Halloween occupies both sides of the same spooky coin.  On the one hand, you’ve got the cute, kiddy bit, all bobbing for apples and requisitioning candy bars and beloved holiday episodes of your favorite cartoon shows.  On the other, you’ve got the nightmarish stuff like Freddy Krueger and body horror and limping home in a damp Batman costume after all the bars have closed.  I like to honor both of Halloween’s traditions each year, opting in for hayrides and cookies as much as I do things Rob Zombie movie antagonists would go for.  That’s why Valleyfair theme park’s ValleySCARE is the perfect Halloween outing — it does both kinds of Halloween well.

The lighter side of ValleySCARE’s Halloween celebration is a tribute to Minnesota’s greatest cartoonist, Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame, as Planet Snoopy becomes The Great Pumpkin Festival.  The celebration takes place this year on Saturdays and Sundays up until October 29th.  There park guests can watch Charlie Brown’s Pirate Adventure, a live costume show about the old gang’s quest for the treasure of Beagle Island.  The Story Telling Witch will be there to spellbind children with captivating chronicles of the Peanuts gang’s famous exploits.  Whether kids are dressed in a costume or not (although they’re encouraged to come outfitted), they’re invited to march in the Great Pumpkin Parade.  Kids will also enjoy Sally’s Craft Corner, Peppermint Patty’s Haybale Maze, Pig Pen’s People Washer (a bubbly romp), and Trick or Treat Street (no rocks handed out here).  These Halloween specials are all in addition to Valleyfair’s full offering of kid-friendly rides like Charlie Brown’s Wind Up, Lucy’s Tugboat, and the nefarious Kite Eating Tree.

If your kids are a bit older and want something with a little more teeth, or if you yourself like to chase your spooks with thrilling rides, then head over to the other side of the park for ValleySCARE’s Halloween Haunt, open Fridays and Saturdays until October 28th and also on Thursday, October 19th.  (Note: Halloween Haunt activities are “Rated PG-13” and not intended for kids under 13 years of age.)  Halloween Haunt features over 300 live creatures and monsters spread across six haunted mazes and three designated scare zones.  It’s tricky to get through the whole park without traipsing through at least one scare zone, where the costumed performers have free reign to give you the heebie jeebies, but if you wear a “No Boo” necklace they’re not allowed to startle you.  That’s their Achilles heel.

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Halloween Haunt has all of the Halloween themes covered.  Everything kicks off with Awakening, where all the creepy performers erupt from the shadows to get to their scaring stations around the park.  The Blood Creek Cemetery attraction taps into the sepulchral essence of the holiday, and missing it would be a grave error.  Human(e) Habitat is themed after the Frankenstein mythos and explores the darker side of manipulating animal DNA in order to create the perfect human.  (Is there ever a lighter side to that kind of thing?  What kind of animal DNA are we manipulating, here?  What, would the perfect human have a bushy German Shepherd tail and a nose like a marlin’s?)  Have a leisurely stroll through Mr. Cleaver’s Bloodshed, a lighthearted look at what would happen if murderous savages repurposed an abattoir into something even more horrible than it already is.

carowinds scarowinds haunt 2015

That’s not even the half of it.  I’ve heard it said that well over 99% of people are put off by clowns, if not outright scared by them, and that the remaining fraction of a percent are clowns themselves.  Go to Carnevil: Ringmaster’s Revenge to see Ronalds, Bozos, and Pagliaccis gone bad.  The Chateau will put you in a sanguine mood thanks to all of the horrifying vampires infesting the place.  And while the Old West might not be the first thing to come to mind when you’re thinking about spookily themed theme park attractions, the deranged cowboys (and cowgirls, we’ll have you know) will persuade you otherwise.  Think of it as the “The Afterlives of the Cowboys.”  Check out Zombie High, where you may see what a high school prom would look like if there was a zombie virus in additional to the usual viruses present at such occasions.  Not enough?  Didn’t think so.  New to Halloween Haunt this year are Berserkers Unleashed, a realistic portrayal of our Scandinavian heritage, and Dark Harvest, a family farm themed attraction.  (For many of us, family farms are inherently scary, because it was all we could do to leave one back when we were teenagers.)

After all of that bloodcurdling fun, it’ll be time to unwind with some merrier pastimes.  There will be two acrobatic shows to take in, Demon Core and Sinister Circus.  The former is inspired by street performance, while the latter features more traditional stage acts.  See the beautiful Pumpkin Promenade, a jack-o’-lantern filled walk full of lovely autumnal ambiance that won’t give you heart palpitations.  All of the park’s usual concession stands will be open for business during ValleySCARE, as will Blood Suckers Brew Bar, a vampire themed cocktail lounge offering just the restoratives you’ll need after a thrilling night.

Valleyfair’s rides will be in full operation during the festivities too!  Their newest attraction is North Star, a 230 foot tall swing ride that swirls riders around at speeds up to 40 mph.  The ever popular Wild Thing, which has the longest low-gravity section of any roller coaster in the world and reaches a speed of 74 mph on its initial drop, is just the way to relax after being terrified by ghouls all night.  The wooden Renegade, the darting Mad Mouse, the sinuous Steel Venom, the pendulous Xtreme Swing, the plunging Power Tower, and more will keep the Halloween fun alive and well throughout the evening.  With over 75 rides, haunted mazes, scare zones, and monsters prowling the park, there is something to satisfy everyone’s devilish desires at the upper Midwest’s largest Halloween attraction.


By David Scheller