The scariest time of the year has arrived in San Diego once more. Oh, wait... Black Friday's actually in November. Well, until then, keep the fear-based adrenaline pumped with this frightening collection of All Hallows haunts.
9/27-11/2: The Haunted Trail
Sixth Ave., Bankers Hill
This outdoor experience takes scare-seekers through a mile-long section of Balboa Park, where shloads of monstrosities lie in suspended de-animation for the perfect time to strike. An all-new maze called The eXperiment promises to house "what happens when Mother Nature takes her eye off the ball for even just a second."
9/27-11/2: The Haunted Hotel
424 Market St., Gaslamp
In operation since 1992, San Diego's best-known haunt (no offense, Whaley House) is turning 21 and offering new additions including the "Walking Dead Dungeon" and "'Evil Dead Cellar." It's horror movies come to life in the depths of the Gaslamp underground, where Hollywood-quality makeup and serial killers toting chainsaws create lines around the block throughout October, year after year.
10/3-11/2: Savage House
5500 Grossmont Center Dr., La Mesa
Debuting this year, Savage House is a 10,000-square-foot, diseaseinfested warehouse packed with zombies. Surviving the monstrous maze requires avoiding the infected, undead test-subjects and staff that used to inhabit this former (and now CDC-condemned) scientific research lab. For a mellower experience, visit the onsite horror movie museum, where scaredy-cats can pose with childhood-ruining memorabilia like Freddy Kruger's machete from Friday the 13th.
10/4-10/31: BOOmont Park
3146 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach
Not to be confused with what everyone yells when the Giant Dipper rollercoaster is closed for maintenance, this all-ages festival of fear is Haunted Hotel, Inc.'s (the company behind the Haunted Hotel, Del Mar Scream Zone and Haunted Trail) freshest undertaking. Belmont Park's full Halloweenification includes a kid-friendly haunted house called Boomont Manor, zombies (for target practice) in the RUS H Laser Tag arena, spooky accouterments on the rollercoaster and free trick-or-treating for an hour each night.
10/10-11/2: Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare @ The L.A. County Fairplex
1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona
If shooting fake zombies (see The Scream Zone, below) doesn't sound killer, venture a bit farther north to check out this trio of haunted houses designed by a real-life Zombie - Rob Zombie. One ticket grants access to three haunted houses modeled after horror films Zombie wrote and directed: Lords of Salem, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto and House of 1,000 Corpses. Plus, because he's all about the soundtrack, Zombie has lined up major musical acts to rock the house(s) each night. He'll cap off the haunting season by performing with The Eagles of Death Metal on November 2.
9/27-11/2: The Scream Zone
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
The scariest thing to hit the Del Mar Fairgrounds since race-season traffic, The Scream Zone is back and bigger than ever. The three mainstay attractions - The Haunted Hayride, The House of Horror and The Chamber maze - will be made-over in the most horrific way possible. A new attraction, the Zombie Paintball Safari, will make its death-defying debut, providing a twisted take on the Haunted Hayride by arming the living with paintball guns to shoot hordes of attacking undead.