Leu Gardens, Orlando
Spooky Season is officially here and our family is fully invested! We live for the thrills, chills and all things Halloween. That being said, we couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s newest Halloween event, being held now through October 31 at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.
Over the years, we’ve visited a ton of holiday events that make big promises and don’t always deliver. Happy Frights and Haunting Nights met our expectations and then some! With top-notch production, fun and interactive characters and stunning visuals, this is a fall tradition your family will want to keep for years to come. And with two different experiences being offered, the spooky adventure has room to grow with your family.
Happy Frights is offered for kids and families of all ages. Upon arrival, you’ll stop in for a trick-or-treat bag and a map of the magically transformed gardens. While there is candy involved, the real experience is in the stroll throughout the sprawling gardens which is now teeming with creepy crawlies, furry monsters, giant sea creatures and more. This route is perfect for any family member, even babies, as there is nothing overly scary but is spooky enough to get you in the Halloween mood.
Haunting Nights offers the same experiences on a more grown-up level with some more jump scares and is geared towards adults and kids 13 and up (but all are welcome to join if you think your child can handle the frights!). Both experiences offer beer, wine, fall and carnival themed snacks and a variety of flavored lemonades and drinks.
We opted for Happy Frights and set our reservation early in the evening to beat the crowds. Upon arrival, we practically had the place to ourselves! Reservations are in one-hour blocks and you are asked to arrive 15 minutes before your start time to allow for parking and admission, however you can stay as long as you’d like (until things switch over to Haunting Nights).
To enter the gardens, we first had to learn the “troll hop” to get across the bridge guarded by the friendly resident troll. Once we were safely across, we had 12 immersive spine-tingling worlds to explore. Jeepers Peepers leads you on a jungle trail full of watching eyes, but look out! Massive jumping spiders are lurking around every corner! We skipped along the Jack-OLantern Jaunt lined with grinning pumpkin faces, to find a glowing, winding maze full of twists, turns and swaying ghosts. At the end, we found the labyrinth monster, Ned, giving Avery the chance to practice some of her new witchy spells, including freezing him.
Every character we met was so interactive and took the time to play with and make each kid feel special. Avery even earned a gold coin from the pirates at The Barracks for her pirate jokes. At the Dragon’s Nest, the beautiful Phoenix took her down the path through towering lifelike moving dragons and introduced her to each one by name.
We grabbed a front row seat for the magic show, which happens every 20 minutes or so throughout the night, where a very excited little witch in training was pulled on stage to help with the grand finale. This of course, only boosted her belief in her newfound powers and we have been subject to her spells ever since.
Along Apparition Alley, ghosts and ghouls float through the air and hover above. Sunflowers tower over you in the fields near the Scarecrow Summit, where you can climb a mountain of straw. There’s a never-ending dance party at Bubble Block Party where we met a giant seahorse and absolutely enormous crab swirling through a sea of bubbles.
In the final mystical world of the evening, we celebrated El Día de Muertos, with La Catrina – the beautiful skeleton who serves as the holiday’s symbol of the cycle of life, and a reminder to enjoy life, but also embrace death.
If you can time it just right, and end your visit at sunset, the gardens come alive even more with eerie mood lighting and it feels like a whole new experience. Don’t worry about it being too dark for photos with characters either, Leu Gardens knows exactly how to light up the night so you get the perfect shot.
Our family was blown away by the attention to detail and thought that went into creating these magical worlds and characters. Our night was brimming with enchantment and our memories painted with the hues of a truly magical Halloween adventure. May your nights be haunted and your spirits delightfully spooked!
HAPPY FRIGHTS AND HAUNTING NIGHTS
Leu Gardens – 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando 32803
HalloweenInTheGardens.com // LeuGardens.org
Thu – Sun between 5 – 8:15 PM (Happy Frights) and
8 – 10 PM (Haunting Nights)
On-site parking: $15; off-site parking: free with free
$25/person ages 3 and up