A Los Angeles Halloween

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While Occidental students may be too old to trick-or-treat this Halloween, amusement parks and hayrides are an age-appropriate alternative only a short drive from campus. Our writers mustered up the courage to visit Universal Studios, Six Flags, the Haunted Hayride and Knott’s Berry Farm to give their fellow students the low-down on nearby Halloween attractions.

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Night

Halloween Horror Nights, a Universal Studios event that runs until Nov. 2, will turn any visitor’s merry and magical perception of the theme park upside-down.

Immediately upon entering the park, visitors are thrown into the first of many “scare zones”—areas throughout the park where nightmarish characters lurk behind trash cans and run maniacally through the crowds while wielding weapons. The scare zone “The Purge: Anarchy” is a particularly chaotic scene of burning structures and crazed murderers eager to hack up passersby.

But the main attraction is “Terror Tram: Invaded by The Walking Dead.” After a brief tram ride, passengers are forced to fend for themselves on foot through the West Georgia Correctional Facility—a refuge for survivors of the zombie apocalypse. The walking dead lean over to stare down children and torment cowardly guests by gurgling and hissing in their ears.

The slightly less traumatizing maze “Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood” ends in the middle of “Mask-A-Raid,” a masquerade ball scare zone swarming with aristocratic French cannibals. Visitors can seek refuge in the food court, which includes a Starbucks that, despite serving upward of 100 customers, makes frappuccinos at lightning speed. However, they must first go through the “Skullz” scare zone, in which giant skeletal animals on stilts swoop over the crowd.

Horror Night also includes the year-round roller coasters “Transformers 3D,” “Revenge of the Mummy,” “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “The Simpsons Ride.” But because the coasters are popular attractions, they often require wait times upward of two hours.

Universal Studios provides an avenue to escape from academia and let off steam with every scare, though the incessant terror of Horror Night may linger with guests for days. It is a short drive away and the ticket price is fair—as low as $47 on a “Killer Deal Night” with the student discount. Because time quickly flies by in the long lines, it is worth staying all night, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., to make the most of Horror Night.

Knott’s Scary Farm

With equal parts fright, thrill and fun, Knott’s Scary Farm in Buena Park, Calif. attracts guests of all ages to its Halloween takeover. When doors open at 7 p.m., visitors are immediately greeted by ghouls and goblins of every kind who taunt and follow patrons through the park.

When the creepy clowns that haunt the park lose their thrill factor, the savvy guest heads to Knott’s rides for a different kind of scare: the “Ghostrider” wooden roller coaster and the towering “Supreme Scream.” However, the special Halloween exhibit is the real attraction. It features 11 uniquely themed haunted houses and mazes and six theatrical shows, including nightly performances by buxom “Mistress of the Dark” Elvira.

The crowd at Knott’s Scary Farm is fairly young, though the festivities are not recommended for children under 13. One of the haunted attractions, “Trapped: Lock and Key,” is restricted to guests 18 or older.

Lines are long but move surprisingly quickly, so there is no need to buy the “Fright Lane” or “Skeleton Key” packages to get front-of-the-line access. Buying general admission tickets online brings savings of at least $15, more than enough money to later buy a funnel cake with plenty of Knott’s berries on top.

Those looking for a little scare this Halloween should go with a group and alternate roller coasters and haunted traps throughout the evening—but beware of what could come out of the fog hovering in the dark night air.

Haunted Hayride

Located in an abandoned zoo in Griffith Park, the sixth annual Haunted Hayride takes guests on a thrilling and fantastically theatrical experience. The 25-minute ride features a tour through a manic clown castle, a haunted church and a chilling war zone.

Visitors are ushered onto a utility trailer lined with hay, which is pulled by a tractor. The ride slows down or stops to allow actors to get up-close and personal for scary surprises. The set includes the old-fashioned ruins of the zoo, built in 1912, with its jail-like enclosures and worn structures.

Major thrill-seekers may find that the scariness factor leaves something to be desired, but everyone can enjoy the detailed sets and theatrical and acrobatic prowess of the actors. Those who are more easily scared will certainly be thoroughly spooked.

Accompanying the ride is a trip to the Haunted Village and several other attractions, some of which require an additional cost. The free attractions of the Haunted Village include a haunted merry-go-round that spins backward, pumpkin decorating, live drum music, an interactive theater featuring famous horror scenes and costumed actors roaming and scaring throughout.

The Haunted Hayride, open until Oct. 31, is $30 for just the hayride and $42 for all attractions, including the “House of the Horseman,” the “Seven Sins Sideshow” and the “Dark Maze.” The wait time for the ride can reach up to two hours during the peak rush, so visitors are encouraged to arrive early.

Six Flags Fright Fest

Just off the freeway in Valencia, Calif., Six Flags Magic Mountain is filled with enough monumental roller coasters to frighten guests at any time of year. Six Flags Fright Fest, which runs until Nov. 1, ups the ante by introducing horror-themed mazes and costumed workers to the already intimidating park.

There are a variety of mazes to choose from this year, including “Chupacabra,” “Vault 666,” “Red’s Revenge,” “The Willoughby’s Garden,” “Willoughby’s Resurrection,” “The Aftermath,” “Total Darkness” and “Toyz of Terror 3D.” Visitors navigate these mazes while horrific creatures pop out of corners and holes. Most mazes also throw fog or darkness into the mix, making it that much harder to see the scares.

While the mazes are always thrilling, Southern California’s biggest roller coasters offer a different adrenaline rush. For example, “Lex Luthor’s Drop of Doom,” standing at 400 feet tall, is one of the tallest drop towers in the world.

The mazes are not as scary as their counterparts at Universal Studios, but the quality of the rides makes up for it. Visitors wishing to trade some Halloween terror in order to enjoy the pulse-pounding rides may want to give Fright Fest a try.

The Weekly’s Recommendations

We recommend Universal Studios Halloween Horror Night for individuals brave enough to survive some attractions solo, since the hectic nature of the mazes and scare zones makes it difficult to stay with a group—especially if guests want any chance of fleeing from villainous actors.

Knott’s Scary Farm, on the other hand, is great for groups, as staffers try to keep friends together through haunted houses and on rides. Since you never know when a creature may pop out of the dark fog, it is nice to have a friend to grab on to.

The Haunted Hayride is perfect for couples looking to cuddle on the trailer during the scary ride. Along with the ride itself, the interactive theater, pumpkin decorations and reverse carousel rides make this a family-friendly attraction as well.

Those who prefer rides over mazes, however, should head over to Six Flags Fright Fest. The mazes may not be as intense as their Universal Studio counterparts, but the roller coasters are some of the scariest in Southern California.