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pashacar

SFGAdv Fright Fest -- Nation's Worst Theme Park Halloween Event?

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I see the park won the title of best East Coast theme park Halloween event after aggressively pushing the USA Today poll in emails and social media posts.

Obviously this title means next to nothing given the nature of the contest, but after reading the press release and visiting twice during this year's FF, I got to thinking, and came up with the (sincere) question: Has Great Adventure's Fright Fest actually become the single worst theme park Halloween event in the U.S.?
It doesn’t seem like a reasonable conclusion at first — our park is, in some ways, a leader in the industry, and it has a nearly two-decade history of putting on a large-scale Halloween event. But it also has such an easy time drawing crowds for the event that it can get away with being complacent on quality and still make insane profits. And those crazy crowds don't make a visit any more pleasant, obviously.
Now, don’t get me wrong — there are good things about GAdv’s Fright Fest, and there have certainly been positive changes over time. Most notably, I commend them for expanding the number of haunted attractions to handle wildly large crowds. But all other large parks (and many smaller ones) have done the same over the last decade, without losing sight of (or budget-cutting away) quality the way GAdv has.
If you consider how GAdv stacks up, you might start to agree:
  • It's completely undeniable that every Cedar Fair park has us beat. Their events are not perfect, but they’re more extensive, higher-budget, far better thought out, and they do a hugely superior job of handling large crowds. Price-wise, they are separately ticketed and thus more expensive, but not much more than the haunted house uncharge that’s become the norm at SF parks (including GAdv) — plus they're free for Gold passholders and above, without a haunted house upcharge, so they’re actually only pricier for casual visitors.
  • Destination parks obviously have us beat as well. There’s no way we’re competing with Howl O Scream or HHN. The more kid-oriented Halloween events at WDW, Holiday World, Sesame Place, and the like are not exactly in the same league, but in my experience they are put on with more thought and pride in showmanship than GAdv’s.
  • The few indie parks out there are also known for higher scare factor and more committed actors than what is seen at GAdv. Think Kennywood, Lake Compounce, etc. Even if their budgets are lower, so are their prices and crowds.
  • And a lot of parks -- such as Dollywood, SDC, and Darien Lake -- don't have Halloween events at all.
  • That leaves the SF chain. I can say from experience that SFDK’s event blows ours out of the water, with a cheaper wristband and shorter waits for far higher-quality houses. And SFA’s top-notch, well-executed haunted trail is enough to make theirs beat ours (though the lower crowds and and selection of other houses doesn’t hurt). SFGAm and SFMM both have very highly regarded events, and SFFT’s entertainment department is capable enough to keep their event well above ours. That leaves only a few remaining parks: SFSL, SFNE, TGE, SFOT, and SFOG. While I haven't visited those for FF, the reports I've read say far more in praise of the actors than I could say about ours after visiting this season. SFNE also has greater diversity in the type of haunts, while SFSL blows us away in decorations (which I saw visiting the weekend before their FF started this year).
So in the end, I can't make a conclusive case on my own. But anyone who's visited a good handful of halloween events, I think, will find that GAdv's Fright Fest is near the bottom of the barrel. Our trails are widely reviewed as lackluster, and yet they carry a hefty upcharge; the decoration budget is near-nothing, with the pathetic new Demon District and seriously scaled-back versions of the old scare zones; our entertainment is incredibly tired, especially without the Ghoulmaster; and our scare actors are not nearly as effective as at other parks, whether because they're disengaged, poorly trained, or (rightfully) frightened themselves of being attacked by rowdy guests with inadequate security to keep them safe. That's to say nothing of the huge crowds and generally piss-poor crowd control and safety in the entrance plaza and parking lot; or the Premier-style, late-season understaffing that we saw on quite a few days this fall.
I get that GAdv has no direct financial incentive to step their game up; they'll still get those 40,000+ days and rake in the cash every October. But I've certainly found myself quite disappointed by this year's event, especially in light of what I've experienced elsewhere, even within the SF chain. And I'd love to hear the opinions of others who have tried other haunts, and see how they think GAdv's haunt stacks up.
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I'd say we have a mediocre Fright Fest compared to the other SF parks' FF events. Also, why in the hell would the Disney Parks not have a scary Halloween event? It makes their event garbage.

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I decided this was the year to try many Halloween Attractions and have had very busy Friday/Saturday nights.

Maybe I went a bit overboard..FrightFest does not compare to any of these for many reasons.

 

Hotel of Horror - Salorsburg PA <-- Actors are A++ with insane stories and located in an old creepy hotel in the Poconos.

Halls of Horror - Palmerton, PA <-- This place is insane you can get covered in blood and you will get touched and maybe locked in a cage. (Not for kids)

Fields of Screams - Lancaster, PA <-- Hay Ride is awesome here. Entire wagon even goes through a vortex tunnel!

