Hey there, Park Journey readers!
We're coming at you with another Bay Area Halloween update, but this time from an unexpected park. Gilroy Gardens, a family theme park owned by the City of Gilroy and operated by Cedar Fair, is testing the waters with a series nighttime holiday events this year. Gilroy's "@ Night" series allows you to enjoy special offerings while wandering the park after dark. Unlike the park's previous venture into nighttime entertainment, Lumination, the @ Night series is included on a Great America gold pass, which is a nice perk for locals.
Written by Andrew Cunningham
Walking up to the park, you are greeted by this gateway just outside of the entrance plaza.
People are literally dying to get into Gilroy Gardens ;-)
The Halloween @ Night map gives us a sense of what to expect from the evening.
The first thing we came upon was the fire pit. They had entertainment going around this area throughout the evening, and the setup was really nice.
Tip: this is towards the front of the park and was very busy with children early on. the fire pit was empty and relaxing later in the evening.
The only ride open for the Halloween @ Night event was a special spooky edition of the South County Backroads, the park's extensively landscaped car ride. The ride features two tracks: one in 1920's antique cars, and one in hot rods.
The antique cars seat four, while the hotrods only seat two. If you find yourself here on a busy night, note that the antique car line moves noticeably faster.
The car ride had a long queue early in the evening, but was a walk-on later on. I would recommend saving it for the end of your night.
The ride featured several Dia de los Meurtos characters and spooky lighting packages throughout the course. It was really cute.
After taking our laps on both car tracks, we ventured into the greenhouse to take on some of the spooky theming. Can't go wrong with black lights and fog!
We were starting to get a little hungry, so we ventured around to see what halloween snacks were available.
Pictured above are some of the various menu boards I saw around the park. I grabbed a Milk Tea and a Graveyard Pudding. Both were yummy :-)
All the snacks were really cute and kid-friendly. I had a tough time deciding between my Graveyard Pudding and some PB&J spiders :-)
It's worth noting that beer and wine were also available in the park. Thumbs up!
After wrapping up snack time, we went by to check out the beautifully lit Bonfante Falls.
Certified: LEDs and fog make everything better.
There are pathways and a tunnel that run underneath the falls. Make sure to check out the best "Backside of Water" in Northern California! ;-)
After checking out Bonfante Falls, we took the trail down to the waterfront. The park's central lake looked a bit "World of Color" tonight, which is a good thing!
I was really disappointed to find that the park removed their classic Rock Maze in favor of a water play area expansion. They did have this cute hay maze as a consolation though.
Heading back towards the front of the park, the nice fall touches were noticeable. We had one final section to check out before wrapping up our evening.
This way to the starfield!
Our final stop of the night was Claudia's Garden, which was transformed by lasers, fog, and funky lighting. It was pretty trippy!
The park is already promoting its upcoming @ Night events. Particularly intriguing is Harvest @ Night, which appears to be the park's attempt at a Food & Wine style event, and is advertised as having gourmet food, craft beers and fine wines, and live entertainment. Interesting to note that the Harvest @ Night website says that it's intended for 21 an over, while the Halloween @ Night was clearly geared a lot more towards children.
Anyone want to be our drinking buddies at Gilroy Gardens in November? I think we may hit that one up!
Overall, Halloween @ Night made for a nice evening at Gilroy Gardens. I would love to see this event grow in the future to include some more themed rides. We loved that a Great America Gold Pass got us in for free, and we'd recommend checking it out if you're a passholder located in South Bay.
Thanks for a nice evening, Gilroy Gardens! We hope to be back in November!
Hey there, Park Journey readers!
2017 marks the 10th year of Haunt at California's Great America, and ParkJourney was on had to check out the opening night festivities!
This was my second year attending Haunt at Great America, and I really enjoyed it. It's amazing how much this park has changed in the last couple of years, and the 2017 Haunt additions seem to indicate a continuation of that upward trend.
Written by Andrew Cunningham
Photos by Stephen Harrington and Andrew Cunningham
We start the evening by checking out Backwoods, this year's big new maze, which took over the Imax building previously occupied by Dia de los Meurtos. While Backwoods was noticeably shorter than its predecessor, the production value was far above any other maze that Great America has done.
Backwoods takes us to an old southern Bayou that is, unfortunately, overrun by Werewolves. The maze was unique in that it is built over a shallow water tank, and you walk from scare to scare over a set of wooden bridges that cross the water. The sets themselves were large, impressive, and void of any cheap plywood walls.
The park was kind enough to treat us to a lights-on tour of Backwoods. You can see from the pictures that the level of detail and production value was definitely heightened for this maze. It looked amazing with the lights off and actors in place!
Aes night began to creep in, the Haunt opening show took place over the Celebration Plaza fountains. The cloaked figure in the middle of the water is none other that The Demon!
It was cool to see a live Demon character in the park, as the other marquee addition for 2017 was Demon: Re-Ignited
The Demon is a true classic at California's Great America, the this year's Haunt brought fire, tunnel projections, and the return of the water features to the beloved coaster. I have to say that a night ride on Demon Ignited was incredibly enjoyable.
