As part of Scare Zone’s trip down to San Diego this past weekend (see our reviews of the Haunted Hotel and the Haunted Trail), we also visited the Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Scream Zone
Ticket Booth at the Scream Zone

The Scream Zone is located along the race track area of the fairgrounds. They have three attractions: The Haunted Hayride, The Chamber (a maze), and House of Horrors (another maze). Interestingly, when you enter, they have signs posted that suggest in what order you should visit each attraction. They suggested the following order: The Chamber, The Haunted Hayride, and then House of Horrors. We thought this was a little odd, and we wondered (and guessed) why. It became obvious by the end of the night.

We actually tried to follow their suggestion, but The Chamber was having some kind of technical difficulty when we arrived and was shut down, so we headed for the hayride instead.

The Haunted Hayride

Scream Zone - San Diego County Fair
Haunted Hayride

Just like the L.A. Haunted Hayride, this was a tractor-pulled wagon with a bed of loose hay—no hay bales to sit on. Guests sit along the edges—or as was the case on our wagon, lie down in the middle of the wagon, crowding everyone. Which brings us to one problem we’ve realized with hayrides: if you get on a wagon with annoying people, you are STUCK WITH THEM for the entire ride. At least in a maze, if you don’t like the people around you, you can let a few others pass to put some distance between you. But on the hayride, you have to grit your teeth and bear it.

The hayride is about 20 minutes long, and it winds around the horse stables/barn area. Despite the nontraditional location, the sets and lighting do actually seem to blend in with the stables. It’s sort of a post-apocalyptic theme, with a lot of industrial-type sets and red lighting. The monsters are mostly zombies, with a few hillbilly types thrown in. There are a few fun surprises along the way, although we can’t say we got scared during the ride. However, plenty of people on our wagon were screaming, so the potential for terror does exist. The “big ending” is meant to be cool and frightening, but we found it to fall flat. And it’s a shame, too, because it does have potential. We won’t spoil it here, though. All in all, the sets were cool, the monsters were really into their roles, and a few of the scares were fun (but not exactly scary).

Our rating: 3 skulls

The Chamber

Scream Zone - San Diego County Fair
The Lackluster Entrance to The Chamber

This is a generic maze that consists of mostly black-light effects. There is the usual (played out) dot room, the splatter paint room, and some black-light murals on black walls. This maze actually might be improved if they made it 3-D. (If you have 3-D glasses left over from some other haunts, you might want to bring them along to enhance the scenery.)  There is one area with dead ends, so you do have to find your way out, which we didn’t find to be too difficult. Freddy Kreuger also made an appearance at the end–2010 is really his year! He’s been in almost all the haunts we’ve been to so far. Freddy really gets around.

Overall, this maze was too generic and lacked enough scares to make it really worthwhile.

Our rating: 1.5 skulls

House of Horrors

Scream Zone - San Diego County Fair
Outside the House of Horrors

Now this is what a maze should be! We were screaming from the moment we entered this maze. There isn’t one coherent theme in this maze, but many of the rooms were unique and offered great scares. There were monsters who appeared out of nowhere from within a rock wall, an exorcism room with rolling floors, monsters who appeared to be a piece of furniture (!), and pneumatic props that we actually thought were going to chop our heads off! There were also some black-light effects, in particular one room with many different doors that open into an actual maze (that you have to find your way out of). And beware, as one of the doors has a special surprise. There is also a section of complete, utter darkness, which is disorienting and truly scary. But that only heightened the fun for us.

The actors in this maze did a great job scaring the front, middle, and back of the groups. Sometimes, monsters will scare only the first person in the group every time, which does not make it very fun for the guest at the end. But the monsters in House of Horrors were great at remaining completely motionless until you passed, so that you really thought they were just a prop. This maze also had pretty good crowd control, letting only about 5 or 6 people in at a time, with plenty of time between groups (it probably helped that we were there on a slow night, as well).

This maze had a lot of different elements and some very effective scares. It’s also pretty long—it probably takes a good 10-15 minutes to go through. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Our rating: 4 skulls

And now we know the reason behind the Scream Zone’s “suggested” order of attractions: They suggest you see the worst attraction first and end with the best, probably so you go home happy. It worked (pretty much) for us.

Terror Tips

  • We’d say skip The Chamber, but it’s included in every combo ticket. And we do think both the Haunted Hayride and House of Horrors are worth seeing, so you might as well get the three-attraction pass ($27.99).
  • Bring some 3-D glasses for The Chamber.
  • Sit near the back of the hayride.
  • The food offerings are not very good, so eat before you get there.
  • Follow the suggested order of attractions.


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