In 2021, and for the first time ever, SeaWorld San Diego launched a Halloween Horror Scare event. Intended to rival the terrifying Halloween Horror Nights of Universal. Now in its second year, the Scare event runs on weekends from September 16th through to The Big Night itself October 31st. While the Halloween Horror at San Diego is still new, The Brand has a long reputation of delivering top events at its other theme Parks, and 2021 went down really well.
We take a look at Sea Worlds Newest Event and see what exactly you can expect from this horror night. What is going on, what to see and do, and, how to get the best of things. We also take a look at how it compares with some of its biggest rivals on the West Coast. Our SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream 2023 Review lets you know everything you need to know before visiting this Halloween Horror night in San Diego.
What is the Howl-O-Scream Scare Event all about?
Scare Events were started by Knotts Berry Farm in 1973 as the Knotts Scary Farm Event, and then popularized at Universal Studios as FrightNights back in the ’90s and have become hugely popular in the last few years. They are based around the classic haunted house attractions, where heavily made-up actors attempt to scare the bejeebus out of the guests as they make away around the sets.
As SeaWorld continues to recover from both the changing mood on captive Orcas and the massive losses from the Pandemic it has moved to open its own version of these nights at its San Diego Location. It may seem a bold move but the event has been running over in San Antonio SeaWorld for the last 20 years so it’s merely an expansion.
The Haunted Houses are the main event and these are best described as living Horror Movies. They are every bit as terrifying, but also every bit as safe, they just do not feel that way. The Actors get right in your face and really are terrifying, but you are perfectly safe from harm with the biggest risk being to your underwear! There are 5 Houses this year as we explore below.
The Events are far more than just the Haunted Houses, as the whole Park takes on an air of nightmarish horror, with 6 scare zones, 4 roaming horrors, several themed bars, and a completely transformed park decorated in ghoulish horror. It all looks to be a whole load of fun.
How Much Does it Cost?
Tickets Currently Cost:
Thursday*, Friday, and Sunday – $44.99 * select Thursdays, see below
Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Saturday – $54.99
Unlimited Pass, Any Night – $99.99
Annual Pass Holders get a $5 Discount but every order gets stung with a $9.99 Booking fee!
Book Through Undercover Tourist and get $5 off the Thur, Fri, and Sun tickets AND dodge that $9.99 booking fee! There is no discount currently for AnyDay Passes but you will avoid the Booking fee!
PRICE RISE 17th September!
Prices are set to Rise from September 17th when the Event Begins, There is no info on what the hike will be but Gate Prices are $79.99 every night, so we expect around $59.99.
<<< Book Now to Secure the Lowest Price >>>
There are a few options to upgrade your ticket, most of which we would not really recommend but here they are. Remember NONE of these include the ticket to the event, this MUST be Purchased Separately. These are base prices too and will increase depending on night and availability.
Front Line Fear – $34.00+
- Front-of-the-line access to all 5 haunted houses (once)
Front Line Extreme Fear – $44.00+
- Front-of-the-line access to all 5 haunted houses (once) +
- Front-of-the-line access to 3 Rides Emperor, Electric Eel, and Journey to Atlantis (once)
Front Line Unlimited Fear – $54.00+
- Front-of-the-line access to all 5 haunted houses (Unlimited) +
- Front-of-the-line access to 3 Rides Manta, Electric Eel, and Journey to Atlantis (Unlimited)
Really we do not envisage visitor numbers to be very high, People with skip the line passes may be very disappointed with the length (or lack of) of the queues they are skipping. Unless reports start coming in of huge queues we would say take the risk and expect minimal queues, especially for the rides!
No Boo Necklace – $10.00
This necklace/pass is designed to keep you protected from the Ghouls, Ghosts, and Monsters that roam the Park at night. With this on display, no monster will knowingly make you jump or scare you. Mistakes happen so be prepared for the odd mishap but on the whole, the monsters are really good at not selecting Necklace wearers for a scare.
It might seem odd to come to a scare event only to refuse to be scared, and on the whole, we agree, that there are better uses of your time if you don’t like being scared, but these are great for Chaperones, for those who are here kind of against their wills, to accompany others who are happy to be jumped!
What are the Dates?
The Event Runs for 7 weeks starting 16th of September and concludes on Halloween night Monday the 31st of October. It is a Weekend only event running on Friday Saturday and Sunday Nights. Select Thursdays are also included in weeks 5, 6, and 7.
Week 1 – Friday 16th Sept – Saturday 17th Sept – Sunday 18th Sept
Week 2 – Friday 23th Sept – Saturday 24th Sept – Sunday 25th Sept
Week 3 – Friday 30th Sept – Saturday 1st Oct – Sunday 2nd Oct
Week 4 –Friday 7th Oct – Saturday 8th Oct – Sunday 9th Oct
Week 5 – Thursday 13th Oct – Friday 14th Oct – Saturday 15th Oct – Sunday 16th Oct
Week 6 – Thursday 20th Oct –Friday 21st Oct – Saturday 22nd Oct – Sunday 23rd Oct
Week 7 – Thursday 27th Oct –Friday 28th Oct – Saturday 29th Oct – Sunday 30th Oct
Halloween – Monday 31st October
- 7 pm till 10 pm – on Sunday, Thursdays, and Monday (Halloween)
- 7 pm till 11 pm – Friday and Saturday
It is worth noting that on Fridays and Saturdays the Event runs from 7 pm till 11 pm giving you 4 hours of horror. On Sundays and Thursdays things wrap up at 10 pm giving you only 3 hours to explore.
We noticed this is a big reduction in times from last year where Friday and Saturdays ran until 1 am, reports were the events were very quiet late on so they have restricted the times slightly this year.
One final point of note, Ticket Holders can start entering the park from as early as 6 pm, despite the event not kicking off until 7 pm. This gives you an hour to explore SeaWorld in the day and see some of the cool animal attractions available before all hell breaks loose!
Ok, let’s get into what is actually going on.
The main attraction is always the Haunted Houses. These terrifying set pieces will have even the bravest cowering in fear as nightmarish horror scenes come frighteningly to life before your eyes. Expect immense horror, unsettling atmospherics, and terrifying scares as you make your way around the houses. SeaWorld San Diego is offering 5 Houses.
A Medical Themed House with an unhinged doctor, and deranged subjects running amok. Exploring the creepy lab filled with all kinds of creepy and disgusting jars, Equipment and Parphaniails set the mood as you witness experiments, and run into unlucky victims while being hunted by the doctor. It is a great use of physiological horror!
Death Water Bayou
A misty, atmospheric swamp complete with a graveyard and pagan iconography, and even its own Water Witch. A really atmospheric house with plenty of shuddering scares.
Simon’s Slaughterhouse offers up some pretty intense gore. It has less psychological terror and replaces it with all-out blood-splattering horror. Lots of Blod Guts and screaming! The Blades are all fake, but they still make you wince when directed towards your own insides!
SeaWorld is adding two new Houses this year, but they have not announced these yet so stay tuned!
Are the Rides Open
Of Course! It would not be a horror night without some good old-fashioned thrill screams too. The Electric Eel, Emperor, and Journey to Atlantis are all available to ride on the nights. It makes a real change to ride these in the dark as the Park has pretty short opening hours and you normally only get to ride during daylight.
Your Howl-O-Scream pass gets you into the park from 6 pm, despite the Scare Event Starting at 7 pm so you can get all the rides in first before the park closes properly then re-ride after dark!
Read all about SeaWorld’s Rides here
What Else Is Going On?
With the Haunted houses and rides being the headline attractions you may be forgiven for thinking that was all that is going on, but there is still a load of ancillary attractions that are always worth checking out that all add to the experience and value.
Scare Zones are like mini Haunted Houses that you do not have to queue for, as you wander through, hidden actors will reveal themselves in pants-wetting fashion. Sometimes they will be in plain sight, but largely immobile before springing into life right before you, other times hidden completely ready to jump out and make you change your underwear.
There are Creepy Dolls, an Un-Dead Graveyard, satanic Sirens, a Haunted Forest, and a First Fright as soon as you enter the event. You may also get to meet La Llorna, the Weeping Women, an old Latin American Folklore villain.
The Zones are all incredibly atmospheric and just being in the zone ramps up the trepidation of what may jump out at you. You are constantly on edge and by the end, it’s best just to avoid the zones to try and give your nerves a rest, however, most of these Zones are arranged in a way that you need to pass through them to visit different parts of the Park / Event.
Up until now, any scares have been limited to areas where you know they will occur, outside of these zones you are safe to relax. Well not really, certain cast members have the privilege to roam anywhere in the park to hunt for unsuspecting victims to haunt and frighten at any time in the park. Nowhere is safe and you need to be on edge at all times!
Darkness Falls Show
There is a whole new show for this year, the Darkness Falls Show. Details are slim at present but it seems to be taking a witch theme with haunted woods and Rune symbols abound. Should be very scary!
There are three themed bars dotted around the park offering novelty horror-themed Cocktails. These are all definitely novelty first, quality second but they are great fun. The AmaBARlance offers boozy cocktails served in IV bags and Syringes, along with Vodka Vitimains, While Simons Screamatorium offers drinks laced with body parts! The abandoned Madi Gras float offers mud cocktails tainted with bugs and insects…yum.
As we say these are likely to be fairly poor quality. Expect sweet pre-mixed cocktails but with a great novelty twist, all part of the fun.
