The Halloween season is in full swing with just a few days left until the big day.  Although some people will opt for the straight forward Halloween Party, some of you will be looking for the best haunted houses.  I recently went to some of the more popular options in Southern California, and here is a short overview of each one. Now, it’s up to you to decide which is right for you.

Knott’s Scary Farm at Knott’s Berry Farm

The oldest of the haunted theme parks (going back to 1973), and arguably the best price for the quantity, is Knott’s Scary Farm.  But, as the saying goes, quality over quantity. Knott’s is a lower budget hauntfest, and it doesn’t own the rights to any movie monsters, so don’t expect to see your favorite trademarked ghoul. Each maze, consequently, is rather generically themed (i.e. vampire, asylum, clown, etc.), and these variations do give each area a unique feel.  And, with ten mazes and five scare zones (sections where monsters roam along the park’s pathways), you really are getting a good deal of content for your cash.knottssf

The event’s biggest problems are layout and “hidden” costs.  Many of the mazes are spread out in odd locations, making specific mazes difficult to find and complicating already chaotic line management.  For those wanting to take a break from hours of line standing, Knott’s is offering Skeleton Room experiences.  Knott’s describes these rooms as “[featuring] a unique story and theme delivering unparalleled scares, interactive secrets and other blood-curling surprises”.  However, in order to do the Skeleton Key rooms, you will have to pay extra. These were a bit of a drag and hardly worth the extra dollars; although, I have to give credit to their scare zones. Each was dark and disorienting, allowing for the actors to give you a true scare.

There are a few things to recommend about this So Cal October classic.  First, there are the long running traditions: the comedic Hanging that takes place in the center of the park, and, of course, the nightly show featuring the one and only Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The rides are also operating for those of you looking to take  a break from the scares. Pricing is also a key selling point, sitting at only $40. Overall, I give Knott’s a C grade. They have some great moments, but I found myself spending more time looking for mazes then actually enjoying them.

17th Door – in Tustin, CA


This is a standalone haunted house in Tustin,  where you’re required to sign a waiver to enter, and you are given a “safe word” to tap out of the experience if it’s too much to handle. Here the actors touch you, put bugs on you, and wipe blood on you. This haunted house is not for the easily grossed out, and they do a great job creating an original story. Overall, this was a great experience, although I found it to be more gross and revolting than actually scary. The story puts you inside the mind of a mental patient, reliving the terrible moments in her short life. Although I felt uneasy through most of it, I was never headed for the exit. Yes, it is that intense for some people, and they have to call it a night by using the safe word. The price sits around the same as Knott’s, but it is only an hour’s worth of terror. For that reason, I have to give this place a B+.  Signing the waiver allows for the actors to give you a true horror movie experience, and you feel like you are truly interacting with some seriously demented characters.

Universal Studios, Hollywood, Halloween Horror Nights

Now first, I have to state that you MUST purchase “front of the line” passes to get the optimal experience from Universal’s Halloween event. This can be a deterrent, but if you opt for just general admission, you will be standing in lines for hours.  You have been warned.  I would say this is the best executed of the three Halloween destinations. It is vanilla enough that you don’t have to sign a waiver, but, unlike Knott’s Scary Farm,  Universal has the rights to many horror movie characters, making the maze themes familiar to most horror fans.  For example, this year Michael Meyers, Jason, Freddy Kruger and the Exorcist were all featured. The mazes have great production value and the scare zones are well placed and spaced.

hhnThe downside here is the amount of space Universal has to work with. You will be walking a lot, so wear comfortable shoes.  Also, as I mentioned, “front of the line” passes are really the only way to go. This purchase alone will cost you from $160 to $200 dollars. The pass allows you go to the front of the line once for each maze and ride attractions that are open. I will say that Horror Nights is still by far the best experience, but it will leave an extremely empty feeling in your wallet–not to mention, the drive to Universal City, for those of us not living in LA, can be daunting. That being said I still rate my experience this year as an A.  I absolutely saw value in the product I paid for.

Do you have any haunted houses Tiny Table 3 should check out next?


Let me know in the comments.