Howl-O-Scream's theme at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is "The Dark Side of the Gardens". Looks like we'll have some zombies out to get us this year along with 6 houses, and "roaming hoardes" of zombies walking the streets, as no official scarezones are listed. Click on "Official Info & Reviews" for all the scary details. For the latest rumors, visit the Rumor Mill.

Dates: September 23, 24, 29, 30 • October 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 2011

For ticket pricing and more information visit the official website here.

©BuschGardensOfficial Event Info & Full Event Review

Get details on the houses, scarezones and shows for this year, along with our review of the event.

Specialty Cocktails
Reviews of the drinks & where to find them throughout the park.

Whether this is your first time or you've been going for years, we've got tips to help you make the most out of your visit. 

Rumor Mill
What has Busch Gardens revealed about HOS? What do we think will happen? Read our predictions, rumors and late breaking HOS news that we've come across from various sources. Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Specialty Cocktails, Beer & More at Howl-O-Scream 2011 

At Howl-O-Scream you will find several Food & Beverage stands set up throughout the park that sell a variety of beer (draft and bottle) and snacks. If you are looking for specialty cocktails or hard liquor, your options are more limited. Mixed drinks & Specialty Cocktails can be purchased at Club Virus, Crown Colony Pub, Carni Bar and at the Dessert Grill entrance.

If you have a Busch Gardens annual pass you get 10% off your drinks!

Food & Beverage Tents
Bottled Beer:
Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, Michelob Ultra, Corona, Bacardi Sangria

Draft Beer:
Budweiser or Bud Light
(More draft beer options available at restaurants, such as AmberBock & Florida Avenue at Zambia Smokehouse.)

Beer Yard - $13.99 (Yard Strap $1.99)
Beer Yard Refill - $6.99
21oz. Beer - $7.69
Aluminum Bottles - $7.69/$7.99
Bacardi Sangria - $6.99
Carni Bar
Full-service bar located in the arcade area by the Dessert Grill.

Specialty Drinks:
Zombie "Test" Tubes - $7.99 | $9.99 Souvenir Cup | $6.99 Souvenir Refill
Dare your favorite Flare: Cherry, Lime, Strawberry, Blackberry, Mango or Pineapple Coconut

Zombie Chiller - $7.99 | $9.99 Souvenir Cup | $6.99 Souvenir Refill
Specially blended flavors of vodka, orange, lemonade and splash of fizz.

Zombie Bombs - $7.99 (served only until 11pm)
Jagermeister and Rockstar. 

Premium Mixed Drinks - $9.99 in souvenir cup | $6.99 souvenir cup refill
Single shots only.  

House Wine - $6.99 | $8.99 souvenir cup | $5.99 souvenir cup refill 

Yard of Beer - $13.99 | $6.99 Yard Refill | $1.99 Yard Strap 

Bottled Beer
Budweiser & Bud Light - $7.69
Bud Light Lime - $7.99
Bacardi Sangria - $6.99
Your choice of Specialty Glass for your drink. Choose from a yellow or purple glow cup, a glow Martini or (not pictured) glow skull cup.

The Zombie "Test" Tubes have, quite possibly, the coolest presentation we've ever seen. They have an iridescent swirl to them as they are mixing. Howl-O-Scream wins on drink presentation this year!

Check out the video to see them swirl! So cool!

Crown Colony Pub
Located across from Cheetah Hunt. The same specialty drinks are available here, along with other liquors of choice and beer.

Club Virus
Located at the front of the park. Enjoy the same specialty cocktails at this full-service bar along with dancing, character meet & greets and dance-club music at this adults-only club.

Liquid Courage Bar
Located outside of the main case you need some help facing the scares before you go in!

Important Notes: Liquor sales end 30 minutes before the end of the event. One drink per person, per ID.

Zombie Chiller & Yard of BeerReview: We ordered a Zombie Chiller, as is our duty to research & inform you! The Chiller consists of vodka, orange, lemonade and a splash of fizz. A light, fruity drink with a refreshing crisp from the lemonade. A little light on the vodka, but a tasty drink nonetheless.

As far as our thoughts on getting the souvenir cups, if you plan on having a few draft beers that night, go ahead and get the Yard. Same goes for the specialty liquor drinks since the price of the refills is only $7.

Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to try the Zombie "Test" Tubes. If you tried one let everyone know what you thought of it in the comments.

Zombie Chiller Recipe
Want to make the Zombie Chiller at home? Well you're in luck - it's rather simple. Here's our best educated guess at the recipe:
2 parts vodka  
2 parts orange juice  
2 parts lemonade  
1 part Sprite


Howl-O-Scream Official Info & Event Review 2011

Howl-O-Scream has announced 6 houses: Nevermore, Ultimate Gamble:Vampire Casino, Zombie Mortuary, Night Shade Toys, Death Row Vengence:Fear the Dead, Deconstruction: The Dr. is Out of Control. Returning this year is the Alone house, which is an up-charge house. Based on it's popularity last year, buy your tickets now to guarantee your spot. In place of where Scarezones should be, it simply states "Zombies". Looks like the scares will be scattered throughout the park. Fan favorite show Fiends returns with those naughty nurses, along with a new show called The Midnight Hour. Just for the adults, visit Club Virus for drink specials and dancing.

Don't miss the information & reviews on the Specialty Cocktails & Drinks at the event.

Below you'll find the official descriptions, and our reviews of the event.

Howl-O-Scream Review 2011
Review with trip report from our Friday, September 23, 2011 visit. 
We will be rating each house on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Please keep in mind this was opening weekend and the event grows & changes over the course of its run.

Let the Zombie Invasion Begin!
The Good News: This year we had the fortune of being invited to their media VIP Bleed-up event. For full disclosure, we did receive free event tickets and front of line passes for the night. We usually go twice a year on our own anyway, so the invite was a much appreciated bonus. However, we will not let that influence our thoughts or reviews of the event. The Bad News: You would think that 3 hours to get from south Orlando to Busch Gardens would be enough. Not this night. Thanks to rain, traffic was horrendous and made us miss the VIP party, though we did still get some swag that we'll be giving away at a later date. Huge thanks to @HOSInsider. 

Overall Atmosphere
When you arrive by tram to the park, be sure to notice the handicap parking lot - zombies have already arrived. In the entry way you may come across a few zombies on a leash as you make your way to the turnstiles. There is a bar out in front of the main gate as well, in case you need a little liquid courage to get this party started!

The general theming throughout the park is well-done and helps set the mood. Special lighting in the trees, an important "breaking news" overhead announcement and other small details & photo ops pull it all together. 

They have 2 DJ booths set up for the party, one by Sheikra and one by Cheetah Hunt. We love that they have these, it really makes it one big party. Heck, even the zombies were dancing for a while! 

Zombie Hoards
When we first read that there weren't going to be any scarezones this year and just "zombies" we figured it was a cost-cutting move and knew it'd either be amazing or weak. We are happy to report that they hit it out of the park with the roaming hoards. Nearly everywhere you went you would come across a hoard of zombies, giant masked creatures, or ghille suits hiding in the bushes. There is a nice variety of zombies looking to scare you - everything from construction workers, cheerleaders, haz-mat workers, clowns, werwolves and more. 

The majority of scareactors at HOS are absolutely top-notch at creating a personalized scare experience. They are excellent at actually interacting with you! Instead of just a quick "Boo!" expect to have your personal space invaded by a goul for the next football field or so.

Clownbies! (Because Zombowns sounds stupid)
Apparently the big top didn't provide much protection against the zombie invasion. The clown zombies are a huge HOS success. I, like all of you, hate clowns with a passion. Unfortunately, one of the members of the troup was made aware that I'm not a fan of clowns; he was even gracious enough to mention my name. I was immediately surrounded by a hoard of zombies calling my name in the most disturbing zombie-like voices! Even as we walked away from them (ok, I ran) I could still hear them yelling calling for me! Now those are committed scareactors! Big props to the clown team (as much as I hate to say that!). 

OMG That Bush Just Moved!
Who doesn't like a good ghillie suit scare? Nobody, that's who. This year Busch Gardens has cleverly hidden people all over the park . . . right in plain sight! Excellent job. Great cheap scares that startle everyone.


"Beating hearts, swinging pendulums and a raven's cries haunt the manor of Lenore, creating a demented and twisted nightmare. Step inside to experience the gothic terror that maddens the lord of the house and feel delusion overcome reality. Find your way out of this horror story before paranoia authors your final chapter"
 - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located behind Zambia Smokehouse, near Sheikra.

Nevermore - 9/10
NEW HOUSE! Enter the queue through a large ornate stone gate to find the giant, gothic-style house named "Lenore". Busch Gardens has truly raised the bar for detail and immersed us in his world. Don't miss Poe himself up in the tower right before you enter. A dark, gruesome house combine with excellent use of misdirection to create some great startling scares. This is definitely one to hit more than once.

"Fanged fiends entice you to test your luck in this sultry hangout straight from Sin City. The seductive games and high-stake thrills at Revivara Casino are sure to get your blood pumping, but will you escape before your luck gets drained? Just stay away from the killer All-THEY-Can-Eat buffet." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in Gwazi park area.

Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino - 7/10
NEW HOUSE! A bit more on the humorous/creepy side with the "all-they-can-eat buffet" and bar scene. The fun starts before you even get in the house with a very energetic carnival barker welcoming you to the casino. Great detail and some startle scares make this a fun house. 

Read behind-the-scenes details at


"No one remembers how the epidemic started, but now, zombies live here. The undead that infest this small town funeral home fed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Avoid the walking dead or you may find yourself deeper than six feet under." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the carnival area, by Sand Serpent.

Zombie Mortuary - 9/10
NEW HOUSE! HOS designers are flexing their muscles this year and this house is doing a great job of showing us what they're capable of. Expect an amazing eye for detail and a nicely unique storyline to join forces with a very talented cast to make this one of the best houses yet. Be sure to go through a couple times to really see everything. There's nothing creepier than their new funeral home. Be sure to pay your respects or you may offend the mourners. There's a lot of "I see you hiding over there . . . Whoa! But where'd you come from?!" going on in this house.

Read behind-the-scenes details at 

"By day, the old NightShade Toy Factory appears abandoned. But as night falls, the mysterious manufacturing plant glows and hums as it creates the diabolical dolls, terrible teddy bears and possessed playthings of your childhood nightmares. These twisted toys are alive...and they are coming after the adults who have forgotten them." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front entrance area of the park.

NightShade Toy Factory - 4/10
Sorry Nightshade. It's just not working. It's not you, it's me. Unfortunately we've never been a big fan of this house and this year was no exception. In theory, "scary toys-come-to-life" should be scary, but it's almost just silly. If you need to skip a house, we recommend this one.

"The inmates of Grey Echo Penitentiary are slated for execution. But as a zombie plague infests the crumbling cells, those prisoners left alive must decide which is worst: facing the firing squad, death by electric chair or an eternity of torture at the hands of their undead captors." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located by Jambo Junction.

Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead - 7/10
A returning house, but with a new overlay theme of infected prisoners. We still love the jail cell scene - don't forget to look up! The way in which you must 'escape' the jail is still one of the best ideas we've ever seen. If you've never been to HOS this house is top notch but it doesn't offer much new to the veteran. Still a fun scare for all to be had.

"Dr. Edger VonAnst has the skill and technology to make you over...but what will you become? This mad reconstructive surgeon has fallen one notch deeper into insanity and is putting human parts back together with mechanical pieces, combining flesh, bone and steel in the most hideous ways." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park, near Montu.

Deconstruction: The Dr. Is Out of Control - 6/10
Another returning house that's full of gory, gruesome hospital scenes and creepy doctors & patients. Some good startle scares, but not quite as strong as last year.

"Get exclusive access to one of the most horrifying houses of all when you and up to 3 friends make your way through this deranged labyrinth. This solitary scare experience will get you screaming and there won't be anyone to hear your shrieks. It's the ultimate test of fear. Can you make it out ALONE?" - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park, across from Gwazi area.
***NOT included with regular Howl-O-Scream admission. $40 for up to 4 people.

Alone - ?/10
Yet again, we waited too long to purchase tickets and missed our opportunity to experience Alone. Next time for sure! If you'd like to see this house be sure to purchase tickets weeks in advance.


"Is there a doctor in the house? These captivating creatures of the night will infect you with dance fever and keep your pulse pounding with their deranged dance party. But when Dr. Freakenstein's naughty nurses start operating, the diagnosis is always "code pink"." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the Stanleyville Theater.


Skipped it this year. We did see it last year and thought it was a bit tired and slow-moving. We know it's got a big fanboy base, but that probably is only because of the sexy nurses. Save your time and spend it elsewhere.
 Like on a photo op with the sexy nurses...

"The Midnight Hour: The music industry can be a devilish business to break into, especially at the Hellfire Club, where some of pop culture's most sinister personalities are there to coach you." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the Dessert Grill.

The Midnight Hour - 2/10
The Good: Well, the actors tried really hard. The Bad: Everything else. It started out ok, with the plot of an aspiring singer getting help from other celebrities, but then it turned very political. Like weird political. As in pro-Sarah Palin political? Seriously. We cut our losses and left before the end. We recommend you do better than us and skip it altogether.

Other Entertainment

"Escape the hordes and head to the transformed Marrakesh Theater to join the party at Howl-O-Scream's exclusive dance club. This adults-only nighttime playground keeps the energy pumping all night with non-stop music, signature cocktails, drink specials and appearances by some terrifying personalities." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park.

Club Virus
We stopped in towards the end of the night, and it was relatively empty with a few people milling about with drinks and chatting, though we're sure that will change as the event goes on.  If you want a break from the park, step in here for a club scene for a little variety. The drinks served here are the same as the specialty ones served at all bars. Read our Specialty Drink post for more information on libations.

Parting Thoughts...
We stand by that one night is simply not enough to really take in the whole event. Thankfully we had front of line passes, or we wouldn't have seen all that we did, let alone enjoy the atmosphere and a ride or 2 (our first rides on Cheetah Hunt were this night - AWESOME!!). If you have one night here, we would recommend springing for the front-of-the-line pass, or the Fright Feast.

Best place to stop for some food: Zambia Smokehouse - Best. Ribs. Ever. Plus, what's more zombie approved than gnawin' on some rib bones? 

Overall, we are highly impressed with the improvements on the quality and continuing innovation of the event. Sorry HHN, we love you but Howl-O-Scream wins again for best overall, integrated park themeing and, of utmost importance to us, party atmosphere. This is our 3rd year attending HOS and we are happy to see that each year keeps getting better than the last.


Howl-O-Scream Tips 2011

©BuschGardensWhether this is your first visit or you're a veteran, check out our tips to make the most of your night.

Your event ticket gets you into the park before the official event start time so you can grab some food, etc. beforehand. Exact times will be posted soon. 

If you are a beer drinker, you are set - there are several stands pouring cold ones throughout the park. If you prefer mixed drinks your options are more limited with a few stands scattered around that also serve liquor. The Crown Colony bar (across from Cheetah Hunt) is also open with a full bar.

Also visit "Club Virus", the 21+ club located in the Marrakesh Theater at the front of the park. You'll find music, signature cocktails, drink specials and appearances by "terrifying personalities". The club is free to enjoy.

All drinks must be finished before entry into a house.

One drink served per person, and must have ID. Busch Gardens strictly enforses all drinking laws.


While some visitors swear on the 'Fright Feast - Dinner & Show with early house access', we have not experienced that, so we won't comment. We'll stick with the eat before, or small snacks during the event which are available at the various beer/snack stands. Or our favorite, the Zambia Smokehouse for some ribs...mmm...ribs...yeah, we recommend stopping for ribs.

Update 10/1/10 - Much to our surprise and pleasure (since previous years they were nowhere to be found), there were about 5 cabs waiting out in front of the entrance. The cabbie mentioned that there aren't usually many taxis parked waiting, so on the busier nights they are taken early and are harder to come by. So take our experience and plan accordingly. Have a taxi # pre-programmed in your phone in the event there are no taxis to be found. 

#1 Piece of Advice
Do not wear flip-flops to this event! If you value your toes, wear sneakers. I promise you - your feet will get stepped on as the person in front of you jumps backwards after a good scare.

And be nice, the zombies know where you live.

What would be your number one piece of advice? Share it with everyone in the comments!


Howl-O-Scream Rumor Mill 2011

©BuschGardensRumors are over! The full HOS website was released overnight.

