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Howl-O-Scream 2017: A Cold Terror Awaits!

This year, Howl-O-Scream Bites right into your fears with scares to make you shiver!

If you haven’t experienced Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens this year, now is your time.  Every weekend until Sunday, October 29th, the park is ready to scare and entertain guests with new additions and returning fan favorites.  This year’s schedule also includes an additional bonus!  The park will be open on two Thursdays (the 19th and 26th) and on select Saturdays (the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the 28th), guests will have until midnight to experience all the event has to offer!

As for me…

I’ve been actively returning to the park since opening day of Howl-O-Scream; making sure to catch up on all the fun opportunities guests can experience.   As always, the park goes above and beyond to bring the ultimate level of fun and creepiness for those willing to be scared.

So what’s new? 

Let’s start with Frostbite.  Located in the Oktoberfest section of the park, Frostbite is a walk-through haunted house that utilizes the interior of the Curse of Darkastle ride.  It was a fantastic choice!  Without revealing major spoilers, I’ll just say that the maze is a very chilling experience; literally.  The AC is kicked on full blast and sets the tone from the first step inside.  Just so you know, “Winter is Coming”.  (Wink…wink to any Game of Thrones fan). 

I sincerely enjoyed the haunted house, with its clever use of the projection screens, sound effects, atmospheric lighting, ghoulish costumes, and a generous use of jump scares.  It was by far, my favorite haunted house this year.

*Also… a cool side note regarding some Busch Gardens History found inside Frostbite:
  • You have to look closely inside the maze, but with a trained eye you can spot the old Neptune statue that was once located in the center of a small fountain in the Rhine River, (way back in the Old Country era).  This statue was also reused in the retired Haunted House, Bitten.  Oh Neptune, how glad I am to see you well. 
  • In addition to Neptune, the lighted Gargoyles holding cauldrons are also found in the maze.  These were originally in the decor of the Enchanted Laboratory, a show that had tremendous success in the old area of Hastings, (currently Ireland).  These gargoyles reappeared in the once popular Howl-O-Scream dinner show, Blood Banquet.  I couldn’t get a clear picture due to low lighting.  Hint: They are near the end of the maze and you have to look up to spot them. 

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Moving from Oktoberfest to New France, you’ll find the other fresh addition.  Axe Alley is a new Terror-Tory that replaced last year’s theme of Windigo Woods.  Axe wielding Vikings stalk guests with unexpected battle cries and staged attacks.  The themed area fits well with the nearby coaster, Invadr.  Be warned!  The Windigo still remains chained up… for now!

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Last but not least is the new Escape Room, the Case of the Haunted Hotel In the midst of a cursed hotel, this new attraction features a series of puzzles to trick guests and delay the possibility of escape!  Returning is the Case of Mr. Karver; a mad doll maker who wants nothing more than to trick you into staying indefinitely!  To those who played the game of Mr. Karver last year, there is good news.  All the puzzles and challenges have been changed to create a whole new mystery to solve!

If you wish to enjoy The Case of the Haunted Hotel or, The Case of Mr. Karver, there are some things you need to know:

  • Both escape rooms have a separate up charge and are not included with regular admission.  Making a reservation online or immediately upon entering the park is strongly suggested.  Only six guests are allowed in each reserved time slot.  You must be 18 or older with a valid ID.  In order to receive a discount on admission, you must have a valid season pass.  If you are interested in booking a time slot at either Escape Room, more information is found on the Busch Gardens website here:  https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/no-escape

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So what’s back again this year? 

As I mentioned briefly above, the indoor haunted house, Bitten, has been removed.  However, many of the previous Haunted Houses/ Mazes and Terror-Tories have returned.

Mazes

  • Unearthed: Scarlet’s Revenge (Ireland)
  • Catacombs (New France)
  • Cornered (Oktoberfest)
  • Lumberhack (Oktoberfest)
  • Circo Sinistro (Festa Italia)
  • Deadline (Italy)

Terror-tories

  • Ripper Row (England)
  • Demon Street (France)
  • Vampire Point (now located in Oktoberfest)
  • Sideshow Square (Festa Italia)

What about the shows and adult beverages? 

Let’s face it; Busch Gardens Williamsburg is constantly ranked high in theme park shows and entertainment category.  Rightfully so I may add!  Talented singers, actors, musicians, and dancers light up the stage in unforgettable performances all around the park.  Just remember that all the major shows contain suggestive adult overtones.

This year there is a new spin on an old classic.  Night Beats: Revamped features a new stage and story.  Located inside the Festhaus, the show contains a new cast of characters with a quick paced story line that keeps the music going.  I find the show quirky, amusing, and full of current pop songs cleverly mixed in with samples of original Night Beats music.

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Side note:  I was sad to see that the old characters of Ulrich and Beatrix have been retired.  However, I do appreciate the little homage by placing their names on tombstones at the top of the stage.  Speaking of, the stage is opened to reveal the location of once beloved German band platform.  If you grew up in the old days of Busch Gardens, seeing the musicians play back in their old stomping grounds will certainly bring back some memories.

If you are a fan of last year’s shows, you needn’t worryMonster Stomp (England), Fiends (Ireland), and the Starfright Orchestra (Italy), have all returned!

And last but not least….

Those who are 21 and over will have plenty of opportunities to find adult beverages at numerous places around the park.  Most locations feature “Spirit Bars” where a host of costumed character actors serve up some spooktacular concoctions to guests.  Since there are so many to choose from, here is a link to the park’s website listings:  https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/dining-and-spirits

  • This list does not include the wine tastings located in France, Germany, New France, and Italy.  The France and Italy wine tasting locations also have themed cocktails!    

Well folks, that’s a wrap!

It is always a pleasure to share my memories with all of you.  I really enjoyed Howl-O-Scream this year and I hope you do too.  Thanks for reading my blog and may you all have a “Wickedly Wonderful” adventure at Howl-O-Scream 2017!   Cheers!

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Here is an additional cool place to explore:    A friend of mine, who runs IoMGeek.comdoes an amazing job with theme park reviews and YouTube videos.  He released a park walk-through and I highly recommend watching!  Feel free to like, comment, and subscribe to his channel.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slObupBBF58

To the Team Members and Park Employees: 
My gratitude extends to all those who have successfully come together to create a highly anticipated attraction each year.   The amount of work transforming the park in such a short period of time always astounds me.
Thank you all so much.  You guys and gals are all top notch!

Howl-O-Scream 2014 is “Cursed” with Thrills and Chills!

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The entire park seems more alive and scarier than ever before.  From the park website “The cursed have taken over… and that strange things start happening when you hear the haunting melody.”  Don’t Listen is the warning. If you do listen, they say you will be cursed.  How to lift the curse?  Survive the night of course!

The atmosphere is much more adult oriented and graphic in nature.  Parents really need to understand that most of the little ones will be terrified.  I’m in my mid 30s and I was a shivering mess by the end of the night.  All the décor around the park was more detailed and darker; Wendigo Woods especially.

New France has been changed into a Research Facility tucked away in the forests of Canada.  The Wendigo, or half-beast demonic creature known for Cannibalism was believed to be legend.  However, strange things are happening and terror is lurking all around!  The terror-tory is amazing and New France has never heard so many screams!

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The Wedigo is hungry!

Demon Street in Aquitaine has pumped up the volume with a street party atmosphere, complete with chainsaw welding demons!  The bar serves up very potent signature alcoholic beverages that are sure to get the party started!

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Let’s get this party started!

Vampire Point returns with more scare actors that hide through the twisting walkways in Rhinefeld Germany.  If you find yourself thirsty for something else besides blood, make sure to reserve your tickets for the ever fun Blood Banquet.  Count Vladtastic is back and the show has really increased in musical numbers and humor!  The show is outdoors so you do not have to purchase a ticket to enjoy the antics of Vlad and crew, but the food is to die for!  Tickets may be purchased at Guest Relations or online.

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If you are feeling a bit naughty, head over to Ireland where the sexy nurses would love to give you a shot …. Of Vodka and Jello!  Just like Vampire Point, Ireland also has a ticketed dinner show.  Igor’s Fright Feast is also a buffet and features the character Igor, Swampy, and a team of naughty nurses.  The show is a classic pop music montage of fun and laughs.  The lighthearted humor is a perfect pairing to your dining experience.

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We are Family!

Across the way at the Abby Stone Theater, Dr. Freakenstein is back at Fiends!  This year the show focuses on vocal and acting talent of the fabulous performers.  Dr. Freakenstein’s creature is not the only thing alive!  The show is memorizing with moments of hilarity.  The crowd is just as electrified as the creature.

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Ports Of Skull is tucked away in San Marco Italy and is haunted by the tortured souls of undead pirates.  Only two have a sense of humor, the rest are the hunt for a new crewmember!  The pirate Barrrrgh and Crows Nest offer specialized food and drink with colorful characters to serve you your poison.  Enter if ye dare!

