Spooky season in Orlando keeps us frogs busy every year, but Flora and I decided to do something a little different this year. We leapt over to Tampa for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for our very first time! For 22 nights, this haunting Halloween event takes over the theme park, promising screams and shrieks all night long. Howl-O-Scream is returning for its 20th year (why have we waited so long?!), so the 2019 theme is celebrating “20 Years of Fear.” It will bring back icons from past years along with new nightmares.
Howl-O-Scream 2019 Dates & Ticket Information
Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream is a separately ticketed event that runs on select nights from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2. The park closes to daytime guests at 6 p.m. before it turns into a place of terror from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. However, you may enter the park as early as 5 p.m. Once the park closes, there are select areas where the team members will direct you to stay in.
In general, crowds are historically lighter on Thursdays and Sundays and gradually increase as it gets closer to Halloween.
Howl-O-Scream 2019 Dates
- Sept. 20, 21, 27, 28
- Oct. 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12*, 13, 17, 18*, 19*, 20, 24, 25*, 26*, 27, 31
- Nov. 1, 2
There are additional upgrades available through the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay website:
- Unlimited Admission Ticket: if you want unlimited access to all of the 2019 dates, this ticket will get you in for $84.99 per person.
- Wild & Wicked Weekend Ticket: this ticket allows access to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay during the day and Howl-O-Scream at night for one consecutive weekend (Thursday through Sunday) for $109.99 per person.
- Front Line Fear: skip to the front of the line one time per night for each of the six haunted houses with prices starting at $35 per person. This also includes a 20% discount at all gift shops.
- Front Line Fear Extreme: in addition to what's offered with Front Line Fear, skip the lines for seven thrill rides of your choice.
Howl-O-Scream 2019 Haunted Houses
Howl-O-Scream has a total of six haunted houses in 2019. Normally, the majority of the houses get revamped from previous years with a few terrifying improvements. This year will feature one new haunted house.
NEW: The Residence
As the only brand-new haunted house, The Residence features the pristine home of a picture-perfect suburban family. But once you’re invited in, it’s not what it appears to be. Beware of the domestic demons as you make your way out, or else you’ll become their next sacrifice. We already knew it was going to be a harrowing house as we walked up and heard a creepy musical version of “You Are My Sunshine” playing outside. Sure enough, the vibe got worse as we made our way through the house. The dinner table was set with disturbing entrees, taking “you are what we eat” to the next level. The end scene finally explains why neighbors have been disappearing inside the Clark family’s residence.
Because it’s new, this house saw the longest wait time of the event. But closer to the end of the night, we circled back and the line had died down enough that we were able to walk right in.
Death Water Bayou: Wrath of the Queen
Try to escape yet again from the Queen of the Shadows in Death Water Bayou: Wrath of the Queen. She has been lifted from the dead by dark voodoo magic and has returned to the swamp to seek revenge upon the living. Those who dare to enter may face curses around every corner. This house was our absolute favorite of the night! It’s back for a seventh season, so it must be doing something right year after year.
Near the beginning, you walk through a disorienting vortex tunnel. Because we didn’t have any other frogs in front of us, we got most of the scares (and there were A LOT of them). I’ve never heard Flora scream more in a house than this one. One of the highlights was having to walk underneath a coffin.
Insomnia: Patients’ Revenge
At this haunted sleep institute, imprisoned patients have been enduring cruel treatments for years. Now, they’re ready to fight back against the demented doctors. The patients have taken over the ward and are seeking revenge. This one was our first house of the night, and it was a good one to kick off the night. The children’s ward was super creepy. At times, it got a bit claustrophobic as we walked down the narrow hallways of the asylum. Beware of the patient in a straightjacket! It also felt like it was the longest house of the night. Or maybe we just couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Motel Hell: Infestation
Insects have infested Motel Shellburn, and the exterminator is determined to take out all signs of life — even guests. Every room in this motel is filled with skin-crawling horrors as you try to check out alive. If you hate cockroaches, spiders and other creepy crawlies, you should definitely avoid this one. The motel had a horrible distinct smell the moment we stepped inside. We thought the retro look and outdated furniture only added to the macabre motel atmosphere.
It’s not just cattle, pigs and poultry that’s being slaughtered in Simon’s Slaughterhouse. Watch where you go, or else you will get caged in and end up on his butcher’s block. Out of all the houses, it’s not really a surprise that this is the most goriest. Blood, flesh and guts are everywhere (so if you’re not into that, take a break from this one). It’s also very loud inside, including the heart thumping of Simon’s victims … and your own.
The Black Spot: Bloodshed
Ahoy matey! Climb aboard Captain Saw-Tooth Silas’ pirate ship — his murderous hideaway. We thought the set design of this house was cool to look at as we walked through. It was filled with treasures but not so much with scares. However, we appreciated the fact that, at one point, we stepped on some padding that made it feel like you were walking on sand. That tiny detail, along with the squawking of seagulls, made the theming more immersive.
Howl-O-Scream 2019 Scare Zones
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a rather large park that covers a lot of ground. However, a record-breaking amount of strategically placed scare zones will make sure that you don’t get much relief from the creatures of the night as you walk around.
