LA HAUNTED HAYRIDE: LIVE DRIVE-UP EXPERIENCE REVIEW
I don’t think anyone could have predicted exactly how 2020 would turn out. At the end of 2019, if you were to tell me that all of our favorite theme parks would close their doors and our favorite events would be cancelled; I’d probably say you were crazy! But look at us now, with almost all of the major Halloween events cancelled (Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, Six Flags Fright Fest, & Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor); plenty of people like ourselves were looking anywhere to scratch our Halloween itch. Thankfully, not all Halloween events are confined to theme parks or indoor scares.
The creative folks at Thirteenth Floor Entertainment, the company behind Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, dug deep to adapt their popular event to fit todays social distancing guidelines and safety protocols needed because of the coronavirus. Not only is LAHH in a completely new location (Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, right next to Raging Waters) outside the bounds of Griffith Park; but it’s format has significantly changed as well. Instead of traditional mazes and scare zones, guests will now join Monte Revolta who’s taken over the Midnight Falls Drive-In Theaters on the outskirts of town. Joined by the of denizens of Midnight Falls as well.
After you’ve checked in and had your tickets scanned, you’re directed to drive slowly down a street which leads to the event location. At night, the Bonelli Nation Park lends itself to creating the perfectly creepy atmosphere without the need for sets, monsters, fog or sound design. As you continue down the path, you’ll start to notice familiar sets from last years LAHH which really helped flesh out the town of Midnight Falls. Although not scary, it was nice to have an almost traditional Halloween yard display type atmosphere which got us in the Halloween mood.
Once at the end of the path, you’re directed to park in socially distant parking spaces. Once parked, you’ll want to leave your car on so you can switch your radio to the proper stations so you can have in car audio from the show. Throughout the event, you are directed to stay in your car, but you’re allowed to roll your windows down with the caveat that you keep your mask on at all times.
If you’re in the front row (Platinum Experience), you’ll have your very own dedicated Hay Wagon with seats, so you can enjoy the cool autumn breeze while watching the show. We were parked right behind these in the VIP sections and thought the idea was rather cool. But we also didn’t find that our experience lacked in any sort of fashion because we were in our cars.
Before we knew it, the lights were dimmed and the show began. Monte Revolta is our host (with almost the most) for the evening filled with musical performances, horror shorts and wise cracks from our host. The loud and fast rock music really lends itself to the tone and style of LAHH. The horror shorts were the only pieces of entertainment that were not created in house. These were licsensed out from CryptTV, which is a horror Youtube channel. You actually might be familiar with some of their properties because Halloween Horror Nights plays them in the lines for some of their experiences. For those who are familiar with the content or subscribe to their Youtube Channel; these portions of the show might feel a bit lack lusters. As a former employee of this company, I’ll keep my opinions to myself. But, regardless of quality in the shorts; they all serve a purpose and that is to distract so the monsters can slither up to your windows and give you a fright.
Admittedly, we got scared more at this event than we are willing to admit. The high energy performances of Monte Revolta drew our eyes away from our surroundings long enough for the monsters to prey upon us. At no point, did I ever feel uncomfortable or felt the monsters got too close. They were at the perfect distance to maximize scares while keeping everyone safe. They also did a great job of balancing the harder scares with more silly moments; which really brings the feeling of a traditional haunt. Because of your confined space, it’s rather difficult to gauge how many scare actors were actually roaming the field at one time. But the frequency in which we saw monsters within the first two rows, we’d hope there would be a similar experience for rows further back.
After Monte’s big finish, we felt as though the show was actually quite fun and left very satisfied with our experience. Outside of any creative decisions, the biggest obstacle for guests is going to be the price of the event itself. Many people who are attending any experience, are going to equate the ticket price with quality and quantity. And if they don’t line up; they will leave disappointed. Regardless of how good the show truly is!
There are four types of tickets you can purchase for the event. Obviously, the more expensive you go, the closer you’ll be to the front of the event. The most expensive ticket would be the Platinum Experience at $199.99 a car (with up to 8 guests). The next would be VIP at $89.99 a car (with up to 2 guests in the car), then Preferred at $69.99 a car (with up to 2 guests in the car), and Standard for $49.99 a car (with up to 2 guests in the car). The Platinum Experience is the only ticket option that doesn’t require a Back Seat Pass for extra guests. And in fact, the Platinum Experience is arguably the best bang for your buck if you’re coming with lots of friends. If you have a group of 8 friends attending, that comes out to be about $25 a person. Which, with the added perk of being exposed in the hay wagons and having a much more traditional Haunt experience; is tremendous value.
Unfortunately, I think it will be hard for guests to subvert their expectations of this years adjusted experience. For years, we’ve engrained into our brains what a Haunt “should be” and this event simply isn’t it! For no fault of their own, the experience is much different than what we’ve come to expect. Obviously operating under different circumstances than prior years, I don’t think the new approach hurts the experience and scares; but I do think it’s important to keep in mind it will be different than a regular haunt.
From a purely logistical view point, this experiences has its high and low points. Based on where you’re placed in the venue, you might find yourself looking out the front of your car at a very awkward angle to see the big screen. Luckily, for people further back; there are two screens flanking the main screen. Also, because there is only one way in and out of the actual location, it might take some time for cars to get out. Thankfully the crew work fast and extremely efficiently and you’re able to exit at an okay pace.
Ultimately, even negatives aside, the creative team at Thirteenth Floor have created a unique, scary and bombastic experiences that highlights the love for the season. Even with the unfortunate circumstances of COVID-19 and all the road blocks the creative team encountered; LAHH Drive-Up Experiences seems to be a shining example that the Halloween season never truly gets cancelled; even if the fear of it lingers around each and every corner of our everyday lives. Only through ingenuity, passion and innovation can an event like LAHH Drive-Up Experience exist. Of course, would we prefer to be rubbing shoulders with the citizens of Midnight Falls, diving deeper into the lore of the town and the people that live there? YES! Even with those aspects missing, we love this alternative option that brings a smile to our faces and a scream to our lips. It was the first time in a long time that we felt normal; even in such abnormal times.
If you want to check out Los Angeles Haunted Hayride: Drive-In Experience, CLICK HERE to purchase tickets!