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I saved Ripper Row for last.  It is the first and last terror-tory guests experience at the park.  The ripper is looking to find his next victim, so don’t get lost or it may end up being you!

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Speaking of the Ripper, Monster Stomp is a live high-tech musical performance at the Globe Theater.  The show is fantastic!  It takes the classic version of Monster Stomp and multiplies the visuals by 100!  Imagine Monster Stomp meets Sweeny Todd.  It is more of a Broadway style production; the sets, music, dances, and rhythms are extremely well balanced and leave you thirsty for more.  Much like Sweeny Todd, the show is not for the lighthearted.  There will be blood.  Of course, the splatters are perfectly timed to haunting music!

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If that isn’t enough, you still have the toe tapping Festhaus show called Night Beats.  Ulrich, along with his shadows of the night, entertain you with powerful vocals and dance.  The set itself has changed along with some of the musical arrangements, but the show is still as awesome as ever!  If you are like me, you will end up singing the musicall night long.  Even now, I am still singing:  “Were running with the shadows of the night. So baby take my hand, it’ll be all right. Surrender all your dreams to me tonight. They’ll come true in the end……”

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The six haunted houses: Catacombs, Bitten, Cutthroat Cove, The Root of All Evil, Deadline, and the popular 13: Your Number’s Up have all returned to thrill guests.  I was able to go through Catacombs, Cutthroat Cove, 13 and Deadline.  All of them seemed more intense this year and I’m not sure who was entertained more, me or the people directly behind who witnessed my constant shrieking.

So there you have it.  Howl-O-Scream 2014 has begun scaring and entertaining guests once more!  The innocent sweet sounding tune playing around the park may be pleasing, but Don’t Listen. So will you survive or end up being cursed?

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Have fun, stay scared, and don’t find yourself alone in the darkness!     

Special thanks to my friends at Behind the Thrills for allowing me to assist them with Media Coverage this year.  Make sure to follow them on Instagram, Face Book, and Twiiter for the latest news.  http://behindthethrills.com/

Info regarding Howl-Scream, hours, Ticket information, tours, and reservations; visit http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/

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The Art of Busch Gardens Part One: Howl-O-Scream

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This year Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens has captured my imagination and inspired that neglected artistic side to flourish once more.  Many people are surprised to find out that my degree is in Studio Art and Animation.  Sadly, that life long dream of being a traditional Disney Animator was promptly crushed when the studio stopped producing hand drawn films.

Yep, you guessed it.  Life happened.  Bills needed to be paid and my passion for art fell to the wayside.

Still, through it all, Busch Gardens has been a muse for me on many occasions.  Going to the park and seeing the murals and small details captured my heart and imagination for decades.  The quality and dedication to themeing is what Busch Gardens has been known for; something that is rarely appreciated until it is gone.

Therefore, I decided to make a series of articles about my need to capture these works of art and present them to a broader audience.  It is my hope that when you read my stories and view my work, that it inspires you to look at Busch Gardens in another way; to see the beauty in color, line, light, and form.. to see performances as art and expression and to enjoy the little things.

The Art of Howl-O-Scream

Busch Gardens equals entertainment.  Whether you are on a ride, watching a show, having a tasty treat, or just taking in the sights, the goal of the park is to entertain you.  Many dedicated people behind-the-scenes; the unsung heroes, work tirelessly to find a way to make the magic happen.

This year for Howl-O-Scream, the park tried something new with their “Terror-tories” concept.  Obviously, there was a decision made to bring the adult entertainment to a new level.  I found myself intrigued by the new sights and sounds.

Night Beats

The number of times I have seen the show speaks volumes for the production value and talent of the performers.  For me, I feel that I got away with stealing a free ticket to see a Broadway show.  From the costumes, lighting, sound production, set design, choreography, and vocals; I am continuously entranced by the quality of it all.

For example, the rich colors of the opening number, the soft hues of the nocturnal set, the velvety purples and gold of the finale all give me chills.  The choreography uses these colors to compose the performers on stage much like painting a picture.

Just the loan door and stairs evokes "theatrical" production.  The simplicity is the beauty of this set.

Just the lone door and stairs evokes “theatrical” production. The simplicity is the beauty of this set.

Colors pull you into another time.

Colors pull you into another time.

The rich fabrics and performances capture the imagination.

The rich fabrics and performances of the actors capture the imagination and spirit.

Lighting highlights the performers interaction and directs the viewer to that perfect moment on stage.

Lighting highlights the performers interaction and directs the viewer to that perfect moment on stage.

Subtle lighting and color sets the mood for the performers to create a moment like this.

Subtle lighting and color sets the mood for the performers to create a moment like this.

The nocturnal dance number changes to a soft blue; moonlight feel. The outfits flutter to elude to feathers in flight and the performers act owlishly as they dance.

The nocturnal dance number changes to a soft blue; moonlight feel. The outfits flutter to elude to feathers in flight and the performers act owlishly as they dance.

Perfect lighting and powerful vocals dashed with a splash of humor make this scene forever memorable.

Perfect lighting and powerful vocals dashed with a splash of humor make this scene forever memorable.

From top to toe, the performers hist every motion to provide that extra magic to the choreography.

From top to toe, the performers hist every motion to provide that extra magic to the choreography.

Body language and and background colors convey exactly what needs to be said without even hearing the lyrics.

Body language and and background colors convey exactly what needs to be said without even hearing the lyrics.

My favorite dancer of Night Beats.  I can't help but to watch the effortless motion across the stage.  The art of Dance.

My favorite dancer of Night Beats. I can’t help but to watch his effortless motion across the stage.

The art of humor and dialogue. Let us not forget the script writers as well!

The art of humor and dialogue. Let us not forget the script writers as well!

Pyrotechnics add drama to a very theatrical pose.

Pyrotechnics add drama to a very theatrical pose.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

My favorite composition from Night Beats.

 Blood Banquet

The newcomer this year is my strongest recommendation for a dinner-theater experience.  Blood Banquet never fails to entertain your sense of humor and to please the pallet with luscious food and beverages.  By far, it has been my favorite addition to Busch Gardens along with the Food & Wine festival earlier this year.

Blood Banquet set the bar higher at Busch Gardens.  This is the one place you can interact with the performers and share a few laughs.  You get to see their costumes and lovely personalities up close and feel like you are a part of the act.

The whole things reminds me of Threedneedle Fair.   Back in The Old Country era of the park, actors ran the games and interacted with guests daily in this area.  They constantly stayed in character and spoke strictly with Old English accents.  I was happy to see a similar concept return to Busch Gardens this year.

The actual “show” does not take place on a stage, but around the tables themselves.  There is a heavy influence of the vintage Hollywood Glam and   a nostalgic humor reminiscent of Groucho Marx.  The costumes and set design reflect upon 1940s cinema and the ending number evokes the Broadway show and dance number “That’s Entertainment.”

Therefore it was easy to get lost in the art and magic of the production.  Here are examples of what inspired me:

I love the cinema feel to the costumes and hair styles.

I love the cinema feel to the costumes and hair styles.

Creating an atmosphere is the first step.

Creating an atmosphere is the first step.

Inside the Vampire Point Hotel, the buffet decor is set to have that old world; haunted charm.

Inside the Vampire Point Hotel, the buffet decor is set to have that old world; haunted charm.

Let us begin with Count Vladtastic.  The show starts once this colorful character sets foot outside.  His dry wit and quick thinking add to the fun and whimsy of dinner at the Blood Banquet.

Let us begin with Count Vladtastic. The show starts once this colorful character sets foot outside. His dry wit and quick thinking add to the fun and whimsy of dinner at the Blood Banquet.

It is all about Guest interaction at Blood Banquet.  Better watch out; Count Vladtastic is watching you!

It is all about Guest interaction at Blood Banquet. Better watch out; Count Vladtastic is watching you!

The Collins are a great set of characters as well as Lugosi.  Often times you will find them roaming outside the dinner area and never miss a great photo op.  Love the costumes!

The Barney Collins, Lugosi, and Marge Collins. Often times you will find them roaming outside the dinner area and never miss a great photo op. Love the costumes and the fact guest interaction is the first priority for Vampire Point!

Vampire Tourists, who would have thought!  The Collins family pose for a great photo.

Vampire Tourists, who would have thought? Marge, Barney, and Leticia Collins make sure to add flare to the show!

Chef Juliet uses her French Charm and Brewing talents to entertain guests.  Ironically, she uses garlic in all her food.

Chef Juliet uses her French Charm and Brewing talents to entertain guests. Ironically, she uses garlic in all her food.  Notice the use of Green & Red.  Great use of complementary colors.

