The Castle Halloween Festival Family Fear Guide
It’s that time again, folks. From crunchy, gorgeous autumn leaves to cooler temperatures and spooky, pumpkin-lined porches, October is objectively the best month of the year according to actual science I totally didn’t make up.
This past weekend, we went to check out the Castle of Muskogee’s Halloween Festival, and the festivities were in full swing. One of the great things about this event is that there’s plenty to do and a full range of experiences to be had, making it a perfect Halloween destination for families of all sizes and ages.
The Castle Halloween Festival is so much more than a typical spookhouse experience. It’s a Halloween village complete with shopping, ongoing activities, and about nine different Halloween events. The Castle’s Castleton village is 14 acres in size, and every bit of it gets transformed into a magical Halloweenland.
A few things to know:
- Pricing is per individual event, so it’s good to pick up your tickets online before going.
- Purchasing tickets online will save you significantly.
- Masks are required for standing in line and for most activities. It’s probably a good idea to bring an extra one just in case you should lose yours.
- Unattended kids are not allowed, probably to avoid scenes like these from Six Flags Fright Fest in Maryland. If you plan to let your older kids hang out on their own, they’ll need a chaperone.
- Events use a skull rating to rate scariness, and it’s fairly accurate. You can research the skull ratings on the Castle website before you go.
- Outdoor events begin at dark.
- You can’t take pics in the haunts, so don’t even think about it.
- Ticket sales close at 10 and gates close at 11.
Rather than just break down our experience, I wanted to give readers a guide to tailoring their Castle experience based on their family and what kind of experience they’re going for. Below, I’ve made some recommendations for planning your Castle experience with a breakdown of why it works.
Every family is different, so don’t feel like these are one-size-fits-all recommendations. Think of it as a basic template to build on and reshuffle.
The Castle With Very Little Kids or Scare-Free Fun
With all of the scary indoor and outdoor haunts, you might easily conclude that there’s not much to do with little kids. Depending on the age of your little one and how many people are in your party to pass the baby to, you could actually have a lot of fun even with a toddler in tow. Many of the younger festival-goers we saw were wearing costumes, so if you’re dying to dress your little mini-me up as a scarecrow or wizard, this can add an extra layer of fun.
1. Shop and eat.
If you love a spooky atmosphere, the ambiance of the Castle village has plenty of inspirational Halloween vibes to get you in the mood for Hocus-Pocusing. The entire village is decked out in pretty Halloween lights and decorations that call to mind literally every magical Halloween scene from a kids’ film. And there are plenty of adorable shops to work on your Christmas shopping list while supporting Ren Faire and festival vendors who have lost a lot of income over the pandemic.
There are also quite a few snack and drink options. Pick up a turkey leg and a Shiner Bock or a boba tea to nosh on while you shop, or grab a massive bag of fresh-popped kettle corn to take home for an upcoming spooky movie marathon.
2. Ride the Castle train.
It’s not all that spooky for big kids and grown-ups, and it’s not really a train, but it’s super cute nonetheless, and little kids especially will love it. Heck, my kids are 10 and 13, and they get a hoot out of the train every time.
Hop on the train and you’ll get to ride comfortably around the enchanted Harbor area, which is completely decked out in loads of awesome inflatables. The whole ride takes about ten minutes and it’s honestly pretty relaxing, although you do need to be mentally prepared for the superlong ultramix of Choo-Choo Soul. Godspeed.
Cost: $10 per person.
3. Ride the Haunted Hayride (Depending on your kid).
Even though the Haunted Hayride is rated three skulls, I always see quite a few people with fairly small kids and even babies on this ride. A traditional tractor-drawn hayride, this is always one of the highlights for us. Before you even make it to the spooky stuff, you’re already taking in a starry night sky you just don’t get in the metro, and on a cool, October evening, the whole experience can feel a bit magical.
The ride definitely got plenty of light jumpscares and spooky twists and turns, but because you’re riding on the hayride facing inward, the haunts can seem a little less scary and a little more ambient than some of the other events. There’s also the somewhat recent addition of a new, somewhat whimsical “ghostly” voice track narrating the ride that really adds to the quality of the experience.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking a toddler who has a preoccupation with monsters under the bed. But if you’ve got a kindergartner who is super into Five Nights at Freddy’s or enjoys a good scare, the hayride could be a lot of fun. Plus, there are dragons, and getting swallowed by and pooped out of a dragon is fun for people of all ages.
