It’s somewhat surprising that, in California, despite the amount of agriculture and actual number of farms we have, there just aren’t that many autumn hayride options around. So when the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride opened a decade or so ago, it filled a huge gap and offered a unique experience in the overcrowded haunt market. In addition, its Griffith Park location, in very close proximity to Hollywood, helped it quickly became one of the premiere events in the city, attracting celebrities, influencers, and others who just didn’t want want to travel far from the city or spend a long night at Universal or Knotts. But the Hayride lines were long, prices were high, and it seemed like they were spending more money on marketing than than running the actual event. Unfortunately, the quality of the hayride never lived up to its hype, and we just stopped going for a while.
But then Thirteenth Floor Entertainment took over, and the whole tone of the event has changed over the past several years. It no longer feels like a glossy superficial event filled with D-list celebrities. Instead, walking around the dusty grounds of the LA Haunted Hayride under the warm orange glow of the generator-powered lights, it feels like you’re in another part of the country and not just minutes from Hollywood. It’s more rustic and authentic, and a real sense of old-fashioned Halloween fun flows through the entire event.
New this year is improved seating on the haywagons. Previously, guests had to sit cross-legged on the floor of the trailer, which was somewhat uncomfortable and awkward. Now, you can sit higher up in the wagon on actual bales of hay. This improves the view and the comfort level. The ride itself takes victims through different vignettes of horror, with some nice lighting and fog effects as well as fun props and sets. Creepy figures also emerge from the dark for a few effective startles. However, the mood on the hayride is more fun and spooky than really scary. In fact, we think the hayride could be appropriate for younger or first-time haunt visitors who might not be ready for Horror Nights–level scares.
Although there is lack of a cohesive story running throughout the hayride, every scenes has something fun to look at and a cool effect. It’s simply fun to sit in a wagon in the dark and scream with a bunch of strangers.
“Hellbilly Halloween” is a new maze at the LA Haunted Hayride for 2023. This maze took us through the backwoods where we encountered hillbilly cannibals. Blood red lighting, maniacs in pig masks, and lots of blood permeate the entire maze. However, there just weren’t enough actors in this maze. We actually went through this one twice and found that, on both occasions, several rooms had no actors or animatronics at all. We did attend on opening weekend, so perhaps they’re still staffing up. But there were definitely a lot of missed opportunities for scares in this maze.
Nevertheless, the interior sets were very detailed, and the outdoor portions had some unique props and animatronics.
Returning again this year is “Midnight Mortuary,” which has a darker and more sinister feel to it than the over-the-top Hellbilly maze. Mortuary relies on darkness and shadows to set up its scares. The actors are subtle but also very effective. This maze seemed to have more actors in it and therefore, they got a few more startles out of us. The outdoor stroll through the cemetery is a nice touch, although the freeway running parallel to this section is a bit of distraction. We were also unnerved by the strangely gyrating skeleton animatronics in the graveyard, which were more laughable than scary. Still, the maze has a nice traditional Halloween feel that we appreciate.
Trick or Treat
The perennial fan favorite “Trick or Treat” has really changed over the years, but it has managed to maintain its fun and crazy spirit. The acting in this maze was probably the best of all three mazes, with actors fully inhabiting their characters and pushing the trick-or-treating setting. The interior set that starts the maze is nicely detailed with rotting pumpkins and other crumbling Halloween decor. After leaving the house, we encounter elaborate facades and animatronics that really highlight the unique vignettes that make up the experience. We got a few good scares in this maze, and it remains our favorite of all.
Entertainment, Shopping, and Food
One of the best things about the LA Haunted Hayride is the fun atmosphere the permeates the entire grounds of the event. There are plenty of amazing photo ops as well as food trucks and food booths to get some unique fall foods. The General Store has awesome t-shirts that are actually affordable, as well as other gifts like purses, stuffed toys, and glassware.
But the very best part of the whole event might just be Monte Revolta. The show is high-energy and hilarious, and the band sounds great. We stopped to watch just one song and found ourselves staying for the entire performance. With multiple shows each evening, you should plan to catch at least one of them. And even if you watched the band last year, there are many new songs included this year, so don’t miss it.
LA Haunted Hayride has earned its rightful place among the major Los Angeles Halloween events…not as a real competitor to Horror Nights or Knotts, but as its own homage to the bucolic hayrides that can be found in smaller towns this time of year. It has a more authentic spirit now than it had in the past, and this has improved the event in our eyes.
We attended opening weekend and found the crowds to be light and the wait times to be very short. Although we purchased the VIP pass, we actually didn’t need it. However, it will surely get busier as we get closer to Halloween so the option to skip the line will be needed.
The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is open most nights through Halloween. Tickets start at $30, which we think is a great deal. If you’re looking for a fun and festive event this season, we definitely recommend visiting the hayride.