Sep 19

Step into the Dark Side of the Gardens - #FrightNight 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to a social media event, #FrightNight, scheduled for the opening weekend of Busch Gardens’ annual Howl-O-Scream event. Since Halloween is my favorite time of the year, and I’ve always wanted to check out the Dark Side of the Gardens, this was a perfect opportunity.

The event started with a nice dinner party in the Black Forest. One way to know you’re dining with a bunch of writers, bloggers, and masters of the social media scene is that everybody is hovering over the food table … taking photos. And with good reason. The food and beverage department at Busch Gardens really outdid themselves with a spot-on presentation. A blood-stained tablecloth held trays of congealed brains and severed hands (just decorations), as well as tasty fake blood-spattered vegetable trays, meatballs, ribs, and cheese and cracker trays bludgeoned by really big meat cleavers. The Lady of the Garden brought a bit of fun and “startle-factor” to the meal.

At the strike of 6:00, the haunting began. With our Quick Queue wristbands, we were able to visit every haunted house except for two, and that was because we got turned around and ended up on the other side of the park. We simply went through our favorites a second time.

Busch Gardens offers a large selection of haunted houses designed to thrill, chill, and startle every bone in your body. From spiders, bats, snakes, heights, and even elevator music, 13: Your Number’s Up is where all of your worst fears and phobias are found. I won’t give away any surprises but this was a fun and frightening haunted house in Ireland. Blood-red banners lead the way to the front door of Germany’s Bitten, a manor house where the sharp-toothed inhabitants eagerly await brave visitors.

My favorite haunted house was the all-new Root of All Evil. Located in Germany, this greenhouse is gardening gone completely awry. As you walk through a series of greenhouses and outdoor mazes filled with tall bushes and shrubbery, gruesome gardeners and botched botanists guard the greenery, shrubs, plants, and perennials that have infected them. The makeup was amazing. Watch out for grassy ghillie suits, amphibious creepers, and landscapers wielding weed wackers and chain saws.

The Catacombs house in France was another favorite simply because of its total darkness and startling surprises. Set to the scene of a dark, dank, and dripping underground tunnel far beneath a gutted graveyard, you are surrounded by the bones and voices of the dead. Watch out at the end.

You would think you’re safe outside in the open. Not so at the Dark Side of the Gardens. Roaming Hordes of crazed zombies, deranged doctors, and psycho clowns lurk around every corner and crevice as guests walk through the park. You might even run into the Lady of the Garden as she makes her way around the park.

Many of the park’s popular rides are open during Howl-O-Scream. We wimped out on coasters like Verbolten and the Loch Ness Monster but did venture into Curse of DarKastle, which is much more our speed.

Busch Gardens really outdoes itself with decorating. Giant pumpkins, hanging ghosts, and lots of tombstones and skeletons fill up the park. France was probably my favorite for just looking around, as it has rats, rats, and more rats … climbing, creeping, and slinking around trash cans, windowsills, and doorways.

Pops of pink, bursts of humor, and surprising song and dance numbers made the Fiends show the highlight of #FrightNight 2012. The stage at Abbey Stone Theatre, in Ireland, has become a makeshift laboratory as a sinister scientist and his slapstick sidekick Igor try to create the perfect fiend. Along with a heart-stopping staff of short-skirted nurses, the group is joined by Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Hearts, brains, and eye of tiger all become ingredients in this weird, mad science experiment with a high voltage twist.

Music by everybody from Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, and Oingo Boingo to The Doors, Survivor, and Duran Duran accompany dance numbers by the multi-talented cast. My favorite would have to be the duet by Igor and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I won’t spoil it by saying anything more.

After the show, the talented cast came out and posed for pictures, answered questions, and then posed for more pictures. While Fiends is not new to Howl-O-Scream, it has been completely redone and is probably not the same show you may have seen in the past. Two new musical shows include Night Beats at Germany’s Das Festhaus and Dig It Up in Italy.

My first Howl-O-Scream and #FrightNight experience was beyond anything I ever expected. If you get the chance, run, don’t walk, straight to the Dark Side of the Gardens.