NEW: First Fear
As soon as you hop off the parking tram, you’re already in the middle of the first scare zone. First Fear brings back popular figures from the past, including the mad scientist, Dr. Livingsdoom, who was the very first icon of Howl-O-Scream in 2000. With the possibility of Trickster the monstrous clown sneaking up on you before you even enter the turnstiles, Howl-O-Scream gets its first frights in early.
NEW: Little Nightmares
You know when you were little and couldn’t sleep because of the monsters in your closet? This scare zone brings those childhood nightmares to life. Stare down small figures who are standing still in front of random ominous doors dripping in blood. That stillness is just as bad as someone jumping out at you. But don’t let your guard down … beware of the bushes.
NEW: Carpe Noctem
This gothic Roman cemetery has been taken over by vampires and their sobbing victims. Climb inside a coffin for a photo op. Who knows, it might be the last time you’re seen alive.
Mutants have swarmed a seemingly peaceful campground, and campers have been snatched from their tents. We got some good jump scares from this zone, all thanks to the narrow pathway.
Hell on Wheels
In a post-apocalyptic world overrun by a zombie biker gang, the survivors will destroy anything in their way of getting food and supplies. Yes, there are scare actors who will zoom by on bikes.
Dia de Los Muertos
This area is more of a dance party than a scare zone to honor the spirits who have gone before us. While the festive music, elaborate set pieces and colorful lights made it seem a bit out of place, we appreciated the fact that it didn’t disrespect the Mexican holiday traditions … and that it gave us a bit of a breather.
Crazy clowns have invaded the entire Pantopia section of the park. They will lurk behind corners or wave a strongman-style hammer in your face. Despite having lots of ground to cover, we’d be constantly running into the clowns.
It’s another scare zone that ruins childhood memories. You know you’ve entered the Deadly Toys scare zone once the background noise turns into creepy laughter from children. A raggedy stuffed bunny with a chainsaw is also there to greet you.
The Meat Market is the most interactive scare zone. Cannibalistic butchers keep their victims locked up in a cage, as they taunt you that you’re next. You can also participate in carnival-style games, such as throwing a ball into a toilet.
Special Entertainment and Thrill Rides
Fiends is the event’s signature stage show, located at Stanleyville Theater with three nightly performances. It revolves around Dr. Freakenstein, who is preparing for an apocalypse. The comedy show features raunchy humor and dance numbers. So if any young ones do happen to tag along, it’s best to sit this one out.
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 all-new Tigris! Here’s a full list of the available rides:
- Cobra’s Curse
- Falcon’s Fury
- Cheetah Hunt
Water rides and additional attractions may also be open depending on weather conditions. When we attended the first night, Sand Serpent, Scorpion and the carousel in Pantopia were all up and running as well.
Howl-O-Scream Food, Drinks and Merchandise
Howl-O-Scream has plenty of special event food and drink offerings! You can find booths throughout the park, and some of the restaurants remain open as well. Nurses with alcoholic shots in syringes walk around, so you can use that liquid courage to fuel an adrenaline rush that's needed for the houses and scare zones. We chickened out ourselves, but for any daring frogs, try the Spice Cream. It's lime habanero vanilla ice cream, topped with blood orange sauce and an edible dehydrated scorpion!
If you're looking for something extra special, indulge in the Fright Feast. It's an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet that starts at 6 p.m. An additional benefit is front-of-the-line access to all of the haunted houses until 8:30 p.m. Prices start at $29.99 per person.
The Shop of Horrors is located near the park's entrance. This gift shop is where you can find all of the event souvenirs, including T-shirts, light-up baseball caps, fleece blankets and more.
Survival Tips for Howl-O-Scream 2019
Buy tickets in advance
Since Howl-O-Scream requires a separate ticket from regular park admission, be sure to 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. For some extra scary savings, tickets for non-peak nights and peak nights are available from your favorite frogs! Additionally, you don’t want to wait in case the event sells out for the night.
Leave the tadpoles behind
Based on the violence and gore, the event is targeted for adults. We left Lily and Tad behind with the grandfrogs! While teenagers and children are allowed to attend, we do not recommend it for tadpoles younger than 13.
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. Avoid wearing costumes or 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 will prey upon those who are looking at their phones or the event map. They also like to get close up in your face or follow behind you. We had one zombie linger behind us for nearly half the scare zone until he jump scared us again! However, 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.
Hit the houses early or late for shorter lines
We noticed that the lines for the houses were at their shortest early on in the evening and during the last hour of the event. Some of the more popular houses were The Residence and Simon’s Slaughterhouse. So if the line for a house seems too long, skip it and come back later. (It is important to note that we attended the first night, and the crowd level was overall low.)
Dance away your fear
Like we mentioned before, the Dia de Los Muertos scare zone was a nice break from the frights because there was music and dancing skeletons. There are also dance parties with DJs and dancing scare actors across from Cheetah Hunt and SheiKra. So, if you need some time away from the scary stuff (we don't blame you!), hang out at these places for some fun!
Pose for a frightfully fun picture
There are event-exclusive photo ops scattered around the park. Whether it’s a face-in-a-hole board or a snapshot with a disheveled teddy bear, grab a picture to remember the terribly fun night. At some locations, a PhotoKey photographer will be on-site to capture the moment.
Are you building up enough courage to go to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay? If you attend, let us know which haunted houses and scare zones were your favorites!