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Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:34 pm

Each year, the Overlord at Kings Dominion (that is, the creepy looking guy in the black hooded cloak who has big, non-functional hands) opens Haunt by claiming that "all you fear is here." But is it--really? They've definitely have you covered if you're afraid of zombies, mutants, ghosts, clowns, vampires, steampunk, overpriced mediocre food, dolls and other toys, the plague, hillbillies, bellhops, maids, cannibals . . . have I left anything out?

Well, if this is all you're afraid of, then his claim is true, and the park has nine mazes, six scare zones, and one "haunted" car ride to prove it. Let's look a bit more closely, starting with the best maze and working out way down to the worst.

No Vacancy: This is the second year the park has invited you to check in to The Inn at Darkside Manor, and it's still their strongest maze, thanks to its fairly elaborate sets and effects and solid team of creepy bellhops, maids, and old guests. Yes, the staff at Darkside is just dying to serve you--perhaps poached, or slow roasted in your own juices.

Zombie High School: I have to admit, I'm a bit weary of zombies, and the story for this maze (that is, a high-school science experiment gone horribly awry) is a cliched; however, KD did an very good job with this one, thanks to, again, good sets and aggressive scareactors. The facade out front is impressive, but it does lead you from one queue to another queue.

Miner's Revenge: This partly outdoors maze is new for 2013, and it's pretty good. Ghoulish coal miners are seeking revenge on those who failed to come to their aid following a terrible accident, and the "mine" portion of the maze is fairly well done. Definitely hit this one after it gets good and dark, though.

Club Blood: This is an old one, but still pretty good--even though the whole "vampire night club" thing is getting a bit stale. It helps that there are plenty of hidey holes for vampires to use, and they have a pretty good crew of bloodsuckers this year.

Doll Factory: The Marionette Murderer is still at it over in Planet Snoopy (at least after 6:00 pm), turning his victims into life-sized puppets. Good sets and a cool, strobe-lit finish carry this maze.

Slaughter House: Again, good sets, but this "tour" through a meat-processing plant run by cannibals is starting to show its age a bit.

Corn Stalkers: Scarecrow ghouls infest this corn maze gone horribly wrong, and they do a fair job in a pretty tight space. But it does get a bit tedious, as all the monsters are pretty much the same.

Medieval Macabre: The fairly chintzy plywood sets of this dark-ages horror are slightly redeemed by a fairly aggressive corps of scareactors, but even when this maze was new, it wasn't particularly good. It also has one of those irritating photo stations in the queue.

Outbreak--The Evolution: It seems to be a rule that any maze located inside the Flight of Fear queue has to be the worst of the night, and this one was no exception; in fact, this may be the worst maze they've ever put in there with its plywood walls, mostly static props, and poorly made up mutants.

The atmosphere in the scare zones was pretty solid, particularly the Necropolis in Old Virginia and Primevil near Volcano. I was particularly amused by one Primevil "cannibal" who saw me taking a picture, then ran off screaming because he thought I was going to steal his soul. Ironworx, the "steampunk" zone behind the Eiffel Tower was a bit weak this year, though, and the Cleaver Brothers Carnival in the grove was pretty much a typical "evil clown" zone. Feary Tales' demented storybook characters were OK, as were the vampires in the Lair.

They were showing the best park 3D movie so all time, as well: Haunted House, with that adorable, if doomed, cat--and great music. I skipped the Blue Ridge Bloodbath because the line was too long.

