Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
Ghoulish greetings on this Thursday morning! We continue full throttle today with the second half of our Dark Harbor 2016 coverage, following yesterday's recap of the event's mazes. Today, we basically take a look at everything else, from this year's R.I.P. Lounge to the street ambiance and sliders to the special attractions offered outside of the mazes. And there's a good amount to cover, so lets get right in!
Opening and R.I.P. Lounge
Last Thursday, for Dark Harbor's opening night and media night, we arrived at 6pm to take advantage of exclusive media time prior to the 8pm public opening. With the golden rays of the sun still filtering in, the event didn't feel spooky quite yet, but soon enough, the ambiance would change.
Already there were monsters wandering about an engaging various members of the press. But we had our mind on one thing: tacos. Yes, our visit included access to the R.I.P. Bar located on the second floor deck adjacent to the Queen Mary, and this year, they have a cash bar plus an all-you-can-eat taco bar buffet. And so, with monsters filtering through to entertain the media crowd, we enjoyed our tacos and watched the sun descend to mark the start of another Dark Harbor opening night.
Back for another year is this $5 upcharge, which takes guests through a series of freaky displays and bizarre characters before depositing them in the middle of a bar and performance stage area where they can sip on some booze while watching music acts, torture shows, some magic, or any number of live entertainment options. This year, rather than bring guests in then divide them into multiple different mini-attractions, the interactive components were combined into one longer walk-through. I thought it made for a more fun experience, and the upcharge is worth the small fee, which accommodates unlimited returns through the Sideshow, if guests wish to see different performances.
Hex Paintball Gallery
Last year, Dark Harbor debuted a monster paintballing upcharge called the Anubis Paintball Challenge that basically involved guests paying $5 to shoot paint balls at various targets and occasionally wandering monsters. It was a waste of money, since the guns were fixed with limited range of shooting (for good reason, less guests turn the guns on each other at point blank range), and the monsters didn't exactly provide energy.
This year, that feature is back, but without the monsters, and with a new name: Hex. As the storyline goes, the Voodoo Village is gone, because a great hex has been placed on it. So guests must shoot their way toward breaking said curse. Unfortunately, this year's offering is even less complete than last year's, and I wouldn't really recommend paying extra for this unless there is literally nothing else to do.
Panic: A 4-D Experience
Conversely, the upcharge experience that proved to be a pleasant surprise was Panic: A 4-D Experience. We joked that maybe this was actually FearVR suddenly relocated to Queen Mary, since we hadn't heard of any fanfare for this previously. But it's basically a surprisingly well-done (though campy) computer animated journey into the Queen Mary, which turns into a monstrous, zombie-infested, rampaging haunted house where the audience is the damsel running from the crazed killers. With accompanying water, air, and poking effects, the five minute film is actually pretty fun, and being off one's feet is kind of welcome too!
Of course, along the streets of this haunted carnival, there are all assortments of twisted creatures, gory theming, fire towers, and the Scary Swings, just as in previous years. The monsters throughout Dark Harbor are incredibly passionate and very engaging. Some excel at scaring and sneaking up on guests, while others are more akin to weird but entertaining circus performers. Though they lack the polish of a Knott's or Universal production, it doesn't matter, because they clearly pour their hearts into this event and really do a terrific job with guest interaction, scares, and acting.
Finally, Dark Harbor also features sliding monsters among its talented line-up. No, sliders are not exclusive to Knott's Scary Farm, though the Buena Park attraction certainly provided the genesis. But Dark Harbor openly celebrates their sliders more, allowing them to do two performances a night that showcase sliding skills and acrobatics. They're fun shows for those who miss this sort of thing at Knott's Scary Farm, and it's great that they get to do these performance-based tricks at Dark Harbor!
And that concludes our Dark Harbor coverage for this year! Once again, the Queen Mary has lovingly created a wonderful event that's all the more impressive given the team's limited resources. This is balanced by the commitment of the actors, make-up artists, and designers that have made Dark Harbor one of the top large scale haunted attractions in Southern California.
So once again, I'll recommend Dark Harbor to those looking for something beyond Knott's and Universal. Make sure you get a front of line Fast Fright pass to avoid getting stuck in the lines, which, yes, can sometimes grow to Halloween Horror Nights length. Those who do not and go on busier nights will most likely have a less positive experience, simply due to the waits. But I do commend Dark Harbor for adding entertainment specific to the lines, so that guests waiting have something to distract them. That's one of the ideas I suggested for Halloween Horror Nights, so it's nice to see a similar thought process from another party.
Dark Harbor runs select evenings through Halloween Night, and the last weekend also features Halloween and Día de los Muertos celebrations. There's a lot of fun to be had at Dark Harbor, but arrive early, get front of line if feasible, and enjoy a grand, spooky time!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.