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Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream

by Leap on September 29, 2023 1 San Diego

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Are you thrilled by the idea of encountering cursed clowns, circus freaks, extraterrestrials, mad scientists, demented toys, vampires, a sea witch and the undead? If so, then we have the place for you. For 19 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.

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - demented doll

Overview of SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream

Since Halloween 2021, SeaWorld San Diego has been 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. If you are nervous about going, you can purchase a scaredy cat "No Boo" necklace. 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.

SeaWorld says the event contains intense adult content and intends it to be an adult event. But children under 18 are admitted. Refunds are not given if the event is too scary for your tadpoles, unfrogtunately.

We've unearthed the important details for the 2023 event. Tickets are on sale now. Let's hop into the 2023 details and go over 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. 29 through Oct. 31, 2023. It mostly falls on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with three Thursdays in October, plus Halloween night (a Tuesday). (The opening date was pushed back two weeks from Sept. 15.)

Here are the event hours for 2023:

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Deadly Toys scare actor

Sept. 29 to Oct. 29

  • Friday & Saturday: 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Thursday & Sunday: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Oct. 31

  • Tuesday: 7 p.m. to 11 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 event so if you have school or work early the next morning, you might want to reconsider your selected date. Buy early with an Any Night Promo ticket for big savings. Save even more with the ticket with blockout dates. You can visit any day but on Saturdays.

Howl-O-Scream Tickets

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Clown Gauntlet scare actorHowl-O-Scream is a separately ticketed event. Fun cards, annual passes and regular daytime tickets are not valid during this event. 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 are on sale now and usually go on sale in summer. The earlier you purchase, the cheaper the price.

These are the tickets currently available for purchase:

You do not have to choose a date to visit in advance. Prices may go up as the season progresses. Buy early to save. Go straight to the gate with these tickets.

Special Experiences 

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - House sign with Fear Pass vs. General EntranceYou can add Evil Upgrades to your tickets through SeaWorld directly. These do not include admission:

  • Front Line Fear — One-time front-of-the-line access to four houses. Prices vary per night.
  • Front Line Fear Extreme — One-time front-of-the-line access to four houses plus Emperor, Electric Eel and Arctic Rescue.
  • Front Line Fear Unlimited — Unlimited front-of-the-line access to four 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.

SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Park Plan

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Event Map

In 2023, Howl-O-Scream consists of four haunted houses, five scare zones, three thrill rides, six bars and show moments. 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 tend to be low, but that will likely change as the season progresses.

SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Haunted Houses

Howl-O-Scream is home to five haunted houses. All the returning houses crawled back out of the crypt from last year:

Circus of the Damned

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Circus of the Damned entrance

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

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Scare Actor Alien in Area 64

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

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Death Water Bayou Scare Actor

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.

Nightmare Experiment

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Entrance to Nightmare Experiment

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.

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 terrifies guests in five scare zones. There is no place to hide!

(New!) Simon's Meat Market 

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Entrance to Simon's Slaughterhouse

What could possibly go wrong in an abandoned meat-packing plant with a twisted past? Uh, oh! You are about to find out! This new scare zone morphed from a 2023 house called Simon's Slaughterhouse. It was the goriest of the houses and had us running to escape a maniac wielding a chainsaw.

Carnival of Chaos

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Circus Act at 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.

Sea of Souls

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Sea of Souls mermaids

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Graveyard scare actor

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.

Deadly Toys

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.

SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Entertainment

There is no entertainment listed yet for 2023, besides the circus acts. Here is a look at 2022 entertainment in case some of it rises from the grave.

In 2022, there was a show. In Darkness Falls, performers and percussionists 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.

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Scene from Show

On top of that, you could 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
  • Emperor
  • (New!) Arctic Rescue

Rides are subject to weather.

SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream Food and Merchandise

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Jell-O shot in The secret Bermuda Club

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 offer a splash of fear in 2023:

  • (New!) The Lonely Pumpkin
  • (New!) Dutchman's Abyss
  • LaBARatory
  • Big Top Drinks
  • Toys N' Tonic
  • AmBARIance

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.

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - Themed bar

In addition to themed drinks, there are Jell-O shot syringes, blood bags (if those sweet drinks are your type), mocktails and more.

When you get hungry, hop by the food stands for bites, mocktails, 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:

Our Sinister Guide to SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream - No Boo Necklace

  • Save money by purchasing tickets through Undercover Tourist (turn those savings into a drink!)
  • The night is short. Arrive early to avoid getting stuck 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.
  • 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

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Oct 5, 2023 at 11:04 p.m. Shanda Says...

Great post! More info please on the speakeasy? Where was it and what's the password????

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