Do you want to get your sugar fix or get your blood curdled? Are the Halloween visions that dance through your head impossibly cute or terrifying?
Halloween at Florida's theme parks can go either route. Disney, SeaWorld and Legoland have child-oriented events that typically involve kids in costumes, characters and trick-or-treating. Universal Orlando and Busch Gardens aim for older teens and young adults who want haunted houses and mazes, the scarier (and gorier), the better.
The spooky season doesn't go full throttle until the first weekend in October, when SeaWorld and Legoland join in, but it kicked off last week at Magic Kingdom with Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Universal's Halloween Horror Nights debuts Sept. 21, and Busch Gardens opens Trickster's Garden Sept. 27. Here's a rundown:
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is an after-hours party with separate admission to Magic Kingdom, where many of the usual attractions (including The Haunted Mansion) are open. Added attractions include Mickey's Boo-To-You Halloween Parade led by the Headless Horseman; HalloWishes, a green and orange fireworks display complete with Disney villains; and meet-and-greets with Disney characters in Halloween costumes. There's trick-or-treating, and youngsters are encouraged to wear costumes.
Details: The party runs from 7 p.m. to midnight Sept. 21, 25, 28, 30; Oct. 4-5, 8, 11-12, 14, 16, 18, 21-23, 25, 28, 30-31; and Nov. 2. Ticket prices vary according to age, the date (prices go up as Halloween nears) and advance purchase, but start at $55.95 ages 10 and up ($50.95 ages 3-9) for early dates when purchased in advance, and run to $69.95 ($64.95 ages 3-9) on Halloween night. Information: www.disneyworld.com/halloween, 407-WDISNEY (407-934-7639).
The park, which marks its one-year anniversary on Oct. 15, has its first big celebration of Brick-or-Treat this year. Miniland USA hosts a scavenger hunt, where families search for scary Lego creatures. On Saturdays, the scavenger hunt is followed by an evening dance party. Also featured are the Brick-or-Treat Trail and costume contests.
Details: Halloween activities are held during regular park hours (10 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays) every weekend in October and are included in regular park admission. One-day admission is $68 ages 13 and up, $60 ages 3-9 and 60+. Information: www.legoland.com, 877-350-LEGO (877-350-5346).
SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular, which is built around the wonders of the sea, takes place during regular park hours and is included in regular park admission. Highlights are Penelope's Party Zone, where kids can dance with pumpkin fish; trick-or-treating; and sea-themed arts and crafts. Children may wear costumes. For an extra fee, families can also do sleepovers in the Manta aquarium on certain dates.
Details: Halloween Spooktacular takes place from noon to 8 p.m. (park hours are longer on some days) every weekend in October
(Oct. 6-7, 13-14, 19-21, 26-28). Included in park admission of $84.99 (10 and older), $76.99 (ages 3-9); buy a ticket and gain free admission through Dec. 31. Sleepovers Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27. Information: 888-800-5447, www.seaworld.com.
Unlucky 13 is an important number for Busch Gardens this year as it celebrates 13 years of Howl-O-Scream horrors and brings backs some of the most disturbing memories from those years. The park also adds a new haunted house representing 13 sinister superstitions. Howl-O-Scream is an after-dark event with separate admission, not intended for children. It features two new haunted houses -- Blood Asylum, with an escaped and sadistic creature who turns the place into a torture chamber; and Circus of Superstition 3-D, starring the Trickster and his crazed clowns. Returning favorites include the Nightshade Toy Factory with its possessed dolls and teddy bears; Edgar Allen Poe's Gothic Nevermore; and the Zombie Mortuary. Plus there will be dance parties and roller coaster riding in the dark
Details: The event runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27, plus Freaky Preview on Sept. 21-22. Hours: 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. during Freaky Preview and on Thursday nights; 7:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. No costumes allowed. Admission: $79.99, but check website for discounts and packages. Information: 888-800-5447, TheDarkSideOfTheGardens.com.
Universal is partnering with celebrities, a TV show and a horror video game for its always-elaborate Halloween Horror Nights. "Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas" is a 3-D haunted house, a radioactive version of Sin City with a toxic green glow. "Alice Cooper -- Welcome to My Nightmare" is a haunted maze that puts guests inside a demented and dark subconscious. Plus there are zombies from AMC's The Walking Dead," and a maze from the horror video game and motion picture franchise Silent Hill, and several other haunted houses. In addition, Universal has reinvented the street experience so that there will be no safe zones when visitors are stalked by menacing beasts, vampires, prisoners, warriors and other creatures.
Details: Halloween Horror Nights is an after-hours, separate-admission event that runs on 25 nights at Universal Studios: Sept. 21-22 and 27-30, Oct. 4-7, 11-14, 17-21, 24-28 and 31. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; ending times vary from midnight to 2 a.m. Activities are not intended for children; costumes and masks are not allowed. Admission: $88.99; see website for Florida resident discounts. Information: www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando.