DOSWELL, Va. — Theme park fans looking for the perfect mix of thrills and chills will find plenty to appreciate at this year’s “Halloween Haunt” at Kings Dominion.
Now in its 19th season, the nighttime-only event features seven macabre mazes, six scare zones, a couple of live shows, a selection of death-defying roller coasters and more than 400 scare actors in full makeup roaming the park and looking for victims.
Let’s first take a brief look at the best of the jump-scare-riddled and sometimes grotesque mazes that should take roughly 5 minutes each to survive.
Condemned — Visitors wielding a small flashlight walk through Darkside Manor and view the bloody remains of a 1950s wedding that went horribly wrong in the scariest maze of the night.
The ghostly makeup work on the scare actors is especially impressive here. When scrutinized with a flashlight, it was not possible to tell the difference between the mannequins and actors, obviously leading to a mightier jump scare when a ghoul came to life.
Blood on the Bayou — Perhaps the prettiest as well as most disgusting of the mazes, visitors move around a creature-infested Louisiana swamp and 19th century plantation mansion filled with supernatural Voodoo moments.
Loaded with mist and even older residents (maybe a first featuring scare actor seniors), the environment offers plenty of ornately decorated rooms, a séance area and a grotesque butcher shop filled with hanging alligator heads, human remains and even a split-open body, yuck.
Trick or Treat — Wandering witches and decorative rooms dominate this 19th century mansion on Hemlock Lane paying homage to the “Hansel and Gretel” mythology. Another beautiful maze with varied detail, this one is even loaded with antiques and an oven to potentially bake younger victims.
Cornstakers — Enter this, the longest of the mazes, on the way out of the park and appreciate a moonlit labyrinth made from real, decaying cornstalks strategically laid out to induce a severe case of claustrophobia. Gunnysack-wearing ghouls hidden into the corn will also jump out when least expected.
Tollway of Terror — Let’s call it the Tollway of Tedium as what is possibly the best example of visitors’ dealing with the longest lines in the park just to get on a very satisfying ride. In this case, they ride rail-guided antique cars through a haunted forest. I’m not sure how Kings Dominion can solve this issue with the long lines on this attraction, but it persists year after year.
A couple of points worth mentioning on the mazes — gone is one of my favorites, Zombie High, and I also noticed that the mazes were much less scary than in previous years, potentially geared to more of a family demographic and not just hard-core fright seekers.
Also, getting to the mazes often requires walking through the scare zones peppered with ghouls and goblins and strategically set-up throughout some of the open areas of the park. The best of the bunch includes:
Pumpkin Eater — New this year, a foliage-covered walkway houses giant pumpkin creatures, hanging jack-o’-lanterns, some trees with glowing green faces and a cottage housing Peter Armstrong, an American Revolution soldier turned murderous pumpkin farmer.
Necropolis — Ancient cemetery tombs and statuary along with a blast of fog hides a nest of vampires waiting to strike. Make sure to stop by the bridge and admire the large glowing skull seen in the distance.
Cleaver Brothers Carnival — Those venturing down the main midway at Kings Dominion get a potent dose of homicidal clowns ready to terrify guests. Equally impressive are the displays spread out on the route offering even scarier, red-nosed, makeup-encrusted ghouls.
Now, before tackling the mazes, make sure to hang out by the bandstand for a selection of live shows during the evening, highlighted by the Queen Majesty condemning a vampire to a live beheading.
While in the area, near the Eiffel Tower, adult drink lovers will also find specialties to enjoy with her court including an alcoholic witches brew and a special craft beer called Redrum Bloodsucker made just for the Haunt.
Note: Visitors to Kings Dominion should prepare for long lines, especially on Saturdays, and expect to walk many a mile on a journey to find each of the mazes.
IF YOU DARE GO
Where: Kings Dominion, 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047
Fear factor (out of 5): 3.5 for those 12 years and older.
Price range: “Halloween Haunt” starting at $39.99. For those in a hurry for scares, purchase a “Fright Lane” pass (starting at $45 extra) to skip the long lines. The pass allows for a one-time, front-of-the-line access to six of the mazes; Tollway of Terror is not included. Parking is additional and starts at $20.
Hours: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to midnight; Sunday, 7 p.m.. to 10 p.m. (open through Nov. 2.).
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