Long Beach’s Queen Mary has officially opened the gates for the 2016 Halloween season with their terrifying Dark Harbor event. With six haunting mazes, three of which being in the bowels of the ship itself, a paintball gallery, an all-new 4D experience, an interactive Sideshow, and booze a plenty, Dark Harbor is now competing with the best of the best! The rich details among much of the lengthy mazes, countless monsters, and relatively incredibly low ticket prices have helped make this haunt one the best values in Southern California. Not only do the scares challenge other events to up their quality, the entire event takes place at a place that thrives on itself actually being haunted.
While you may not get the number of other attractions that Knotts, Universal Studios Hollywood, or Six Flags has to offer, you will have some detailed sets that rival the best, amazing characterization and scare actors that seem to care, be able to do everything the event has to offer, and best of all… have plenty of drinks! Dark Harbor has the feeling of a smaller community event at times yet has some of the best mazes I have ever gone through.
Walking through the gates at the start of the event haunt-goers will be welcomed by a truly countless number of monsters from all walks of life, or death, making it impossible to get anywhere without coming face-to-face with scares. The number of scarers is impressive. There are no real safe-havens like other haunts. Anywhere on the grounds you appear to be fair-game to monsters to attack.
I truly appreciated this aspect of Dark Harbor as I found myself halfway through the event feeling like these monsters were family. You think that’s weird you say? Yeah it is, but there was something that made me feel more apart of this event as I walked around and saw each unique scarer go after their next pray. After a couple of hours I found myself rooting for each one and excited to see their clever new way to interact with the patrons. While at Knotts Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights, the scare zones seem less interactive and more “boo”-like opposed to some actual verbal interaction you may find at Dark Harbor.
I will have to admit that this was my first visit to Dark Harbor, but know that the team there have upped their game considerably to just a few years ago. I was half expecting more painted plywood walls with haphazardly placed decorations, but instead I was welcomed by well-put together, rich-detailed sets with some excellently derived scare scenarios. All too often haunted houses bank on just being able to turn a corner and hit a wall to scare. This has increasingly become not the case for the major haunts and Dark Harbor is succeeding.
There is only one new maze this year, Interpid, that unfortunately missed the mark greatly. Following the creator and now protector of the Queen Mary, the maze is supposed to be based around the Iron Master who has returned to reclaim the ship and is now fiercely guarding with his ghouls. Well, the concept sounds good, but this maze is within that large fading gold half-dome that’s now the Long Beach Cruise Terminal. The interior is too open in general and so is the maze. While I enjoyed the fact they had a little more space to work with, the props and decor was lacking. Fortunately, this is the only one that I feel has this problem. Note: You have to crawl through some spaces.
While for me everything was all-new, I fear that some may be unhappy if they go to Dark Harbor year after year and come back to familiar haunts. However, if you haven’t been recently, I believe there are some very unexpected surprises around many corners.
I am not going to go through maze by maze as half the experiences are guessing what each has hiding behind the entrance. However, without giving too much away, I must say that I was very pleased with some of the less-than-handicap-friendly experiences Queen Mary has to offer. While other big haunts have had to dumb down there events by not allowing for many stairs, crawl spaces, or touching, Dark Harbor still offers some unusual paths and many small spaces that helps each maze feel semi-more authentic.
The most thrilling and scaring aspect of Dark Harbor is to be within the depths of the ship claimed to be actually haunted. It’s very fascinating to walk through these tight hallways and crew passageways while being faced with blood, guts and the dead. Much of these mazes benefit of not needing to add theming as the much of the spaces are just that… a haunted ship. Rivets, pipes, boiler mechanics and catwalks all are around. There are many awe-inspiring moments including walking right through the heart of the former boiler room and visiting the first class pool. No added decor is needed here, just the sound a echoing water drops in the distance and perhaps a monster or two.
I didn’t head through the new 4-D experience, Panic, nor the HEX Paintball Gallery, but I did have the pleasure to visit the Sideshow. At only a $5 upcharge, there is no need to skip. Part maze, part freak show, this feature has some interactive parts and cumulates to end at a bar featuring many different amazing acts. We spent a good while just sipping some cocktails and watching belly-dancers, comedians, magicians, and fire-throwers.
Dark Harbor general admission tickets start at only $24 and top out at $39. One of the drawbacks to most Halloween events are the lines, and Dark Harbor is no exception. I would HIGHLY recommend doing the Fright Pass “front-of-line” pass at just $35 more. The tickets and front-of-line passes are significantly less than Knotts Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights making this one of the best values around. Plus, alcohol everywhere! Other events have limited to beer or eliminated alcohol all together. This is not the case at The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. Drink up!
All three mazes aboard the ship are not to miss, especially B340 as it being my favorite of the night. Deadrise amidst the center of it all appears to be small and nothing special at first glance, but this is another that was surprisingly good and scarers definitely were good and finding every way to scare possible.
Dark Harbor should be a serious consideration if you’re looking for a good Halloween event option this year.