Sure, a haunted house is spooky fun and a haunted castle is even better. However, if your kids have been there and done that, they might be looking for a more extreme adventure this Halloween. New England’s theme parks go all out for the most frightful holiday, mixing the thrills of the rides with chilling theatrics and special effects. Even if your kids aren't into the scary stuff, there is plenty of Halloween-themed fun to be had.
Screeemfest at Canobie Lake Park
85 N. Policy St., Salem, NH 03079 | 603-893-3506 | Hours: 6-11pm Fridays, 1-11pm Saturdays, and 1pm-8pm Sundays through October 31, 2015
Take your younger children in the daytime (through October 25, 2015) to the petting zoo at the Magic Seed area, storytelling and children’s dance parties in the Pumpkin House, and on the kiddie rides.
For teens, the thrills really begin in the evening, during Screeemfest, when everything from the rides to the midway becomes part of a spooky web of chilling tales. Whether you’re in one of the haunted houses or not, creepy characters are always lurking in the darkness. The haunted attractions are designed for all five of the senses, with walls literally pushing against visitors and foul odors being pumped into the houses.
If that all sounds a little too intense, you may want to go just for the roller coaster rides and for ROCKtoberfest, which features a different tribute band each week. The park also offers a Monster B’Gone necklace for purchase, if you’d rather not have actors jumping out at you.
Fright Fest at Six Flags New England
1623 Main Street Route 159, Agawam, MA 01001 | (413) 786-9300 | October hours: Fridays 6pm-11pm, Saturdays 12pm-11pm, Sundays 12pm-9pm through November 1, 2015
During the daytime, Six Flags offers relatively mild thrills for the Halloween season. There’s a family show with a mad scientist theme, a Trick-or-Treat Trail for younger children to find great prizes & sweets ($1 Donation benefits Six Flags Friends), a Spooktacular Street party where you can get your ghoulish groove on and a monstrous singing revue. The spooky displays around the park are prime photo spots.
At night, the park is transformed into Fright Fest, a mix of haunted attractions (some you have to pay extra for), shows that range from silly to disturbing and potential scares around every corner. Even waiting in line for a ride is risky business. You’re the best judge of what’s appropriate for your kids, but I would think twice about bringing anyone under the age of 13.
Haunted Acres at Liquid Planet Waterpark
446 Raymond Rd, Candia, NH 03034 | (978) 228-6543 | Hours: 7pm-11pm Fridays and Saturdays, 6pm-9pm Sundays through November 1, 2015
Haunted Acres has been providing Halloween entertainment in New Hampshire for more than 20 years and is ever-evolving. The most recent iteration is located at Liquid Planet Water Park and revolves around an Area 52 theme. There are 5 distinct attractions, including a quarter-mile walk (or run) in the woods, graveyard, a very dark maze, a nuclear reactor overrun by mad mutants (victims of radiation), and Cell Block 13, which is inhabited by flesh-eating inmates. New for 2015 is the Oculus Extreme Virtual Reality Haunted House. Haunted Acres is recommended for ages 8 and up.
Tip: You can save money by buying your tickets online in advance, and you can only use cash for tickets at the gate. If long lines really scare you, you may want to spring for the Speed Pass.
Photo: Canobie Lake Park
Originally published October 2014; updated October 2015