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Santa’s Village in California Opening Date Set for December 2, 2016

sv4It’s been a long time coming, but it appears that Santa’s Village in the San Bernardino National Forest finally has an opening date – December 2, 2016.

When it was first announced that the beloved old theme park in Skyforest had been bought by businessman/realtor Bill Johnson in 2014, fans everywhere became very excited; rightfully so. After closing its gates in 1998, the defunct Christmas-themed park sat abandoned and neglected for years, its wonderful old rides and whimsical buildings falling into a sad state of disrepair and ruin. Vandals left their mark on the closed park, as did the harsh seasons on the mountain just miles from Lake Arrowhead. Over the years, occasional interest was sparked by news of a potential buyer – but nothing ever came of it. When the property was purchased by Johnson, that was a huge step in the right direction, giving us all hope that the little theme park might be restored and returned to operation with a lot of love and a truckload of investment money. The price tag in 2014 for Santa’s Village was reported to be in the neighborhood of $5-6 million. When the 154-acre property was purchased, we cautioned strongly beginning with our May 15, 2014 story about the park possibly re-opening that it would require a lot more than that to get the property back up to modern codes, rebuild its infrastructure, add new attractions, and hire a year-round team, along with seasonal employees.

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Rotten Apple’s Not So Enchanted Forest 2016

Rotten Apple 907 Not So Enchanted ForestFor the past 26 years, Halloween fans have flocked to Rotten Apple 907 in Burbank, California, to visit one of the most elaborate home haunts in Southern California. This year, the Rotten Apple team put its twisted spin on popular childhood tales, creating the Not So Enchanted Forest.

Entering the foreboding Not So Enchanted Forest through a storybook facade, guests stepped into a dark, heavily-landscaped woodland. A small footbridge carried folks over a babbling brook toward a small cottage in a clearing – but not before a spooky tree a la Snow White’s Scary Adventures or even the Haunted Mansion advanced menacingly! This set the stage perfectly for the family-friendly frights that waited ahead in the darkness of the Not So Enchanted Forest.

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Fire and Law Tribute Days at Knott’s Return

Fire and Law Tribute Days at Knott's Berry FarmOnce again, Knott’s Berry Farm is offering free admission to the park for active fire and law enforcement personnel from November 28 to December 16, and then again from January 9 to January 31 as part of its annual Fire and Law Tribute Days promotion.

As a way of saying “thank you”, Knott’s Berry Farm extends this offer for free admission to active members of fire and law enforcement agencies plus one guest per valid ID. Branches included in this offer are: ATF Agents, Bailiffs, California Dept. Of Forestry, California Highway Patrol Officers, City, County, State and Federal Police (sworn officers and civilian employees/support staff), City, County, State and Federal Fire (sworn officers and civilian employees/ support staff), Correctional Officers, County Sheriff Officers, Ambulance Company Emergency Medical Techs, Department of the Youth Authority, District Attorneys, FBI Agents, Homeland Security, Police Explorers, Peace Officers, Probation Officers, Reserve/volunteer Fire/Law employees, Sherriffs, U.S. Forest Service Personnel, U.S. Marshals, and Wildland Firefighters.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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