SeaWorld Orlando is taking its second stab at Howl-O-Scream, which began Friday night. The intense, after-hours Halloween event is building on last year’s debut, and its attractions are more widely sprinkled the theme park, winding from near the Manta roller coaster, behind Infinity Falls and beyond Bayside Stadium.
“The expanded footprint was definitely a need,” Cindi Miller, vice president for entertainment, said Friday. “Not having a dead end will definitely be a great benefit this year.”
Here are five things to know before heading out to Howl-O-Scream 2022, gleaned from opening night.
SeaWorld’s Howl-O-Scream includes five haunted houses. Two are returning mazes from 2021, one that’s listed as “re-imagined” and two new offerings. The longest line we spied on opening night was for the Dead Vines — Root of All Evil house, which featured well-camouflaged ( and frequently leafy green) performers.
Siren of the Seas, near the event’s entrance, was similar to last year’s Water’s Edge Inn. Captain’s Revenge — Drowned in Darkness was loud and pirate-driven again and the dimly lit Beneath the Ice returned to the space that once housed the Wild Arctic ride.
The new Blood Beckoning house is built around Scratch, a siren character, who gets prominent positioning near the maze’s conclusion.
The temptation to compare the event with the long-running Halloween Horror Nights at nearby Universal Studios lingers. The Howl-O-Scream mazes are long, well decorated and populated with jump scares and other unnerving moments.
At SeaWorld, the actors appear to be more free roaming within the house and not making as much use of “boo holes,” the tucked-away hiding places used for awaiting the next scare. The Howl-O-Scream workers mingle among the visitors who are winding their way through the maze, sometimes working their way against the flow of traffic.
The scarers also seem to use their own voices to yell more as opposed to prerecorded sound effects and bits of script.
SeaWorld’s design for the event again packages houses, scare zones and themed bars together. In theme-park circles, they might be considered “lands.”
“We felt that between the scare zones and the houses with the interactive bars, people love to being in the zone or being in that story and kind of having that immersive experience,” Miller said.
Howl-O-tip: Because the park is using new, widespread locations, downloading the event map is helpful. Although other guests had paper maps, we could not locate one during our opening-night wanderings.
Howl-O-Scream features seven scare zones, some of them sizable. We found ourselves repeatedly in the fog of Deadly Ambush zone, set in a 1961 campground. There, and elsewhere, actors were entertainingly interactive and armed with talking points that went with their zones. It was kind of an endless-loop playlet.
Theme Park Rangers
The latest happenings at Disney, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and other Central Florida attractions.
From the I’ve-not-seen-that before files: Performers with costumes that would make sparks as they ran and slid toward visitors. Think gravedigger shovels in Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade at Magic Kingdom but more frantic. It was sharp-looking and unsettling.
Not-seen-that-before, Part 2: A sea goddess/drag queen show at the base of Sky Tower. “Lost Souls Hideaway” was much like what you might see at a club, centering on sassy, lip-syncing Serpentina Moray and her sometimes bawdy audience interactions. (Flirting with a man in audience: “I can’t hear you with your shirt on.”) Reservations are required, and it’s a $10 upcharge. SeaWorld says this element is recommended for ages 18 and up.
Other Howl-O-Scream shows are included with admission, including “Monster Stomp,” which includes the return of knives as percussion plus pirouetting skeletons, “Siren’s Song,” an outdoor, in the round experience, and “Lurking in the Depths: An Adventurer’s Tale,” which makes use of the former pearl diving amphitheater.
SeaWorld Orlando continues to hold the trick-or-treat, family-friendly Spooktacular event, starting this weekend. It’s part of regular daytime park admission. It happens on the north side of the park — think Key West and the Kraken area — now that the pathway by Bayside Stadium is in a construction zone for another roller coaster. It’s separate from the Howl-O-Scream décor.
“We have some moving walls and different things of that nature that allow us to split the audiences so that we’re not exposing anybody that’s here for Spooktacular that’s not interested in Howl-O-Scream,” Miller said.
Howl-O-Scream operates on select nights through Oct. 31. For tickets or more information, go to HowlOScream.com/Orlando.
Email me at [email protected] Subscribe to the Theme Park Rangers newsletter at orlandosentinel.com/newsletters or the Theme Park Rangers podcast at orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/theme-park-rangers-podcast.