Dark Carnival - Bayville, NJ <-- Not high end but they do a good job keep groups really small to keep it exciting

Reapers Revenge - Scranton, PA <-- I think this is my favorite so far this year amazing

Pennhurst Asylum - Spring Hill, PA <-- Getting too big for its own good but simply nuts

Nightmare at Gravity Hill - Jackson, NJ <-- If Great Adventure is too crowded definitely give this one a go

Haunted Scarehouse, Warton, NJ <-- I though this was going to be an old house. It was in a ware house..just ok.

Camp Evans Base of Horror <-- The just don't know how to do crowd control here. Conga line = no good

 

I think PA laws must be different as they can and do touch you and this adds so much to the experience.

I would never want to see them even attempt that at FrightFest...it just wouldn't work with that crowd and actors would get hurt.

I'll never spend $ for FrightFest again...too many great options elsewhere.

People just go to FrightFest so they really don't have to try hard or change things much each year.

 

Of all the Haunts I've gone to I would do Hotel of Horror, Halls of Horror and Reapers Revenge again in a second...

They are all relatively close to each other...so all could be done in a 1-2 night trip.

 

What is wrong with people in PA?? ( And I mean that in a good way...Keep it up!! )

I don't think people realize the number of high quality haunts that are available within a 2 hour drive.

Edited by Ogolo
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^I will agree with you on the quality of the events themselves. I've experienced Pennhurst Asylum and it was top notch. the difference is, El Toro is located at Great Adventure ;)

In all seriousness I think that's exactly it. The majority of Great Adventure's attendance comes from Season pass holders, and they only have to pay for the wristband. If I lived in New Jersey I'd still go to Fright Fest and maybe do the houses once, but stick to legitimate haunted houses for a real experience.

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I'm usually pretty busy this time of year, so the only haunted attractions I've ever gone to are Fright Fest at GADV & SFNE, and Morey's Piers' Ghost Ship.

 

I do sadly have to agree with mostly everything in Pashacar's post.

 

However, having seen pictures from many other parks, I will say that I think our makeup is one of the best. We have lots of amazing prosthetics that are seamlessly applied, and even actors with just face-paint are usually done very artistically and creepily. Other parks have lazier methods and techniques. This is the one area we shine at.

 

Another thing I want to point out is that we actually have shows during Fright Fest! Dead Man's Party, Hypnosteria, multiple shows in Circus Psycho (3?), the Bone Butcher show, Just My Rottin' Luck, Spooky Kooky Magic Show. Dead Man's Party is very good. All together, I can't compare them to other parks, but at least it's better than the show selection at GADV during the rest of the season.

 

 

I think PA laws must be different as they can and do touch you and this adds so much to the experience.

I would never want to see them even attempt that at FrightFest...it just wouldn't work with that crowd and actors would get hurt.

 

I am pretty sure the actors in Morey's Piers' (NJ) Ghost Ship can touch you. I assume SF wants to cut down on lawsuits from people claiming ridiculous things due to the actor touching them.

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It's average. Definitely nothing special, but I highly doubt the worst either. The sheer size (and quality) of the crowds really kill the experience, though. Unfortunately, that will not change or be managable regardless of whatever security they can realistically afford.

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There definitely was a lot of hype for Fright Fest this season that left me slightly underwhelmed. In my opinion, the past two years saw much more improvement than this year. However, I feel that season pass owners really do get a sweeter deal than if they were to try out other NJ haunts solely because of the variety the park has to offer.

I think PA laws must be different as they can and do touch you and this adds so much to the experience.

I would never want to see them even attempt that at FrightFest...it just wouldn't work with that crowd and actors would get hurt.

Ogolo, have you ever heard of an attraction called Bane Haunted House? I went on a trip to North Jersey and me and my girlfriend decided to give it a shot. It is dubbed as New Jersey's "scariest haunted house", but I always take that with a grain of salt. While it wasn't the scariest haunt I've experienced, it probably was the most intense. There's lots of touching, screaming, and just general unpredictable insanity. It was a blast and I highly recommend it. Me and her decided afterword that even given how great of a job they did, Fright Fest felt like a better deal. Bane Haunted House was roughly 20 minutes long and was exactly the same price as the terror trails for season pass holders. I can't speak for other parks' haunted events, but I have been to a few haunts in NJ. I feel like a lot of it also just depends on luck and timing. A good night at an average event or haunt can still leave a good experience.

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Looks like I have one to try on Halloween...or next year. Bane looks worthy of a visit...only allowing small groups of 2-3 is a huge +.

It's hard to tell if some of these are going to suck....as that is quite easy to do (just have props or too many teen age scare actors ).

Stay away from both Casola Farms (A and C) haunted attractions...Thumbs down...they are just taking your $.

I also never tried the one right outside the exit of Six Flags....Dracula's Domain??

