Looking for tips and background information about Vancouver’s Fright Nights? Curious about the history of Playland’s Halloween haunted houses?
In 2019 Fright Nights was open on all weekends and select weekdays between October 4th and October 31st (i.e., Halloween night). The event didn’t run in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In its place the PNE hosted Slayland which was kind of like Fright Nights, with rides and spooky decorations, but without the haunted houses. 2021 Fright Nights details are to be confirmed.
Fright Nights Background Overview
Below is some general information about the Haunted Houses at Fright Nights, tips and advice about admission, information about crowds and lineups, and then a brief history about the Halloween attraction’s story. Read the entire article, or click any of the links below to skip to a specific topic.
For hours, dates, prices, shows and ride details for the PNE at Halloween, click Fright Nights at Playland.
For a detailed description of each of the 8 different haunted houses, click Fright Night’s Haunted Houses.
First off, we think the haunted houses at Fright Nights are pretty awesome, assuming you like this sort of thing!
At Fright Nights some of the houses are more gruesome than others and different ones are gorier, more realistic, less realistic, older, newer, spookier, more frightening, slightly less frightening, better and not quite as good as the others. Overall, however, all are exceptional in their own different ways.
Much of one’s opinion of each attraction depends on who you are, what you like, what freaks you out, the people you’re with, how long you had to stand in line and how you’re feeling on any particular day. In general though, they are all highly effective at doing what they were designed to do – which is to scare people.
About the Houses
Here is some general information about the haunted houses at the PNE:
- A couple of the houses have tunnels where the walls spin around, a few use smoke machines, and a couple of others have strobe lighting. If you don’t like these sorts of things, don’t go in them. See PNE Haunted Houses Reviews for a description of each house for individual details and, before waiting for hours in a line at the event, read the warning sign at the entrance to each venue or talk to an attendant if you have any concerns.
- Each house is different, which is great. Many share common features like hanging corpses, severed body parts, blasts of air at your feet, skeletons, mechanical creatures popping out from places, maze-like hallways and torture scenes. A surprising number, for some reason, also feature toilets and bathroom scenes. Some of the haunted attractions are more dungeon-like, some feature aliens, some have extensive amounts of blood and gore, and others are more creepy than terrifying. In short, there’s something for everyone (except for people who don’t like scary stuff).
- All eight of the haunted houses have live actors hidden among model and mechanized creatures. The actors will jump out at you and scream, but never touch you.
- Be kind to the live actors! You are paying for them to scare you, so don’t be surprised or angry when they succeed. We know of a high school student that worked at Fright Nights one year who scared a guy who responded with a punch to the head! The ‘tough guy’ was subsequently arrested and charged with assault, plus thoroughly humiliated to learn that the person behind the costume had been a girl.
- Even though Fright Nights was initially created in 2003 to target fright seekers in the age 12-to-35 category, it is no longer recommended for children ages 12 and under. It’s also not recommended for guest ages 65 and older, people with sensitivity to strobe lights, folk with high blood pressure and pregnant women. If you fit any of these descriptions you run the risk of peeing your pants, never sleeping again, having a seizure, having a heart attack or going into labour.
- Admission to Fright Nights is cheaper when you purchase tickets online, on Sundays and most weekdays, plus often at the very start of the season. In 2018, for example, general admission on the opening weekend was just $24 for tickets purchased online, which is less than half the price of the most expensive nights.
- There are no in-and-out privileges! Once you get your ticket scanned and go in you can’t turn around, leave and come back in again later. This is important to know, especially when you pay up to $100 for your ticket!
- For security and safety reasons, expect to be searched before entering Fright Nights. There are separate lines for men and women, bags are inspected and bodies patted down. It’s inconvenient and intrusive, but in this day and age it’s also comforting and reassuring that it’s done.
- Costumes, face paint, selfie sticks, cameras with detachable lenses, pets (except for service animals for people with disabilities), glass containers, alcoholic beverages, illegal substances and overly large umbrellas are not permitted.
- For actual prices and hours of operation, click PNE Fright Nights.
About the Crowds & Lineups
- Expect to wait in line for anywhere between 1 minute and 2 hours for each haunted house depending on the time, day and popularity of the specific attraction. 1-hour lineups are pretty common.
- Lineups are fairly short right at the very start of each night but get exponentially longer as the evening progresses.
- Fright Nights is busiest on Fridays and Saturdays, the closer you get to Halloween and the better the weather.
- More often than not, lineups for haunted houses are longer than the lineups for rides, especially on rainy days, although in non-rainy weather lineups for the Wooden Roller Coaster, Music Express, Atmosfear, The Beast and Hellevator especially can get frighteningly long too.
- Fewer people go to Fright Nights in wet weather, but on rainy days the (indoor) haunted houses are generally and understandably more popular than the (outdoor) rides.
- Except for on the busiest days, if you arrive right at opening time and head straight to the haunted houses, and do nothing but them, it’s usually possible to get into every haunted attraction before the end of the night and still have time left over without the need for a Rapid Pass. When we went on Friday the 13th in 2017, which was a night with good weather, it was possible to get through all eight houses by 11:30 pm after a 7:00 pm start. In 2018, when we went on Friday October 12th, we were able to see all eight within just the first two hours.
Fright Nights Tips & Advice
Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your Fright Nights experience.
TIP #1: Arrive a few minutes before opening time and go to the most popular haunted houses right away, before the lineups start to form, and then hit the rides later in the evening.
