We all know that Halloween Horror Nights Orlando is the best theme park haunt event in the country. But is it about to get some real competition? From the people behind Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor in Long Beach, California, a brand new haunt called “Dark Horizon: Point of No Return” is coming to the Orlando area in 2019.
At this point, details are still scarce. The first round of auditions is being held as of this writing (July 11-13, 2019). The initial call for monsters says the event will “[feature] brilliant stage shows, sinister sideshows, creepy bars, and bone-chilling monsters that lurk around every turn,” which sounds pretty similar to the Queen Mary event. In other words, this won’t be just a single standalone haunted house, but rather a “screampark” style event with mazes, live entertainment, and alcohol. There will even be cabanas available to rent.
Information on the event’s specific location has not been released yet, only that it will be in Orlando. So could Dark Horizon be a true competitor to Halloween Horror Nights?
Until now, HHN Orlando has enjoyed no real competition in the surrounding area, aside from the year-round Mortem Manor, which—although a fun diversion—could never be a substitute for Horror Nights. The next major event is nearly 90 miles away in Tampa (Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream). We think that Dark Horizons might be able to reach haunt fans who are tired of HHN’s long lines and high prices. But by taking up residence in an area whose only haunt event is the best in the nation–Dark Horizon has an uphill climb. On the other hand, as we see in many other markets (Southern California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas), Halloween attractions are very popular, and many people go to more than one during the season. So instead of being a strict competitor, Dark Horizon’s success may lie in its ability to be a complement to HHN, enticing people who not only want to see Halloween Horror Nights as usual but ALSO want to be terrified in new and different ways.
Most importantly, Dark Horizon needs to come out strong in their opening year with good-quality mazes and a well-organized operation, or they run the very real risk of drowning in bad Yelp reviews, as locals will surely compare them with Horror Nights. But we know that the team is savvy. They completely turned what was once a “Shipwreck” (in name and reality) into a very enjoyable haunt event, so we’re hopeful that they can do it again. We may even book ourselves a flight to Orlando this year to find out.
We will continue to report on Dark Horizon: Point of No Return as more news comes in throughout the summer, so check back often.