By Georgina Cruz
For Al Dia Today
Each year, in some cases beginning as early as in September, Florida can be frightfully fun –during a variety of Halloween fests taking place at various popular destinations throughout the state. Some festivities are family-friendly; others for daring mature audiences. Check each fest’s website for additional information.
- Key West – The Last Key presents the 34th Annual Fantasy Fest on Oct. 18-27. A sometimes outrageous costuming and masking celebration, Fantasy Fest features flamboyant costume competitions including even one for pets, promenades, street fairs and a grand parade that stars marching groups, island bands and lavish floats. The 2013 festival theme is “Super Heroes, Villains … & Beyond!” Some events are free; others have fees or request a donation with proceeds going to charity. Info: www.fantasyfest.com.
- Lake Buena Vista – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes center stage at the Magic Kingdom Park on select nights from Sept. 10 to Nov. 1. A family-friendly fest, guests are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the park after regular park hours. The boo-free bash includes a parade, complete with a headless horseman, an opening number in front of a ghostly Cinderella Castle featuring Disney villains who then meet and mingle with the crowd, and a HalloWishes, a bewitching fireworks spectacular. The park’s Haunted House, of course, beckons foolish mortals. Tickets start at $59 for adults; $54 for children. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
- Orlando – Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, presented on select nights Sept. 20-Nov. 2, is considered to be one of the world’s largest, most elaborate and scaries—you be the judge—Halloween celebrations. Universal enlists a “scream team” of designers to research the human psyche and its deepest fears to create haunted houses and “scare zones” of terrifying magnitudes for guests. There are spine-chilling street experiences and outrageous live shows. Universal warns the event may be too intense for young children and it is not recommended for children under 13. No costumes or masks are allowed. General admission price is $91.99; and a variety of tickets and passes are available. Info: www.halloweenhorrornights.com.
Also in Orlando, but this one a family-friendly fest, is SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular featured during select dates during October. An underwater “fantasea” this event comes alive as youngsters trick-or-treat among friendly sea witches, octopuses, mermaids, pumpkin fish and more. Children may dress up and play with sea fairies, learn from a school of fish or dance with an ice witch. This event is included with regular park admission. “We always bring the kids so they can go trick or treating happily and I don’t have to worry about safety,” said Lucy Jackson, a visitor from Tampa. Halloween Spooktacular will take place Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 18-20 and 25-27. The event’s hours are 12-8 p.m. Info: www.seaworldorlando.com.
- Miami – Looking for haunted houses, spooky walks, Halloween parties and other ghostly events in the Magic City? You’ll find many –maybe Miami’s nickname should be changed to Black Magic City for Halloween? A popular, scary one, is the House Of Horrors Amusement Park at Miami International Mall, 1455 Northwest 107 Avenue, this Halloween season featuring a haunted house with 30 horrifying rooms and other activities including carnival rides and games, music and circus acts from Sept. 26 to Nov. 3. Tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets provide one entry into the haunted house and unlimited carnival rides. Info: www.houseofhorrorpark.com.
- Tampa – Once every century, on precisely the thirteenth year, evil comes out to play –and this fall, for 14 select nights, Howl-O-Scream 2013 returns to Busch Gardens Tampa with tormenting surprises and unexpected terrors. For the fright fest, Busch Gardens’ 335 acres will be overgrown with dark, sinister, adult-targeted fun and the chance to ride adrenaline-fueled coasters at night, including the triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt. Opening weekend for the event is Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28. The fest then runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26. Operating hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday nights and 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Howl-O-Scream is a separate ticketed night event. No costumes are allowed. Howl-O-Scream is intended for a mature audience. This year’s event contains intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood. Various tickets are available with single night admission starting at $47. Info: www.HowlOScream.com.
- Halloween at sea – Disney Cruise Line is launching new Halloween on the High Seas Cruises aboard the Disney Dream beginning on Sept. 22. The voyages feature Halloween-themed parties, entertainment, elaborate décor and tons of spooky fun. On all Disney ships, guests will delight in frightfully fun events and activities, special decorations, unique menu items in the restaurants and themed parties on deck during these special Halloween voyages. Visit www.disneycruise.com.