Here’s a comprehensive highlight of some of my favorite October activities, focusing on my favorite high end haunts, home haunts, pumpkin patches and horror movie screenings.
High End Haunts
The earlier in the month you attend, the more you can save and beat the crowds. Obviously Friday and Saturday nights are the most crowded, if you can swing a Thursday or Sunday you’ll save money and have a better chance of hitting all the mazes.
Knott’s Scary Farm
This is my personal favorite of the big time haunts. I haven’t attended this year yet, but Knott’s never disappoints. Last year we finally got to try out the Special Ops: Infected attraction. (TIP: Head here FIRST to get your reserved ticket for a later return time). This is absolutely worth it. Toting guns and running through darkened pathways and buildings infested with the walking dead, it’s like a nightmare/dream come true. There were some serious scares, and I’m not saying nobody took a butt of a rifle to the face… I’m just saying it was fun as hell… even with a slightly bloody lip. Just be advised, if anyone in your group accidentally draws blood with some friendly fire, the zombies come a-runnin’.
The different themed scare zones are my favorite. You get so tense that you start to feel the only place you’re safe is literally on the toilet, and even then you begin to wonder if something is going to pop out. This year, Knott’s has a new scare zone, THE HOLLOW, featuring The Headless Freakin Horseman and some of his minions. This is one of the coolest and most underused characters in horror literature, so it’s safe to say I am pretty excited for this one. Surprisingly it looks like a lot of the mazes this year are repeats. Paranormal Inc was by far my favorite of last year’s mazes, and it looks like its back for another run. Shadow Lands is new for 2016 featuring demon samurais, along with Red Barn – which looks to be a backwoods Texas Chainsaw Massacre type of backstory. If you love all things Halloween, repeat maze Trick Or Treat is visually impressive.
One word: Elvira. The Mistress of the Dark is back at it this year with her Danse Macabre show. Spend more than $50 in the Elvira Boo-tique before 10PM for a meet and greet opportunity.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
We went on a Sunday night and managed to squeeze in all 7 mazes (without a front of line pass). Just barely. The backlot attractions definitely have the longest wait times, but they also have early admission and the lines died down drastically between 1-2am. If you’re short on time, I would say skip the Terror Tram if you’ve done it before. Even if you haven’t. Unless you really want a photo op at the Psycho House (which I did, and that made it worth it for me). Make sure to do it early because the Terror Tram line closes before the rest of the park and it eats up a good amount of time. It would have been nice to see more scare zones, and I miss the incorporation of classic monsters, but the not-really-a-maze-but-maze-like Purge scare zones were really freakin’ cool… particularly the one on the Backlot.
Tip: Arrive early, and head to the backlot (Exorcist, Krampus, AHS, Freddie vs Jason). Head back up for the opening Scare-A-Mony at 7PM when gates officially open if you’re interested in seeing that. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it back around to the entrance for this, instead we watched it from right in front of the old castle where the Jabawockeez show is housed, and we were able to watch the official opening from the opposite end like a weird apocalyptic running of the bulls. Unless you’re able to get in on the first few rows at the entrance, (of if you’re not a fan of feeling like you might be trampled) you probably have a better vantage point from inside of the park near the Jabawockeez show. Flames were shooting in the air and terrified people came plowing through as the crowd cheered them on. Like a murderous 5k.
If you’re a fan of American Horror Story or The Exorcist, I think you’ll particularly enjoy the insane amount of detail that went into creating these two in particular. That is, if you can stop crapping your pants long enough to actually appreciate the details while trying to escape the monsters that lurk within. Speaking of crapping your pants – Universal incorporated smell to enhance the fear factor, and I’ve got to say, it was pretty effective. It’s all in the details.
Queen Mary Dark Harbor
Dark Harbor really does not get the credit it deserves! Universal and Knott’s dominate the Southern California haunt scene, but Queen Mary really delivers some great scares, cool characters and interesting mazes. It’s also the cheapest of the haunts! Definitely delivers some serious bang for the buck. If you haven’t made your way out to this one yet, check it out this year.
Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
Somehow skip this one every year and opt for the haunts with more mazes, but it looks cool as hell.
I have actually never attended this one, hoping to check it out one of these years. If you’ve gone, let me know how it is!
Pumpkin Patches are popping up in grocery store parking lots and empty lots all over town, but we prefer to take a drive out to the farm to get our fill.
Forneris Farms has been our pick for the last few years running. Pumpkins, produce, and a pretty large corn maze. Also a tractor ride and playground/bounce house for kiddos.
We haven’t checked out these others, but we know they’re local favorites: Tapia Brothers Farm, Tanaka Farms, and Underwood Family Farm.
Rocky Horror – LIVE
I’m a sucker for the late night double feature picture show. Skip the Fox reboot and check out the original, complete with live shadow cast! Rocky Horror midnight screenings are a year-round event, but in October they seem to get a little crazier and even non-Rocky fans get into the fun. Two local casts perform weekly:
LA’s very own Sins o the Flesh every Saturday at 11:59 PM @ The NuArt. Get your tickets in advance here
Long Beach also has a shadow cast @ The Art Theatre
Check out this helpful guide for Rocky virgins, or just wing it.
October 22nd marks the opening night for some incredible home haunts. This is not your friendly childhood neighbor with some plastic fangs and candy apples (even though we love that guy, too). This is Los Angeles, and some of the home haunts seriously rival the pro haunts. Probably because a lot of these home haunt organizers also work at the pro-level.
Burbank’s Rotten Apple is open for business for five nights only. Line fills up quick, so arrive early. Last year was a Western theme complete with a ride down an old mine shaft which I’m still trying to work out the mechanics of. This year’s theme… The Not So Enchanted Forest. Admission is free, but show these guys and all their hard work some love by making a donation. All proceeds go to VBAS. Check their website for dates, times and address.
Boney Island will run for ten nights this season, Oct 22nd-31st in Van Nuys.
October 8th marks the New Beverly‘s annual all night horror show. This year’s fare includes six secret feature films, shorts and animations. This year’s event is SOLD OUT, along with Quentin’s horror comedy all nighter on the 29th, but the theater has a creepy program all month long with lots of classics, including Mad Monster Party and The Phantom of the Opera.
Outdoor screenings are an option, too! Hang out on a Hollywood rooftop with the Rooftop Film Club. They’re dedicating their program atop the Ricardo Montalban theater to creepy cinema. Tickets are $19 and include wireless headphones and blanket if you get chilly (while they last). Screenings start @8PM, get your tickets and view the full schedule here
Tues Oct 25th Rooftop Film Club: Ghostbusters
Wed Oct 26th Rooftop Film Club: Carrie
Thursday Oct 27th Rooftop Film Club: Scream
Friday Oct 28th Rooftop Film Club: Psycho
Saturday Oct 29th Rooftop Film Club: Hocus Pocus
Sunday Oct 30th Rooftop Film Club: Beetlejuice
If you prefer your flicks surrounded by the iconic tombstones of some of Hollywood’s most elite (Vampira, Johnny Ramone, Toto….) Check out Cinespia’s October schedule.
As part of Guillermo Del Toro’s At Home With Monsters exhibit at LACMA (definitely check that out, it runs until November 27th) LACMA is also hosting an accompanying film series, Fuel for Nightmares, culminating with The Bride of Frankenstein on Halloween night.
These are some of my favorite Halloween activities, now tell me some of yours! Would love to hear your suggestions of places I should check out this season.