Are you thrilled by the idea of encountering cursed clowns, circus freaks, extraterrestrials, mad scientists, demented toys, vampires, a sea witch, La Llorona and the undead? If so, then we have the place for you. For 25 nights of the fall season, SeaWorld San Diego transforms into a living nightmare of terror and frightful fun. This event is only for adults and brave teens ages 13 and up. If you are looking for family-friendly Halloween fun, then take the tadpoles to the daytime Halloween Spooktacular instead for trick-or-treating, costumes, dance parties, animal shows, exhibits and more fun. Then get a babysitter for the little ones and prepare to jump out of your skin as the monsters emerge at SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream.
Overview of SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream
As of Halloween season 2021, SeaWorld put San Diego on the map for adult nighttime Halloween frights. SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream invites you to face your fears in haunted houses, scare zones, roaming haunts, devilish dance parties and a monstrous live show. Take on more thrills during a nighttime coaster ride in the dark and sip sinister cocktails at haunted bars. It's all waiting for you at SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream.
This entire event is a little less dark and scary than some of the other nighttime SoCal Halloween haunts. It's the only one where we've seen a scaredy cat "No Boo" necklace for sale. People who do not want to be bothered in scare zones can wear it. It's also the most affordable event, which makes it a great starter event for teens or people new to scary theme park events and those feeling the pinch of rising ticket prices. (And you can save even more with discount tickets! Especially the earlier you buy!) But the theming is still very much for older frogs, so we do not recommend bringing the tadpoles under 13. While all of the important details for the 2023 event have not yet been released, let's hop into the spooky fun we experienced at last year's event.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Dates and Tickets
Howl-O-Scream takes place on select sinister nights Sept. 15 through Oct. 31, 2023 this year. It mostly falls on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with some Thursdays in October, plus Halloween night (a Monday).
Here are the event hours for 2023:
- Friday & Saturday: 7 to 11 p.m.
- Sunday: 7 to 10 p.m.
Sept. 29 to Oct. 29
- Friday & Saturday: 7 to 12 p.m.
- Thursday & Sunday: 7 to 11 p.m.
- Tuesday: 7 to 10 p.m.
Even though the event kicks off at 7 p.m., you can enter as early as 6 p.m. and head to the Underground Dance Club. If you are already in the park as a daytime visitor, on nights when the park closes later than 5 p.m. you can enter through rentals starting at 6 p.m.
Best Dates to Attend
The best dates to attend will vary based on your schedule. The least crowded nights are typically Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays early in the season (and they are the least expensive as well). Crowds pick up as Halloween approaches and on Friday and Saturday nights. But it's a late night so if you have school or work early in the morning, you'll have a better time if you can sleep in the next day or not feel rushed in getting there. Buy early with an Any Night Promo ticket for big savings.
Howl-O-Scream is a separately-ticketed event. Fun cards, annual passes and regular daytime tickets are not valid. Save time and money by purchasing tickets in advance. In fact, you can save even more if you purchase select authorized tickets through Undercover Tourist! Ribbit! Tickets go on sale in summer, and the earlier you purchase, the cheaper the price.
These are the tickets currently available for purchase:
- Single Night, Any Night ticket (You do not have to choose a date to visit in advance. You can save more by purchasing through Undercover Tourist!)
You can add Evil Upgrades to your tickets through SeaWorld directly. These do not include admission. The following are 2022 offerings. Hop back for 2023 offerings once they are announced:
- Front Line Fear — One-time front-of-the-line access to five houses. Prices vary per night.
- Front Line Fear Extreme — One-time front-of-the-line access to five houses plus Emperor, Electric Eel and Journey to Atlantis.
- Front Line Fear Unlimited — Unlimited front-of-the-line access to five houses plus Emperor, Electric Eel and Journey to Atlantis.
- No Boo Necklace — Are you a scaredy frog being dragged to this event? You can wear a necklace to indicate you'd really appreciate it if the monsters left you alone in scare zones. You cannot wear it in houses or on rides.
- Fright Feast — Includes a sinfully delicious welcome cocktail and a themed buffet menu. You can expect a visit from some monsters.
- VIP Parking — After 5 p.m. on Howl-O-Scream nights. Not available Sept. 22, 29 and Oct. 6.
