Anyone looking for a good scare this Halloween season should look no further than to Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt, which is celebrating its 8th season of screams in 2015. Regular readers of NewsPlusNotes already know that this is one of our "local" haunts, though it draws legions of scare-cravers from all over the Northeast - and for good reason.
The 2015 production of Halloween Haunt features several new attractions (11 in total), live entertainment, several event-specific food offerings and more. Halloween Haunt has come a long way in eight years, and if you need proof just check out this review we did from the premier Haunt in 2008.
This year Dorney Park was kind enough to invite us to check out the first serving of the season's Mansion House Meal, a special dining opportunity that takes place inside the Mansion House Hotel. For those not familiar, the Mansion House Hotel is one of the park's indoor haunted attractions that opened back in 2010. It has become a popular haunt at the park, and features an extremely long path and elaborate haunted hotel type sets filled with special effects.
Buried deep within the middle of the Mansion House is a grand dining room, complete with chandeliers and a roaring fireplace. While guests pass through here by the thousands each night and find a disheveled room filled with ghouls, the Mansion House Meal seats only 24 and offers a unique experience for haunt fans. The atmosphere is creepy for sure (seen above), but the dining is relaxed and a wonderful break from the hurried pace of the amusement park. There are several inhabitants of the Mansion House that joined all of us for dinner; however they were not there to scare, they instead kept us entertained and amused. Friendly ghosts, you could say.
But this is a dinner, right? So how about that food! Well, the park is very happy to offer visitors to the Mansion House Meal something prepared by the park's Executive Chef, so please do not expect any chicken fingers or hamburgers here.
Guests select their meal from a menu that features items such as black pepper pancetta wrapped filet topped with shitake mushroom hash and a belgium endive and frisee salad with a lemon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan. The food was wonderfully prepared and something you would expect at a fine dining establishment, so to be eating it at Dorney Park was almost surreal - but too delicious to think that deeply about. And there are a total of four courses served (my meal can be seen above), so there's no way you'll leave unsatisfied.
We have to thank the park's Executive Chef, Jan Giejda, for the excellent food that was served. He can be seen above with one of the ghostly figures that floated around throughout our meal. Chef Giejda's influence on the park has made great strides in their food offerings in the past couple years, and he has a strong team behind him as well. If you're looking for a special treat this Halloween season, I highly suggest looking into the Mansion House Meal. You can see more of the offerings and a book a reservation on the park's website.
As I said previously, this year's Halloween Haunt features eleven attractions, six of them inside haunts and five of them outdoor mazes. The same as last year, Blackout is a total-darkness maze that is exclusive to Fright Lane holders.
Above is Graymatter Cemetary, the home of Grave Walkers, one of the returning attractions in 2015. In total there are nine attractions that are back from previous Haunt seasons, with two new brand new experiences.
A brand new haunted house named Trick or Treat has taken up residence near Steel Force's station in the lower part of the park. This haunt features a storyline that revolves around a nasty witch who lives inside the house you're about to enter - and she's known for using trick-or-treaters as a way to live forever. So basically, if you're going to go inside you may get a trick that you're not expecting, and never make it back out.
Visitors to Treat or Treat enter though front door of the giant facade of the witch's house, just like trick-or-treaters. Once inside, the house is a bit of a visual feast, and even after trying to slow my pace down I still feel like I missed a great amount of details. The ending features a pretty neat special effect as well, though I won't spoil that. The house relies on creepy atmosphere, not gore, to get its scares done, and it does that well.
Another item I won't spoil are any of this year's Skeleton Key rooms, which are available to Fright Lane holders. The park really stepped it up with these this year, with only the room in Grave Walkers remaining the same (and that was by far the most intense last year). The golden rule of "the actors won't touch you" goes out the window in a couple of them... something you have to experience to understand!
The second new attraction this year is CornStalkers: Barn Bred & Blood Fed, which is the combination of both the previous years' CornStalkers maze with the Bloodshed maze. Bloodshed has been retired, and it appears as though many of its best scenes and scares have been incorporated into the new attraction. The maze has also been moved down to the lower part of the park, now located on the former site of the park's go-kart track in a very dark part of the park.
The maze starts with an entrance into Mama's House, seen here. There are several faux 'indoor' sets to pass through, then it's out into the tall cornstalks. This year the path is much tighter than before, allowing for less room to wander and making for even better scares. The Barn is the finale to the experience, which features some slaughterhouse sets and a bunch of crazies. Judging by the line for the new CornStalkers, the public still loves the concept even though it dates back to the first Haunt. This one has staying power!
Along with these new attractions we also have popular new debuts from 2014, like the CarnEvil scare zone, seen above. This is the home to one of the park's nightly live shows called Skeleton Crew. Last year's new haunted house, the Chamber of Horrors, is also back and scaring again this year.
Granted the park had great weather this past weekend for Halloween Haunt's debut, but I was surprised by the huge crowd for such an early haunt-season weekend - encouraging for the rest of the season. Also of note is that the park's move of CornStalkers has made the water park area only open during the day for family activities. This means that during Haunt the visitors are less spread out, which added greatly to the atmosphere. This was a great move by the park and will hopefully make for an even better season than ever before.
Many thanks to the park for having us out to check out Halloween Haunt - you can learn more and plan your own trip at this link!