Last weekend, I spent two nights in L.A.’s own cursed, haunted Griffith Park for some Halloween fun—the Ghost Train, operated by L.A. Live Steamers, and the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. And despite all the monsters and menace, I lived to tell the tale!
As others have already told you, the Griffith Park Ghost Train is a charming all-ages ride into what feels like the biggest homemade Halloween haunt ever. Although there’s bigger (and in some cases, more inexplicable) setpieces than ever (what’s with all the giant inflatable black cats? They’re great, but it’s weird!), it’s still the same opportunity to ride a cool little steam train along miniature tracks that take you into that world of homegrown creepiness that brings joy to the hearts of boils and ghouls everywhere.
The price is a little higher this year, but it’s a fundraiser for the year-round operation of the miniature train system at the park, and it’s really not that bad a cost increase. And they’ve already put their funding to good use by adding a really cool station house that’s nice for Halloween or any time of the year.
Moving from the charming to the fearsome, I crept over to the other side of the park for the Haunted Hayride the next night… and that’s an event that’s grown in detail, scope and intensity by leaps and bounds! The whole Halloween attractions pantheon of the L.A. area has been in some serious competition for the past few years, and as has been noted elsewhere, the crown is up for grabs between Knotts Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt and Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. That much is pretty clear. But who gets to be in the runner-up positions for themed Halloween scare-attractions? Well, it’s starting to be quite the race, and the L.A. Haunted Hayride is ready to run the course hard and fast.
The L.A. Haunted Hayride may only have two rides (the hayride itself and a reverse carousel with skeleton horses—which is very cool), one haunted maze (with a little carnival mirror maze on the side) and one show (this year’s Sideshow Sirens revue, a lot of fun)… but it’s definitely making the most of what it’s got.
The haunted maze is very impressive, with a lot of space to work with, plenty of darkness, high-energy monsters with a lot of talent, and a genuine maze layout. (You can get lost in there, and there are dead ends! We found that out the hard way…) It’s pretty much the equivalent of two good mazes anywhere else, in terms of scale. And there are plenty of jumps and chills, too.
The main attraction, the Haunted Hayride itself, really has to be experienced to be believed. You may get a bit cramped up (I did) as they jam all the people they can into each hay wagon, but that (and the somewhat steep price) is worth it for the scares and craziness they build into the event. Some of the payoffs are absolutely incredible, and there are plenty of good scares mixed in with some sheer awe. They really upped the ante for this one, and as noted in other reviews, some of the sets built are just impressive as hell. Oh, and one more thing: Wear the poncho. Why? You’ll find out…