Once October rolls around, thrillseekers head to corn mazes, haunted houses, and other ghastly locations to be spooked and startled. Many theme parks around the country go all out with extravagant Halloween attractions, such as Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, which can be downright terrifying. But if you're seeking some theme park scares outside of October, don't fret. Many of them include year-round haunted attractions, so you can get your blood racing even in the middle of April.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror includes a freefall drop that is thrilling in its own right, but it's the supernatural forces and the Rod Serling's ominous voice that make this one of the spookiest attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. It pays homage to one of the most chilling television series of the 20th century, inserting guests into an episode of "The Twilight Zone." Riders enter an elevator at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, but plans quickly go awry. You'll zip not only up and down, but horizontally, too, as the elevator car moves through a starfield of impending doom called the "fifth dimension." Don't miss this highlight at Walt Disney World.
With Dementors, spiders, dragons, Death Eaters, and other nasty creatures waiting to pounce on you, the ride inside Hogwarts Castle can be quite scary. Its unique robotic arm ride system, which can twist and turn passengers with a great degree of flexibility, also makes for a thrilling ride experience. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is not only one of the spookiest rides, it is also one of the best theme park rides, period. You can experience the magic of Harry Potter at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Orlando.
Universal identifies Revenge of the Mummy as a “psychological thrill ride” because it aims to play mind games with its riders. This attraction has it all: creepy mummies (of course), encroaching fire, marauding bugs, jet-black scenes, and an overall sense of impending doom. If that isn’t scary enough, it also has all of the thrills you'd expect of a roller coaster at Universal Studios. You can ride Revenge of the Mummy at the theme park in Orlando or Hollywood.
It has all of the hallmarks of a classic haunted dark ride including dark scenes, ghosts, loud and startling noises, and set pieces that suddenly pop into view. The mansion is residence to "999 happy haunts," but for all of its gotchas and gimmicks, Haunted Mansion is really more funny than scary. Younger kids may find it unsettling, but the psychological thrills are fairly mild. Regardless, it is one of the most iconic attractions of all Disney parks, enough so that it inspired a movie. The original ride is at Disneyland in Anaheim, but you can also visit the Florida version at Walt Disney World.
Coney Island in New York City brings to mind the Cyclone roller coaster, walking along the boardwalk, and eating a Nathan's hot dog, but the Spook-A-Rama is nevertheless a seminal piece of living amusement park history. Opened in 1955, it's one of the few remaining classic haunted attractions and terror enthusiasts consider the Spook-A-Rama to be the Sistine Chapel of dark rides. Instead of the sophisticated effects found in Universal and Disney attractions, the Coney Island ride features old-school gimmicks and classic thrills. You'll have to experience it for yourself to get the full effect of this historical crowd-pleaser.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Mysterious and scary things happen to the characters as you make your way through Skull Island at Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando. Then King Kong bursts onto the scene. Is he a friend or foe? And what's up with those ginormous dinosaurs threatening to toss your ride vehicle into a ravine? Yikes! Ever since King Kong first appeared on screen in 1933, this monstrous gorilla has been terrorizing audiences and attained mythological status, making your face-to-face encounter at Skull Island an even more terrifying experience.
It's dark, there are marauding pirates, flames of fire appear, there are cannonball explosions. But for all of its potentially scary moments, Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Anaheim and Walt Disney World isn’t really all that frightening, similar to Disney's Haunted Mansion ride. Still, the classic ride remains one of the best and most beloved park attractions, often garnering huge lines with riders of all ages. Since the release of the blockbuster movie saga, you'll also spot some more recent familiar faces such as Captain Jack Sparrow.
No, not that Haunted Mansion. While the more famous Disney ride relies on a lot of big-budget Imagineering trickery, the Haunted Mansion at Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, is a retro dark ride that owes more to classic amusement parks of yore. Designed in-house and partly using sets and components from closed dark rides, the Knoebels attraction is generally regarded as one of the best modern-day examples of a traditional spooky ride.
This isn't a "haunted" attraction per se, but Indiana Jones Adventure does incorporate all kinds of bone-chilling moments such as snakes, "poisonous" darts, and—of course—a giant, forbidden eye. There is also the matter of that giant, round, rolling boulder that seems hellbent on flattening you. It's one of the most popular rides at Disneyland in Anaheim, so consider using a FastPass or MaxPass to shorten your time waiting in line.
An interactive spooky ride, Ghostwood Estate at Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, arms each passenger with a blaster to shoot at haunted characters and rack up points. While there are a number of similar shoot-em-up rides at theme parks around the country, Kennywood's attraction is among the best. The theme park itself has been treating guests since 1898, making it one of America's oldest attraction parks and also a designated national historic place. Kennywood is only open in the summer months, opening in mid-May each year and closing down at the end of September.