The park has also been hyping a re-recording of the classic Demon theme song by Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart. The new theme song was not ready to roll on opening night, but we will back next week to check it out again.
Great America has done a tremendous job with increasing their entertainment offerings over the last few years. This year for Haunt, Ed Alonzo's Psycho Circus of Magic & Mayhem returns to the park to take center stage.
We got to see the first trial run of the show, which was a lot of fun. I'm not a huge theme park show person, but I did find Ed's show to be an overall good time. He packed in several impressive magic tricks along with some PG-13 humor. I'd recommend seeing it if you have a full night to spend at Haunt.
While I didn't have time to take in every other maze or Skeleton Key room tonight (damn you, Caltrain schedule!), it did seem like the houses that I did were mostly the same from last year. However, the couple Skeleton Key rooms I experienced were different from 2016, which was fun.
Thanks for joining us for a look at the 2017 new hotness for California's Great America's 10th anniversary Haunt.
Halloween Haunt runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from now until October 29th. We definitely recommend coming to check it our if you're in the Bay Area!
We'll actually be back at California's Great America for Haunt the next two weekends, so look for lots more from this amazing event soon.
Wow, where do we begin with Knott's Scary Farm 2017.
To say that Knott's Scary Farm is hitting on all cylinders this year would be an extreme understatement. From top to bottom this is probably the strongest Scary Farm in a decade. The mazes are amazing, the scare zones are amazing, scares around every corner and more fun and screams are lurking in the fog than ever before
Pictures by Matthew Nelson and Gregg Condon
Written by Gregg Condon
Welcome to Knott's Scary Farm
This year unlike the past few years, the entire park is full of decorations
Look at that beautiful glorious fog
New for this year, Trick or Treat Light's Out
They've taken what was already one of our favorite Scary Farm mazes and improved it by turning the lights off and giving everybody flashlights.
Back for it's third year is Paranormal Inc
The maze is still amazing. Only thing we'd say here is maybe for next year a different pre-show storyline. They've done an amazing job of freshening up mazes with tweaks and this one could use a couple of tweaks to make it even better than it is.
Still one of the most technologically advanced mazes at the farm
A behind the scenes look at how we film and shoot Scary Farm
Welcome to Knott's Berry Farm by day
Dark Ride by Night!!!
Honestly, we aren't sure what we can say about Dark Ride that wouldn't make it sound like we were just blowing Haunt Fog up Jon Cooke's ass
This maze is simply perfect. Take everything we love about amusement parks and scary events and mash them together.
We really felt like we were in an episode of Scooby Doo (not the crappy movie, the awesome original cartoon). It was just fun and scary and perfect.
We know a lot of you don't like scary things, but we implore you, go to Scary Farm ... walk through Dark Ride. You'll fall in love with it.
So a couple final thoughts on Dark Ride:
First, we can't believe this wasn't a concept that wasn't thought of before. It seems kind of like a no brainer. Why it hasn't been done before is beyond us, but we're glad it hasn't been because this feels fresh and fun.
Second, the cool thing about Dark Ride is, and I'm sure it's something the maze designers have already thought of, they can keep the general "theme" of the maze but they can change out the actual "Dark Ride" part of it. I mean, could you imagine them re-creating Knott's Beary Tales as the "Dark Ride" part? People would freak, in a good way.
All in all this is probably in my top 5 Scary Farm mazes of all time. And that's saying A LOT. Because there have been some amazing mazes throughout the years.
Ghost Town in the fog is always amazing
New this year
It's simply brilliant and fun both during the day and at night
Surprise, she's still here!!
Sometimes it's the little touches that make this an all around amazing event
Red Barn ... we really enjoyed it last year, some small tweaks and it's even better this year
Let the bodies hit the floor
Amazing decorations in The Hollow
You'd think after the heaps of praise we just did on Dark Ride that would mean the other new maze for 2017 Pumpkin Eater would have been a tremendous let down. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The amazing 1, 2 punch of these new mazes using classic scares scattered with new technology are amazing. You can really feel the difference between the two given their two designers but yet they both totally work in the grand scheme of Knott's Scary Farm as a whole.
So some final thoughts on Scary Farm 2017 ...
We know it's still early in the season, and we have a LOT of events to go to still, but it's going to be REALLY hard for any event to top Knott's Scary Farm. From the time you walk through those gates you are immersed in everything scary.
The team this year has really outdone themselves and the original quite frankly is still the best.
We were hard-pressed to come up with a maze ranking this year because everything was so solid. Even a couple of mazes we were kind of 'meh on last year had comeback years. It honestly seems almost unfair to rank these mazes.
Yes, Dark Ride was obviously our favorite, but everything else is really a solid #2. There is not one "bad" maze. We didn't have one bad experience in any of these mazes. All were filled with fun and scares. Each time we went through the mazes over our two nights of Scary Farm they were all solidly on-point.
So do yourself a favor, get to Knott's Scary Farm. You won't be disappointed.