There are plenty of places to go if you're looking for seasonal fun — pumpkin patches, corn mazes and fall festivals. Then there are the nighttime haunted houses and hayrides, those horror-filled outings guaranteed to raise heart rates and elicit shrieks.
But the Twin Cities has gotten a lot less scary, with the demise of longtime haunts including Fright Farm in Maplewood, Frightmares at Buck Hill and Trail of Terror, once one of the largest Halloween attractions in Minnesota.
Even Valleyfair has laid to rest its ValleyScare, opting instead for a more family-friendly Tricks and Treats event.
"We just wanted to bring new immersive experiences and entertainment and the multiple ways people experience this time of year," said Melissa Ferlaak, media representative for the amusement park.
Of course, not all of the metro area's haunts have gone on hiatus. There are still plenty of places to get your scare on. But the Halloween landscape has changed — perhaps due to a shortage of workers or a growing number of families looking for fun or maybe even less of an appetite for gore.
Valleyfair's new attraction, which it's promoting with the tagline "Halloween Fun With No Fright," is a colorful combination of a fall festival and a Halloween party. The Land of Tricks hosts Ickyville with the Gross Out Gauntlet live game show and "all things slimy, sinister and strange." There's also Spooky Spires, a 1920s themed village with carnival games.
The Land of Treats is home to the autumn-themed Everfall, where families and friends can gather around for campfire stories and pumpkin decorating. Sweet Tooth Acres has eight doors that kiddos can knock on to receive a treat.
In addition to costumed characters roaming the crowd, Tricks and Treats has brightly colored seasonal accents, kooky giant skeletons and, for dramatic effect, a headless horseman hovering near a pond by the Ferris wheel.
There are several backdrops and vignettes where guests can take photos. And Valleyfair offers a curated seasonal menu, with pumpkin muffins, candied bacon, Bride of Frank's ice cream and more.
"We want folks to come out and make a full day of it. The entertainment is so great, with so much to experience and eat and drink," said Ferlaak.
Need for novelty
The attractions that are still dealing in fright have relied on novelty to keep customers screaming — and happy.
For 36 years, Zywiec's Garden Center in Cottage Grove has operated the Haunting Experience, which offers scare-your-pants-off horror.
Owner Bill Zywiec attributes the longevity to keeping the experience fresh for guests.
"We're always changing, adding something on or switching a scare out," he said. "By end of season, we have a game plan for next year — we work on it year-round."
Nail-biting evenings include a hayride through the haunted forest and a walk through what they claim is the scariest haunted house in Minnesota.
Zywiec's also hosts the daytime Fall Fun Fest, where families can enjoy hayrides, a no-scare lights tour, pumpkin painting, sand art and more.
There's no shortage of gore and more at Scream Town, with more than 100 actors and seven different haunted attractions.
This year, the Chaska attraction has added Psychodelic Circus and Zombie Apocalypse CDC, where "the dead have risen and are coming for your flesh."
"It's very intense," said owner and operator Matt Dunn, "way more intense than what was experienced before."
It has also introduced a new take on the traditional haunted hayride, in which the hay wagons — equipped with special effects — travel to different stages.
"We've had a lot of positive feedback about it," said Dunn.
Despite fewer horrific venues to choose from, you can still find an evening laced with blood-curdling screams or an autumnal outing with the kids.
Here is a list of seasonal events, whether you want to squeal with glee or run scared.
Abandoned Hayride: 6:30-11 p.m. Fridays, Oct. 15; 6-11 p.m. Oct. 22 & 29; 7-10 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 19. 7-11 p.m. Oct. 20. Through Oct. 30. $30-$36. 7525 Hwy. 212, Chaska. 1-888-246-6783. theabandonedhayride.com.
Anoka Haunted House: 7-9 p.m. Oct. 14-15, Oct. 20, 27; 6-10 p.m. Oct. 22 & 29; 6-9 p.m. Oct. 28. $8-$12. Anokahauntedhouse.us.
The Dead End Hayride: 7-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, Sundays and Oct. 25 & 31; 7 p.m.-midnight Saturdays. $18-$75. Pinehaven Farm, 28186 Kettle River Blvd., Wyoming, Minn. thedeadendhayride.com.
Fall Fun Fest: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 20-21 through Oct. 30. $24. 10900 E. Point Douglas Road, Cottage Grove. 651-459-3001. hauntingexperience.com.
Haunting Experience: 7-10 p.m. Thursdays & Sundays & Oct. 26 and 31. 7-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. $24-$48. 10900 E. Point Douglas Road, Cottage Grove. 651-459-3001. hauntingexperience.com.
Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular: 7, 8, 9 & 10 p.m. Saturdays; 7 & 8 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 5. $18-$24. Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley. 952-431-9500. mnzoo.org.
Nowhere Haunted House: 6-11:55 p.m. Oct. Thursdays-Saturdays. $24-$28. Insomnia 18+ event for intense fear-seekers: 7 p.m. Oct. 11, 17, 24 and Nov. 11-12, 18-19. $50. Low Scare with no actors: Noon-4 p.m. Oct. 15, 22 & 29. $12. Family Friendly Lights on Behind the Scenes Tour: Noon-4 p.m. 16,23 &30. $10. 5300 S. Robert Trail #300, Inver Grove Heights. nowherehauntedhouse.com.
Phantom's Feast: Hosted by Jim Cunningham, the feast includes an evening of dinner and ghost stories. 7 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 6 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 30. $80. Renaissance Festival Grounds, 12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee. trailofterrormn.com.
Scarecrows in the Garden: A display of scarecrows from the experts at Bachman's, Arboretum staff and community. 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. $15. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska. 952-443-1400. arboretum.umn.edu.
Screamtown: 7-11 p.m. Fridays; 6:30-11 p.m. Saturdays; 7-10 p.m. Sundays & Oct. 19-20 through Oct. 30. $34-$64. 7410 Hwy. 212 W., Chaska. screamtown.com.
Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze : 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays & Oct. 20-21 through Oct. 30. 109th Av. and Hwy. 169, Brooklyn Park. 952-992-9326. twincitiesmaze.com.
Valleyfair Tricks and Treats: 5-10 p.m. Fridays; noon-9 p.m. Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 30. $29.99-$60. Hwy. 101 and Valleyfair Drive, Shakopee. 952-445-7600. valleyfair.com.