The Del Mar Fairgrounds in sunny San Diego gets transformed into the menacing Del Mar Scaregrounds where it hosts the yearly The Scream Zone. Preparations for this event begin immediately after the San Diego County Fair concludes on July 4th. They spend 2 and a half months creating the haunts, hiring actors and getting everything else ready to make sure they put on a fun and great show. I attended this year, it’s 20th year to be exact, under a full Harvest Moon’s light.
Going in the order they recommend (from least scariest to the most), I will be reviewing and breaking down each haunt and attraction:
THE HAUNTED HAYRIDE
Description: The Haunted Hayride piles visitors into a wagon with an unknown destination. Ride through the darkness terrified and filled with hallucinations, including Wicked Alice in Horrendous-land and a trip through the Rabbit Hole as part of the hair-raising ride through a Never, Never Land of creepy and petrifying clowns, zombies and other wicked characters.
Melissa's Thoughts: We begin by loading up on a tractor trailer full of hay. Not the most comfortable, but very appropriate for the season and the mood they’re trying to put you in. After a bumpy ride to the scare zones, you get greeted by themed sections. The ones I can remember where a radioactive tunnel, a mine, “Hotel Hell”, a trailer park and a horror movie zone. Each section was well set up and their corresponding scare actors knew how to hide and startle the guest. The trailer I was on was predominantly filled with kids ranging between ages 8 and 12. Seeing their reactions to the actors was honestly more entertaining than the haunt itself. Those scare actors were so energetic and never broke character, even when one of the kids kept asking for a high-five.
Description: KarnEvil is everything carnival and freak show, including the weird and surreal trailer park of clowns and a death spiral that leaves visitors disorientated and terrified.
Melissa's Thoughts: This walk through haunt puts you right in the middle of an immersive Freak Show full with performers and clowns. Mainly clowns. It was all clowns. As a person who prefers not to be face to face with clowns, this was terrifyingly fun. Again, the scare actors were excellent. Getting up in people’s personal space was gold. This haunt really got to your senses and tried to disorient you. One of the first things that did it for me was the spinning tunnel. Now I do have vertigo, so seeing that room was nope. But I had to suck it up, close my eyes and walk through it while holding the rails. I didn’t fall or puke, so it’s all good. Another section that stands out in my mind was a small maze in the middle of the haunt. You had to go through different small hallways and figure out how to get to the rest of the haunt. Some were dead ends and others led you back to where you started. All while two clowns kept getting all up in your face. The walls were painted in black and white stripes and strobe lights filled the room, making you disoriented and much more confused. After a few times getting it wrong, the clowns in the room (not breaking character) lead us to the next room. I think I stood there in the dark for a few minutes trying to get myself together and to stop seeing flashing lights that were not there anymore.
THE HOUSE OF HORROR
Description: The House of Horror features room after room of frightening and surprising visual and visceral experiences. Imagine being trapped and moved by a bevy of clowns or shaken, rattled and upended so that you don't know where or who you are within utter darkness!
Melissa's Thoughts: This haunt is known to be the best out of the whole Scream Zone, and I can tell why. Many of the rooms were based off of horror movies but some were 100% original. One of the first rooms you go through is based off of the 2017 version of It. You enter through what I believe was the basement and see Georgie with our favorite dancing clown, Pennywise. Other memorable rooms were inspired by Annabelle, zombie movies and The Conjuring. They even had the Valack painting, that creepy Nun from The Conjuring. I got close to admire and fangirl at it but a scare actor popped out from behind the painting and freaked me out. Now, while all these rooms are detailed and the actors are amazing, The House of Horror has something unique that I’ve never experienced before outside of my own home. A dark hallway. I know it sounds cheese but trust me, this is the longest and scariest part of Scream Zone for me. I’m not entirely sure how long that hallway is, but it is 100% pitch black and it winds around for a good while. When I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and into the next room, I’ve never been so relieved to walk into a possessed guy being levitated. That being said, they don’t call this the best haunt in The Scream Zone for nothing.
THE RUNNING DEAD
Description: The first of its kind and only one in the country, The Running Dead is a 30,000 square foot unique obstacle course challenge that puts the participants agility, coordination, reflexes, and speed to the test. Participants literally run for their lives from brain-eating, blood-sucking Zombies while competing against the clock and their friends as they climb, crawl, scramble, and run around, over, up, and under a wide variety of ghoulish obstacles and creepy passages.
Melissa's Thoughts: If you ever wanted to see if you could outrun a zombie or confirm how out of shape you are. I highly recommend this extremely immersive attraction. On their website, they suggest wearing appropriate clothes and shoes to do physical activities in, and they weren’t kidding. It was a mixture of running, jumping, climbing, sliding and crawling. While the zombies don’t exactly chase you (they just scare you), it was still an intense experience. The “survivor” actors kept cheering you on throughout the whole thing and made sure you were going the right way. That being said, I ended up going the wrong way, maybe twice. There are so many obstacles to go through that I kept getting confused as to where I was. After a few minutes of “running” (jogging was more like it), we finally made it to the end. My friend who accompanied me and I were so exhausted that we just started to laugh. As huge fans of The Walking Dead, this was embarrassing to say the least. In a real zombie apocalypse, we would have been dead. After catching our breath, we realized we were covered in dirt and completely filthy. So if you decided to give this a go, wear appropriate clothes and get ready for some serious physical activity.
All in all, The Scream Zone is ideal for the new haunt goer. Each haunt is tame and provides enough scares for you to remember for the rest of the night. All of the 100+ actors throughout the event give their A-game and really bring this event to life.
I did not attend on a night where there were any special events going on but The Scream Zone also provides more than just haunts. On certain nights, they have events such as Maniacal Magic Shows and a Speakeasy. They also offer a variety of discounts for certain days of the week, discounts for students and for people in the military.
More information about The Scream Zone can be found at: https://thescreamzone.com/