A Theme Park Review Bash and a theme-park "haunt"--that's a tough combination to beat. There was no way I could pass up Busch Gardens Bash and Howl-o-Scream at Tampa this year. Combine ERT on Cheetah Hunt and Montu with some great backstage tours (of Montu and an HOS maze), the Fright Feast, and front-of-the-line passes for HOS, and you've got one long, outstanding day at BGT!
First things first: Cheetah Hunt is an excellent ride. Yes, it lacks that "intensity" that some enthusiasts love , but its long, unique layout, beautiful setting, and surprising pops of airtime more than make up for it. I especially like the "twisty" bit through the old Rhino Rally river gorge. This is an excellent addition to BGT's already stellar coaster lineup and is really whetting my appetite for BGW's Verbolten next year.
As for Howl-o-Scream, I have to admit that I enjoyed it a bit more than Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. Yes, Universal's houses are more elaborate, but BGT makes up for that with creepier atmosphere throughout the park, thanks to using roving bands of "the undead" instead of clearly marked scare zones. You never knew who or what you were going to bump into all over the park: Zombie doctors? Zombie clowns? Zombie cheerleaders? These teams of monsters worked together beautifully and ensured that no part of the park was "safe"--well done, BGT!
The houses were solid overall, too. Granted their settings aren't as elaborate as what you get at Universal, but they're definitely a cut above most other park haunts, and they really load them with scare actors.
Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino--The house always wins at the Revivara Hotel, and the stakes are you! This sets in this house, from the casino floor to the hotel laundry room, measured up to Universal standards, with plenty of surprises and some fairly elaborate effects. The big finish is excellent (and actually improved the second time we went through it). The vampire "host" out front was hilarious, too.
Nevermore--Here's BGT's version of an Edgar Allen Poe maze. While I think Universal's is a bit more interesting, this walk through random Poe tales, such as "The Black Cat," "The Masque of the Red Death," and "A Cask of Amontillado," is quite well done. The "Pit and the Pendulum" room is particularly good, but watch out for Fortunato (you will get wet).
Nightshade Toys--I went through this toy factory from Hell in its old location a few years ago. The new location is smaller, but the house is still excellent. But beware Little Tina Tinkle (you will get wet).
Deconstruction: The Doctor is Out of Control--This is another "blast from the past" maze, and it's held up pretty well, although the storyline is a bit murky--something about an insane plastic surgeon who grafts random organic and mechanical parts on people. It's the goriest maze at HOS.
Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead--I was told that this might be the last year for this maze, as the scare actors have really beaten up this building over time. This is the only "zombie penitentiary" maze that I know of, and it's pretty well done.
Zombie Mortuary--Again with the zombies in the most disappointing maze at HOS. It starts out pretty well (the mortuary sets are well done), but the remainder of the house is just a slight redressing of the old Trapped in the Walls maze, which was a bit "meh."
Here's a look at a great Bash day and night at BGT. My thanks to the park and to Robb and Elissa for putting all this together. It was the perfect finish to my "Year of Bashes"!
Hmm--this looks a bit familiar. I think I've seen this rose somewhere else--but where?
This can wait until later . . .
. . . first things first.
Speaking of "first things first," it's group-photo/clench-and-squish time.
How about a little ERT on Cheetah Hunt? After all, it's not all that "intense," right?
Reason 1 of "Why ERT is a good thing." This line would be insanely long later in the day.
Hmm--perhaps Cheetah Hunt is too intense if you've had breakfast at Waffle House.
Let us discreetly allow the clean-up crew to go about their work by looking at some of the detail in the queue.
OK--Cheetah Hunt is now "Crouse ready."
This is an excellent ride--great views and some pops of air.
"Grr! Cheetah hunt you and kill you good!"
What? It goes over the Sky Ride? Unexpected! (You had to have been at the group lunch to get this joke--sorry.)
Well done, BGT--I hope Verbolten is as good as this ride.
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