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October 13, 2015

A Petrified Forest in Altamonte Springs

Located in Altamonte Springs, A Petrified Forest is a Central Florida Halloween tradition. 2015 marks eight years for this highly-acclaimed haunted attraction. And for the second year in a row, A Petrified Forest is offering two scare trails, with very different horrors to explore.


 A Petrified Forest is unique in many ways. It has the feel of a community event, similar to a small town carnival that everyone attends each year. There are concession stands, merchandise vendors, and live musical performances from local artists. It is the type of attraction that teens and young adults could easily spend an evening enjoying, even beyond the haunted trails. 
Ticketing options allow for the purchase of one ($15) or both ($25) trails. It hardly seems worth it to just choose one. They were both very worthwhile, and I personally wouldn't know which to suggest over the other. Each has very clever designs, impressive actors, and highly commendable props and details. Go for the gold - do them both.
A Petrified Forest is not the scariest of Halloween attractions, but even if you don't get maximum frights, you will certainly enjoy the tour! What seemed like a small space really was maximized to hold extensive sets. The first trail we explored began in a decaying ship, complete with a mini moat. It seems that more than a few unfortunate souls went down with this ship, and that is where they remain. While this one wasn't as scary to me (and let's remember what a weenie I can be), I was enthralled with the elaborate scenes. It genuinely had the feel of a midnight shipwreck exploration, and this created a generally "creepy" vibe throughout our journey. Since I didn't feel threatened enough to run, I took the time to inspect the details. Makeup and costumes were brilliant. 

The second trail incorporated some truly inspiring elements. The entrance itself was over-the-top. Guests are herded into a sort of boxcar, with individual "standing coffin" partitioned slots for each guest. This is on wheels, on a portion of train track. Once you step inside, the door closes, and you are thrust through a portal, emerging in the trail. You never know what will be outside the door when it springs open, either... and there's only one way out. Scares can come from anywhere on this trail - even above and below - and they do! This trail housed a winding corn field, and a school bus full of potential horrors to shimmy your way through. 

Each trail took about ten minutes to walk through. I would suggest that they allow a little more time between groups entering the trails, however. The first trail really did lose some of its spark based on the fact that we had a massive bottleneck of guests. A good percentage of the trails are very dark areas, and there are more than a few "tight space" passages that are a bit of a challenge to navigate, so there were too many opportunities for a group of five or six to suddenly end up being groups of ten to eighteen. It didn't help that we just happened to merge with a group that included two especially obnoxious guests, so I can't fault the venue for that misfortune. It was just a pushy, clustered mess halfway through the trail, and it detracted from the experience. 

The only other drawback to the experience was that it was a tad bit confusing. We were given a green ticket upon entry, which was a sort of "fastpass". Color wheels are at the front of a line at each trail. When your color is selected on the spinner, you present your ticket to the attendant and gain entry to a shorter line. Upon exiting one trail, you can fastpass over to the next trail, but I was a bit confused because our one color ticket was taken at the first line. We did wander around for a bit trying to figure out which line to get in and when, but perhaps we're just getting old and confused? It all worked out, but it was a little difficult to get clear answers from workers as to how this process flowed. 

By far, the feature that I found most intriguing and notable is the option for the backstage tour. This is $12 on its own, and additional combo ticket options are available. The backstage tour takes you behind the trails from the actors' point of view, even offering you the chance to scare a few guests. Very nice touch! On the second trail, I think I may have spotted a guest standing in - a young-ish boy in the corn field. And let me tell ya... HE WAS CREEPY! Everyone around us seemed just as spooked by this maybe-monster-in-training, and I'm curious whether he was a guest or "hired" help. Next year, I will definitely be opting for this experience myself. 

This was our first visit to A Petrified Forest, and it was easy to see why it's such a popular annual attraction. For a haunt that's closer to home, or a safe, fun place to take the teens, A Petrified Forest is the way to go. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit their website, or follow along on Facebook.