Old Zoo, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA
Happy Frightday, folks! We continue our spree of haunted attraction reviews this week by stopping by the L.A. Haunted Hayride, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! We last checked in this now-Los Angeles Halloween staple a couple of years ago, so we were curious to see what changes had occurred after missing it last year—especially with this being a milestone season. After all, it’s tough for most independent haunts to make it through one or two years, let alone a whole decade!
Lets check out what this spooky Griffith Park attraction had to offer this year!
Although the web site of L.A. Haunted Hayride advertises multiple scare zones, there is only really one: Purgatory, the name for the main circulation area that connects the various attractions of the Haunted Hayride grounds. This year, just as in previous years, there roving monsters, boutiques, a psychic booth, a couple food stands, the Scary-Go-Round, an improv spooky/funny haunted theater show called Theatre Macabre (not to be confused with the immersive theater event being put on by the creators of The Tension Experience), and of course, the iconic tower of jack-o-lanterns that marks the Hayride’s entrance every year.
The monsters varied from menacing to spooky entertaining, and a couple were downright adorable. Although I didn’t see a ton of scaring (chasing over the uneven ground of the park would probably be a perilous idea anyway), the creeps and stalking were well in character and enthusiastic. The scenery seemed to be reduced from our last visit, but there were still some fun set pieces, like a towering set of pumpkin/scarecrow/skeleton animatronics, some wrecked cars, and photogenic orange lighting everywhere.
This year’s haunted hayride promised a “best of” recap of the hits of the last ten years of haunted hayrides. As such, guests would recognize sets and themes from past events—returning favorites for the fans, as was promoted.
Unfortunately, what we encountered was a mishmash of different themes without any storyline or continuity to tie them together. Granted, there’s a certain amount of this in every year’s haunted hayride, but even a spiel or opening scene could have helped set the frame for the ride. But besides that, be it our luck of the draw or something more actually consistent with the attraction, the hayride itself felt underwhelming—both in energy and execution. The cast members often seemed listless, as though they were going through emotions, and we often saw the endings of scenes ahead of us as the cast rushed to reset. There were redundant sequences such as strobes and rock music over multiple scenes, and the general vibe of the attraction felt like lethargic mishmash.
There were some hits. The Murder Game was fun and slightly interactive, with a ghoulish emcee going around the wagon and startling guests before asking them to decide constestants’ fates. And there were scareactors who engaged more with the wagon, gesticulating and engaging physical acting in addition to throwing more energetic scares.
However, overall and sad to say, we were left feeling a little disappointed by this year hayride.
House of Shadows
Things were a little better in the two mazes on site. House of Shadows returned with the same dark maze theme and plenty of strobe lights. The strobes were pretty intense and definitely disorienting, and those with medical conditions that would make them sensitive to flashing lights or quickly changing light levels should definitely avoid this attraction. But for me, the illumination chaos was enough to actually get a monster to spring an effective startle scare on me. In addition, the struggle to maintain direction added a sense of tension to the experience—a sensory nervousness that I personally appreciated.
This is a legit maze with dead ends, which adds to the confusion. The theming this year did not seem to be quite as in-depth and rich as two years ago, when this maze was tied into the movie, Ouija, but in the blinking strobes, details weren’t really quite that important. Overall, House of Shadows provided a solid experience for us, though nothing special.
Trick or Treat
Our trip to the L.A. Haunted Hayride ended on a high note, however, with our final maze, Trick or Treat. This maze also returns from prior years, but its unique and creative execution provided the Hayride event with a spark and sense of fun that was largely missing elsewhere.
The premise is simple: in this “maze,” guests go up to various homes of gruesome creatures and gnarly ghouls and ring their doorbells (or knock on their doors, or in some way gain attention). The resident creatures answer—usually with a fright—and provide a treat… or a trick.
Either because of luck or policy, two years ago, we collected candy from just about every storefront we hit—over a dozen in all. This year, though, some of the monsters handed out tricks, which might be as silly and innocent as oats to as jarring and unpalatable as a mysterious slime substance that Dan was unfortunate enough to have squeezed all over his hands.
Despite the less sweet rewards, we found Trick or Treat to be the most enjoyable attraction at the Haunted Hayride, providing a sense of whimsy and dark comedy was honestly quite charming. The monsters in this maze were all absolutely wonderful, with unique personalities and thoroughly entertaining acts. Some were creepy, some were frightful, some were sweet. But they all did a fantastic job executing the concept of the maze!
Depending on lines, the L.A. Haunted Hayride is worth about half an evening’s worth of time, although guests with a front-of-line pass (there are two tiers available) may speed through within an hour if they’re determined.
Overall, the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride provides a nice bit of spooky fun that is most enjoyable to those who have never gone before, or perhaps have not gone in a while. For returning guests, the event seems to be largely the same as past years, which was a little disappointing for our expectations. We’d love to see more original content in the upcoming years, especially in a highly competitive Southern California haunt market that practically demands something new every year.
I’d also recommend that guests fish out local discounts prior to going to the Hayride. I’ve always felt that the price for the attractions provided was a little steep, and this year is no exception. The hayride by itself can run upwards of $40, though a single-use all-attractions pass is only $10 more. Fortunately, places like Groupon do offer discounts.
Relatively short and sweet, there you have our thoughts from the L.A. Haunted Hayride. The event runs select nights through Halloween night, and additional information and ticket purchasing can be found at the L.A. Haunted Hayride web site!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.