Guide: Have a plan to get the most fear out of Fright Fest at Elitch Gardens

Fright Fest at Denver's Elitch Gardens is your best option for a full night of Halloween frights and fun, but just like a zombie apocalypse, you'll need a plan.

It's Denver's largest Halloween event -- the entire park is open except the water rides. Plus there are two haunted houses and an all-new live show. To fit it all in, you'll need to do some strategizing.

First, get there early.  Then pick a time to see the live show.  This is where even the ultimate prepper may run into problems.

Next, head straight to Terror Chamber as soon as it opens. It's the main attraction -- and the scarier of the two haunted houses -- so it tends to have the longest line.  (Adults: If you want to enjoy a beer, this may be your last chance!)

Terror Chamber has most of the features you'd expect in a professional haunted house -- animatronics, an inflatable hallway, thick fog and zombies. The character actors are creepy and convincing and it's easy to get caught up in fear and lost in the darkness. I'd recommend it for brave kids 12 and up.

Our group decided to break up the haunted houses with rides on the Tower of Doom, the Twister and the Mind Eraser to add a jolt of traditional adrenaline to the fear and excitement. The lines are almost non-existent, which makes the rides difficult to resist -- but beware -- that can jeopardize your mission to take in all the seasonal attractions! (We spent a little too much time trying to beat each other's scores at Ghost Blasters.)

Flesh Factory was phase 3 of our Fright Fest survival plan. Flesh Factory is your classic haunted house -- gory -- with lots of (fake) blood and severed body parts. It's a great starter house for adults who aren't ready for Terror Chamber. I'd say it's okay for brave kids aged 10 and up (who aren't prone to nightmares!)

This was where our group faced the ultimate challenge -- running out of time. Someone suggested splitting up to cover more ground (DON'T do that -- NEVER do that!) A few members of our group wanted more rations. Others were willing to push on.  And some of us got caught up taking pictures with the elaborate decorations and wandering zombies and monsters.

In the end, our plan unraveled and we missed Séance, the live performance about contacting spirits from beyond! I'm going to have to go back again before Elitch Gardens closes for the season!

MORE: Read my review of the 13th Floor haunted house:

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