Haunt season in 2020 was seriously interrupted due to COVID-19 restrictions, but many haunted attractions nonetheless devised innovative ways to capture the spirit of the season (and the money from our wallets) with various gimmicks, the most popular of which was the “drive-through” haunt. We thought LA Haunted Hayride was one of the more successful experiences last year, with their “drive-in” theatre/haunt offering that managed to preserve the spirit of their event and even deliver a few scares in your car. However, in October 2021, as as we walked through the glorious, glowing pumpkin tunnel that welcomes guests into the grounds of the hayride and the town of Midnight Falls, we breathed a huge sigh of relief, as we truly felt that the hayride—and Halloween itself—is back in Los Angeles.
One of the things that LA Haunted Hayride does really well is capturing the spirit and atmosphere of Halloween. The diffuse orange light that peaks out from behind the large oak trees of Griffith Park and onto the hayride grounds immediately casts a spooky feeling over the whole event (and makes for some great photos as well). In addition to the hayride and three mazes, there are also plenty of food trucks, food stalls, and even live entertainment from Monte Revolta, who had the crowd dancing and kicking up dust.
New this year, the hayride has shifted its location to a larger area in Griffith Park closer to the freeway. We did feel that the new location wasn’t as good as in previous years, as the cars on the highway could be seen and heard from many locations, including in some of the mazes. But it was also nice to have the event more spread out and less crowded. We also felt that the overall operations of the event have improved dramatically over previous seasons. Before 13th Floor took over, we seemed to have issues EVERY YEAR with either our tickets, security, front of the line passes, waiting in line for food, etc. We’re so happy to report that theses problems seem to have been resolved (at least from our experience), and we breezed through all lines with no issues. Now, enough of the administrative stuff, let’s talk about attractions.
The main attraction is, of course, the hayride. They hayride felt more roomy and less “packed in” compared with previous years; we’re not sure if this was done purposely due to COVID or not, but the extra space we had away from other people was definitely welcome. The hayride is a fun and creepy adventure showcasing the horrors afflicting the town of Midnight Falls. Although there are some impressive set pieces and animatronics spread throughout the ride, we felt it was lacking a bit in scares. Our long-standing opinion is that hayrides in general just aren’t that scary, maybe because they are so open and you can often see the actors coming from far away. Also, there didn’t seem to be a very coherent theme or story to the ride but rather just a showcase of some impressive vignettes. Nevertheless, we love the energy the actors put into their characters, and riding behind a tractor under the dark sky is now a Halloween tradition that we can’t give up.
This maze is definitely the best of the three at LA Haunted Hayride. The outside facade is impressively detailed with atmospheric lighting, which sets the tone a journey through the dilapidated setting. As we wound our way through the Victorian-era mortuary, we encountered plenty of creeps and freaks around every corner and crevice. The maze then continues outside to the cemetery, which provides another great setting for scares behind the abundant fog that winds its way through the tombstones. The only detraction here was the closeness of the freeway, which took us out of the scene a bit. But we were quickly through the graveyard and back indoors for more scares.
Dead End Diner
Continuing on the twisted tour of Midnight Falls, we next made our way through the retro and run down Dead End Diner. The path here takes you through the diner and some encounters with the not so friendly wait staff and then through the back door, where we saw exactly where the diner obtained its grade D meat. Soon we were venturing even beyond the diner into the mean streets of the the town, where vagrant beasts assaulted us from behind chain link fencing. The whole maze definitely captures a 1970s vibe in both its characters and choice of music. There were a few empty spots in the attraction, especially in the straw bale portion, but overall it was a fun and interesting maze.
Trick or Treat
Since it first debuted, Trick or Treat has been our favorite attraction at the Hayride, but unfortunately, it was considerable less fun this year. Although we loved the first part of the maze, in which we walked through a home decked out with traditional and creepy Halloween decor, once outside and into the “trick or treat” portion, the experience completely fell apart. The current configuration results in long lines outside each door, with the surprises completely ruined by seeing 5 to 10 other people in front of you ringing the bell and receiving their “trick.” After a couple of doors, we realized there was no point in waiting to ring the bell ourselves, so we just took a quick glance as we walked by. To get the full experience would require greatly limiting the number of people in the maze at any given time, and we understand this would really back up the lines. Still, the night we went wasn’t busy at all (with almost no wait in line), so perhaps they could have spaced out the parties better. Still, it has some fun elements that are definitely worth seeing.
The LA Haunted Hayride has really evolved over the years from a disorganized and overhyped event to a very solid, full event that’s definitely worth the price of admission. This event is a little less scary than some of the other haunted attractions in town and is probably a really good option for braver younger kids (10 and up) and those who want to experience a fun, Halloween atmosphere with lighter scares. We also love the live entertainment, diversity of food choices, and even the merchandise shop, which honestly had the best merch we saw of any haunt this year. We highly recommend adding the Hayride to your haunt itinerary, as it’s truly become one of the pinnacles of the Los Angeles Halloween season.