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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Coronavirus fears shut down theme park Halloween events, plus other updates

By Carlye Wisel
Stranger Things artwork for HHN haunted house

Welcome back, y'all. This week's news isn't especially fun, but given that we're still in the midst of a devastating pandemic, it's expected. Let's get right into the cancellations and updates — here's what you may have missed this week in theme park news.


Universal’s fright-filled, fan-favorite annual Halloween Horror Nights won't be scaring anyone this year. The beloved seasonal event, held at Universal’s parks on both coasts, has been canceled for both California and Florida.

Like many of us this year, HHN will be missing a milestone birthday. This year was set to be the 30th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights at Orlando, and it was poised to be a memorable one. With rumors swirling about a Beetlejuice house and even Billie Eilish having her own spooky presence, there was plenty on deck for it to be a special celebration.

To say the announcement came suddenly is somewhat of an understatement. There was always a large possibility it wouldn’t happen; other Halloween events throughout the country were also canceled due to the pandemic, including Disney World's Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. But, given the literal in-park signs promoting the event, HHN fans hadn't given up hope. A facade for Universal Studios Florida’s Tribute Store had mysteriously appeared days prior, Universal’s Twitter account was exciting fans with its regular shenanigans, and 30th Anniversary merchandise had already gone on sale online.

The good news for fans is that the event will indeed return in 2021 — if it's safe to do so — but the implications of its shuttering, particularly for Florida and its tourism-reliant economy, are not insignificant. Auditions were already being held for positions that would have provided additional income and opportunities for willing "scare actors" in the region, and the event's cancellation may also signal to how severe the reduction in travel to Orlando may be at this point in the pandemic.

As an event that requires a similar but updated approach to theme park safety procedures, the decision makes sense; Universal Studios Hollywood, which hasn’t even reopened yet, was even less likely to host Horror Nights. With Disneyland Resort’s Oogie Boogie Bash canceled following Universal’s announcement, it's official: theme park Halloween is dead on arrival this year.

Here's hoping that it will be safe for spooks to return in 2021. We will be thinking about Billie's "creepy as s***" house 'til then.


Now presenting an assortment of park news from the past few days:

Fresh Thrills: Silver Dollar City, based in Branson, Missouri, which has seen a rise in coronavirus cases, has officially opened its new raft ride Mystic River Falls. Not to be confused with the Academy Award-nominated film, it’s got a massive drop — the Western Hemisphere’s tallest on a raft ride, apparently! — and unsurprisingly, it seems cool. (Anything that uses a vertical lift to give a water ride an even bigger boost is a win in my book.)

Cold Truths: Ample Hills has exited the Mickey Mouse building. After recently filing for bankruptcy protection, the New York-based ice cream chain has shuttered its BoardWalk location and pulled out of its future Disney Springs location, as well. The pictures are painful — so long, perfect, multi-flavor ice cream samplers! — and it also seems to signal that Disney Springs’ West Side, which had not yet completely benefited from the mall’s overhaul, will take even longer to feel up to snuff. News broke yesterday that construction on Beatrix, the Lettuce Entertain You eatery slated to bring fresh and healthy eats to Springs, has been halted due to COVID-19, too. Paired with Cirque du Soleil’s unanticipated delays, a would-be infusion of new, interesting offerings won’t be happening when we hoped for. Hey, at least there’s always Gideon's!

Worthy Updates: Following amendments from both Disney and Universal on mask policies in the past week, Disney officially clarified its policy to outlaw masks with valves, or “masks” made of yarn or mesh, because those aren't effective at stopping the spread of the virus — and that's the whole point of wearing a mask. C'mon, folks. 


Of all the things that would have broken my brain had I seen them in a pre-pandemic 2020, this Blog Mickey video of guests being able to re-ride Avatar Flight of Passage, known for its crushingly long waits, takes the cake:


- As always, Robin Lopez provides.

- Additional Park Pass availability has been added for Annual Passholders at Disney World, and select cast member block-out dates have been lifted.

- You know where to find me on July 30.

- Knott’s Berry Farm’s Taste of Calico is providing a special ticketed food festival while the park remains closed.

- Ballast Point and Tortilla Jo’s reopened at Downtown Disney

- SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Busch Gardens Tampa are offering military veterans up to four complimentary single-day tickets from now through Nov. 11. (SeaWorld San Diego and Busch Gardens Williamsburg will have the offer upon reopening.)

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