Lugosi, obviously named after the famous actor Bela Lugosi, is not a vampire and is both resentful and relieved his master Count Vladtastic has not made him a vampire.

Lugosi, obviously named after the famous actor Bela Lugosi, is not a vampire and is both resentful and relieved his master Count Vladtastic has not made him a creature of the night.

One of them prays to be a vampire, the other not so much.  These lovely ladies hope to serve you drinks and provide you a warm welcome at Vampire Point Hotel.

Mary Sue prays to be a vampire; Mary Ann (sporting the garlic) does not. These lovely ladies hope to serve you drinks and provide you a warm welcome at Vampire Point Hotel. Their hairstyles, costumes, mannerisms, and beauty take you to another era.  Kudos to everyone!

A little dinner music is provided by the lovely gypsy violinist.

A little dinner music is provided by the lovely gypsy violinist, Svetlana Bendova. Her colorful costume and lovely smile entrances the guests while they enjoy their meal.

The Collin's daughter may text on her phone and would kill to see Lady Gaga, but she never misses the chance to shake her wings or have a drink with guests.

Leticia Collins may text on her phone and would kill to see Lady Gaga, but she never misses the chance to shake her wings or have a drink with guests. Love the hat!

Good food and good times are key at Vampire Point!  It is, Valdtastic to say the least!

Good food and good times are key at Vampire Point! It is, Valdtastic to say the least!

Other Examples:  It is in the Details!

The rest of my artistic inspiration is based on several magic moments around the park; an extremely energetic performer that goes above and beyond or the hidden details in alcoves around Busch Gardens.  If you look closely, you can always see art everywhere you go.

Making a return appearance is the Gargoyles from the Enchanted Laboratory show in the 80s.

Making a return appearance is the Gargoyles from the Enchanted Laboratory show in the 80s.

Ms. Nellie goes above and beyond to entertain guest as they roam through Ripper Row.  Her character has to be one of the most interesting additions to the park in years.

Ms. Nellie goes above and beyond to entertain guest as they roam through Ripper Row. Her character has to be one of the most interesting additions to the park in years.

Smoke, shadow, reds and blues add horror to the silent and spooky headless ladies of White chapel London.

Smoke, shadow, reds and blues add horror to the silent and spooky headless ladies of White chapel London.

I love when performers stay in character, even when they are not center stage.  This lovely nurse strikes a pose in the shadows of the show Fiends.

I love when performers stay in character, even when they are not center stage. This lovely nurse strikes a pose in the shadows of the show Fiends.

Even off stage, the actors  of Dig it Up- Ham it up!

Even off stage, the actors of Dig it Up- Ham it up!

It takes a lot of work to decorate an entire theme park.  Make sure to look for all those hidden scares in the air and everywhere.

It takes a lot of work to decorate an entire theme park. Make sure to look for all those hidden scares in the air and everywhere.

This creepy character greets you at the Pirate Baaaargh with a hint of humor and a dash of scare.  He is hilarious.

This creepy character greets you at the Pirate Baaaargh with a hint of humor and a dash of scare. He is hilarious and the  costume is fantastic!

Open Casket Bar Vampires - serve you drinks in character and in a very tantalizing way.  Their charm, costumes, and personalities are sure to lure you and your money on some frightfully sweet beverages.

Open Casket Bar Vampires – serve you drinks in character and in a very tantalizing way. Their charm, costumes, and personalities are sure to lure you and your money on some frightfully sweet beverages.

It takes time to theme a store and set up merchandise displays.  Dont' forget to admire the artistic effort that goes into selling these treasures.

It takes time to theme a store and set up merchandise displays. Dont’ forget to admire the artistic effort that goes into selling these treasures.

Hand painted works and various signage take time and talent.

Hand painted works and various signage take time and talent.

Costumes - costumes!  The skill needed to make all those costumes for the performers around the park never fails to impress me!

Costumes – costumes! The skill needed to make all those costumes for the performers around the park never fails to impress me!

The drummers are always having fun but the cave girl always steals the show with her performance and mannerisms. You go girl! Female drummers rule!

It takes color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and a strong concept to make a work of art like Fiends.

It takes a complete knowledge of color, choreography, musical ability, dance, composition, and staging to make a work of art like Fiends.

So what inspires you?  Feel free to share your favorite Howl-O-Scream art with me and the readers.

In conclusion, I would like to send a special shout out to all those people who give 110% at the park.   Thank you for all you do and for the memories!

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