The Castle With Older Elementary School Kids
For this category, I’m specifically thinking about older tweens who have read through the Goosebumps series or something like it, or they’ve seen a few episodes of The Walking Dead (Relax, I’m not going to judge you for it).
1. Invest in the Adventure Pass.
For just $40 per person when purchased online, the Adventure Pass will get you into the Haunted Hayride, the Ultimate Maze, the Castle Train, and the Torture Chamber, saving you about $5 per person.
2. Ride the Haunted Hayride.
See above. Even though it’s not super scary, this hayride has mad Halloween vibes and it’s a mood-setter.
3. Walk through the torture chamber.
Even though the torture chamber only has a two-skull rating, I honestly would not recommend taking little kids through it mainly because there isn’t much to catch their interest and it involves walking around a museum of historical torture implements, which is psychologically terrifying even if there isn’t a lot of gore.
For bigger kids, though, this is actually a cool way to have conversations about how cruel humans have been historically and why it’s important to keep trying to make the world a better place. In addition to a museum of torture devices with write-ups detailing how each piece was used (and most are pretty gruesome), the Castle has also added a few fun spooky, non-torture scenes of skeletons and haunts doing ghostly things. All in all, this event has a fairly soft PG rating if your kids don’t read too far into the descriptions of the torture devices.
4. Enter the Ultimate Maze.
This three-skull maze is a lot of fun and has light thrills and chills for the Goosebumps set. And it’s a great choice if your kids want the scary Halloween experience but they’re not really ready for scarier indoor haunts.
However, the maze can be fairly time-consuming and involves a lot of walking. If you’re looking to wear your kids out, this could work in your favor. If your kids are whiny and making you crazy, you might prioritize this one last.
If you’ve got tweens or teens who love the idea of a puzzle or a maze, it’s a pretty fun event. Just how good is the Ultimate Maze? Two years ago, my family had such a tough time figuring out how to get out of it that we ended up having to ask for help.
5. (Depending on your kid) Enter Casa Morte, AKA the Murder House.
Although Casa Morte is rated at five skulls, this year we found it slightly less scary than the Domus Horrificus (discussed below). Lucy is ten, and while the jump scares got her somewhat, she found Casa Morte to be a lot of fun.
Fair warning that there is some gore in the Casa Morte, so whether this is a good experience for them really depends on how old your kid is and how well they understand that this is all fictional. But for older tweens who have some tolerance to big scares, Casa Morte will probably be fine.
There’s also a super cool Five Nights at Freddy’s themed room that was so awesome it took everything in me not to break the camera rule and snap a few pics. For kids who are into FNAF, this is an epic room and super well-done at that.
The Castle With Absolutely Fearless Tweens, Teens, and Adults
This list is for teens, adults, and older tweens who are fairly mature and aren’t really afraid of anything. Parents of 12-year-olds who read Stephen King, I’m looking at you (and again, totally not judging).
1. Ride the Haunted Hayride.
2. Enter Casa Morte, AKA the Murder House.
See above. The Casa Morte is a lot of fun and has plenty of fantastic, scary rooms to walk through.
3. Check out the Domus Horrificus.
Now, we didn’t check out the Domus last year because of the pandemic, so I don’t really know how much it’s changed since then. But between the last time we saw it and this year, we were blown away at how good this event has become.
Located inside the castle opposite the Casa Morte, the Domus was so good that our whole family emerged from it practically applauding, and we all found it a perfect way to end our evening. Although both indoor haunts are five-skull events, the Domus was less camp and more legit scares.
I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll be vague. But the Domus was legitimately scary without leaning too heavily into just pure, yawn-worthy gore for gore’s sake (no worries, there was still plentiful gore) or predictable jumpscares because it brings in a lot of psychological thrills that hearken back to the scariest of horror films. Think The Exorcist and It.
