There’s a general consensus out there that 2016 was “the worst.” In many ways, we feel that, too. But on the flip side, 2016 was actually an excellent year for haunts. So cheer up, kiddos, and take a look at our year-end review of the best haunt moments in Southern California this year!

Top 5 Haunt Moments  of 2016

5. Walking Dead Year-Round Attraction Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood 

At first, we were a bit worried how this new year-round walk-through might affect Halloween Horror Nights in the fall, and we were also concerned that it might be a watered-down, bland version of an HHN maze made more palatable to the masses. But Universal struck an impressive balance in this attraction by maintaining a high scare factor without overdoing the intensity for the average guest. It feels great to be able to experience a maze year round. We’re also hopeful that with The Walking Dead, Universal might be pioneering a trend in theme parks toward including more attractions with darker, scarier elements. We hope the other parks get inspired by this brave move from Universal.

 4. Home Haunts Take It to the Next Level During Halloween Season

What a great year for home haunts! Although we don’t typically do full reviews of home haunts, we were lucky to experience a few this year. What blew us away was the fact that many times, these home haunts had better scares than the pros! Rotten Apple 907 terrified us with their “Not So Enchanted Forest,” the Backwoods Maze had another impressive run, and the classic, not-to-be-missed House at Haunted Hill returned from a hiatus. Home haunters are an essential branch of the haunt industry  and are often the most creative folks out there (evidenced by the fact that many haunt prop catalogs  brazenly rip off their prop ideas every year–see the Cauldron Creeper and Faceless Spectre, for examples). If you don’t have home haunts on your Halloween to-do list, they’re a must for 2017!

3. Haunted Theater Has Another Strong Year

After being sorely missed due to a hiatus in 2015, Delusion roared back to the afterlife this year with “His Crimson Queen.” Once again, we were impressed with the production and set design work of this beloved attraction. We felt this was one of the best installments of Delusions, with a strong storyline, natural-feeling interactivity, and some real scares. Zombie Joe’s returned with their “Tour of Terror” and another great year of Urban Death performances.  And finally, Creep LA made it near the top of our review list with this year’s “darkness” themed event. The acting and “creep” factor in this attraction was top-notch, and we hope they come back bigger and badder next year.

2. Halloween Convention Wars Heat Up the Summer

How lucky are we in Southern California that we have not one–but TWO–Halloween conventions?? Midsummer Scream and Scare LA duked it out over as the offered competing conventions just one week apart. We attended both and felt that Midsummer Scream came out on top but just a few factors, but if you’re a die-hard Halloween fan, attending both is a great option. We can’t wait to see what both events have in store for 2017!

1. Halloween Horror Nights Presents the Best Maze Lineup EVER!

As the maze announcements trickled in over the year for HHN Hollywood 2016, we couldn’t believe our ears. One iconic property after another was announced. Although the big four–Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface–had mazes at HHN before, they’d never been presented together in the same year. And on top of that, we got a delightfully devilish Krampus maze and an impressive incarnation of American Horror Story, a maze fans have been requesting for years. HHN also broke ground with their Purge outdoor walk-through experience, which replaced the standard scare zone format. We had a fantastic time at HHN this year. The bad news is that we can’t imagine how HHN will top that in 2017. It’s going to be a hard act to follow, but if anyone can do it, it’s the creative team at Halloween Horror Nights.

We hope you were able to get out and experience some or all of these great moments. Be sure to check back with Scare Zone throughout 2017 for the latest haunt news, reviews, and in-depth analysis and opinion pieces about the haunt industry.

Happy New Year!