TIP #2: You don’t typically need a Rapid Pass in the first hour or so of each evening as the lineups then are still usually quite reasonable. It’s later at night that Rapid Passes become worthwhile, so get in the regular lineups at the start and save your access to the extra-fast queues until later.
TIP #3: Share a Rapid Pass! That’s right, share a couple of them with your friends. The passes are probably technically “non-transferable,” but they are just a punch card that more than one person can use, just not at the same time or for more than once per haunted house or ride. Or at least that has been the case in the past. Rapid Passes cost as much as $60 extra, which isn’t inexpensive. If you can afford it and it’s a busy night, they are worth it. If it’s too expensive though, if a couple of people use two passes for half the rides and attractions and then let a couple of their friends use the same passes for the other half, everyone saves money and still gets access to the shorter lineups at least some of the time. The main drawbacks of this arrangement though are that the two parties can’t do things together and people have to decide who gets to use the passes for which houses and rides.
TIP #4: Don’t forget that there are no in-and-out privileges. Once inside the gates you can’t go back outside to meet someone or get something and then get back in! Don’t leave your camera, umbrella, raincoat, sweater, cell phone, purse, wallet, bank card or other personal items in your car and expect to go back out later to get them! Remember to take everything in with you the first time!
TIP #5: While going through a haunted house, take your time – not so much as to negatively impact the people behind you, but if you waited in line for a long time then be sure to appreciate the scenes and make the most of the experience. Look all around, admire the details and absorb all you can! After all, you paid good money to be thoroughly freaked out, didn’t you?
History of Fright Nights Haunted Houses
Playland first launched Fright Nights in 2003. Since that time it has grown steadily and is now Western Canada’s largest and most famous Halloween attraction.
Initially targeting a 12 to 35-year-old audience, Fright Nights started in 2003 with a few rides, about 3 or so haunted houses and 43,741 attendees. The event has since grown significantly in size, adding haunted attractions and rides slowly over the years. Apart from a few exceptionally rainy Octobers, attendance and revenues have generally increased over time.
In 2006 Fright Nights added its Fire Show and a new haunted house.
In 2007 another new haunted house was added, 64,378 people attended, revenues exceeded $1.5 million and the attraction was open nightly from 6 to 11 pm. 2007 was also the year that Fright Nights introduced premium pricing, where tickets on busy weekend nights cost more than on slower weekdays.
2008 was when the PNE added the “Monsters of Schlock” show, a record 83,076 people attended and revenues topped $2.1 million. By that time Fright Nights had a total of 5 haunted houses, but different from the ones that exist today. 2008 houses included the Bates Hotel, Black Hole, Scary Tales, Nuclear Nightmare and Demon of the Dark/House of the Dead.
In 2009 the PNE replaced its existing haunted houses with 4 completely new ones, and in the process more than doubled its haunted attractions capacity. New haunted houses in 2009 included Asylum, Hollywood Horrors, the Haunted Manor and Darkness. That same year 60,552 fright seekers attended, Fright Nights made close to $1.8 million in revenue and the PNE ceased using off-site retailers to sell its tickets. Rainy weather was likely the main cause of the drop in attendance from the previous year.
2010 was the 8th year for Fright Nights and it celebrated by adding a 5th house. That year 71,582 people attended and the attraction grossed $2.27 million in sales. New for 2010 was the 3-D haunted house Car-n-Evil featuring dozens of scary clowns and carnival scenes.
In 2011 Fright Nights added no new houses, had 78,456 attendees and $2.58 million in sales.
Celebrating its 10th season in 2012, Fright Nights introduced another haunted attraction – Fear – which played on people’s phobias of spiders, snakes, heights, germs and various other real-life scary things. This brought the attraction’s total number of haunted houses up to six. Due largely to an exceptionally rainy October (even by Vancouver standards), attendance numbers were just 55,254 and sales a mere $1.89 million.
2013 saw no new haunted houses, but still a great year with just short of 80,000 attendees and close to $2.9 million in sales. By 2013 Fright Nights no longer opened on consecutive days. Instead, it closed on slower weekdays, but extended its hours to as late as 1 am on busy weekends. 2013 was also the year that Fast Passes (i.e., Rapid Passes) were introduced to allow people willing to pay more to be able to access shorter lineups.
2013 haunted houses included Asylum, Darkness, the Haunted Mansion, Hollywood Horrors, Car-n-Evil and Fear.
2014 saw the arrival of the Keepers Doll Factory haunted house. It was also a year that saw over 74,000 attendees and $2.86 million in revenues. Despite the strong sales, 2014 was also a tough year for the organization as it was that summer that the PNE had its charitable status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency.
In 2015 Fright Nights added a new Fire Show and had close to a record 84,000 attendees and over $3.4 million in sales. Premium pricing for regular admission on weekends that year was between about $34 and $37, and for slower weekdays tickets cost between $22 and $25.
No new haunted houses were added in 2016, but an eighth one did appear in 2017 – The Bloodshed.
Fright Nights didn’t operate in 2020 because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. In its place the PNE hosted Slayland: Night of a Thousand Screams which was similar to Fright Nights, but without any of the haunted houses. Slayland had amusement rides, Halloween decorations and characters in costume, but no haunted houses. There were also special physical distancing protocols in place, plus lots of extra cleaning measures.
For more information about Fright Nights in general, click PNE Fright Nights.
For in-depth details about each of the PNE’s 8 haunted houses, click Fright Nights Haunted Houses Descriptions & Reviews.