Dark Harbor 2017: Fun and Fright Once Again
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is by far the most entertaining of the local “major” haunts. With seven mazes, non-stop entertainment on multiple stages, roving monsters, interactive characters, slider shows, and too many bars to count, the atmosphere is a lively, yet spooky Halloween party and carnival. Each of the seven mazes is built around a central character. You can find this character within their specific maze, and roaming the grounds. The stories, and characters Dark Harbor’s creative team and talent have created are the star of the show. While some mazes have been retired, it is good to see the characters have remained, still greeting and scaring guests. The event opens each night with an introduction by The Captain. He is joined by The Ringmaster (more on her later), and the newest addition to Dark Harbor… The Chef. While he does not say much, he is quite intimidating. As the gates open, the cast of characters charge the crowd… and so it begins! Construction and the sale of certain parts of the property have shifted things around a bit. Two mazes, which were once housed inside the former Spruce Goose dome have been moved to the midway. Intrepid and Circus each have new layouts and feel brand new. Also on the midway, is a returning favorite, Deadrise. The mazes belong to The Ironmaster, The Ringmaster and The Captain respectively. As expected, they can periodically be found inside the attraction, or pop up behind you while you are ordering a Jack and Coke. Four mazes are housed on the ship itself. New this year is Feast. Guests enter the bloody and gruesome corridors that The Chef and his crew use to serve up “special” delicacies. I wouldn’t recommend eating anything he creates. The best part of this journey is visiting areas of The Queen Mary that are not open to the public, and have not been utilized by Dark Harbor previously. Unfortunately, this seemed to be the least favorite this year, despite a few highlights, such as a bar in the maze, and a creative “stove” guests crawl through. Scary Mary haunts the Lullaby maze, which manages to creep me out year after year. Mary is everywhere, and she is unforgiving to those that travel her corridors. Graceful Gayle was simply looking for a man to take to the ball when she went on a murderous rampage. See her aftermath in Soulmate. B43 tells the story of Samuel the Savage and his terror unleashed on the passengers and crew. All four onboard mazes take guests to places such as abandoned pools, propeller rooms, catwalks, hidden stairways and other places you wouldn’t normally see on a day tour. This alone is worth visiting Dark Harbor. One word of caution, due to the stairs and historic nature of these areas, they are not easily accessible to those requiring assistance. The outside mazes are ADA accessible. Upcharge experiences include a short 4D movie, which is a heck of a lot of fun, and worth the $5.00. Also worth the extra few bucks is a ride on the swings, which came from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. The number of bars has definitely grown over the years. There are at least a dozen. Beer, wine, mixed drinks, and tastings offer a variety of ways to forget about the monsters chasing you around. Despite all the alcohol served, the crowd seems well-behaved. Heavy pats downs upon entering, and a very visible security presence seem to keep guests in check, something that CANNOT be said about other Halloween events at much bigger venues. An entire night can be spent watching the live entertainment. Two main stages offer a variety of ground and aerial circus and sideshow acts. These performers also roam the grounds, so if you see a performer you like, they will gladly snap a selfie with you after the show. A third, smaller stage is located near the Circus bar. Here, a variety of acts entertain revelers. The host of the party is The Ringmaster. This is the most iconic character of the event, and is the hallmark of Dark Harbor. While I love everything about Dark Harbor and visit numerous times a year, trips are made just to see The Ringmaster. She is a hoot! A sippy cup (with her likeness) is always in hand, and she is ready for a good time. Her personality is a draw, and her performances are hilarious. Make sure and see her rendition of “Le Freak,” the disco song. She performed it specially for theFUNnelCakeBlog on the second visit this year. There is video to prove the provided musical back-up in front of the stage, by the way of an accordion and maracas… let’s hope this video never leaks! Frequent visitors were a bit disappointed last year when The Ringmaster seemed a bit “different.” Luckily, she is back to her “old self.” The role has got to be a tiring challenge, but let’s hope the character (and performer) never hangs up their top hat. Another reason to visit Dark Harbor (as if there have not been enough already), are the Queen Mary Sliders. Sliding is something that was created by Knott’s years ago. While the monsters in the park do still slide, Knott’s management has put an end to their performances. This is something fans have never understood, and quite frankly disappointed a lot of people. But, much to our excitement, Queen Mary embraces sliding. One entire midway (Slider Alley) is dedicated to these talents. Intentionally, or not… the food booth on this midway serves… you guessed it… sliders. There are multiple shows per night in Slider Alley. What was once a simple display of their athletic ability has turned into a full-on production with plot and storyline. The display this year was incredibly impressive, and also featured a death-defying stunt with machetes. Rumor has it that the Knott’s Sliders/Decayed Brigade will visit again this year for one night. Keep an eye out! The characters, monster talent, and sliders are all more than happy to take a photo with you, when they are not in the act of scaring. But please, be considerate and ask before taking a photo, and please… turn off your flash! Oh, don’t forget to visit the Meat Locker, an ice bar, where heavy winter coats are provided. Also, look for the secret bar inside of the Circus maze. This bar severs a variety of carnival themed shots ranging in price from $8-$16, with flavors and accompaniments such as Pop Rocks and Cotton Candy… topped with Absinthe. Here’s a hint… look for Zoltar! The bookcase will let you out, once you are finished with your drink.