Ames Haunted Forest this weekend

Haunted house season officially began last weekend with Adventureland, Linn’s Haunted House, Scare DSM, Slaughterhouse, Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, and Tormented Souls Haunt beginning their season.

This weekend, the Ames Haunted Forest will join them. It will open at 7pm this Friday and Saturday night.

Meanwhile, a few online comments have started to show up about opening weekend. If you enjoyed the haunt, be sure to leave a review on Google or their Facebook page. Likewise, if you do not think the haunt was worth the money, be sure to leave a review and let others know.

For those new here… EVERY HAUNT will have fans who think it’s the best thing ever. And EVERY HAUNT will have folks saying it’s the worst one they’ve ever been do. Don’t let reviews sway you unless they are overwhelmingly negative or overwhelmingly positive.

Adventureland 18+ unless with parent

Yesterday, Adventureland made another modification to its Phantom Fall Fest chaperone policy. Previously, the policy required an adults (parent or guardian, age 21+) to be with anyone under 18 after 6 p.m. The new policy is that a guardian must be present “at ALL times” (uppercase emphasis theirs via a Facebook post).

Hopefully we will see further clarification on what “all” times mean. Can a 17 year old go through haunted houses by themselves, or does Mom have to be with them? That would be a real buzzkill for some families 😉

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park offers (or at least used to) a special chaperone pass at a discount, allowing a parent to be in the park keeping an eye on their kids, but not paying to go through the actual haunts. Perhaps we’ll see Adventureland implement something like that, at some point. But, if their “at ALL times” statement really means a guardian has to be with the kids even while going through a haunted house, I guess that wouldn’t work.

If you catch any other updates I’ve missed, please comment.

What you need to know about Phantom Fall Fest


  • 9/29/2002 – Chaperone policy updated. No one under 18 allowed without a parent/guardian with them at all times. (Previously was just after 6 p.m.)

DMHH contributed an article about Adventureland’s Phantom Fall Fest over on Des Moines Parent:

It tries to combine as much information as possible in one place. Here are a few more things that didn’t make it in to the article.

  • No costumes allowed. Guests are not allowed to wear costumes, masks, etc. (other than approved Covid face coverings).
  • Under 18 must have an adult with them at ALL times. Adventureland is now displaying a large banner at the top of the website that reads: “Guests 17 and younger must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older at ALL times.” This means parents who bring their kids can’t just hang out at the Bier Garten while the kids go have fun. A guardian will have to be with the kids at all times. If you are bringing more than four kids, you must check in at a Chaperone Check In tent.
  • Only small bags allowed. While you can bring in large purses, bags and backpacks on a normal day at Adventureland, for this event they may not let large backs be brought in during this event.

DMHH advice

Although Palace Entertainment (the new owners of Adventureland) have been doing haunted events like this for years (the one at Kennywood in Pennsylvania is even called Phantom Fall Fest), it will be the first time for the staff working these events. While some may have worked other haunted houses before, none have worked these haunted houses before.

The first few nights may be rough as the workers get in to the groove of things. In general, while we want you to go out and support these attractions, be aware that the experience you have opening weekend may be substandard compared to later weekends as the works get more experienced.

Visiting opening weekend PROs:

  • Effects, props, etc. should be in great shape. Often, things break during the season and never get fixed, so by the final big weekend, you may miss out on stuff that’s just not working any more.
  • Haunts are generally poorly attended at the start of the season, so lines can be much shorter.
  • The deepest discounts are generally at the start of the season. Linn’s Supermarket, Ames Haunted Forest, Sleepy Hollow and others often have discounts that only apply to the first (or first two) weekends of operation. Going early is a good way to save money.

Visiting opening weekend CONs:

  • The staff may not know what they are doing yet, and their scares may not be perfected.
  • Some effects, props, etc. may not be operational yet. Guests who visit later might see more things than you got to see.
  • You get to be the beta tester. Some haunts will redo entire scenes between weekends if they realized one is just not working. (Example: Two years ago, Ankeny Haunted Barn started out with a room based on Scream, but it was changed to the creepy girls from The Shining for the rest of the run.)

As you can see, there are PROs and CONs to visiting early. You can choose which is important to you and decide based on that.

