For the 2007 Halloween season, Paraseek was delighted to have the opportunity to cruise Orlando to check out and best and worst of what Halloween had to offer in Florida. It was a welcome change from our local Northeast haunts and a contrast on the usual cold weather activities we have come to expect. We were glad to get back to the falling leaves, but Orlando's big boys did have some really nice surprises which you should check out.

    First up was Universal Studios which offers the most hard-core changes of any theme park in Orlando during their signature Halloween Horror Nights. This festival of blood takes place all over the park (after closing) from about 7pm to 2am. Why do it after the park closes? First, because it IS really scary and is not meant for children. Secondly, because it requires another admission price of around $60. Yes, this does NOT come with the normal Universal ticket price and was a tad hefty.

    With that price tag, Universal has to offer a lot, and on that they do deliver: eight haunted houses, four shows and a midway of horror that uses everything in the Universal movie world to get to you. You will see Freddy. You will see Jason. You will get the crap scared out of you. Then again, it may also frighten your wallet. Still, everything is done very professionally, so if you want to go hard-core, this is the spot to be, no questions asked (a note that this attraction is also available in California).

    Next, we visited Disney World and were very surprised to see the uneven nature of how the mouse celebrates the holiday season. The Magic Kingdom is gorgeously decorated with pumpkins on every pole. Main street and the entrance way is on fire with orange and stunning, however, once you leave those areas virtually nothing else is done to take advantage of Halloween. We were also surprised that the three sister theme parks had virtually no Halloween decorations at all.

    Like Universal, WDW offers some treats at an additional price. For $30-$40 you can attend the after hours Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom), which takes place over a dozen dates through October. In the case of Disney, as is to be expected, things are all geared to the kids with a special fireworks display and parade and trick-or-treating with the characters. If you have kids, this is a great night and well worth the visit. We would have liked to see an even distribution at the other Disney parks, but you can't have it all.

    Last, we visited Sea World during their Halloween Weekends. Their concept is fairly simple: all guests are invited to show up in costume and proceed on a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt through the entire park. However, in this case, it comes with the price of admission! We were extremely impressed with Sea World's execution. There were no fewer than two dozen candy stations, which the kids (and even the adults) can visit more than once during the day (from 11am till closing). Inter spaced are several character displays in which children can interact with witches and creatures from the deep. Sea World doesn't have icons like Mickey or Snow White, but they do their best.

    What also impressed us was further displays and happenings far off the treasure path, such as a side show in which an actor had his head caught in a pumpkin and several zombies walking around at random. We watched in amusement as a particular zombie got caught in one of the ride queues and couldn't get out for a good 20 minutes. Now that is commitment.

    We had the opportunity to talk with a Sea World staffer who was very excited about the extra visitors Halloween Weekends cranks out. To quote her "the park, usually dead on Mondays, is packed and has been every weekend". Several thousand more weekend tickets certainly makes up for any extra staff or candy costs.

    So.......Who gets the Orlando Award from us? Surprisingly, we give it hands down to Sea World. For value, fun and commitment to bringing people through the gates to worship the almighty pumpkin, they get the ribbon. The best thing is, you don't have to spend one extra dime. Just come in costume and you are all set. Smiles, candy and fun, what more can one ask for. Isn't that what Halloween is all about?

    (-William J Piniarski-)

    | copyright, 2007 |