I enjoy amusement parks. Being more of a dedicated New Jersey beach comber, however, it is easy for the whole season to slip by without my ever getting around to heading to Great Adventure or the quaint and homey Clementon Park. Except for a short day trip to Point Pleasant, it seemed that missing out on amusement park fun was inevitable again this year. Then I got a very cool invitation. An old friend invited me down to Virginia to join her for a day at Kings Dominion.
We spent our daytime hours at Kings Dominion checking out more than a few of its over 60 attractions – I decided to sit out some of the more extreme roller coasters like The Anaconda and The Intimidator. Those were among my friends’ favorites, though I was more a fan of the gentler coaster, The Avalanche, along with the old school bumper cars, the view from the Ferris wheel, and visiting the PokéStops all over the park.
But it was in the evening that the real fun started. At 7 PM, fog began to rise from the ground. We noticed people gathering in groups to witness the entrance of another type of Kings Dominion visitor – It was time for the ghouls’ grand entrance. Before we knew it, the crowds were infiltrated with the undead, bizarre-faced creatures in tattered attire, and all manner of monsters.
Aside from never knowing when a freaky being is going to pop out and scream in your general direction, Halloween Haunt boasts eight mazes, five scare zones, plus haunted rides and Halloween-themed shows. Blood on the Bayou had us on edge in the best of ways as we wove through the old New Orleans voodoo mansion, complete with scenes of mock murder and sinister magic. I had as much fun trying to stare down and weird out the weirdos as I had being startled by them. One of my favorite things about haunted houses is being in the midst of other people’s reactions. A nervous kid shouting out to his friend, “Stay with me, bro!” in the maze confusion was a memorable moment.
We happened upon a witches’ dance, though it was hard to see through the group of onlookers that had gathered around. Later, we caught the performance of a New Orleans funeral band giving a lively performance of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The little kids’ area, Planet Snoopy, super cute by day, morphed into the sinister Feary Tales. The transformation made for one of the creepiest areas, as distorted music box tunes played familiar nursery rhymes. Kings Dominion advises parental discretion for these evenings from late September through October, which may be too much for most young children. The very young and the timid may prefer to opt for The Great Pumpkin Fest, a scare-free autumn alternative.
There is something to reaching deep into childhood memories and twisting them just enough. My favorite haunted attraction of all was Zombie High. Its bloodied walls, classrooms, lab, and locker room, had more than a few students who had seen better days. Combined with intense lighting effects, Zombie High got into my psyche in all the right ways. I would have eagerly gotten in line to go through again.
I am so glad my first trip to Kings Dominion came during the Halloween season. Tricks of light, dry ice, makeup, and over-the-top acting still work their fun and spooky magic. The many freaky characters throughout the park – and there are a lot of them – create an atmosphere of edgy adventure full of nervous laughter. Make the journey to Doswell, VA in the Richmond area to see for yourself. Halloween Haunt continues Fridays through Sundays, ending on October 29th.