Let's venture in, shall we? Don't be afraid. Not even of me.
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I was there last Friday night, when the park was open from 7:00 to midnight. This was the scene at about 6:45. I missed most of the Overlord Resurrection show, although the line moved pretty quickly once it got going. Still, I think they need to start letting people in a bit earlier on Friday nights.
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"Lookit me! I'm a scary dinosaur princess!"
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Here's the Overlord's perch. I wish you could've seen him up there. Heck, I wish I'd seen him up there.
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I had a Fast Lane Plus coming to me from Coasting for Kids, and this was my only chance this season to use it. Came in handy when I wanted a few rides on Volcano and I305--thanks, KD!
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I'm a passholder with a comp Fast Lane, so why not pay $35 for Fright Lane--this came in pretty handy, too.
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Corn Stalkers draws a big line early in the evening because it's the maze closest to the entrance. Thank you, Fright Lane.
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Just look for the red spider for quick access to all the freaky Children of the Corn.
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Hmm--what's going on over there?
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Oh, that's going on over there. Well, what's Haunt without some scantily clad ghoul women?
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Once upon a time, late at night, Dr. Seuss came out of your bedroom closet. He had a chainsaw.
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I just want to say that I appreciate the role that trees play in re-freshening our atmosphere. So, kudos to you, Mr. Living Evil Tree! Please don't kill me.
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In case you hadn't noticed, KD uses a lot of fog.
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Ah, so peaceful, so serene, so . . .
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. . . oh crap!
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To find Volcano, one must follow the full moon . . .
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. . . to the Place of the Dead.
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Boy, they're really cracking down on line jumpers this year.
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This guy tried to sneak into Volcano via the Fast Lane entrance. He did smell delicious, though.
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Blurry, ghostly proof that I305 is indeed running . . .
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. . . and that Fast Lane came in very handy, thanks to one-train operations. (The ride is as great as ever, by the way.)
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Well, at least this maze isn't quite as rough as the ride.
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"Psst! Hey, pal! Take another ride on Volcano! Bet you only have to wait two trains for the front seat!"
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And the skeleton spoke the truth.
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The problem with Haunt is that you end up with a lot of pictures of signs.
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Plywood technology was very advanced in the dark ages.
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Hey, a carnival! Can we go, Dad?
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Ack! Must be the designated smoking area. Or it could just be clouds of carny funk.
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Stupid, creepy hideous clown!
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Oops! I meant to say "adorable, cute, hilarious clown."
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"That's what we thought you meant. Now get outta here!"

More to come--if the clowns don't kill me.
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Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:56 pm

Even when the park isn't super crowded, I still recommend Fright Lane during Haunt. Lines for some of the mazes, particularly Club Blood and Medieval Macabre, can be a bit long and slow, and Fright Lane gives you time to hit all the mazes and get some rides in, too.

Now, walk this way . . . there's more Haunt to come.
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Use my Fast Lane to ride an actual working Drop Tower in Virginia? Don't mind if I do. ;)
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"I . . . see . . . you!"
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Slaughter House--now serving roast leg of you.
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Zombie High had a very good facade, which leads you from the outer queue to the inner queue.
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Look! An adorable beaver!
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Go Beavers . . . agghh!
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There's a fair amount of detail in the facade.
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What happens when Grant "American Gothic" Wood meets Hieronymous Bosch.
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Well, this school certainly has a lively student body . . .
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. . . with lots of school spirit.
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Of course, the football field could use a little work.
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Is this the oldest maze at Haunt? It's either this one or Slaughter House.
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It's good to be on the side of the red spider,
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Still a pretty good vampire maze.
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Smoked turkey legs? . . .
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. . . It's a trap!
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This is the entrance to Ironworx.
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They had some pretty nice apparatus, but not much in the way of scares that night.
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The Necropolis was much creepier.
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"This here's my last Haunt. I'm movin' to Florida to work for a bunch of Dwarfs in a diamond mine, where they dig, dig, dig the whole day through."
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No Vacancy? Nonsense!
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There's always room for one more.
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This is still KD's best maze, and the facade looks great.
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I must brave the Necropolis again to watch Haunted House. (Seriously, this is a very good 3D animated flick.)
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Revenge? What did I ever do to them?
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Well, that's encouraging.
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Time to go . . . er . . . home, that is.
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Good night, blood-red fountains.
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A Fast Lane ride on Dominator on the way out? Sure--what the hell.
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That's all from Haunt. Thanks for reading.
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Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:15 pm

Looks like fun Chuck. Thanks for the awesome overview. Nice pictures. I know how difficult it is to get them at night.

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:44 pm

^Especially when scareactors like to jump in front of your camera and ask, "How'd your picture turn out?" ;)

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:40 pm

I was also there on Friday night. The park definitely outdid themselves once again this season with all the new additions to existing mazes/zones along with the 2 new mazes. Not only that but the scare actors were on point this year during my visit. Because of all this I have to say KD Haunt > BGW Howl-O-Scream yet again... and I only see KD's getting better and better as the years go by.

As I stated in the KD Discussion Thread, it would be nice to see Medieval Macabre swapped out for something new next season for Halloween Haunt XIV. Oh and on the topic of the annoying pre-maze photo that they make you do... I got suckered into buying it this season because it was too good to pass up! But I'm anxious to see what they have in the works for next season already as Steve the Haunt guy was out in the park looking at the mazes.

Thanks for the report!

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:00 am

BGW seems to be concentrating more on combining "shows" with dining this year (their shows are better than what you see at KD, if you're into shows). KD puts more effort into scare zones.

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:25 am

As usual, thanks for the entertaining trip report Chuck. I was surprised when you mentioned that I-305 was only running one train during Haunt. I was at Valleyfair on Friday night and as usual like any other Haunt night Wild Thing was running two trains. I just figured all CF parks had their most popular coaster at every park running two trains if little old VF was doing it. It's just not right to have I-305 only running one train when Wild Thing is running two. :)

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:12 am

It's not unusual to see one-train ops on Friday nights during Haunt.

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:32 am

Thanks Chuck for another great TR!

A couple things I would like to comment on:

Yes, the park should open the gates at 6:30 pm on Friday nights. Opening them at 6:50 pm does not allow the folks waiting outside to get into the entrance plaza in time for the OverLord's Hoedown. I don't see why they cannot rope off both sides of International Street just past Starbucks on one side and the Border Cafe on the other and allow folks into the entrance plaza earlier. There are bathrooms inside the main gate for the guests to use and they can start peddling the latest flashing merchandise on the carts, give them an opportunity to buy Haunt stuff in the main gate shops, and grab a cup of Joe in Starbucks.

Necropolis scare-zone keeps getting more enhancements. The entrance gate and other statuary were not there the 1st week of Haunt. the park added that stuff by the 2nd week.

Ironworx scare-zone needs more staffing and some more mood lighting. The park was supposed to have enhanced that scare-zone in its 2nd year of operation (2012) and nothing came of it. Nothing was done this year either. The Haunt guy, Steve, stated they were to add pipes coming from the central "generator" overhead to the light fixtures and shadowboxes along the sides of the path to enhance the themeing. It appears that idea was nixed. They do need more scaractors to "prowl" that area. That path is over 100 yards long and having 8-10 people staffing it makes it appear threadbare. Need to have 14-16 people for that area.

I was surprised that "Feary Tales" received enhancements this year. If there was a scare-zone that I thought was on its way out, it was this one.

Cleaver Brother's Carnival scare-zone is a good idea; but, I think it gets a little lost in the massive mall area that makes up the Grove. The park needs to find a way to block off that area some more to enhance the experience. Maybe the park can find some small circus/carny tents and install them in the central landscape islands. The park created some wonderful props in that area and they sit there in complete darkness. They need some "mood" lighting to show off the props.

As far as the mazes go, most of them were great and the detail of the new mazes tops most of what was done in the earlier mazes the park created. I think the maze detail levels such as "Plywood Macabre" will be phased out as the older mazes are retired.

There are several mazes that could be on the chopping block for 2014. "Medieval Macabre" and "Club Blood" are tops in my opinion in that category. Followed by "Doll Factory" and "Outbreak: The Evolution" (even though that one is fairly new - it still needs major improvements. It must be the curse of the FOF queue building).

And lastly the food options, service, and quality during Haunt .... sucks. (I wish Cedar Fair would focus on food the next few years. (Park food seems to be the Achilles Heel of the Cedar Fair park chain.)

Re: Photo TR: Kings Dominion's Haunt 2013

Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:12 am

^Yes, my rule of thumb in a Cedar Fair park is to always look for the joint run by an outside vendor, like Panda Express. It works well for Six Flags parks, too.
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