In a family-friendly destination like Orlando, travelers expect an abundance of G-rated events come October.
So many are surprised by the number of venues and events that roll out a blood-red carpet during this time of year.
From theme parks to nightclubs, from pumpkin patches to darkened theaters, this city has myriad sweet treats – and ample terrifying tricks – for the Halloween-lover in us all.
Beautiful holiday projections, dancers and special effects abound at the new "'Hocus Pocus' Villain Spelltacular" — Photo courtesy of Mariah Wild / Disney
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
A delightful annual event, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party paints the Magic Kingdom in a wash of greens and purples and oranges and fun during select nights through Nov. 1.
The newest addition for 2015, the "Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular," features astonishing incarnations of the infamous Sanderson Sisters from the 1993 Disney film.
“It’s an immersive show,” says Denise Case, show director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment. “We’ve been working on developing [it] since January, and a team of more than 75 people – including technical teams, cast, crew and creative – have helped bring it to life.”
Families, she says, have been delighted thus far.
“Guests take away an incredibly fun experience that captures the essence of the holiday,” Case says.
The show also features other famed Disney villains, including Maleficent and Oogie Boogie.
Also on tap: trick-or-treating on Main Street and Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade, where characters come alive and the ghosts of the Haunted Mansion get to come out and play.
Phantasmagoria is a two-fer on this roster; they'll be performing at the Zombie Ball on Oct. 24 — Photo courtesy of Barry D. Kirsch
Phantasmagoria VI: The Darkness Returns
In the sixth installment of Phantasmagoria's lauded “Whimsically Macabre” Halloween series, Orlando’s critically acclaimed steampunk storytellers bring a series of all-new tales to life.
Large-scale puppetry, fierce dance, exciting stage combat and riveting storytelling are what this army of performers is known for, and they are adept at setting a seasonally spooky mood.
Shows run select nights from Oct. 9 through Halloween. And tickets – which start at $15 – are on sale now.
Do you dare?
Local publications have ranked The Shallow Grave higher than the city's biggest events. Come see why! — Photo courtesy of Michael Gavin / The Shallow Grave
The Shallow Grave
With so many big-name, big-budget attractions in this town, it’s easy to miss the lesser-known. But while you’re busy overlooking The Shallow Grave, you better pray you don’t fall into it.
Tiny, frightened groups of up to six victims at a time experience this 12,000-square-foot house; sometimes it can take up to a half hour to complete!
“We’ve quickly gained the reputation of having the most realistic haunted attraction in Florida,” says Joe Phillips, the Dr. Frankenstein behind the Winter Haven monster that is Thaddeus Van Buren – the haunt’s main character.
His blood-spattered backstory is so big that it’s spawned two horrifying experiences.
What better setting for an outdoor horror movie? Of course, indoor shows have servers and air conditioning . . . — Photo courtesy of Enzian Theater
The Enzian is beloved by movie-goers all year long, not only for its rich, diverse programming of independent and classic cinema, but also for the lovely open-air bar/restaurant set amid its ancient oak trees.
October always brings with it all kinds of Halloween fun, from kid-friendly to adults-only options. On tap this year: hilarious favorites like Shaun of the Dead and Beetlejuice, along with modern oldies, including A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and The Howling, along with a kids’ party featuring Monster House (and lots of holiday goodies and activities)!
At Halloween Horror Nights, fear lurks around every turn — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween Horror Nights has been scaring the living daylights out of delighted horror fans for 25 years, and they’ve got plenty up their torn, bloody sleeves for the silver anniversary.
Sure, there are more houses than ever and loads of big names onboard. (Freddy. Jason. No last names necessary.) But the Scare Zone and Street Experience programming is extensive, from horrifying live shows featuring Jack the Clown to steampunk monstrosities to iconic horror characters and no shortage of chainsaw maniacs.
Guests won’t be able to get a soda without risking life and limb.