- Howl-O-Scream VIP Tour — A VIP guide will guide you through the event (more below).
The Howl-O-Scream VIP Tour includes:
- A monstrous buffet at the all-new Fright Feast
- Behind-the-Scenes tour of one haunted house
- Four complimentary beverages
- Front-of-the-line access to all haunted houses
- Front-of-the-line access to all rides
- Reserved seats at the all-new Darkness Falls show
The VIP Tour begins at 5 p.m. with dinner. You need to book a minimum of two people. Event admission is not included. All attendees under 18 must be accompanied by a paid adult.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Park Plan
In 2022, Howl-O-Scream consisted of five haunted houses, six scare zones, two scAREAs, three thrill rides, five bars, DJ dance parties and a show. Our three- to four-hour party night flew by like we were being chased by thirsty vampires. You'll want a plan to do it all. Here are two important details to note:
Consult an event map. We used a paper map the night we visited. The area of the event is to the right when facing the front gates from the parking lot. None of the animal exhibits are open during the event.
Get Front Line Fear to skip the lines. If rides are important to you, get the Front Line Extreme. On opening night, crowds were low, but that will likely change as the season progresses.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Haunted Houses
Last year, Howl-O-Scream was home to five haunted houses. Two were new in 2022 and the others crawled back out of the crypt from the year prior:
Circus of the Damned
An evil ringmaster seeks to return his cursed Circus of the Damned to its former glory with new performers. Is it you he seeks? Can you escape the big top and condemned circus freaks before you’re forced to become one of them? Being located near the front of the event, this is a great house to hit at the end of the night.
This house has a secret speakeasy hidden inside. If you can find the hidden doorway and know the password, "Sideshow," you may enter. Be sure to check out the circus acts outside the house at the Carnival of Chaos scAREA out front.
Area 64: Alien Outbreak
You've heard the rumors and conspiracy theories about Area 64. You set out to explore on your own via a hole in the fence. The darkness and decay are not what you expected though. Watch out for lethal security, mad scientists and terrifying extraterrestrials on the loose.
This house has a secret speakeasy hidden inside: The Bermuda Club. If you find the door and know the code word, you can get inside to purchase adult drinks. The code word was "Bermuda" when we visited. You'll find this house and Death Water Bayou past Emperor.
Death Water Bayou
Can you escape the dark waters of your nightmares only to fall under the evil curse of a Swamp Witch? We loved the detail and effects inside this house. Death Water Bayou had the longest line of the night, so it's a great house to hit first or last.
A demented doctor is out to get you for a secret project gone horribly wrong. Can you escape being his lab rat? You do not want to check into this horrific hospital. Just a note that if you've spent time in a mental hospital or had a traumatic hospitalization, this house could trigger feelings of panic, so you might want to take that into consideration. There is a themed bar, AmBARlance, just outside the exit. This house, like Circus of the Damned, is located near the entrance/exit so it's a great house to catch before the end of the night.
What could possibly go wrong in an abandoned meat-packing plant with a twisted past? Uh, oh! You are about to find out! This is the goriest of the houses, so if you hate seeing blood, skip it. Can you escape the maniac wielding a chainsaw?
The haunted houses feel more open and more lit than you'd find at other events, so if you are claustrophobic or not a fan of the dark, this may be a more comfortable event for you.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Scare Zones
Howl-O-Scream terrified guests in two new scAREAs and six scare zones! That's more terror than any of the other SoCal Halloween haunts. There is no place to hide! The ScAREAs are similar to scare zones but have added entertainment.
In 2022, the scAREAs included:
Carnival of Chaos
You thought you survived the Circus of the Damned house, but it looks like some of the sinister carnies and sideshow clowns are determined to find you. It's located in front of the Circus of the Damned house. You can check the schedule for a list of circus acts to entertain you.
In the Vampire Underground, you might want to watch your neck. Enjoy a sinfully delicious drink at the Blood Moon Bar. Will your night end in fantasy or a bloody nightmare? Enjoy music and dancers. You may even get drawn in. We hopped by to purchase some Vampire Repellant garlicky mac and cheese at the nearby Vampire Bites food stand before we entered their lair.
The scare zones include:
What? Those merciless clowns are back again — and with chainsaws?! After being banished by the ringmaster they are in search of victims to start their own maniacal circus. Looks like you are getting an audition, whether you want one or not. We hope you make the “cut.”
Sea of Souls
Of course, there is a sea-themed zone at SeaWorld, but this is no daytime entertainment. The allure of these souls is powerful, but their motives are terrifying. Don't let their calls draw you in ... this is one call you don’t want to answer. You'll pass this ship and its damned crew on your way to Atlantis and Emperor.
These dummies are not like the dolls you grew up with. Wanna play? Nope. Too bad. You are their plaything now, and they'll decide when the fun ends. We loved the makeup, costumes and unpredictable interactions with these fun scare actors.
You cannot keep some evils buried forever. Some of this cemetery’s long-term guests are dying to meet you. Sounds like a thriller night.
Latin American children are terrified of the legend of La Llorona. Don’t believe the stories? You might want to steer clear anyway of the deadly beauty who drags victims to a watery grave. Don't let your heartstrings pull you into these demented mothers with their demon babies in strollers emerging from the darkness.
Ah, a simple forest to hide in ... or not. It is not what it seems. Evil is watching … hiding in plain sight. Better plan your escape.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Entertainment
In Darkness Falls, a show introduced in 2022, performers and percussionists will draw you into their mesmerizing lair and take you on an intense journey. This is the stuff of nightmares! Who will win the battle between good and evil? This is not for young audiences.
On top of that, you can Boo-gie down at DJ dance parties and party zones designed to give your nerves a break between scares. Enjoy circus acts at Carnival of Chaos. The nightly schedule is posted next to the stage.
Rides Open During SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream
Take a terrifying ride in the dark on:
- Electric Eel
- Journey to Atlantis
Rides are subject to weather.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Food and Merchandise
Slip into sinister cocktail bars around the park. Yes, let your guard down and relax. That's just what the monsters are waiting for. These hangouts are themed to houses and scare zones.
Here are the cocktail bars that offered a splash of fear in 2022:
- NEW! Big Top Drinks
- NEW! Toys N' Tonic
- NEW! Blood Moon Bar
- Simon's Screamatorium
Plus we saw other bars set up around the event. We were able to enter a secret speakeasy in the middle of two different mazes, but we had to search for the hidden door and know the password.
In addition to themed drinks, there are Jell-O shot syringes, blood bags (if those sweet drinks are your type), mocktails and more.
When we got hungry, we hopped by the Vampire Bites stand across from the Blood Moon Bar. There, we enjoyed themed mac and cheese prepared in different styles, including the garlicky Vampire Repellant, spicy Wake the Dead Mac and Rotten Corpse Mac with caramelized onions and blue cheese. There's a Freaky Fanta mocktail, cotton, candy, chips and more.
SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Tips
Here are some terrifyingly hopful tips to make it a night you can't froget:
- Save money by purchasing tickets through Undercover Tourist (turn those savings into a drink!)
- The night is short. Arrive early to avoid getting caught in line.
- Leave the tadpoles at home. They will enjoy the daytime events at Halloween Spooktacular instead.
- Wear good walking shoes.
- Stay hydrated.
- Dress for the weather. Some fall nights can be sweltering while others get chilly. Dress in layers and get a locker if you do not wish to carry items with you.
- Follow the rules — no touching the scare actors, sets or props. No horseplay or pushing.
- Get a No Boo necklace if you want to be left alone in scare zones.
- Eat before you arrive or fill up at the Fright Feast.
- Do not bring open beverages or food into the attractions.
- Skip the lines with a Front Line Fear pass.
- Lock all bags or loose items in a locker before riding.
- No ECVs are allowed in houses. Guests must transfer to a manual wheelchair.
- No flashlights, laser pointers, photography or filming in houses. Flash photography is not allowed at the event and can hurt the scare actors.
Do you think you are brave enough to survive SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream? The only thing scarier than the monsters is paying full price for tickets when your trusted froggy friends are selling the same Howl-O-Scream tickets for less.
Related: How to Have Spooktacular Halloween Fun at SeaWorld San Diego
Related: Our Ghoulish Guide to Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando