The 2019 Los Angeles Haunted Hayride brings with it a new production company as well as design firm. Will these changes be enough to raise the hayride up from the slump it has been in the past few years? In many ways, yes. However, there are still several, some serious, issues that the LA Haunted Hayride must address in order to keep in the haunt community’s good graces.
The biggest change to the LA Haunted Hayride in 2019 is that “The In-Between” midway area has been completely overhauled, becoming the fictional town of Midnight Falls. Set in the 1980’s, Midnight Falls is putting on a Halloween carnival and its residents are roaming the grounds. These residents, in a Ghost Town Alive style, are not really scaring anyone. They certainly interact with guests, giving lore about the town and other residents, and generally entertain. But this is a mixed bag as, on one hand, the interaction is fun! On the other hand, there is a distinct lack of scaring going on in Midnight Falls. They need some residents that solely scare guests. The Scary-Go-Round, a skeleton Merry-Go-Round ride, is on the premises but not functioning for some reason. This was a sorely missed aspect of past hayrides. They need to bring this attraction back in order to help sop up some of the crowds. There is a stage setup where, on our visit, Monte Ravolta performed, and there may be other acts throughout the run – I can’t speak to that.
The food offerings of the 2019 Los Angeles Haunted Hayride have improved, with plenty of meat and vegan based options at a new food tent. Also on-site during my visit was Auntie Anne’s pretzel truck and a cinnamon roasted nuts kiosk. Something I did miss was more of the Halloween-oriented fare like caramel apples and pumpkin spice flavored options. It would be nice to have some more sweets on the menu. While past LA Haunted Hayrides didn’t do the main dishes very well, they did have the sweets.
Of course, we need to discuss the hayride itself. Unfortunately, this year’s hayride is really spotty in terms of quality and narrative. In past years, the hay wagon would briefly stop at each vignette, allowing guests to take in the scene. This year, the hay wagons just kept driving – which wouldn’t be an issue if the scenes were engaging enough to make a positive impression. There are only a few scenes that make sense in the overall theme of Midnight Falls. There are also large areas without any decorations or monsters where there should be. In fact, it seemed like the hayride monster cast was a fraction of its former number.
As a whole, the various mazes of the LA Haunted Hayride have definitely gotten better this year. The Darkness is now a more traditional haunted house experience called Roadkill Ranch and Trick or Treat is back with some houses giving out candy again (which is the way it should be) – just remember to say “Trick or treat!”. Midnight Mortuary is a new haunted house for the LA Haunted Hayride and was built, in part, with help from some of the folks from Sinister Pointe. It is a great haunted house and features various, fun, physical elements as well – things like crawling through passageways, etc.
The night we attended was severely overcrowded. Guests waited for hours…. Some just trying to get through the security checkpoint at the entrance of the LA Haunted Hayride and others mired down in the line for the hayride ride itself (even the VIP line was long). The maze lines were practically nonexistent and there was barely any wait for the food options. If you are not going to purchase a platinum pass (which is very pricey for what you’re getting access to), I suggest getting to the site at least an hour early to line up. Then, once you get inside, go immediately to the hayride attraction and ride it. After that, you should have smooth sailing as you enjoy the mazes, food, and shows.
Overall, the 2019 Los Angeles Haunted Hayride feels like a beast in transition, trying to throw off the shackles which weighed it down in previous years while not quite being able to achieve its sky-high goals. There are several ticket options available to attendees – from hayride-only passes at $35 dollars all the way up to the platinum pass for about $110 dollars. General Admission is $45 dollars and I can definitely see paying that for the event. Despite its shortcomings, there are fun and scares to be had within its mazes and Midnight Falls area. This year’s hayride is not worth the platinum level pass unless you have plenty of money to burn. For $110 dollars, you can pay for two Knott’s Scary Farm tickets (with money left for parking and food) or one Halloween Horror Nights general admission ticket.