christmas Bar in Pantopia, Blood Bar in Stanleyville and Stranglewood Bar in Moroccan Palace.

This year, we tried out an HHN-exclusive BBQ chicken slider, which had a spicy aioli sauce, from Zambia Smokehouse. Beware, scare actors from Raven's Mill can still come through this area. A scarecrow crept up behind Flora while she was enjoying her slider and made her jump from her seat.

You can also find event merchandise at Marrakesh Market and the Emporium, both located near the park's entrance. This is where you can peruse all of the event souvenirs, including T-shirts, baseball caps, shot glasses and more.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2023 Tips

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens - Scarecrow in Raven's MillBuy Tickets in Advance

Since Howl-O-Scream requires a separate ticket from regular park admission, purchase your tickets early online. Not only will this save you from waiting in line at the entrance, but you can also keep extra cash in your wallet (metaphorically speaking — Busch Gardens is now completely cashless). Additionally, you don’t want to wait in case the event sells out for the night.

Purchase Front Line Fear Passes to Skip the Lines

This year, Opening Night drew in few crowds, so we enjoyed shorter wait times for both houses and rides. For most of the night, our pass got us in within 5 minutes. However, as the season continues, Howl-O-Scream gets busier, particularly on weekends in October.

Luckily, you have the option to buy Front Line Fear passes (single-use, front-of-the-line access to five houses of your choice) or Front Line Fear Extreme passes (single-use, front-of-the-line access to five haunted houses and eight major thrill rides of your choice). We think it's well worth the investment, as the Front Line Fear lines are usually walk-ins or have significantly lower wait times. In the past, the longest express line we personally encountered was 30 minutes on a much busier Saturday night.

Avoid the Houses in Front of the Park First

Hop to the back of the park first. Stranglewood Estate house had a very long line early on in the night. And later on during the night, the houses in the back — The Residence and The Forgotten — had long lines. At the end of the night, circle back to Stranglewood Estate once the line goes down.

Splurge on Upgrades

If you really want a special night to remember, spring for the Ultimate VIP Tour. You get to create your own up to seven-hour experience with a private tour guide, exclusive experiences and unlimited access to the haunted houses and thrill rides. The cost (which starts at $249 per person; a minimum of two guests) includes admission and the private tour itself, unlimited front-of-the-line access to houses and rides, private complimentary beverage locations, complimentary dinner at Dragon Fire Grill and free preferred parking.

Leave the Tadpoles Behind

Based on the violence and gore, the event is targeted at adults. We always leave Lily and Tad behind with the grandfrogs! While there is no age restriction, we do not recommend it for tadpoles younger than 13.

Dress Appropriately

Despite the sun going down, the hot and humid Florida weather keeps September and October nights warm. Dress in clothes that allow you to stay cool, and opt for comfortable shoes. Check the weather, as you may need to bring a poncho along. Avoid wearing costumes or full-face masks. For the safety of the scare actors and other guests, costumes are not allowed.

Pay Attention in Scare Zones

I may be stating the obvious, but be aware of your surroundings as you walk through the scare zones. The scare actors like to get super close to you. But they will not touch you, and you should not touch them. Also, listen closely to what they have to say because they like to improvise. This year, multiple scare actors in different scare zones liked to creep up super close while we took photos, and asked if we got a good shot.

Be courteous of fellow guests too. You may have the gut instinct to run away at the sight of a clown, but you have to be careful not to bump into anyone else.

Pose for a Frightfully Fun Picture

The scare actors at Howl-O-Scream are delightfully interactive and are hoppy to pose for a photo with you! Just be wary of their dark magic.

Are you building up enough courage to go to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay? If so, let us know what you're most excited about!

Related: The Frog Family's Wild Guide to Busch Gardens Tampa

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Oct 12, 2023 at 6:45 p.m. Paige Arcuri Says...

I’m confused about the entry time and closing time. I understand w the howl o screams you can enter at 5pm, park closes at 6pm, and event starts at 7pm. What happens between 6-7pm? Is anything open? Do we have to leave?

Reply
Oct 12, 2023 at 2:46 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Paige!

Upon entering at 5 p.m., you'll get a special wristband to wear that designates you can stay inside the park. We saw most guests lining up early for haunted houses, but rides remained in operation for those with wristbands.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jul 18, 2023 at 8:21 p.m. Jordan Says...

I checked Busch's official website calendar and found that Howl-O-Scream is not listed for any Sundays in September (9/10, 9/17, and 9/24) . I called their support to confirm this, but they told me those dates were sold out and subsequently removed from the calendar. Seems odd that those dates would sell out before any others, and that they would remove them off the calendar. Any more information on this? Extremely confusing for customers that bought any-night passes as well.

Reply
Jul 18, 2023 at 4:14 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jordan!

Yes, we can confirm that Sunday dates in September are no longer available and have been removed accordingly on our site.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jul 2, 2023 at 7:38 p.m. Camila Says...

Hello!! :) Is there going to be any shuttle service available to return to Orlando after 2023's Halloween party?

How can I get back to my hotel in Orlando after it (around 00 - 1am) ? I don't drive :(

Reply
Jul 3, 2023 at 10:04 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Camila!

There is round-trip shuttle service with a paid Busch Gardens ticket through Mears, but we're unsure if this extends to park close after Halloween Horror Nights. We would call 1-800-221-1339 for exact departure times.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 8, 2022 at 9:15 p.m. Whit Says...

Are the performers allowed to touch us?

