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 haunted houses and scare zones, plus hidden and unpredictable hordes, 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.
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. 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-30
- Oct. 1, 6-8, 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!
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, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Tigris and Iron Gwazi 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, one-time front-of-the-line access to Iron Gwazi, private complimentary beverage locations, a complimentary photo and reserved seating at the Fiends show and complimentary preferred parking. 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!
Howl-O-Scream Tampa Touring 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! Also, be sure to carve some time into your night to see the Fiends show which is a wickedly hilarious must-do.
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. Also, be on the lookout for the unpredictable roaming hordes that can pop up anywhere at any time. 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. Baggums, Circus of Fear
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.
Howl-O-Scream 2022 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. Last year, brave frogs had to venture through seven sinister scare zones if they wanted to make their way around the park.
NEW! Beyond the Veil
It's smart to be cautious of the creatures that reside in this forest. Venture along the Nairobi Path where you'll encounter ferocious fairies and ominous orcs who will show you that not all fairy tales end with "Happily Ever After."
NEW! Raven's Mill
The only thing being stalked in this maize is you. Try as you might, there's no outrunning the scarecrows of raven's mill. Let the reaping begin ...
It's off to Davy Jones' locker fer ya! Brace yourself because a plundering crew of undead pirates has washed ashore and they're not leaving without their precious bounty: you. Fair winds and following seas, mateys ...
Wander through the wreckage of this haunted junkyard where wretched beings inhabit the rubble and an unsettling cacophony of bangs and clangs is the only thing that drowns out your screams. Can you make it out before you're devoured by the ghoulish garbage?
When is cutting through the cemetery ever a good idea ... ? Well, what seemed like a quick escape is actually a feasting ground for doomed souls and corroded corpses. Get out before you're dragged down to the underworld with them.
In the Shadows
Not all legends are myths. Summon your courage because you're going to need it to pass through these wicked woods where familiar monsters and demons are lurking in the darkness.
The witch doctors and devoted worshippers that once called the bayou home are looking for their next sacrifice. Dark magic fills the air in this village inhabited by voodoo practitioners. Good luck making it out in one piece ... or at the very least, uncursed.
Hidden Scare Zone & Roaming Hordes
Keep your guard up because you never know what might be lurking in the darkness or coming around the corner. The next scare can truly come from anywhere.
Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2022 Entertainment
We had a blast cackling at all the eerie entertainment that haunted the Busch Gardens stages last year. We were deviously delighted to see a couple returning shows, but also welcomed some brand-new performances to Howl-O-Scream.
NEW! 50/50: Choose Your Fate
A maniacal emcee welcomes you to his new game show that's sure to have killer ratings. May Lady Luck be kind to you because this host sure won't. Eager contestants sign up for a game show of a lifetime ... but their lives might just be running out of time. This 15-minute scripted show takes place at the Coca Cola Stage at 7:30, 8:15, 9, 10, 10:45, 11:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. Arrive about 10 to 15 minutes early for a good spot to sit (otherwise, you may be stuck in the standing-room-only area in the back).
NEW! Cirque X-Scream
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.
Unfrogtunately, we missed the show on opening night, as it was not running any performances then. So be sure to check the schedule on the Busch Gardens app for showtimes when you visit.
Fiends is the event’s signature stage show, which takes place on the Festival Field Stage for outdoor performances twice each night at 9:30 and 11 p.m. Bring your depraved sense of humor as the deranged Dr. Freakenstein takes his motley crew of monsters to Hollywood. The comedy show features raunchy jokes and dance numbers, along with the latest pop culture references (all of the Hollywood gossip and drama around the "Don't Worry Darling" cast was #inspo for recurring jokes this year). It's absolutely hilarious, includes rockin' songs and is a great way to rest your feet for half an hour. If any young ones do happen to tag along, it’s best to sit this one out due to its NSFT (not safe for tadpoles) material. For a good seat, arrive about 30 minutes before the show, and grab a drink from the Fiends Bar while you wait.
The Rolling Bones
This skeleton band rocks out to classic rock anthem covers at the Dragon Fire Grill. Enjoy the live performance while fueling up on a pre-fear feast. Showtimes are at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.
Rides Open During Howl-O-Scream
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, Iron Gwazi! Here’s a full list of the rides that are available during last year's event:
- Crash Test Clowns (yes, these carnivorous clowns ride with you)
- Cobra’s Curse
- Falcon’s Fury
- Cheetah Hunt
- Iron Gwazi
To end our night, we went on the new Iron Gwazi, which had a 20-minute wait. It was our first time experiencing the thrilling coaster in the dark, and we loved it even more! Most of the rides had minimal waits (not exceeding 30 minutes) throughout the night.
Howl-O-Scream Tampa 2022 Dining and Merchandise
Howl-O-Scream has food and drink booths around the park.
The Fiends show even has its own bar at the Festival Field Stage (pictured is the Wheel of Misfortune cocktail). Some 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. The Blood Bar, an outdoor bar steps away from The Forgotten haunted house, was brand-new in 2021 and is back to serve signature cocktails, beer, hard seltzers and spirits.
We fueled up with the smokehouse barbecue nachos at Zambia Smokehouse. They were so good that we offered a bite to one of the pirates in the Skeleton Crew, but he responded that we looked more appetizing :/
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
Buy 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. 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
Last 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 the Front of the Park First
Hop to the back of the park first. As we mentioned before, the new Stranglewood Estate house had a very long line early on in the night. We'd recommend taking advantage of The Residence and its new holiday overlay first. 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, one-time front-of-the-line-access to Iron Gwazi, private complimentary beverage locations, reserved seating at "Fiends," a complimentary photo and free preferred parking.
Don't want to be scared? Purchase a NO BOO necklace to let the monsters know not to scare you. While this doesn't guarantee a scare-free evening and some initial contact may occur, the creepy creatures that lurk in the night will do their best to avoid you. NO BOO necklaces may not be worn in houses or on rides.
New this year, an interactive skull lanyard comes with special light and fog effects that interact at 10 different locations, including the Fiends show.
Leave the Tadpoles Behind
Based on the violence and gore, the event is targeted for 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.
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, an orc in Beyond the Veil told us he lost his name, but we saw him again at the end of the night and he found it — his name was Puddles!
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 for!
Related: The Frog Family's Wild Guide to Busch Gardens Tampa