South Windsor, CT
Full Contact Option: Yes (Certain Nights)
It’s hard to accurately tell if a place changes or if your perception of it does. Perhaps a bit of both, but Nightmare Acres is a place where I’ve had wildly different opinions across several seasons. It has a lot going in its favor, with its atmosphere nestled deep in the forest, its memorable actors from year to year, and a sense of fun. Going against it are some lengthy wait times, admission cost, and shifting experiences.
Starting off in 2021, it quickly became a spot that was a must-visit for subsequent years. Like many others, it has a vibrant midway to connect the trail, acting as the beginning and ending point. Food vendors, merch shops selling Christmas Tree Shop trinkets, and foam filled bubble machines saturate the place with a suitable ambience. Tickets are timed, but if you still have a wait, you can spend some time there while actors roam around. Otherwise, there is no rush to leave after completing the trail.
On the topic of tickets, there is a VIP option and a super VIP option. The former gets you into a different line, and the latter lets you skip any and all lines altogether. After waiting in the queue for the first year, the following marks the one and only time we splurged for an upgrade. I’m not quite sure why, but maybe we were trying to hit another spot that night. For the first two years, it would have made sense, but the last visit didn’t seem to have a path for VIP tickets, so I’m not really sure where one would have gone. I know they were still for sale, but I’m just glad I stuck with the standard option.
The trail itself is obviously the main draw, and is a combination of faux-indoor set pieces blended into an outdoor setting. So there is no roof, but large stretches will have walls that block off any view of the forest setting. Certain portions will break away and have you out in the open, but usually only briefly before entering another plywood labyrinth or something like a school bus.
Now this is where some of the inconsistency comes into play. It’s common for a location to mix up the attraction’s elements from year to year, but this can work against it if the location has a relatively good setup at a given point. Changing it for the sake of change can remove some elements that worked and introduce some that may not. I recall things like the schoolbus missing in the latter visit, as well as a reduction in actors. The path felt somewhat longer the first few visits too. A fog maze was added in the vein of 13th World, but the clown circus was notably missing.
In addition to the changes in the attraction, the midway was moved down near the parking lot. This precedes the long forest path to the formal entrance rather than being the destination. The disconnect between the midway and trail isn’t a huge matter, but it does give it a disconnected feel. The photo ops have moved here as well, and actors drift between there and the trail entrance in order to keep things lively.
I think the thing that felt off during the last visit was the relative lack of interactivity. There were actors throughout, but there were plenty of stretches where it was only you and the props. But things change each year, so with another round of renovations, it may be a completely different experience in years to come.
In the original year, the trail ended with a clown themed portion. There was the usual decor and actors, but the final bit featured a female clown twerking on a pole. It was surreal to say the least.
The best portions of the attraction are near the start. When the midway was nearer to the entrance, there would be dancing clowns, fog and bubble machines, and music. The entrance to the trail is a decaying ranch-style home, where you pass through the door to start the walkthrough. Beyond that, it’s a mixed bag of the usual winding plywood mazes and pseudo indoor/outdoor rooms. When these were mixed up a bit with vehicles and alternative corridors to travel, it felt a little more varied, so mileage will vary based on year.
$35 is a bit on the high side, above the median for what is essentially a traditional walkthrough. It’s on par with other attractions in the $20-25 range, which I feel would be a more accurate asking price. The $45 and $60 VIP options will help with the rather long line, but are also rather steep.
Scares are the typical sort. Actors are mainly clown or jester related with some being the cannibal hillbilly type as well. You get the usual jump scares and yelling, and a few environmental situations such as the fog maze, the airbag tunnel, or some pathways made from chain link to simulate a slaughterhouse.