Enter the realm of the murderous Ashdown family in Kissimmee — Photo courtesy of Legends: A Haunting at Old Town
Legends: A Haunting at Old Town
This year-round fright fest is worth a visit no matter the season, though it does complement the holiday quite nicely!
When death is how you make a living, it pays to speed the process along. At least, that’s how this family of undertakers runs their business model.
But what happens when the dead won’t stay that way, and that long nap has made them hungry? Find out as you enter a house of unholy horrors in Kissimmee, where brilliant set design and live actors create a scare unlike any other.
You can up the Halloween ante with a reservation for Legends' Ghosts of Old Town Haunted History Tour. Reservations are highly recommended.
Moxie Le Femme dance company brings "Once Upon a Midnight Eerie" to The Venue on Oct. 16, 2015 — Photo courtesy of Moxie Le Femme
The Venue: Burlesque Fall Series
Who doesn’t like a little sexy with their spooky? Folks at The Venue in Ivanhoe Village know it all too well, so they’ll be featuring bombastic bump-and-grind every Friday in October.
From Orlando’s own Ladies of the Peek-A-Boo Lounge (They’ll be doing a show called OddiTEASE on Oct. 2.) to Florida troupes including Lakeland’s Moxie Le Femme, The Venue knows how to add spice to a month that’s already overloaded with sugar.
Cosplay FTW! The horror-loving hordes descend on Orlando for Spooky Empire come Halloween weekend. — Photo courtesy of Spooky Empire
It’s the ultimate con for horror fans, and it calls Orlando home!
Come Halloween weekend, you’ll find vendors and tattoo artists, celebrities and cosplayers converging on Hyatt Regency Orlando for a weekend that’s equal parts family-friendly fun and off-the-chain horrific: it just depends which events you show up for.
Zombie walks, trick-or-treating, ghost stories, costume contests and a film festival are just the beginning.
Celebs on tap this year include legends like George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and Malcolm MacDowell (A Clockwork Orange), as well as cult faves like Butch Patrick (Eddy Munster) and Lisa and Louise Burns – those spooky twins from The Shining.
The Halloween festivities hang from the rafters, literally, at the annual Zombie Ball — Photo courtesy of L. Leuterio Photography / Venue 578
Orlando Zombie Ball
The freaks come out at night, and no night gets freakier than Venue 578’s annual Zombie Ball (this year on Oct. 24), where a high-stakes costume contest ensures phenomenally creative cosplay and fantastic holiday photo ops! The prize is a cool $1,000.
Less competitive Halloween enthusiasts (21 and older, please) are encouraged to dress for the occasion, of course, though it’s not mandatory.
You can still enjoy a haunted scare zone and performances by the city’s beloved steampunk troupe: Phantasmagoria. Tickets start at $25, and an all-night open bar on select brands is included.
Scott’s Maze Adventures
The family-friendly fall fest that is Scott's Maze Adventures runs weekends from Oct. 3 through Dec. 13, which means if you miss it for Halloween (Seriously, the photo ops are priceless. Pumpkins! Corn! Hay!), it’ll work just as nicely for Thanksgiving.
That said: Parents will enjoy many opportunities for an errant Children of the Corn or Jeepers Creepers references while you enjoy time with the kids. Little maze for the tots who tucker out; giant one for the adventurers.
And, of course, fresh Zellwood corn, roasted before your eyes. Yum!
Fishy family fun meets Halloween at SeaWorld — Photo courtesy of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular
A sea of sweet treats abounds at SeaWorld on select weekends throughout October. The Spooktacular brings with it a happy horde of beautifully costumed creatures and characters, many with a marine-inspired theme.
Kids are encouraged to come in costume, but it’s not required to walk the trick-or-treat trail to collect goodies and enjoy themed arts and crafts.
The littlest guests will enjoy their favorite characters (Parents might, too!) in Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween musical show. A live DJ will be spinning up a holiday dance party, as well.