 

And as much as I love El Toro....I'm never going to wait 2-3 hours for a single ride.

The biggest fear at FrightFest is the rowdy crowds...just not worth it.

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Do the zombies at Hersheypark and Dorney Park touch the guests if the haunted houses in Pennsylvania have zombies touching people?

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I hatw to say it but I've been to a lot of Haloween Events (freestanding and at parks) and Fright Fest is easily the worst. I think Six Flags America's is worse than Great Adventure's though, Six Flags New England's is pretty bad too.

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^I haven't been to Great Adventure's, but SFA's event is not very good at all. I haven't been to many in park events, but Kings Dominion's is pretty good and has a good number of houses with a few impressive scare zones.

 

By the way... Could it be *the* Coasterbill? Glad you made your way into these parts! Lol

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I haven't been in a few years, but when I visited, SFA's trail through the woods was seriously excellent, and reports say it's still high-quality. Have you done it recently? Plus the upcharges are lower and the crowds nowhere near GAdv's, which is why I think it's a better event.

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^I visited SFA's Fright Fest in 2014 and I'm looking at visiting again this Sunday to end the season.

I did the trail through the woods... It was okay. I didn't notice any mansion on property and had no more than about two scares, which were spoiled because I could hear them scaring groups ahead and near us. The majority of the trail I was just trying not to get lost as it was extremely poorly marked and had no physical boundaries, and it was under 40 degrees at the time. I'll give it a go this weekend again, but the small selection of indoor mazes they had was nowhere the quality of Kings Dominions'... which were included with admission.

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Do the zombies at Hersheypark and Dorney Park touch the guests if the haunted houses in Pennsylvania have zombies touching people?

Hershey has no haunted houses, it's all family friendly with nothing scary

 

I believe in the Skeleton Key rooms at the haunted attractions at Dorney (Fright Lane upcharge) the actors can touch the guests.

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I feel like fright fest was a lot better when I was younger. Instead of being put in scare zones, and making them predictable, ghouls were all over the park. I remember walking by the grandstand and s ghoul jumped out of the bushes, it was great. The trails are simply not long enough and don't have enough actors to make the trail prices worth it. I also miss the hay ride through the woods. That was fun.

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A few years ago there was a free trail that ended in front of the grand stand. They had a few ghouls in there but not many.

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Yeah the Lakefront Cemetary. I walked through the trail a few times over the years it was open.

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I feel like fright fest was a lot better when I was younger. Instead of being put in scare zones, and making them predictable, ghouls were all over the park. I remember walking by the grandstand and s ghoul jumped out of the bushes, it was great. The trails are simply not long enough and don't have enough actors to make the trail prices worth it. I also miss the hay ride through the woods. That was fun.

 

Agreed that it was more fun when I was younger. Part of that, to be sure, is objective: the park spent more, decorated more, hired skilled sntertainment contractors, etc.

 

But I also wonder what's subjective, or based on age; for example, as a kid, I remember being scared enough to nearly crap my pants just from ghouls making eye contact during the Hay Ride to the Unknown. I'm not sure that would do much now....

Edited by pashacar

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FF was better years ago, and some of FF's problems are current trends in the industry. Currently, FF at GADV is a joke, the houses and trails aren't good and they are all overpriced upcharges, cutbacks on decorating the park, and no more hayride.

 

But I have noticed other parks don't decorate too much anymore either, especially eastern parks. I see online they Disneyland and Universal Hollywood decorate much much more than their FL counterparts do. Dorney also used to decorate alot for Halloweekends but started to cut back with the Haunt.

 

One trend I see with regional parks is having two Halloween events, a kiddie one early in the day and a scary one at night while years ago they didn't have this seperation. With Dorney's old Halloweekends and old FF at GADV they would have some kiddie stuff along with scary stuff overlapping most of the day. Now parks are very serious about not having anything scary during the day, Dorney will cover up scary outdoor props during the day and having scare zones that are blocked off during the day. It seems when parks have more haunted houses, they transfer all their decorating away from midways and focus on the houses, outdoor mazes or trails, and midway scare zones leaving plenty of bare areas. I think some of the reason why parks don't decorate that much is they they don't want kids to be scared during the day, or at least a cover for cost cutting.

 

When Dorney changed from Halloweekends to the Haunt, there were many changes to their event. Just like GADV doing away with their hayride, Dorney did away with a haunted version of their train ride. Cut way back on midway decorations with the majority of them moved from midways to inside the houses (GADV did this in the early 2000s with moving all their midway decorations into the hayride in 1999), focusing mainly on houses and zones, and attracting larger crowds. Both parks used to decorate all over the place, now they just focus on a few spots. Dorney seemed to downsized their event this year too with deleting the headhunters scare zone, and merging Bloodshed with Cornstalkers, but at least they did build a new house called Trick or Treat which is a very good house. Despite the Haunt's problems it far outshines GADV's FF as all the houses and scare zones are done so much better and are included with season passes so no upcharges to do them like GADV. Dorney also programs their Ferris Wheel with Jackolantern patterns which looks nice and can be seen all over the park.

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how can you say overpriced? I bough the season pass scare pass for $40, I get it , the trails aren't as good as lets say , terror behind the walls, but for $40 for all of FF, its cheap.

 

 

FF was better years ago, and some of FF's problems are current trends in the industry. Currently, FF at GADV is a joke, the houses and trails aren't good and they are all overpriced upcharges, cutbacks on decorating the park, and no more hayride.

 

But I have noticed other parks don't decorate too much anymore either, especially eastern parks. I see online they Disneyland and Universal Hollywood decorate much much more than their FL counterparts do. Dorney also used to decorate alot for Halloweekends but started to cut back with the Haunt.

 

One trend I see with regional parks is having two Halloween events, a kiddie one early in the day and a scary one at night while years ago they didn't have this seperation. With Dorney's old Halloweekends and old FF at GADV they would have some kiddie stuff along with scary stuff overlapping most of the day. Now parks are very serious about not having anything scary during the day, Dorney will cover up scary outdoor props during the day and having scare zones that are blocked off during the day. It seems when parks have more haunted houses, they transfer all their decorating away from midways and focus on the houses, outdoor mazes or trails, and midway scare zones leaving plenty of bare areas. I think some of the reason why parks don't decorate that much is they they don't want kids to be scared during the day, or at least a cover for cost cutting.

 

When Dorney changed from Halloweekends to the Haunt, there were many changes to their event. Just like GADV doing away with their hayride, Dorney did away with a haunted version of their train ride. Cut way back on midway decorations with the majority of them moved from midways to inside the houses (GADV did this in the early 2000s with moving all their midway decorations into the hayride in 1999), focusing mainly on houses and zones, and attracting larger crowds. Both parks used to decorate all over the place, now they just focus on a few spots. Dorney seemed to downsized their event this year too with deleting the headhunters scare zone, and merging Bloodshed with Cornstalkers, but at least they did build a new house called Trick or Treat which is a very good house. Despite the Haunt's problems it far outshines GADV's FF as all the houses and scare zones are done so much better and are included with season passes so no upcharges to do them like GADV. Dorney also programs their Ferris Wheel with Jackolantern patterns which looks nice and can be seen all over the park.

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Yeah, I like to call SF the "pay for what you want" theme park. Instead of charging a lot for season pass, they break everything off into smaller priced options.

 

Here's what I paid with the best deals: Deals now aren't much different

$68 Gold Pass + $85 Gold Dining + $20 pass/dining tax & fees + $40 Scare Pass (skip the line on every trail, all FF) = $213

That's what I got, but let's just go ahead and slap on a $10 Shopping Pass + $30 All Season Picture Pass. Total = $253

 

Equivalent CF pass (all parks, parking, all-park meal plan, trail skip-the-line, all-season refill cup):

$192 platinum pass + $108 Platinum All Season Dining + ?? tax & fees + ~$35 to ~$75 per visit for a Skeleton Key (skip the line once per trail for a single visit) + $25 All-Season Refill Bottle

Ignoring the skeleton key, you're already starting with at least $325.

 

SF gives you the freedom to pay for just what you want, and even getting all of it is less than CF.

The only downside is that the general public doesn't know/realize this. All they think about is that they have to pay again.

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I like how Six Flags prices everything separate. I have little to no interest in the Terror Trails and would rather have the cheaper pass price and pay more and have them included. The season pass perks seem better for Six Flags too.

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I went for a 2016 Cedar Fair platinum pass with dining and drink cup, totaling around $320 with taxes/fees. This is covering admission/parking/food/drink for at least 3 days at Kings Dominion, two at Carowinds, two at Kings Island, and three at Cedar Point. For someone like me who's traveling long distances for extended periods of time (this is over two trips--Kings Dominion/Carowinds for two days and Kings Island/Cedar Point + Kentucky Kingdom for six days) it absolutely pays for itself.

 

You have to know what you're paying for and decide for your own unique situation. I've had gold passes to SFA the last two years and it's paid for itself and more between SFA and Great Adventure. I'm sure I would love a 2016 gold pass with dining and would make it worth the price, but I wanted to do something different in 2016 so I went for the more expensive option between the two chains. It's all a trade off.

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Agreed that SF is cheap to attend. But they're also cheap in how they put on the event -- all anyone is saying is that the upcharge for the houses is a lot more than the quality justifies.

 

CF charges more, sure, but their houses are much higher-quality and far better-staffed. And CF is actually only more expensive for passholders; one-day tickets to Haunt are a lot less than a one-day FF ticket with a house upcharge.

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