Leaning lightly into religious themes and heavily into clowns (and yes, clown-related gore), this year’s Domus was legitimately the best event I’ve ever experienced at The Castle, bar none. If you’re not worried about scare level and you only do one thing at the Castle, make it the Domus Horrificus.
The Paycheck Saver
The Castle But Your Kids Are Eating You Out of House and Home
If you’re dying to get your tweens or teens out for some Halloween adventures but you’re trying to keep the whole thing around $125 for a family of five or less, here’s how I would spend the evening.
1. Spend time strolling around and checking out the spooky atmosphere.
Getting into Castleton village is completely free, which means it costs nothing to come in and just walk around and enjoy the super chill Halloweentown vibes. Take some Instagram pics with the scenery, say hello to the peacocks, and check out some shops.
2. Ride the Haunted Hayride.
This ride lasts a fairly long time, making it a great value for the $15 price of admission. For a family of five, that’s $75.
3. Walk through the Ultimate Maze or the Domus Horrificus.
If you’re doing the Ultimate Maze and the Haunted Hayride, that’s going to take up a fairly sizable chunk of evening, and it’s more than enough Halloween adventure if you’re working with a budget. For a family of five, that will keep you right at $125 total. Or for a little more, do the Haunted Hayride and the Domus Horrificus, which will run you $150 total for a family of five.
The Castle But You Do Everything
Say scare level isn’t a factor and you’re ready to go all-in and power walk from one event to the next like you’re on a Halloween scavenger hunt.
The first thing I would tell you is to arrive as the festival is opening. Doors open at 5:30, and there’s a Monster Dance at 6 that kicks off the indoor events. You’ll need every bit of time if you want to hit everything, especially if you’re planning to get a bite to eat and stop by the shops.
To give you a sense of the timing, we arrived around 7 p.m. and managed to hit the Domus, Casa Morte, Hayride, Trail of Blood, Halloween Train, and Torture Chamber, but it was a marathon and there was really no time to stop and catch our breath. Some of the lines move surprisingly fast (like the Haunted Hayride), but others don’t, so it may be worth it to invest in a $10 Fast Pass if there’s something you really don’t want to miss.
1. Get the Fright Combo.
The Fright Combo is a ticket package that includes all of the high-skull-rated haunts: The Casa Morte, Domus Horrificus, Ultimate Maze, and the Trail of Blood. If you purchase this package online, you’ll save $5 per person.
Cost: $55 online, $60 at ticket booth.
2. Take a stroll through the Trail of Blood.
The Trail of Blood (included in the Fright Combo) is hands-down the most popular event at the Castle. As someone in line explained it to me, this popularity is partly owing to the perception that close contact with haunts can feel a little more realistic and scary when you’re outdoors in the dark.
For this event, festival-goers are driven by bus or hayride out to a second location, where they’ll wait in another, shorter line and be let in in groups. Our group of five accompanied two more couples for a total of nine.
We waited for around an hour in line even as some of the other activities were starting to die down for the night. While most of the other outdoor lines were pretty spaced out, this line was a little more cramped, and there was a fairly rampant issue with line-jumping unaccompanied minors.
The actors and the scenes for this event were pretty fantastic, but there were a few reasons why this didn’t make it on top of our list of faves. First, being in a group of nine meant that the couples in front of us set off all of the jump scares so there wasn’t much of an element of surprise. And second, there were a lot of tight and windy spaces that made me wish we’d done this event earlier in the night before we’d been walking around all over the place.
That said, we definitely enjoyed the Trail of Blood and found it a lot of fun. But to get the most out of it, go early, use a fast pass, and try to walk at the head of the group if possible.
Cost without package: $20
3. Clear some walkers on the Zombie Hunt.
We didn’t actually get to check out the Zombie Hunt during our marathon evening, but we heard a lot of hype about it from other festival-goers. I don’t know much about this event, but it looks like it’s an interactive haunt where festival-goers are meant to “clear the infected” in a tower. That does sound pretty amazing, so next year, it’s going to the top of our to-do list.
If you only have time for one big Halloween adventure this year, the Castle should be at the very top of your list. If you’re planning to check it out, be sure to tag @tulsakids on Instagram and have a great time! I hope you have a beautifully spooky week in your little nebula!