By Andy Guinigundo
Interstate 275 is the freeway that encircles Cincinnati, Ohio. Go five miles north of the circle on I-71 and you’ll come to one of the booming northern suburbs of Cincinnati – Mason, Ohio. Mason is known for several things including traffic, car dealerships, a world-class professional tennis tournament and Kings Island amusement park. Kings Island’s current ownership is Cedar Fair, the amusement park juggernaut that owns Cedar Point, also in Ohio, Knott’s Berry Farm in California and many parks in between.
The air is cooling down in Ohio. In fact, this morning, it was 52 degrees, while it was already 82 degrees in Orlando. The leaves are just beginning to turn. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are packed with football. Autumn has arrived. With autumn comes Halloween season at amusement parks around the world.
I have little ones ranging in age from 1 to 7. Although they have asked to attend Halloween Haunt, the grown-up, “all you fear is here” event at Kings Island, we opted for Howl-O-Fest, the “ultimate kids Halloween party”. The whole park was dressed in orange and black as the Haunt is actually spread out throughout the park. Skeleton people and pumpkin headed people displays are everywhere. These definitely set the mood as we headed straight for the Howl-O-Fest area.
In the picnic grove between Nickelodeon Universe and Boomerang Bay is Howl-O-Fest. A 30-foot-tall non-scary blow up Frankenstein greeted us. The area was abuzz with activity. We were headed toward the hay maze, but took a side trip to get a picture with the cast of Scooby Doo. While we frequently see Scooby in the park, we’ve never seen Fred, Thelma, Shaggy and Daphne with him. Scooby and his dark-ride are the last holdouts in the park’s kids area transformation from Hanna-Barbera Land to Nickelodeon Universe. We soon learned the park dusted off many of the old throwback Hanna-Barbera characters just for this event. While many of the characters were unknown to my girls, I was like a kid in a candy store. “Look, it’s Fred Flinstone, Barney Rubble, and Dino! There’s Yogi Bear! It’s George Jetson and Astro!”
After pictures, we played: hay maze, nursery rhyme fun house, dance party and pumpkin patch. We made stops at each of the five candy stations. They also had a mask making station. The final stop was the games area. The games were definitely kid-friendly. Each game was $1 and every play was a winner. We finished up and grabbed some free popcorn and punch.
We then headed off to the usual – the rides. We enjoyed more Halloween décor as we ran around hitting some of our favorite rides: Runaway Raptor, The Beast The Diamondback. One of the more amusing sites was a safety net that protects pedestrians from objects falling from Diamondback riders’ pockets. Usually, you can see coins and an occasional cell phone up there, but today, a skeleton! I also chuckled at the tombstones of the rides of yesterday: King Cobra, Screamin’ Demon, Sky Ride and others.
I think the girls had fun. I believe the event has evolved and improved over the years. The last time we attended a few years ago, the fest activities were widely spread out and few in number. While I would still say the event is similar to a local carnival, in the end, there are the usual park amenities to fall back on. It’s fun to see the usual dressed up unusually.
Admission is free for both Halloween Haunt and Howl-O-Fest for season pass holders. The normal admission fee is less than $30 if you get tickets ahead of time online. The Haunt is held Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Howl-O-Fest is Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The events continue on until Nov. 1.
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in “Orlando Attractions Magazine”. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year.