By Mark McCullough
Each fall, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa transform into a great seasonal family vacation destination known as Howl-O-Scream. Despite the name, the folks at Busch are very careful to include venues for all ages so as not to frighten away the little ones. Being locals to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, our family has a season pass, and the Howl-O-Scream event is our children’s favorite visit to the park.
For starters, the crowds thin after the summer vacation season and the weather is markedly cooler. The park is known for its outstanding attention to detail, and Howl-O-Scream has the park decorated in a spooky theme from head to toe.
We arrive in late afternoon and jump on the steam train with our little ones — riding through the various European countries to see the park’s transformation for Howl-O-Scream. The ghost high up in the trees, hay bails, cornstalks, and all the fun lighting come alive as dusk approaches. For 2009, many of the attractions will start earlier in the day so the little ones can take full advantage.
When the sun sets, all the venues and attractions are open and ready to greet those who want to get spooked! The great thing about Busch Gardens is that they are not over the top with scaring the kids out of their wits. The park is careful to warn parents with ample signage about what is appropriate for which ages, and for that they get big thumbs up from this dad!
For this year’s Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens is highlighting its fall “spooktacular,” featuring 15 new attractions starring vampires, werewolves, witches and trolls. The park is always fine-tuning venues and attractions, adding more each year. This year’s new Elmo’s Forest is a great addition for the little ones, with ample rides and character shows that cater to those under ten.
Howl-O-Scream debuts September 25 and continues every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through November 1.
So if you are looking for a great family vacation destination this Halloween, my family and I would recommend Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa as great places to get scared and have fun!
Mark McCullough, father of 3 children under age 6, often reminisces about his former life as a raft guide and rock-climbing instructor. Now his outings are more subdued, like canoeing along the tidal rivers in Virginia’s historic triangle of Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg.