Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

"Oh, yes, you're going to pose for a group photo," said the good-natured chaperone. (Photos by Julie Hanson)

Fright Fest at Wild Waves: the running, the laughing, the screaming

This mom followed 5 teens around for 5 hours. Here's what she wants you to know.

Teen hot spot Wild Waves in Federal Way becomes a Halloween hot spot during its annual Fright Fest fall event.

Wild Waves has implemented a new chaperone policy, in which “minors must be accompanied by a responsible adult (21+ years)” at the rate of one chaperone per six kids under 18.

Which is how I ended up making my first visit to this event, and that is where our story begins …

[ More Halloween fun: Halloween events 2021, trick-or-treating safety tips ]

I was the adult accompanying five eighth-graders (aka 13-year-olds), one of them my own, who was primarily excited to be getting out of the house and socializing on a weekend. Their excitement showed in the way they often sprinted from one part of the park to another and pleaded with friends who were reluctant to go on a particular ride.

That is how I came up with my description: Fright Fest is basically going to Wild Waves at night, in the fall, with costumes (optional). Oh, and no water slides. We’ll get to the scary stuff in a minute.

Costumes are optional at Fright Fest — but a nice touch, I thought.

Fright Fest: partly kid-friendly

Regretfully, I cannot vouch for anything in the category of Booville: “a kid-friendly, scare-free area featuring an arts and crafts station, a hay bale maze, safe trick-or-treating, games and theme park rides.” My super-cool group did not go anywhere near Booville, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it? We were within proximity of a magic show at one point. The park also airs family-friendly Halloween movies twice daily on an LED screen.

The “scary” part of Fright Fest consists of Camp Whispering Pines haunted trail and the Chamber of Souls haunted house. The website says “NOT recommended for children under 13,” but it’s not forbidden, and I even saw families with babes in arms. These attractions had pretty long lines on a Sunday evening.

Be afraid … Be very afraid. (Or not!)

My group seemed to really enjoy clinging to one another and screaming at the jump scares. Some of their friends who had gone the previous night became so upset that they were escorted, crying, from the Chamber of Souls. No kidding! Full disclosure: I am not a fan of horror and not really a Halloween lover (I know: gasp!!). To me, these attractions were theatrically very impressive (both the actors and the sets) and suspenseful, but not truly frightening.

The true fright for a parent is when the big rides malfunction with your child aboard. This happened twice. (Again: no kidding!) They weren’t serious problems, but still …

Fright Fest: the not-so-gory details

Tickets are $42.99 (+tax) and must be purchased online, in advance. There is also a parking fee.

See above re: chaperone policy. It seems as if ticket takers at the entrance were looking for chaperones, but once in the park, I did not notice active enforcement of the rule. (Note: Security seemed ample, both private and Federal Way Police.)

It’s a family-friendly event from 2 to 6 p.m. The scary attractions open at 7 p.m., and you can’t get in line for them after 9:30. My group attended from 4 to 9 p.m. on a Sunday and had time to see and do everything they wanted. Many rides are open, as are concessions.

Masks are required. Mask adherence seemed pretty good on my visit. Proof of vaccination (for those 12 and over) will be required on the final weekend (Oct. 29-31) , per King County mandate.

Fright Fest

Many of the rides are open, including the Timberhawk, said to be the largest wooden roller coaster in Washington.

Final thoughts

If you’re thinking of going, first of all: Plan ahead. Some nights sell out. Also, plan to walk a lot (and also stand in lines).

Also: Know your audience, particularly if it’s on the young side. I can’t help but think you might get more bang for your $42.99 (or less) at one of the myriad pumpkin patches or farms in the area. It depends on what you’re looking for. I think my social teen could have had just as much fun being dropped off at the mall, but she’ll never admit it.

As the required chaperone, I think a free or discounted ticket would have been appropriate for me. However, as they used to say in the MasterCard commercials:

Meeting my daughter’s friends, and seeing her so happy: priceless.

You may recognize this from driving by on I-5: the giant spider clinging to The Wild Thing roller coaster at Wild Waves in Federal Way. Why is the photo not blurry? Well, the ride was stuck at this moment. But the issue was resolved pretty quickly and without incident.

About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is the website editor for Seattle's Child. She is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 13-year-old girl.