September through December is hands down my favorite time of year in Cleveland. The air is brisk, crisp, and still bearable; there’s usually not too much snow; and the changing of the leaves reflected off the always-beautiful lake is an amazing site. If that weren’t enough, it’s also when my trifecta of favorite holidays occurs: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These three holidays have it all, and Halloween is a great way to kick it off.
If you want to get in the Halloween mood a little early, Cedar Point’s Halloweekends starts tonight. It runs every Friday-Sunday until October 31st, but I usually like visiting early on because it’s less crowded than it is at the height of Halloween madness.
During Halloweekends, Cedar Point is transformed into an over-the-top version of that neighbor’s house who really likes spending money on decorations. Because we have season passes, Scott and I like going just to see how they decorated the park. However, if you’re looking for something besides decorations, Halloweekends also hosts 4 haunted houses, 5 walk-through scare zones, and a lot of family-friendly entertainment.
Haunted Houses: Returning to Cedar Point this season are the Club Blood, Happy Jack’s Toy Factory and G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted houses; new this year is Dr. D. Mented’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Everyone’s haunted house preferences are different – I personally enjoy experiences that are more about getting startled and laughing at my reaction than I do getting legitimately frightened. Last year’s walk through the Toy Factory lived up to those expectations – it definitely played into my fairly laughable fear of clowns. And seeing how they designed the inside of the Eerie Estate Haunted House to look like an old haunted mansion has also impressed me in years past. However, word of warning about the haunted houses is that they’re only open in the evenings and the crowds line up fast. If you’re not a huge fan of waiting (i.e. me), I recommend limiting yourself to one haunted house, getting in line a little before they open and then enjoying the rest of the park.
Scare Zones: As an alternative to the haunted houses, Cedar Point also has 5 scare zones scattered throughout the park — Fright Zone, Cornstalkers, Fear Faire, Carnevil and Terror Island. These are outside areas where some of the park’s pathways have been transformed into walk-through frightfests. From previous experience, I find the quality of the scare zone depends on who is working at that time. There have been instances where I’ve walked through Carnevil – a circus themed scare zone – and it’s been really good. The people dressed up as clowns and ringmasters were really in character. However, there have been other times where you can tell some of the more annoying park patrons have gotten on their nerves throughout the evening and they’re not as into it. My personal favorite scare zone is Terror Island. It’s located on a part of the park not normally accessible during the regular season. Cedar Point sets up a floating gangway over the river the ferryboat sails to the island next to Millennium Force. There, pirates lurk in the shadows and loud cannon explosions come out of nowhere to scare you.
Family-Friendly: Since Cedar Point is an amusement park at heart, they also provide a number of activities appropriate for children. Family-friendly fare includes the Magic House on Boo Hill funhouse; the kid-sized Hay Bale Maze; and the Peanuts Halloween Show and Kids Costume Contest. There’s also the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade that takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm. Halloween-themed floats, performers and not-so-scary surprises make their way through the Main Midway, Top Thrill Dragster Midway and Gemini Midway so it’s easy to grab a spot to watch and enjoy. Learn a lesson from me, though: last year, Scott and I got caught walking from Gemini to Raptor when the parade was going on so we unintentionally ended up following the parade through the entire park. Unless you want the addictingly catchy theme song stuck in your head for hours, don’t do this.
Although the haunted houses, scare zones and shows are reason enough for me to return each year, I’m most excited that my favorite event from last year’s Halloweekends is back: Boeckling’s Banquet. With Boeckling’s Banquet, Cedar Point caters a fine dining experience in a unique environment — the hallowed halls of G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted house. Last year, Scott and I got lobster tail and filet mignon and we were fairly impressed. It honestly surprised me because I hadn’t expected to enjoy something besides typical amusement park food at any park. This year’s menu includes a choice of crab legs; lobster tail and petite filet; or shrimp, scallop & lobster Alfredo, plus traditional sides like salad, twice-baked potato, asparagus spears, rolls, glass of wine or beer, Pepsi beverages and a special dessert. Last year’s skull-themed dessert was incredible and even if they serve the same thing again I’ll enjoy it.
Throughout the meal, guests are served by Cedar Point staff dressed as haunted caretakers, maids, and butlers. It’s tongue in cheek, but still a lot of fun. In addition to providing excellent entertainment, they also provided very gracious service. The Banquet takes place every Friday at 5:30 pm. and Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. (before the Haunted House opens). For more information or to make reservations, call 419.627.2242.
On top of all of the Halloween festivities, the majority of Cedar Point’s rides are still open. If you’re a fan of Millennium Force, nothing quite compares to tearing down the first hill at night during Halloweekends. The lights, fog and sounds from Terror Island envelope you as you hit the bottom of the drop – it’s thrilling!
During Halloweekends, you may have to contend with a few overly excitable (read: loud and pushy) guests. However, it’s no more than you’d have to bear with at other haunted houses. Try to overlook it (which I’ll admit is sometimes hard for me), because Halloweekends is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.