With an expanded children’s area and a focus on startle scares (rather than blood, guts and gore), HalloWeekends at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, are family-friendly — so much so that spokesman Bryan Edwards is relentless about emphasizing the phrase.

Except when it comes to the new-this-year “Midnight Syndicate LIVE! A Legacy of Shadows.” Don’t even think about bringing the kiddies to the musical stage show.

“We’re not even sorry about that,” Edwards said, laughing. “There are some elements in this show little kids shouldn’t see.”

That also goes for the new Skeleton Key rooms in the adult haunted houses, a perk exclusive to those who shell out the extra fee ($35-$75 depending on the day) for the Fright Lane pass, which allows purchasers to bypass the lines at the houses and the CornStalkers scare zone. Edwards calls the Skeleton Key rooms “the ultra scares.”

“The top-of-the-top actors are in there; it’s very interactive,” he said. “When you go in, you have to do something to get out” — something he opts not to give away. “That’s been a huge hit for our guests.”

But no, really — bring the kids.

“It’s really family-friendly in the day,” Edwards reassures.

The 18th annual HalloWeekends at Cedar Point (about two hours from the heart of Detroit) feature the roller coaster-heavy park goosed up with five adult haunted houses (plus one kiddie version), six outdoor scare zones, 10 performances and the aforementioned expanded kid zone, Howl-O-Palooza.

On Saturdays and Sundays, that’s all in addition to the park’s regular rides and attractions.

This year, the Hexed haunted house, next to the exit of the GateKeeper roller coaster, joins the mix.

“Hexed is kind of like a witch training school,” Edwards says. ”As you walk through, you can see them practice spells, working on potions and different things that have gone awry, minions running around.” As with the other haunted houses, it focuses on “startle scare.”

“We train the Screamsters” — HalloWeekends’ more than 300 roaming characters in the haunted houses and outside scare zones — “how to hide out or blend in, and as you walk by they jump out,” Edwards explains.

Each of the outside scare zones has its own personality. The new one this year — Tombstone TERROR-tory — gets its temperament from its locale, Cedar Point’s Old West-themed Frontiertown; picture skeletons wearing cowboy hats.

For the smaller kids, there’s the mild Magical House on Boo Hill, a long-time HalloWeekends classic located near the Blue Streak wooden roller.

“That’s more scenery than anything — no Screamsters, more of a kid-friendly props and atmosphere (house),” Edwards says. “It’s very mild — alligators in the tub that don’t move, that sort of thing.”

New elements of the expanded Howl-O-Palooza kids area, at the front of the park and open until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, include pony rides, a hay bale maze, a foam party, trick-or-treat stations and the Snoopy’s Halloween Hijinks and Pumpkin Patch Party with the Peanuts shows.

On the other end of the spectrum, the don’t-bring-the-kids “Midnight Syndicate LIVE! A Legacy of Shadows” features two musicians bringing their spooky-movie-soundtrack work to life, adding scary surprises in the mix.

“They’ve never done performances; this is their first ever,” said Edwards. “But if you’re into Halloween music, that ominous music, organs and whatnot — from what I’ve seen so far it’s a huge hit.”

Maureen Tisdale is a Metro Detroit freelance writer and editor.

Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends

6 p.m. to midnight Fridays,

11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 2

One Cedar Point Drive,

Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Ticket prices vary widely due to differing hours and access to rides and other attractions; tickets are significantly cheaper if purchased online. See for the best pricing.

(419) 627-2350

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