Author Archives: Rick West

New Universal Orlando Volcano Bay Details Erupt

Volcano Bay details include Krakatau Aqua CoasterToday, Universal Orlando Resort released new Volcano Bay details that provide great insight to what guests can look forward to when the water park opens in early summer 2017.

Volcano Bay – Universal’s third park in Orlando – will be themed as a tropical paradise, with sandy beaches, lush vegetation, carved stone tikis, and water-based adventures for the entire family. The park’s icon is Krakatau, a 200-foot-tall volcano, which will steam and smoke throughout the day. After dark, Krakatau’s caldera will glow brightly as lava erupts skyward into the night sky.

The park’s featured ride (I personally have a hard time calling water slides “rides”) will be a thrilling attraction called Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This slide will propel guests riding in unique canoe-like vehicles through the dark caves and mysterious interior spaces of the park’s volcano; the vehicles will have the ability to race uphill as well, thanks to linear induction motor technology. Aqua Coasters are becoming fairly commonplace, popping up at water parks and on cruise ships with increasing frequency. What will likely stand out here, is the level of theming and experiential detail that Universal is no doubt, lavishing on this attraction.

Read More »

Leave a comment

VanOaks Cemetery Home Haunt 2016

VanOaks Cemetery 2016Each Halloween, Theme Park Adventure visits a lot of haunts and attractions around the Southland; everything from major theme park events to intense, theatrical productions. People often ask me what my favorite type of haunt is, and the answer is always the same: home haunts. In my opinion, home haunts are Halloween – the fact that someone has taken the time to spook-up their home with some decorations for the benefit of their neighborhood – it just doesn’t get better than that. VanOaks Cemetery is one of those home haunts (also referred to as “yard haunts” or “yard displays”) that captures the magic of Halloween – and our adoration each season.

Located in Sherman Oaks, California, VanOaks Cemetery is the creation of Halloween enthusiast Derek Young. During the off-season (for haunters, that’s the rest of the year), Derek is a creative director here in Los Angeles. He is also Co-Founder of SoCal Valley Haunters, a group of spook-makers that work year-round to create props and special effects for home haunts around Southern California.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Hot Butterbeer at Universal Studios Hollywood

hot-butterbeer-at-wwohp-ush-3Hot Butterbeer – say it again, and say it slowly with your eyes closed… Hot… Butterbeer… It’s the stuff dreams are made of, and it’s finally come to Universal Studios Hollywood after fans have been begging for it since the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter here on the West Coast!

There are three different types of Butterbeer, the mythical drink from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise: regular, frozen, and hot. Hot Butterbeer was introduced to fans at Universal Studios Florida in 2014 – and is by far, the sweetest of the three, since the company altered the sweet level of regular and frozen (no one will confirm, but everyone knows Butterbeer isn’t as sweet now as when the Wizarding World opened). Much like Mexican hot chocolate, hot Butterbeer is thick and creamy in consistency, the legendary white froth melting away into the liquid, mixing into sugary bliss. Whether you end up sipping or chugging hot Butterbeer, it is an experience that most Wizarding World fans relish.

Universal has decided to make hot Butterbeer a seasonal treat, which I totally get – but also hate. Here in California, where it’s not unusual to see temperatures in the 80s and 90s Christmas week, the idea of holding a hot beverage until the Holiday Season is kind of absurd. I assure you – Potter fans would plunk down their cash year-round for hot Butterbeer, just as they do for the frozen version even on chilly nights.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Screenshot Productions’ The Rope 2016

rope-2I’ve been buried, re-lived my birth, discovered fear and explored the afterlife. Screenshot Productions has managed to put me into various realms throughout the year, and all have managed to affect me differently. My experience with Screenshot’s latest production, The Rope, was quite different than the rest – it was interactive. I wasn’t walking through alone, I was with others. We ran around and interacted, and I was pleasantly surprised with this vastly different approach than what I’m used to.

10:00 PM, and I’m alone in downtown Los Angeles. I was thrilled for once to see others parked and standing around me. Traditionally, Screenshot produces shows that require the guest to walk through alone, offering a unique, personalized, intense and intimate experience. As little as I knew about this certain production, I was curious to see how this would play out with different audience members in one show.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Midsummer Scream to Return in 2017

Halloween fans, rejoice! Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival has announced its 2017 return to the Long Beach in a teaser video this morning – the first treat of the day for fans far and near!

Presented by Creepy LA and Theme Park Adventure, Midsummer Scream is the West Coast’s premier Halloween, haunt and horror convention, taking place Saturday and Sunday July 29 and 30, 2017 at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 Review

knotts-scary-farm-2016_19292016 has been a very interesting year for Knott’s Scary Farm. The grandfather of all theme park Halloween events, Knott’s presents a wide variety of attractions this season, giving the Scary Farm some interesting new tech, along with very familiar old-school vibes and experiences.

In all honesty, we were braced for a very tumultuous year for Knott’s. In the months leading up with the theme park’s biggest annual event, there were major changes internally that could have really disrupted (and did in some regards) the execution of this year’s Scary Farm. Several long-time Knott’s employees left the company during the critical ramp-up period before Haunt, including Lara Hanneman, who had served as Director of Entertainment Production at the park for many years. As summer began, Raffi Kaprelyan was promoted to Regional Vice President at Cedar Fair, and Jon Storbeck was announced as the park’s new Vice President and General Manager. Adding chaos to the mix, two long-time Marketing representatives departed just as the publicity machine for Scary Farm 2016 was getting fired up. In short, we were braced for a mess this season, figuring the infrastructure of Knott’s Berry Farm had reached the operational breaking point.

Read More »

3 Comments

The 17th Door 2016 – Gluttire University Delivers!

The 17th Door - Gluttire University 2016In 2015, The 17th Door took no prisoners as Southern California’s hottest Halloween ticket. After literally coming out of nowhere to create this massive haunted attraction, husband and wife team Robbie and Heather Luther assembled a master cast and crew, and created their hellish October home – the fictitious Gluttire University – in an up-scale outdoor shopping complex in Tustin, just minutes south of the Disneyland Resort in Orange County.

Almost immediately after opening, social media lit up with accounts of the extreme haunt featuring live cockroaches, real animal carcasses, characters shocking guests with hand-held devices and more; the effect it all had was amazing – people flocked to The 17th Door in droves, curious and excited to experience the attraction for themselves.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain 2016 Offers Big Halloween Chills and Thrills

six-flags-fright-fest-2016_1463Most people on the West Coast know that Six Flags Magic Mountain is the place to be when it comes to world-class thrill rides and the best roller coasters. What Southern California fans are finding out more and more each year, is that Magic Mountain is also home to one of the biggest and best Halloween events in the country as well – Fright Fest!

Fright Fest isn’t new; it’s been taking place for more than two decades at the Valencia thrill park just a short distance from Los Angeles. Not only does the event encompass the entire park, Fright Fest features some of the most amazing character makeup we’ve ever seen at any Halloween event, courtesy of Scott Ramp and his ridiculously talented crew at The Scream Team.

This year, Fright Fest at Magic Mountain features 7 mazes, 7 scare zones with their own unique themes, and a high-energy stage show that features multiple performers and a DJ throughout the night in Full Throttle Plaza near the entrance of the park. With a lineup of this scale, Fright Fest finds itself on the same playing field as Knott’s Scary Farm, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, and Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. That said, Fright Fest simply doesn’t throw the same budget at its mazes that Knott’s and Universal do – very few parks to, honestly. Design-wise, I would say that the level of Fright Fest’s mazes are about on par with Dark Harbor – which is definitely nothing to dismiss.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Wicked Lit 2016 Brings Haunting Theatrical Excellence to Los Angeles

Wicked Lit 2016 - Photo by Daniel KitayamaWicked Lit is extremely challenging to describe to those who haven’t experienced it before. You throw out adjectives such as “beautiful”, “haunting”, “immersive”… and then chase it with, “And they do it in a cemetery and mausoleum.” That’s usually where the record needle scratch comes in the conversation.

But it’s true. Wicked Lit (short for “literature”) is a stunning theatrical presentation that takes place each Halloween season at the Mountain View Mortuary, Cemetery and Crematory in Altadena, California. If you’re unfamiliar – and I would imagine most people would be – Mountain View’s mausoleum is stunning – ornate and gorgeous. The surrounding cemetery grounds are also very serene and well-maintained. Not to sound morbid, it’s the type of place you walk through and think, “Ending up here wouldn’t be half bad, I suppose.” That said, at some point, that’s exactly what members of Unbound Productions thought, too. And so, Wicked Lit found a home in the hills above Pasadena.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Urban Death Tour of Terror 2016 Delivers Vignettes of the Disturbing and Bizarre

Urban Death Tour of Terror 2016 - Photo by Jana WimerYou know it’s Halloween in North Hollywood when the sounds of wailing, screaming, and the carnal slapping of flesh fills the air along Lankershim Boulevard; it’s time once again for Urban Death Tour of Terror, presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre!

As with most of the seasonal reviews/stories here on Theme Park Adventure, we are not going to get into specifics of this year’s Tour of Terror production; to know what lurks in the dark – you must go to the show yourself.

What I will say, is that we had a tremendous time checking out this avant-garde group’s horrific show. The gang at Zombie Joe’s never ceases to amaze and deliver. Tour of Terror is the annual pinnacle of the team’s most F’ed-up visions that manifest to sold-out audiences throughout the year in their modest Los Angeles theater.

Read More »

Leave a comment