LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE
Growing up in the midwest hayrides and tractors were a bit more commonplace, but the idea of a haunted hayride in the middle of Los Angeles is unique. The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is located in Griffith Park near the old zoo area. The hayride, dark maze and trick or treat area are the three main haunted attractions at the event. There are also food vendors, psychics, entertainment and a creepy carousel.
LA Haunted Hayride is a fun event, however 2017 was not their strongest year. The clown theme was interesting enough, but not very original. I liked their use of the old zoo area and incorporating the animals. The oversized marionettes were fun. The guy on the motorcycle looked cool. Overall the hayride didn’t deliver those stunning staged scenes I have come to expect from this event. This year it seemed a bit lighter on actors and the scares seemed to be focussed primarily on jumping on the wagon or stalking guests a little too long along a sparsely decorated path.
The House of Shadows maze is a dark maze with a handful of actors that work very hard at jump scares. It’s a fun place to get lost with your friends. There are a few dimly lit scenes within and some writing on the walls to “help” you to the correct path. There was a half deflated airbag effect that was less than effective. It isn’t the scariest or prettiest maze I’ve seen, but the idea of getting lost in an actual maze is quite fun.
Trick or Treat was the only attraction that made me put away my camera specifically saying “no lights, photos, videos, snapchat, instagram, etc while inside”. I wondered if that was so the poor quality of the attraction wouldn’t get plastered all over social media. It was a lot of fun the last time I did it…actually one of my favorite things in Los Angeles because of the creativity of trick or treating at the homes of different creatures. This year the set looked like it needed some touchups, the actors weren’t behind their doors to answer the knocking and there was no candy for the trick or treaters. It was a series of awkward moments where we would knock on a door and wait, then an actor may or may not appear to try and do some sort of jump scare that we were literally standing around waiting for. It seems to have lost motivation for Trick or Treat when they removed the Trick or Treating element from the attraction.
Overall this year was disappointing, but I still look forward to seeing what they do next year. I hope it is a fun theme and they reignite that spark of creativity that I have enjoyed so much from them in the past years.
House of Shadows Maze
QUEEN MARY’S DARK HARBOR
You don’t get much scarier than a haunted attraction in an actual haunted location, for that reason Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is a must see event. The mazes are fun and the actors work hard to create jump scares, but this attraction has a built in creep factor that can’t be created by the best designers in the business…it has real ghosts! I know because I saw one here years ago and didn’t even realize it until I talked to the staff later. (I thought it was just an elaborate special effect they had added to the pool area, but it was actually the little girl.) Now every time I walk through the ship I keep my eyes open.
Whether or not you personally encounter an actual ghost, you will have a spooktacular time at Dark Harbor. This year they have 7 mazes with 4 of them on the ship. One of my favorite things about Dark Harbor is how they theme the mazes after real ghost stories from the ship. Lullaby & B340 are definitely favorites as far as story and creep factor because of the real stories they are based on. I really enjoyed the opening scene of Soulmate this year as well. The new ship maze, Feast, is innovative and fun especially when part of the audience is made to crawl into an oven while the rest pass by looking in on them. Dark Harbor also stepped up their interaction with guests in Circus this year by adding a few alternate paths where chosen guests may go through a ball pit or be invited into a secret bar within the maze. Deadrise is as scary as ever with it’s agile, hardworking actors popping out from every direction. Intrepid is really the only maze at the event that seemed a bit out of place to me. It didn’t tell a clear story and seemed a bit thrown together, but the actors still did a great job. (The ship’s captain explained Intrepid to me after I’d gone through it and apparently it has a clear story, it just isn’t conveyed as well as the rest.) There are also multiple entertainment stages, slider shows, walk around entertainment and monsters, multiple bars, food vendors, a souvenir shop, and a VIP area. The entertainment schedule was impressive. You would need to attend multiple nights to see all of the entertainment.
Overall Dark Harbor is a well run, professional, fun event at a truly haunted location. It is also a very popular event so arrive early and consider a front of the line pass as it can get very very crowded. Leave time for traffic and parking. There is onsite parking for a fee. Check their website for details on parking and other things to know before you go.
*VIDEOS BELOW ARE COMPLETE MAZE WALK THROUGHS CONTAINING SPOILERS*
This escape room game is not for the weak. Escapade Games Zoe is both a haunted house and an escape room game. The story is interesting. The set and props are well done. The puzzles are good and the flow works. There is also a good amount of high-tech puzzles in this game. Basically it encompasses the escape room that so many future escape room players picture in their heads when they ask,”Is it scary?” and the answer is yes.
Be prepared for an immersive experience that includes strong creep factor as well as jump scares. There are spirits in this game (in the form of live actors) that will attempt to distract you in the most haunting ways. This is a perfect event for those looking for a more immersive haunted experience any time of year, not just October when the general public is looking for a fright.
SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN FRIGHT FEST
I absolutely love Six Flags Fright Fest in southern California. This is one of my favorite haunts to attend each year. I will admit that not many changes have been made to the mazes or scarezones, but if you haven’t attended in a while I highly recommend it. There are a few new additions this year such as the Dead End maze, Club 6 Feet Under, Damned ‘N Disguise scarezone and most notably the Hidden Haunts VIP Tour.
I always enjoy the mazes at Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest. I especially enjoyed the Willoughby Mansion after hearing the tale of the haunt on the Hidden Haunts VIP tour. Learning the story behind the maze added a new level of appreciation for it. I’m also always impressed by the creativity of Vault 666, aesthetic appeal of Red’s Revenge, spaciousness of Aftermath and fun of Toyz. This year I was especially impressed with the creative and hard working actors in the Chupacabra maze, as well as the Nightmare and Demon’s door scarezones. One of the things I find most impressive about the ghouls at this event is their dedication and spirit. I’ve even found myself following a few of them on social media. Voodoo Nights really shined this year, too. I found myself hanging out and enjoying the show a few times.
As much as I love Fright Fest, there were a couple of disappointments this year. My favorite circus show is not performing this season and there was nothing replacing it. The new Dead End maze fell a little flat for me. I’m not a huge fan of the flashlight technology. (It didn’t seem to work properly for me here or at Knott’s this year. Maybe it’s that magnetic personality my mom loves about me so much interfering with the technology.) I love the concept of Damned ‘N Disguise and thought it was really awesome make-up, however the area felt a little more like a photo op than a scarezone.
My favorite experience this year was hands down the Hidden Haunts VIP Tour. This special tour is an add on for the VIP Tour. It is a special walking tour behind the scenes into areas guests are not normally allowed to go. We got to see the Fright Fest make-up Scream Team hard at work, as well as talk to the incredibly talented Scott Ramp. We heard stories of real spirits that haunt the park all season long, not just during Halloween. I recommend it for anyone with a fascination for the paranormal.
Don’t forget that during Fright Fest you can also get your thrills on coasters or take a break to sit and enjoy the hypnotist show. There are also many food options, including a few good options for gluten free folks like myself. Please consume alcohol responsibly at the event. Above all have fun, but remember to respect the hardworking people behind the event and the monsters working tirelessly to make your experience the best they can.
The following videos were recorded with permission during the Press Event. Six Flags does not allow video recording inside the mazes.
DAMNED ‘N DISGUISE
RED’S REVENGE MAZE
VAULT 666 MAZE
TOYZ OF TERROR MAZE
WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED MAZE
THE LABORATORY ESCAPE ROOM
If you are looking for an interesting puzzle game with a lot to accomplish, this is your game. The Laboratory in DTLA has a unique style. It is especially good for large groups because of the amount of things to do throughout the game. I really enjoyed the way the game designers split the puzzles into smaller groupings allowing small groups within the large group to break off an work together in an organized and effective manner. It wasn’t the chaos I’ve come to expect from large games with so many puzzles. There is very little searching involved. The puzzles themselves are creative, but fairly simple. I believe this game is perfect for beginner and intermediate players because of the difficulty level of the individual puzzles, however I think most enthusiasts would also enjoy themselves and appreciate the experience.
My husband and I played the game alone, so the gamemaster removed a couple of the puzzle groupings to allow us to have a chance to beat the game. The way they accommodate smaller groups is to remove certain puzzles. I like the idea in theory, but we discovered that we’d prefer to play a complete game and possibly lose, than win at a game that isn’t complete. We beat the game and then asked if we could do more of the puzzles since we had extra time. We just didn’t feel that sense of accomplishment that we normally feel after beating an escape room. I don’t know if it would be the same for beginners.
The story is basic…solve puzzles in a lab to prove your intelligence or the bomb goes off. The puzzles aren’t especially connected to the theme, but they fit the world because the story sets up that it’s a challenge. The location is nice. There is no parking, so bring cash for nearby parking lots during the day. They have great customer service.
Overall, it’s a clever and unique game that will definitely keep the players busy.
UNITY ESCAPE ROOMS
We played both games at Unity Escape Rooms. I enjoyed the Cabin a bit more. They are a throwback to what escape rooms were like when we started playing. Watch the video below for more.
Escape Games at the River
Playing this Baker Street Mystery game was a throwback to the early days of escape rooms. It was the type of first gen game that would’ve impressed up when we started playing escape rooms, however felt a little lackluster now.
We ran into a few small glitches in the game. There was a problem with one of the puzzles not working as well as it could physically that caused us to waste some time and get annoyed. The final lock was jammed. Honestly my biggest problem was the final puzzle’s logic, it felt misleading. Everything else was fine.
They did have one really clever puzzle I hadn’t seen before, but it didn’t really fit the decor of the room as well as some of the other puzzles. The room looks nice, nothing fancy but certainly clean and well kept.
If you’re in the area I would say check it out.