Each year, in some cases beginning as early as in September and continuing through early November, Florida can be frightfully fun – during a variety of Halloween fests taking place at various popular destinations throughout the state. Some festivities are family-friendly; others are for mature audiences –make that, daring mature audiences. Dates listed are subject to change. Check each fest’s website for additional information.
- Key West – The Last Key presents the 35th Annual Fantasy Fest on Oct. 23-Nov. 1.An oftentimes outrageous costuming and masking celebration, Fantasy Fest features flamboyant costume competitions including even one for pets, promenades, street fairs and a grand parade that stars marching groups, island bands and lavish floats. The 2015 festival theme is “All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show.” Some events are free; others have fees. Info: www.fantasyfest.com.
- Lake Buena Vista – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes center stage at the Magic Kingdom Park on select nights from Sept. 15 to Nov. 1. A family-friendly fest, separate ticket event, guests are invited to dress in costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the park after regular park hours. The boo-free bash includes a parade, complete with a headless horseman, Disney characters in costume, and HalloWishes, a bewitching fireworks spectacular. The park’s Haunted House, of course, beckons foolish mortals. Tickets are $68 for adults; $63 for children ages 3-9. Info: www.disneyworld.com.
- Orlando – Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, presented on select nights Sept. 18-Nov. 1, is considered to be one of the world’s largest, most elaborate and scariest—you be the judge if you dare—Halloween celebrations. There are nine terrifying haunted houses, five scare zones, spine-chilling street experiences and two outrageous live shows. Universal warns the event may be too intense for young children and it is not recommended for children under 13. No costumes or masks are allowed. A variety of tickets, passes and vacation packages are available. Info: www.halloweenhorrornights.com.
Also in Orlando, but this one a family-friendly fest, is SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular featured during weekends during October. An underwater “fantasea,” this event comes alive as youngsters trick-or-treat among friendly sea witches, octopuses, mermaids, pumpkin fish and more. Children may dress up or come as they are and play with sea fairies, learn from a school of fish or dance with an ice witch. This event is included with regular park admission. Info: www.seaworldorlando.com.
- Tampa – This fall, for 19 select nights, Howl-O-Scream 2015 returns to Busch Gardens Tampa with sinister surprises and unexpected terrors around every corner. Howl-O-Scream 2015 has Unearthed a new evil and Busch Gardens’ 300 acres will be overgrown with new dark and sinister fun. Hundreds of roaming creatures will swarm in the streets, making escape nearly impossible. A chilling live show will get pulses pounding, and thrill rides in the dark, including North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower Falcon’s Fury, will keep the screams coming all night long. Freaky Preview returns this year and will open Howl-O-Scream 2015 on Friday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Sept. 26. The event then runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Oct. 1–31, and select Sunday nights, Oct. 18 and 25.
Operating event hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. For a limited time, any single-day admission to Howl-O-Scream 2015 is $45. Howl-O-Scream 2015 is a separate-ticketed night event. No costumes are allowed.
Howl-O-Scream may be too intense for children. Info: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/howloscream/.
- Winter Haven – Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND Florida offers family-friendly Halloween festivities on select dates in October. This spooky, kooky event features trick-or-treating along the brick-or-treat trail, LEGO build activities, what is billed as the largest LEGO Jack-O-Lantern in the world, a haunted scavenger hunt in Miniland USA, Halloween-themed entertainment and an all-kids costume contest with brick-tastic prizes. The festivities are included in regular park admission. Info: www.legoland.com.
- Halloween at sea – Prefer your spooky fun at sea? Disney Cruise Line will present Halloween on the High Seas on select voyages from late September through Halloween. The spooky, Happy Haunts sailings will feature Halloween-themed parties, entertainment and décor including The Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms during the cruise. Info: www.disneycruise.com.