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We recently visited the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and had the opportunity to experience all three of their haunted attractions: The Haunted Castle, Ghost Blasters, and Fright Walk. Dark rides and year-round haunts are hard to come by, so finding them in one location is a real treat. In addition, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has a famous haunted legacy as it was the set for the classic 80s horror movie The Lost Boys. We didn’t spot any vampires lurking around, but it was daytime, so who knows what freaks come out at night.

Haunted Attractions

The Haunted Castle

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Upon arrival at the Boardwalk, guests can see the large front facade of the Haunted Castle towering into the sky. This classic dark ride was revamped last year, and it now offers a new level of modern effects, fun, and scares. The ride’s vehicles look like a mix of a hearse and a Doombuggy from Disney’s Haunted Mansion attractions. The entire ride takes place in the lower levels underneath the Boardwalk, so the haunted journey begins with the vehicle spinning backwards and then quickly descending down a steep spiral track into the heart of the castle. Once inside, you encounter ghostly royalty, their undead servants, demonic pets, and vengeful monsters.

We were surprised at the level of detail in this ride, which comes to close to anything you’d find at Disneyland (we actually think it looks better than the recently added Winnie the Pooh and Buzz Lightyear rides). In addition to the effects and settings, the layout of the ride tells a linear story that gets darker as the ride goes on. There were some real surprise scares, but the ride isn’t about making guests freak out; it’s a “fun” adventure through a unique haunted world.

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4.5 Skulls

Ghost Blasters

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The ghosts need to be evicted out of the old mansion, but they ain’t leaving willingly—so who you gonna call? Call yourself, as you and a fellow passenger are armed with a blaster gun and will have to shoot your way through the ghost-infested mansion.

This ride has a very cartoonish look with a lot of black light illuminating the vibrant set pieces. There are some fun special effects with a few surprising startles. The good thing about this ride is that it’s just as fun without the shooting game. In fact, the ghost blasting can distract riders from being able to focus on the ride around them. Nonetheless, if you get an all-day ride pass, it’s worth a couple whirls!

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3.5 Skulls

Fright Walk

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This is a year-round walk-through haunted house. The attraction is akin to a dark funhouse with numerous animatronic props and sensor-triggered scare effects. We thought that there were a couple of interesting animatronic props and found some of the very dark passages suspenseful to walk through, but we were disappointed that there were no real scareactors inside, even though the warning signs say otherwise. Perhaps it’s difficult to keep the house staffed on a year-round basis, so they have to rely heavily on all the props. However, since it was haunt season, we expected to have at least one real-life monster scare us.

The Fright Walk would benefit from a makeover like the Haunted Castle received. They should also create a story theme for the haunted house so it doesn’t feel like a tour of an animatronic haunt museum. Perhaps this would be a good lair for The Lost Boys! If you’re a Haunt Stalker visiting the Boardwalk, this attraction is worth checking out once, but it doesn’t effect anything more than a few startling scares.


  • Set Design:2.5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls