Which Scary Virginia Theme Park Experience Suits You?

 busch gardens howl o scream

It may be hard to let go of summer and accept that fall is finally here, but with Halloween less than six weeks away, you may want to start considering which spooky spots you plan on visiting in Virginia. The two major theme parks, Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion, pull out all the stops each year to craft a truly terrifying experience that is guaranteed to make your skin crawl and your heart pound. Use our guide to find out which daunting park destination to visit this fall.


Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream—Williamsburg

Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays Beginning September 23- October 30

Price: $67 and up

busch gardens roller coasters at howl o scream

Head to Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream this fall for petrifying scares combined with the endless fun of a theme park. The park’s regular attractions and rides are still available, but starting at 6pm on the weekends, Howl-O-Scream offers seven haunted houses, five “Terror-tories”, three live shows, and two escape rooms.

In the “No Escape” escape rooms, groups of six people will have 30 minutes to solve the riddles and clues of the themed chambers and make it out of the sinister rooms.

The haunted houses all have distinctly scary stories, like the Catacombs, a bloodcurdling trip through the skeleton-filled underground tunnels of 1700’s Paris. Creep through the dark, maze-like walkways as you try to escape the clutches of the mostly dead inhabitants.

busch gardens howl o scream corn maze haunted house

Each of the five “Terror-tories” provide a uniquely chilling experience. Walk down Ripper Row and avoid the infamous killer that once stalked the streets of London, or get through Sideshow Square, where freaks and circus acts terrorize visitors.

Take a break from the fright and hop on one of the six epic coasters, such as Griffon and Apollo’s Chariot, then explore the park’s 12 adventure rides, including Da Vinci’s Cradle and the Curse of Dark Kastle. If taking in the scenery is more your speed, ride the sky lift to view the park grounds from above or traverse the park’s Rhein River on a scenic boat cruise.

When visiting Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream, consider the elevated scare factor when deciding whether the attraction is appropriate for younger children.

For the fear fans, consider purchasing one of their three Insider Tour packages. If you are visiting for the rides, you may want to get a Quick Queue pass, which lets you skip the lines for the coasters. These range in cost from $50-$100 in addition to your ticket price.

Adults with proper identification can stop at the Spirit Bars throughout the property for Halloween-themed adult beverages.

For families traveling with pets, there is a kennel available to board your pet during a visit to Busch Gardens.


Kings Dominion Halloween Haunt—Doswell

Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays Beginning September 30- October 30

Price: $40 and up

Kings Dominion Halloween Haunt

Located about 20 minutes north of Richmond, Kings Dominion has 20 roller coaster rides to keep your heart racing, but during their annual Halloween Haunt, the park turns into a fearsome landscape filled with nine horrifying mazes, six live shows, and six distinct scare zones.

Beginning at 7pm on Fridays and 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays, prepare to be petrified at Kings Dominion. If you’re not afraid of the scare zones throughout the park, like Necropolis, the bustling land of the dead, or the Cleaver Brothers Carnival, where maniacs disguised as clowns and entertainers chase you with deadly blades, you may want to visit one of the nine chilling mazes. The Cornstalkers maze is haunted by more than just crows, and in the Maze of Madness, you may confront your own sanity.

Get tickets for one of the live shows, such as the Bone Collectors, the Skeleton Crew, or the Overlord’s Resurrection. Check the website for date and time information on these six live scares.

With so many hair-raising attractions, the Halloween Haunt is not recommended for children under 13.

Purchase a “Fright Lane” Pass to avoid waiting in the lines for each of the mazes. This pass also gives you access to Skeleton Key rooms, which are bonus sections in select mazes and scare zones. For the rides, the Fast Lane pass lets you bypass the lines.

Alcoholic Halloween-themed beverages are available for adults 21 and over with identification. If you want to explore the park, but brought your dog along, head to the pet care center outside the front gate and board them while you are inside Kings Dominion.


Visit one of these ghoulish theme parks this fall for a little fear and a lot of fun. Not into theme parks? There are plenty of spooky tours, festivals, and haunted houses throughout Virginia. Plan a fright-filled itinerary from some of the upcoming events around Virginia.




© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |

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Patricia Keppel

We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!