The orcas had made their home for the night. Sesame Street is blocked to traffic and barricaded.

These normally familiar SeaWorld Orlando sights have been replaced by something more sinister: a chainsaw-wielding guy, zombies stumbling along the park’s walkways, and a blood-splattered camper on the camping vacation of a lifetime.

Welcome to Central Florida’s newest Halloween event. Howl-O-Scream is SeaWorld Orlando’s first-ever unique ticketed Halloween event, including four original haunted homes, interactive bars, two performances, and scare zones. It premiered on Friday and will continue through October 31.

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, just down the interstate, is celebrating its 30th year. The event has a cult following and draws large people. According to Disney World’s website, tickets for its family-friendly Halloween event, the After-Hours Boo Bash, have sold out.

Is there still space for additional competition in October?

Yes, says Carissa Baker, an assistant professor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.

According to Baker, the fact that Disney and Universal have sold out some of their tickets indicates that demand for Orlando’s Halloween activities may outstrip availability.

“This may be a pandemic response,” she speculated. “People are simply itching to get back to the theme parks.”

Universal’s HHN, which has more than twice as many haunted houses as SeaWorld, stands out for its excellent production, Baker said, which makes guests feel like they’re on a movie set.

Universal, on the other hand, has the potential to be more costly. Single-night HHN tickets cost $71 to $95, while SeaWorld’s debut event in September costs $42 to $55 per person.

SeaWorld’s Halloween event may lack HHN’s spectacular haunted homes, but Howl-O-Scream has a track record, Baker noted, having hosted haunted houses at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and other SeaWorld Entertainment sites for two decades.

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“It’s already a well-known brand,” Baker explained. “The design is a little unusual, but I believe the fright factor is pretty high.”

SeaWorld, according to the creative director of Howl-O-Scream, provides a “different atmosphere” than what is already offered for Halloween at other theme parks.

“It’s important for us to carve out our own niche and establish a legacy-based event, and I think that there’s more than enough room for it,” said Patrick Braillard. “We’re able to do certain things here that they don’t do at other places.”

People can, for example, pay extra to activate a button that will frighten individuals inside a haunted home.

He also mentioned that some of the scare actors perform in a unique style.

Scare actors skidded on the ground past arriving guests at Friday’s debut, sparks shooting from their special metal knee protectors. Inside one of the bars, an aerial trapeze performer performed above zombie bartenders serving drinks.

The park isn’t disclosing attendance statistics for Friday’s opening night, but it’s apparent that tens of thousands of people came out.

“The guests have certainly started to show up,” Braillard said. “If you were talking about the last year and a half, I think there’s a pent-up demand to celebrate.”

With increased visitors comes the need to hire more staff, according to Baker, which is perhaps the largest problem confronting theme parks right now.

According to SeaWorld Orlando, the firm has recruited 500 fright actors and others for entertainment. During Howl-O-Scream, other normal park staff picked up extra shifts at SeaWorld, which is only running the Mako roller coaster and the Infinity Falls water ride. More rides might be added to the Halloween celebration in the future.

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Meanwhile, during normal park hours, SeaWorld Orlando will continue to host its kid-friendly Spooktacular Trick-or-Treat celebrations, which have been a Halloween tradition for years.

Baker stated that the park is capitalizing on its advantages, which might assist the firm in recovering from the pandemic’s economic catastrophe.

Because the park isn’t reliant on overseas visitors — a market that dried up during the epidemic — the full Halloween program of events for children and adults should appeal to the park’s devoted local fan base and help SeaWorld’s finances recover, according to Baker.

“Central Florida loves Halloween,” she added. is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.

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