Reply
Oct 11, 2022 at 8:17 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Whit!

No, the scare actors might get really close to you, but they cannot touch you.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 5, 2022 at 12:05 p.m. Kevin B Says...

We'll be getting to the park in the morning and then staying until Howl O'Scream starts. Can you offer advice on where we go for the "transition" time, and where we will pick up our Front Line Fear passes? Thanks!

Reply
Oct 6, 2022 at 10:22 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kevin!

There will be designated areas within the park for daytime guests who have also purchased a Howl-O-Scream event ticket. These guests will be provided with a wristband denoting that they are authorized to remain within the park. This year, we arrived at 7 p.m. when the event started so we weren't able to scope out the specific spots, but the main entrance should have the wristbands for people entering the park so we would suggest heading there sometime between 5 and 7 p.m. You would need to pick up the Front Line Fear passes at Guest Services anyway.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 13, 2021 at 12:44 p.m. Amy Hashman Says...

Is there going to be a Fright Feast this year? Or any meal deals?

Reply
Sep 13, 2021 at 2:03 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Amy!

Fright Feast is not hoppening this year, and we did not encounter any special dining deals during the event.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 8, 2021 at 4:11 a.m. The Scare Zone Says...

Hi there! Love your site.

We're visiting from out of town and plan to stop at Sir Henry's Haunted Trail on the way over from Orlando. Sir Henry's opens at 7:30 but we have HOS Express so if we arrive at BGT after 9 on a Friday do you think we'll still have enough time to get through all the mazes and some of the rides? I guess the main question is how quickly do the express lines move?

Reply
Sep 13, 2021 at 2:56 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi again!

After attending this past Saturday, we just wanted to give you an update (in case you hadn't gone this past Friday). The regular lines were quite long, ranging from 75 min. to 2 hours. But with the Front Line Fear pass, we were able to hop right in line and had minimal waits, ranging from walk-in to 30 minutes. The longest wait we encountered was at The Forgotten, which was 30 minutes compared to an hour and 40 minute wait in the standby line.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 9, 2021 at 8:34 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi there!

In the past when we've gone to Howl-O-Scream, the lines have moved fairly quickly so we think you'll be able to get all of the houses and some rides done. It may also depend on when you're going — if it's early in the season, there are less crowds so you shouldn't have any problems getting everything done. But if you're going on a Friday in mid-October, you may run into more crowds and longer lines, making it a tighter squeeze. We'd typically suggest that you arrive early for the lowest crowds of the night, but having Front Line Fear Extreme passes should help.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 2, 2021 at 6:08 p.m. Kevin Says...

What is the process for waiting inside the park between 6 & 7? Are there holding pens like at Universal stay and scream? Any early access to houses? Thanks!

Reply
Sep 2, 2021 at 1:31 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kevin!

In the past, we've gotten wristbands whenever we entered the park before the official event time. It will indicate that you're there for Howl-O-Scream, and you may be asked to visibly show it as you pass by park employees. The houses and scare zones usually aren't available until 7 p.m. so it's a good time to go on rides or eat dinner.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 5, 2021 at 5:32 p.m. Kristin Says...

Anyone know if you are able to use the quick queue for the haunted houses?

Reply
Jun 6, 2021 at 9:48 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kristin!

Yes, there is usually a Howl-O-Scream Quick Queue option for the haunted houses (only valid during the event).

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 26, 2020 at 4:29 p.m. Syanne tanner Says...

Can we go on the 30th? To howl-O scream ?

Reply
Oct 26, 2020 at 1:22 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Syanne!

Tickets for Oct. 30th are still available - have fun!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 16, 2020 at 11:15 a.m. Jessi Marie Says...

Is the craft beer feast go till midnight too or is that only during the day until 7pm when Howl-O-scream starts? and if you go for the whole day and buy a quick que pass is it goo for Howl-O-scream too or do you have to buy 2 of them? Because that seems really expensive. thank you!

Reply
Oct 19, 2020 at 12:46 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jessi Marie!

The Craft Beer Festival ends at 6 p.m. (at regular park closing), and Quick Queue is separated into daytime use and Howl-O-Scream (two separate options).

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 12, 2020 at 12:30 a.m. Claudine Litwin Says...

If I’m purchasing 4 tickets for ages 13 & up & we all r Golden Annual Pass Holders & wanna go on Halloween can u tell me how much that would cost me? T.Y.

Reply
Oct 13, 2020 at 2:18 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Claudine!

Busch Gardens will be able to help you with specific prices based on your Annual Pass type! They can be reached at 1-813-884-4386.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 8, 2020 at 8:39 p.m. Mama Eeee Says...

Are you aware of any discounts for the admission for Howl-O-Scream? So from your exp, fast passes are unnecessary, but that is solely based on attendance numbers, correct? Just found your website, and cant wait to share it with my younger sisters who are planning their kids first Disney Trips. Great Valuable Information you have here!

Reply
Oct 13, 2020 at 2:03 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mama Eeee!

In previous trips, we haven't felt that Quick Queue was necessary. However, the park may be busier as it gets closer to Halloween. And since there are no houses this year, more people will be going on the rides, so it may very well be worth it. You can purchase in park (or purchase per ride at the locker stations, if you only want to skip the line for a specific ride), but it’s cheaper to buy in advance.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 27, 2020 at 1:29 a.m. payten willis Says...

do you need a photo id to get in if you already have the ticket printed out

Reply
Sep 28, 2020 at 8:46 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Payten!

We recommend bringing your ID just in case!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
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