And, who knows, maybe this is the year that all the haunts have every 100% working, and staff 100% in the zone for opening night. (Though I’ve never, ever seen that happen… Not even at mega parks like Universal Studios.)

More updates to follow…

See also: Des Moines Parent

This is just a quick shout out to Des Moines Parent. While my site focuses on the part of October meant to make you pee your pants, DMP covers a much wider range of Fall activities that are fun for rest of the family that wishes to stay dry.

Consider following them on social media. I learn alot about great events happening in the area throughout the year.

They are also a great place to advertise family events — we’ve used them in the past for other projects and they always get results.

Rides announced for Adventureland Phantom Fall Fest

The list of rides operating during Phantom Fall Fest have been announced on the official website. As always, go to the official website before heading out to make sure things that are important to you haven’t changed:


Saturday & Sunday until 6pm: A-Train, Carousel, Circus Balloons, Dragon’s Nest, Frog Hopper, Hamptons, Leap Frogs, Lady Bugs, Convoy Truckers, Lighthouse, Speedway Racers, Revolution, Red Barons, Tilt-A-Whirl, Tea Cups, Dragon Slayer, G-Force, Galleon, Rockin’ Rainbow, Sky Wheel, Parachutes, Phoenix, Underground, Tornado, Spaceshot, Monster, Frantic Freeway, Scrambler

Friday, Saturday & Sunday after 6pm: Dragon Slayer, G-Force, Galleon, Rockin’ Rainbow, Sky Wheel, Parachutes, Phoenix, Underground, Tornado, Spaceshot, Monster, Frantic Freeway, Scrambler

On Friday, the park is open from 6pm to 11pm. A lucky thirteen rides will be operating after 6pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays and Sundays, many more rides will be available from 1pm to 6pm.

Under 18? You cannot enter on Friday without a 21+ chaperone. You can go Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 6pm, and if you remain in the park, they “expect” a chaperone to show up and join you. Unofficially, they have said they won’t be asking anyone to leave if they are not causing problems. So, behave. It gives them a good excuse to kick rowdy teens out if they mess with the props or actors.

Buy tickets in advance to save money! If you plan to go, use their current $34.99 discount offer. That, plus 5 for Malice in Wonderland, and $15 for discounted parking, will get you in to the park for only $66.84 — saving you $40 off the front gate price.

Act soon. The earlier $29.99 offer expired Sunday 9/18 (even though it was still being advertised on YouTube ads as recently as Monday, 9/26).

Phantom Fall Fest re-entry restrictions

On a normal visit to Adventureland, guests are allowed to leave and return throughout the day (or at least, were allowed to the last time I visited).

The Phantom Fall Fest has some specific restrictions to this. From their FAQ:

Guests may leave the park and re-enter the park prior to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Re-entry is not permitted on Fridays.

Plan accordingly. If you leave on Friday, you can’t come back (unless you buy a new ticket, I suppose). If you want to pop out of the park to go grab a bite to eat on Saturday or Sunday, do so before 6 p.m.

Farewell, Waukee Haunted House

According to Waukee Parks & Recreation, the Waukee Haunted House has been cancelled indefinitely. I received confirmation this morning that “it is not an event we will be offering in the future.”

This was a fun low-cost community event. The year I visited, it was themed as a haunted toy box. Groups were led through the entire house by a creepy host. It was very unique in that regard.

This, along with Ankeny Haunted Barn, makes two fewer haunted houses for the area. However, you shouldn’t have to worry about places to spend your Halloween money this season. With the addition of Scare DSM last year, and Adventureland’s Phantom Fall Fest this year, we get back to the same number of attractions we had before Covid. And, if you count Adventureland’s three separate haunted houses, we’ve actually increased.

Farewell, Ankeny Haunted Barn

Ankeny Haunted Barn was selling off all it’s haunt inventory, including brand new items they have purchased (but didn’t get to use) last year. I have been informed they did find a buyer, so somewhere out there will be a little bit of the Haunted Barn DNA operating somewhere else.

Old haunts never die — they just get reincarnated 🙂 Parts of Tormented Souls are from a haunt that once operated in Urbandale, for example. This makes me wonder what happened with all the stuff at Whitewater Haunted House … they had some neat effects and props. Anyone know if those items went to a new home?