4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara
Reviewed 10/04/08 by Hauntmistress
This year, California’s Great America gets into the Halloween spirit like its sister theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm, with a Halloween Haunt all its own.
Great America’s Halloween Haunt offers six haunted mazes, four scare zones, three live shows, rides, and shops. The grounds of the park have been transformed into an homage to Halloween, complete with ominous fog, cemeteries dotting the landscape, and grinning jack-o-lanterns. The water around the "Scary-Go-Round" is now home to skeletons lounging on the “beach”, floating on rafts, and water skiing behind a skeletal whale. A few even found their way onto the Scary-Go-Round itself.
But the real fun is to be had in the haunts, so let’s start there.
Our favorite maze of the night was CarnEvil. As you approach the haunt, creepy carnival music and wonderfully demented clowns penetrate the thick fog to startle and scare and very effectively set the stage for what's to come.
While you wait in line you'll be approached by a carnival barker who will try to sell you a pair of 3-D glasses. You'll want to spend the extra $1 to get them, as this was one of the best 3-D haunts we’ve been through.
CarnEvil makes great use of darkness in some rooms and contrasts it with vibrant colors and 3-D effects in others. Half the time I couldn’t tell where I was going and had to either feel my way through the darkness or hold my hands out in front of me for fear of running into something that looked closer than it actually was.
When you enter the haunt you are in a long hallway and the 3-D effect makes it hard to tell where the hallway ends. That disorienting feeling stays with you throughout the haunt and intensifies in the foggy, strobe-lit hall of mirrors. From the padded cell with clowns chained up to the cotton candy hallways (which really looked like cotton candy!), the haunt is very well produced and suspenseful. Clowns menace you throughout the maze and curtains block your way, making it difficult to determine where you should be going.
CarnEvil is long, much longer than many other haunts we've been in, and it's packed with action. You won't find endless miles of empty halls at this attraction.
Next up was Club Blood. To get to the club you walk through an “alley” of brick walls with graffiti, making it feel like you’re actually walking to a big-city underground nightclub. This is the first haunt we’ve seen with scantily clad cage dancers. They greet you, gyrating to the pulsating music as you enter. But that’s the last you’ll see of them, as the rest of the haunt has been taken over by vampires. Some scream at you to get out, while their victims scream for your help. There are dark, suspenseful hallways, bats hanging from the ceiling, and a hospital room with a creepy nurse. Club Blood is a good length, fast-paced, and fun.
At the Slaughterhouse, you’re the animal up for slaughter. You are “weighed” when you first walk in, which I thought was an interesting touch, though some women might not appreciate weighing in as "heifer", even if it is only a pretend scale! The Slaughterhouse actually smells like a farm (not sure if that’s by design or just a fortunate effect of the hay in there, but either way it’s a nice touch). In this maze you navigate your way through bloody plastic sheets and wriggling body bags hanging from the ceiling. The scares come at you from all sides and the actors are not shy about following you and hissing at you. A favorite room of ours was the freezer room with its cold air blowing on you. A funny room was Old McDonald’s featuring such fare as Sloppy Toe Burger, Just Like Chicken Sandwich, and eyeballs in jars.
CornStalkers takes you on a long walk down a path littered with hay, wooden outhouses, barrels, and evil scarecrows who jump out at you or rustle the corn as you walk by. After the fast-paced excitement of the previous three mazes, this one felt a little less suspenseful, although it was still fun. It’s at the far end of the park though, so if you’re pressed for time, make sure you hit the other mazes first.
Werewolf Canyon and Camp Gonna Getcha
In Werewolf Canyon, you are bait for the werewolves. I wish I could tell you more, but there was a line when we first went to visit this maze so we skipped it, intending to go back later. Unfortunately, when later came, I was too pooped and we didn’t go. For Camp Gonna Getcha, I confess, I was too much of a chicken to go on it. Logger’s Run, the park’s classic flume attraction, is the setting for the ride, and I don’t do rides…it sounds supper fun though, for those of you that like rides!
There are four scare zones in the park where characters wait for fresh blood (i.e., you!). Our favorite was The Gauntlet, adjacent to CarnEvil. It is shrouded in fog, making it hard to see anything until a character pops up and scares you. We walked through The Gauntlet when we arrived and again when we departed much later and the energy level of the actors was still high. A crazy clown that escaped from CarnEvil even squirted me with water from his big daisy pin. Other clowns were running loose squeezing horns and chasing people.
Over in Dead Man’s Cove, we had trouble navigating through the fog of without running into a pirate or two who wanted to steal our souls.
Other scare zones include Underworld Alley, a graveyard of the un-dead where you walk through a spooky, foggy, ivy covered tunnel, and Witch Doctors Trail with crazed zombies.
Great America offers a dinner boofet for $13, which gets you in the Halloween Haunt before anyone else. It features an all-you-can-eat meal of chicken, hot dogs, salad, potato salad, dinner rolls, Jello, brownies, soft drinks, and hot apple cider. During our visit, our boofet menu was a little different and included eyeballs in blood (Italian meatballs in marinara sauce); deep-fried fingers (mozzarella sticks); human brains, veins, and intestines (a medley of fresh steamed vegetables including cauliflower and broccoli); animal guts (vegetable lasagna); and baked devil’s spleen (honey glazed ham). All very tasty and plentiful. During our dinner, actors from the haunts came in and menaced and entertained people. Our favorite was a lizard boy with his circus master. If a boofet isn’t your thing, the park’s concession stands and restaurants are open in case you work up an appetite.
The park also offers four Halloween-related shows. Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus of Magic and Mayhem, Comedy Sportz Ghostly Improv, and Dave Hill’s Haunted Hypnotics. We saw part of the Haunted Hypnotics show and people seemed to be having a good time. In addition to not doing rides, I don’t do hypnotist shows, so it was rather lost on me…
All in all, we had a great time at Halloween Haunt. There is a ton of stuff to do and see and you will be dead tired by the end of your visit!
Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar or our map of pumpkin patches and haunted houses to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area.
Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion in our forums!
||Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, 31-Nov. 1, 2008, 7 pm-midnight
||4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara