September 28, 2013–
SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE’S FRIGHT FEST
WHEN: Running weekends through Oct. 27, with 25 Halloween-themed shows and attractions
WHERE: 1 Six Flags Boulevard, Jackson. Heading from points north? Take the New Jersey Turnpike south to exit 7A, then take I-195 east to exit 16A, then head one mile west on Rt. 537 to Six Flags.
HOW MUCH: Park admission starts at $45.99 online, $65.99 per person at the park
INFO: For a full schedule, tickets and more
information, visit http://www.sixflags.com.
Halloween comes with plenty of its own built-in traditions. Costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, the sound of Bobby “Boris” Pickett and plenty of sweet, sweet candy come to mind. But, here in New Jersey we add one more item to the seasonal itinerary: Fright Fest.
That’s right. If it’s autumn in the Garden State, that means it’s time for the return of Six Flags Great Adventure’s Fright Fest. Now on its 22nd year at the Jackson theme park, the extremely spooky extravaganza is back in full force through Oct. 27.
For the uninitiated, Fright Fest is the time of year when Great Adventure devotes itself to all things Hallow’s Eve, turning the park over to ghouls, ghosts and other ghastly guests. This year’s festivities feature terror trails, haunted mazes and nearly 200 zombies, plus the classic scream-inducing coasters such as Nitro, El Toro and Kingda Ka. In all, this year the park is boasting 25 Halloween-themed shows and attractions.
If you scare easy or are attending with little ones, don’t worry: There are plenty of tamer activities during the day, such as a trick-or-treat trail, creepy critters and magic shows and a corn maze.
But, after 6 p.m., things start to get spooky (and plenty crowded, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute).
For 2013, the park has six haunted walk-through areas and four designated “scare zones,” as well as a number of seasonal song-and-dance shows. The flashiest of the scary spots (such as the Voodoo Island, Wasteland and Asylum terror trails and the Manor and Total Darkness mazes) require an additional fee, while the scare zones, including the new Straw-Man Stalkers in the Park’s waterfront area, are included with park admission.
Haunted mazes and terror trails
The haunted mazes are, admittedly, a bit of a mixed-bag. Housed in the building that for years held “The Right Stuff” – Mach One Adventure, the Manor and Total Darkness are well-designed spots, a typical haunted house and a nearly pitch-black walk-through, respectively, both populated by costumed ghouls. But so much of the experience here is dependent on other guests, as you walk through each attraction with a group of approximately 10 people
If you’re stuck in the back of the group in the Manor, that means the folks a few paces ahead of you will get all the scares and you’ll get to see the performers get back into position before the next group comes through. And for Total Darkness, the whole group has to hold on to one length of rope, with the person in front leading the way by flashlight.
The terror trails, however, are an absolute blast. Well-paced, creatively conceived and incredibly well designed, these outdoor experiences are delightfully scary, with the Voodoo Island destination in the shadow of the Log Flume ride being a particularly terrific event.
Each terror trail has a clear theme, and monsters to match. For example, the Wasteland trail is a world of post-nuclear fallout horror, complete with mutated monstrosities, while the Asylum is appropriately nightmarish and Voodoo Island is exotically unsettling, with a killer set-piece as its grand finale. The fact that these are outdoor experiences with slightly wider paths than the indoor mazes means you can take your time to really soak in the set designs and get scared at your own pace (and you will be scared, time and time again.)
The problem with this year’s Fright Fest is a practical one: the Manor and Total Darkness open for business at 5:30, Fright Fest kicks off in full force at 6 p.m. with the Awakening celebration and subsequent ghoul parade, and the terror trails start running at 6:45. Depending on the night, the park is open until 10 or 11 p.m. On a recent visit, lines for each of the specialty attractions appeared to be around two hours long.
Then, there’s the cost factor: On the park’s website, tickets for park admission start at $45.99, and it’s $25 for parking. Terror trail combo passes run $15 for regular guests, $12 for those with season passes, but for $60 you can score a scare pass that lets you skip the frightful lines for the seasonal attractions.
So, one must choose wisely to maximize his or her time at the park. For those in the mood to get really spooked, the scare pass very well might be worth it. If you’re looking for a one-stop scare destination to get the pants thoroughly scared off of you, Fright Fest is sure to deliver.
By Deborah Fitts