Old Zoo, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA
It's Thursday the 13th, and you know what that means? More Halloween stuff!!! Okay, that's not what it means at all, but you're getting another haunted attraction review anyway, whether you like it or not (and you kiddos better like it--otherwise, what are you doing here??).
Today, we explore the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. Can you believe that they've been doing this for eight years now? In the world of independent haunted attractions, that is an eternity, because it really is extremely difficult to mount and maintain a successful haunted house event. But through a unique production and great marketing and networking, the L.A. Haunted Hayride has persevered and become one of the more popular haunts around. I last went in 2011 (also the only time I went), and over the past few years, scheduling has just been uncooperative in a return visit to the Old Zoo in Griffith Park, where this event is held. This year, however, the folks at Ten Thirty One Productions (the company behind the Hayride and other similar events such as Ghost Ship and Great Horror Camp Out) were kind enough to invite Westcoaster out to the media night to check out the spookiness. Lets see what this year offers!
This encompasses the general midway outside of the hayride itself and two mazes found on the grounds. It's the general circulation area that includes roving monsters, live entertainment, and assorted photo ops and food stands for guests moving to and fro or just needing a little break.
At the far end of the Purgatory, there's a tent entitled Death Row, where guests can take pictures with various set pieces and props. Friend of Westcoaster and one of our 2.4 female readers, Jenny O, was nice enough to join me on this trip, so I made her play model for the different sets.
For those looking for something besides scares, there's also a Macabre Theater, where guests recreate scenes from famous horror movies, but to great improvisational and unintentionally comedic effect. Shows run basically once an hour. Besides that, visitors can also have their fortune and future told by psychics nearby.
Trick or Treat
One of two mazes part of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, Trick or Treat isn't really a maze at all. It's basically just a haunted version of begging for candy. And yet, it is extremely fun. In fact, I was both pleased with how enjoyable the whole experience is and shocked that I had never really seen anyone try this before. Inside, guests basically trace a course of a dozen or so facades and trick or treat at each facades. Monsters come out and give out candy, then retreat back to their abodes for the next arrivals. There are startle scares involved, but for the most part, the activity is rather adorable. And they give out real candy! And they're not even poisoned or packed with razor blades! The whole "maze" takes several minutes to go through and is just plain bundles of fun. What a fantastic idea by the design team to implement something that has very tangible rewards!
House of Shadows, featuring Ouija: Origin of Evil
The other maze is the traditional dark maze that the Haunted Hayride has held every year. This year, they've partnered with the movie Ouija: Origin of Evil to create a maze with some inspirations from the film. I had low expectations going in, since I remember my 2011 experience was rather lackluster. And while this maze wasn't anything spectacular, the dim lighting, strobes, and actual maze layout (with plenty of dead ends) made this disorienting experience actually a little exciting! The scare factor was relatively low--unless the paranoia of getting lost was actually impactful, and the talent didn't exactly have the highest energy. But this maze was pretty enjoyable nonetheless, simply due to its difficulty of navigation. Oh, and one other warning, there is a water effect somewhere here--for those who despite it when places like Universal overdo it.
Of course, the main attraction here is the hayride itself--something not very common in urban and developed Southern California. Though haunted hayrides have been Halloween staples in rural areas all across the United States (and especially back east) for decades, they've never really taken off around here, which explains part of the reason why the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride was able to gain so much success--it offered a unique haunted attraction!
This year, the theme of the hayride is "Secret Society" and takes riders deep into the forest to encounter a dark cult that worships Halloween and all the trickery and devilish deeds it encompasses. There are actually two routes this year, providing guests with slightly different experiences, and the ride is actually interrupted by riders disembarking and going through a sort of mini-maze area with tributes to past Haunted Hayride themes. This change of pace actually made for an interesting experience, bringing greater intimacy than monsters just scaring beside the wagon. There was a sort of Halloween Horror Nights Terror Tram feel to it, and for this year, the novelty was enough to leave me with overall positive feelings toward the hayride itself. The second half also proved pretty thrilling, as the "Secret Society (of Halloween)" was unveiled, and more energy and chaos unfurled.
Overall, the experience was quite entertaining, and I found this hayride much more of a favorable and impactful experience compared to my previous visit.
That is it for the L.A. Haunted Hayride. The event itself is not that large, but it goes pretty grand in terms of production values. This year's event offers some fun and interesting experiences that provide some Halloween joy even if they don't succeed in instilling scares, and I definitely recommend it for guests, especially those who have never been or may not have gone in the past couple of years.
I only have two criticisms about the Haunted Hayride, really. Number one isn't even eally directed at anyone in particular, but rather, is an advisory that the event grounds can get pretty dusty, so those with sensitive respiratory issues may want to be prepared for that.
The second lies on the overall value of the event. The two mazes and hayride proved to be pretty fun this year, but altogether, the attractions really only account for a couple of hours of entertainment at most, and most of that will be waiting in line (come early to avoid crowds, especially for the hayride, which can garner waits of Halloween Horror Nights scale). The price for this, however, seems a bit steep--the $30 range for the hayride only, in the $40's for all three attractions, and $60 for front of line access to all three attractions. Compared to most other haunted attractions around town, this is pretty steep, and that might deter some guests from stopping by, simply because they can't justify the cost for something that is not a full night's worth of spooky revelry, such as Knott's, Univeral, Dark Harbor, or Six Flags, and also not a unique and deeply intimate and highly theatrical show, such as Delusion, Wicket Lit, or Creep L.A. But this might just be the "Tinseltown Premium" that seems to follow haunted attractions around this general area. I've sort of griped about Halloween Horror Nights' value too, since a regular ticket may only allow guests to experience half the available attractions on a busy night, and circumventing that requires literally a couple hundred dollars spent for front-of-line access.
That quibble aside, this year's L.A. Haunted Hayride is a great one, and based on projected season attendance, it seems like the public agrees. With two solid mazes and a different and intriguing hayride, the folks at Ten Thirty One Productions have created a very fun haunt. If you're in the Los Angeles area, take some time and check it out!
Tickets, directions, and information are available at http://losangeleshauntedhayride.com/
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.