We've got 6 houses by the names listed in the previous update:
• Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino
• Nevermore
• Zombie Mortuary
• Nightshade Toy Factory
• Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead
• Deconstruction: The Doctor Is Out of Control
• Alone (extra charge house)

Scarezones: The most interesting thing is that there are no "scarezones" listed - just "Zombies: The scare is everywhere you turn in the Dark Side of the Garden. Watch your step because you never know where the undead may be lurking."

This is a whole new approach they are trying this year - no themed scarezones, but the promise of park-wide scares. We think the potential for this being absolutely amazingly scary is very high - if you are familar with the park you know all the bushes & landscaping that zombies can be hiding. And this doesn't say that they won't still have themed areas to walk through, we just won't know until the event opens. If this park-wide scarezone is a success, Busch Gardens just may have raised the bar again, after the successful debut of Alone last year. We are very excited to find out!

©BuschGardensThe adults-only 21+ club is returning as well, named "Club Virus" where there will be music, signature coctails, drink specials and appearances by "terrifying personalities". There is no admission to stop into the club. Located in Marrakesh Theater toward the front of the park, by the Shop of Horrors.

Busyness has gotten into the way of regular updates, but wanted to share the first official commercial for HOS posted yesterday. Given the emphasis on the "garden", we're hoping they take full use of all the bushes and landscaping at the lush park. There are a ton of areas that are just plants & bushes that could house several cheap, jump-out-at-you scares. The best scares from previous years weren't even in the scarezones - but guys in Ghillie Suits hidden along unassuming, non-decorated paths.

Names of the houses have been leaked by the AAA website, but they're not officially confirmed yet. If so, there are 3 new houses and new spins on returning houses. Also, the price for "Alone" is now $40 (for up to 4 people). 
• Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino
• Nevermore
• Zombie Mortuary
• Nightshade Toy Factory
• Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead
• Deconstruction: The Doctor Is Out of Control
• Alone

The website has recently been updated again, with the addition of more roses, this time with what looks like eyeballs in the center of the flowers. There is also a hand coming out of the door, and the clock on the right is now fully covered up by the roses. Interesting.

©BuschGardens@HOSInsider released this teaser image from their TV commercial today on Twitter. His quote: "I just saw the HOS 2011 commercial!! Of course they wouldn't give me a copy, but I was able to get a screen grab."

Looks like we may be going away from the sexy icons of past years to something more gruesome and frightening.

Howl-O-Scream takes the crown when it comes to overall atmosphere scares and this year we can't help but hope there will be hoardes of zombies just waiting in the thick brush of the park to scare you. They are masters at using ghillie suits for random scares, so the potential here is great.

So here's what we know so far:
• There will be 3 new houses - Vegas & Vampires, one related to a Gothic Horror Master and the other yet to be released.
• Alone house is returning.
• There will not be a single icon, but rather focused on the entire theme of the event.
• A zombie theme
• Fright Feast is returning

Teaser website has been released!!
The official name is "The Dark Side of the Gardens - Zombies Live Here." The single page shows an entrance to a creepy looking garden with a brick wall and heavy wood door with 2 marble statues to the sides. At the bottom of the page it says "The dark side of the garden is still this night but something waits in the shadows, just out of site." It was also announced that this is the first year that both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa with have the same theme, but focusing on slightly different beasts. 
Another tease from@HOSInsider on Twitter: "Take the 2 scariest things in the world that start with V (Vayne isn't one of them...) & put them together into one HOS house. Whadaya get?"
The answer is Vegas & Vampires. Looks like HOS & HHN will have a similar tie this year with the Vegas comment. So far we have zombies, vegas and vampires. This could be interesting!

Another tease from@HOSInsider on Twitter: "I heard what one of the *new* HOS 2011 houses is: Picture a terrifying journey ripped from the pages of THE master of gothic horror. Sweet!"
Naturally, most people's thoughts went directly to Edgar Allen Poe. A raven house? 

The Alone house will be returning this year. Will it be a new theme? We will have to wait & see.

Anyone wondering, Fright Feast will be returning this year.

From @HOSInsider on Twitter: "I can neither confirm nor deny, the rampant, drooling hoards of rumors going around that HOS11 will be infested w/ zombies (Wink) " looks like a zombie theme this year!