Genral Horror Themeing
Finally, the whole park is just transformed into a Halloween horror land, it’s just one big Halloween party and is a lot of fun.
Go On… How Scary is it?
Ok, this is a tough question to answer, as it is very dependent on the guest. For some these are fun-filled nights with the odd jump, others can barely cope with the constant on-edge fear.
The Nights rely on psychological fear. There really is nothing here that is scary at all. Apart from the odd occasion where a cast member will make you jump. But the Phycological suspense can drive some people into a state of utter terror. Well, not terror, that’s the wrong word, it’s more a state of on edge, but in real overdrive. Constant Trepidation and worry about where the next fright is coming from.
As we said earlier, the nights really are like a Horror Movie coming to life, and you can pretty well gauge your reaction to the nights based on your reaction to a good Horror Movie. Are you the one petrified, hiding behind a pillow scarcely able to watch, constantly waiting for the next scream, well you are going to have a very strong reaction to the horror nights!
If you are more the kind of person that loves Horror Movies, but finds the scares fun, and all part of the experience, then you will have a great time. There is the trepidation, the fear, the shock but you will know it’s all ok really.
Some People, just don’t get Horror Movies, they are acutely aware it’s just a film, nothing can hurt them, and if they get a little fright then who cares? For these people, the horror nights and Haunted houses, in general, are a bit of a bust. If you are looking at a terrifying clown and thinking “so what, it’s just an actor in a costume” then you are not going to have much fun. The Nights require a little participation, for you to get into the spirit of things and let the Psychological Tricks work on you.
Some People just resist this, probably as a coping mechanism as they really don’t want to be scared.
Really where you fall on the above spectrum will determine how much fun you will have, the middle ground is best, as those too sensitive will spend the night in abject fear, but those not willing to play along will also miss out on the real joy these nights can bring.
Can We Still Visit During the Day?
SeaWorld is open as usual during the day. Your Howl-O-Scream Ticket will not get you un however, it is a separately ticketed event, although you can enter the park from 6 pm.
For those not wanting to visit the Event, The park is pretty much as usual. There are naturally going to be loads of Halloween decorations around and the park runs a fun Haloween Spooktacular event every weekend through October and late September. This is a fun Kid-Friendly event that just adds Halloween sprinkles to the SeaWorld Experience. It is only as the light fades and the ticketed event opens that things get DARK.
Is the Howl-O-Scream better than Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Hollywood?
This is a NEW event at SeaWorld San Diego so really we can’t make any accurate assertions yet. But let’s be honest, it’s not going to top one of the best Halloween events in the USA. Universal Set’s the bar due to its incredible movie Franchises and the events really are out of this world.
However we should also say at this point while Universal is the Undisputed King of Horror Nights, this is Largely based on its Orlando Horror Night, The Hollywood version is still brilliant but less so. In fact, Universals Horror night is a fair way off from being the BEST SoCal Haloween Event.
The King of the West Coast Horror Nights is Knotts Scary Farm. This is pretty much the next best thing to Universals Orlando’s Horror night, and SeaWorld has a LONG way to go to get close to this Incredible Event. But for locals or visitors to San Diego then the SeaWorld San Diego’s new Event might just be the ticket for some really Fun and Scary Halloween Activities.
We really can’t wait to check it out!
Have Your Say
Are you Looking Forward to the Howl-O-Scream Event at Sea World Sand Diego? Let us know in the comments below. And if you have visited, let us know what your thoughts on the event were? how does it compare to Universal and Knotts Scary Farm? Just let us know in the comments and if you have any questions fire away!
4 thoughts on “SeaWorld San Diego Howl-O-Scream 2023 Review – A look at SeaWorld’s New Halloween Scare Event”
Haunt events were NOT started by universal in the 90s. Not by a long shot. Knott’s scary farm started in 1973 and was the only show in town for decades. Also scary farm is the king regarding talent. Universal Orlando’s horror nights is a close challenger to scary farm but only it’s mazes. The scary farm monsters are much better and have pioneered everything, including the invention of sliding.
Thanks for the comment, we have updated our intro, but we want to try and keep this to Sea Worlds offering.
We think we meant “popularized” by Universal, they really brought the Scare events to the mainstream, but you are right Knottsberry was first but back in 1973 it was a LONG way from the scare events we know today, but absolutely they deserve the credit as first.
If you had read to the end we had already given Knotts Scary the Props we think it deserves, but have updated the intro to reflect the First Status.
I been trying to find an article or video for tips and tricks for the event. But no one has mad an article or video really with tricks and tips. Do you have any?
Unfortunately, we have not made it to the Event this year, so not got any advice just yet we are heading there in the next few days so will put together a Tips and Tricks Article based on our visit!
We found last year it was pretty quiet with minimal queues so you could get a lot done, hoping this year is similar.