Usually, we visit the LA Haunted Hayride on their opening weekend for a “black carpet” event. This year, they did not have a celebrity step and repeat, opting instead to have media out on their opening weekend. We missed that opportunity due to unforeseen circumstances and, instead, attended one week later on October 8th, 2017. The event’s PR agency provided us a few of the VIP-tier tickets to check things out.
Walking up to the impressive pumpkin pyramid, we watched the “rope drop” ceremony in which a cavalcade of evil clowns worked the crowd before letting guests into the event. After rope drop, we walked into the Purgatory area of the LA Haunted Hayride to checkout the available attractions, but were surprised by what was absent this year. The Purgatory area is somewhat smaller this year, which does makes it easier to navigate. Unfortunately this decrease in area comes at the loss of a couple really cool things. Absent from Purgatory this year is Jack’s Carving Shack, where guests could pay an additional fee to carve their own pumpkins and get tips from a pro-carver. However, a much bigger absence felt at this year’s LA Haunted Hayride is the Death Row photo op tent, where guests could take their pictures in a variety of sets – from bloody bathtubs to coffins. It was a really cool way for people to make memories of their trip out to the hayride. The snack shack is back, serving the same gluten-free treats as before, and most of the fare we ate hit the spot. The pumpkin beignets are especially good so I highly recommend them.
The House of Shadows, which used to be known as the In-Between, is a dark maze where guests navigate the blackness of a twisting maze in order to make it out there other side. This was a lot of fun, and the line control staff did a good job of spacing groups out so that there were not too many collisions between groups in the dark.
Trick or Treat has returned again to the LA Haunted Hayride, but with a very confusing change. While the name of the walk-through experience is still called “Trick or Treat” and the attendant that speaks to your group prior to entering tells you to knock on the door and say “trick or treat”, candy is no longer handed out (even though it still says it is on the website)! Last year, Sour Patch sponsored this experience and it was such a load of fun to walk door to door and collect candy. Even if their candy sponsor fell through this year, I would imagine that picking up economy bags of the cheapest Halloween candies from a big box store would be a possibility. Why have a Trick or Treat experience without the treats? If there was no candy available, I would have rather seen Trick or Treat transform into a more traditional scare experience. The scare actors in this experience seem to notice the loss as they don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.
There actually used to be another haunted house called the House of Shadows which was a semi-interactive/semi-escape room style experience. I wish it had been brought out of retirement this year to help offset the absences. Having just one more haunted house in the mix would have made the experience feel more complete and might alleviate the line times at the hayride itself.
As for the hayride itself? The wait times in line were very long on the night we attended. Even with the VIP express lane passes that our group had, it took us about 45 minutes to get into the ride staging cages. On every other visit we have had to the LA Haunted Hayride, we never waited more than 15 minutes. Whether this longer wait was due to fewer wagons being available or because there is less to do in the event as a whole, I cannot say. Once our turn was up, we all climbed aboard our wagons and took a seat. The hayride began and we were having a very fun time. The monsters along the hayride path did a great job by bringing a lot of energy to their scares and the set pieces were interesting and creative. Unfortunately, they are still having guests disembark the wagon midway through the hayride and go through a walk-through maze. This walk-through experience is simply not working – it takes way too much time to get guests out then back into the hay wagons and may be contributing to the increased line times. Also, people are paying money to go on a hayride, something that you simply can’t find in Southern California. Why you would remove guests from the one thing that makes you corner the marketplace is beyond me – especially when that walk-through area is nothing revolutionary in the haunted house space. The last half of the hayride is fun and we stopped by the gift shop on the way out to pick up some shirts.
This year’s LA Haunted Hayride is a mixed bag. There are several enjoyable things about the event, but it has been offset greatly by the strange absences this year as well as the confusing walk-through area of the hayride. I can see picking up a hayride-only ticket for $35 dollars but would probably not recommend getting a VIP ticket for $60 dollars this year – there just isn’t enough of a benefit to that ticket to warrant the added cost. Maybe if they added a VIP ticket holder parking area closer to the event, some free swag, or re-added the missing ingredients from last year’s LA Haunted Hayride – but not with this current lineup. The LA Haunted Hayride runs various days throughout October – you can find dates, ticket information, and more at their official website.