For many amusement parks, the beginning of fall means slowing down and getting ready to close and prepare for the following spring. But many parks across the country have extended their seasons by a few months by adding Halloween-themed events and attractions to appeal to kids, teen-agers and adults over the weekend. This includes Six Flags New England, which last weekend opened up its 2016 Fright Fest to guests. Fright Fest converts most of the park into Halloween-themed attractions -- most of the rides get a Halloween makeover, with the addition of five different haunted house areas for an extra charge.
The park is festively decorated for the Halloween season -- normal buildings get the spider-web treatment on their facades, and gift shops include additional spooky merchandise as well as decorations in the windows. Additional set pieces also litter the park in areas, ranging from relatively safe to somewhat scary. We spotted a giant spider on the side of the Wicked Cyclone roller coaster, and even food items have an extra touch -- we ordered a Cookies and Cream Dippin' Dots and were surprised to see that the normal white dots were orange. Regular rides were made a bit more fun -- the walls surrounding the inside of the bumper cars have a cool neon glow, and the Pandemonium roller coaster has a zombie theme. One of the more thrilling rides, the New England Sky Screamer, runs backwards during Fright Fest.
Most of the really scary stuff is aimed at guests aged 13 and older, but the park still recognizes that family members might want to visit, so friendlier, less-spooky shows and areas are also made available for the younger set. The key for families venturing to experience Fright Fest is to stay alert, as there are areas where young kids shouldn't go, unless you think they are ready to be scared.
Clockwise from top: Scattered around the park are warning signs that indicated it's a scary event. Warning signs are located before you enter a Haunt Zone, where costumed characters roam and scare after 6 p.m. A sign directs guests to the Haunted House area, which features premium-priced scare areas (you have to pay extra to experience these attractions).
First off, grab a park map (the "2016 Fright Guide") upon entering. The Fright Fest Map will give you a sense of where the different themed attractions are located. Each attraction or event is given a skull rating between one and three. A one-skull area is safe for kids -- these are things like the Looney Tunes characters dressed up in Halloween costumes, or a street party in which guests are asked to dance along to fun songs like "Monster Mash" (get used to hearing this song and other Halloween-themed songs during your visit).
The area in the Looney Tunes kids area where they normally do the "talent show" is now a fun Halloween-themed game show called Mayhem Mission, and it reminded us of the Nickelodeon game show "Double Dare" in which guests compete against each other in fun physical challenges. This area also includes the Trick or Treat Trail, in which kids can trick-or-treat (for a $1 donation, and it's only available from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and Columbus Day).
Two-skull areas and shows have a "parental guidance" suggestion -- these are for mostly street shows and shouldn't cause too many problems for kids between the ages of 8-12. The three-skull areas and attractions (all of the haunted houses are 3 skulls) are recommended for guests 13 and older (again, depending on your kids' scare-tolerance levels).
Also be aware that the park has "Haunt Zones" set up -- these 3 areas are shaded in purple on the park map. In these areas, scary costumed characters will walk around and attempt to yell at or scare anyone who catches their eye (mainly teenagers and adults, but the park does say they will scare anyone).
For the most part, families can avoid the Haunt Zones if they want, and all of the scaring in these areas doesn't begin until 6 p.m., so if you go during the daytime, just be sure to leave at 6 if you don't want crying or screaming kids. There are plenty of warning signs that tell you this, and the park does give you a 15-minute warning. Keep in mind that you have to walk through at least one Haunt Zone to exit the park.
As long as you stick to a schedule (leave at or before 6 p.m.) and avoid some of the shows or Haunt Zones, you should be able to enjoy Halloween at Six Flags New England without giving the scare-sensitive nightmares.
Clockwise from top: The front of many buildings feature spider-web decorations - this includes many of the park's water attractions, which are closed for the fall. For the kids, the traditional Looney Tunes characters dress up for Halloween. Here, Sylvester dances with a guest to the song "Monster Mash" In the kid-friendly Kidzopolis, we spotted this giant, yet not very menacing, ghost. Friendlier decorations like this pumpkin are usually located near kid rides, such as the carousel.Our normal cookies & cream Dipping Dots turned orange as part of Fright Fest.