2014 Halloween Haunt Award Nominees: Best Professional Display or Ride

Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns 2014: Chinese Zodiac
A display of the Chinese Zodiac at Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns

This category offers a perhaps slightly uncomfortable fit for some disparate attractions. Our rational for combining rides and displays into one category is that many Halloween rides essentially take you past displays, so the distinction between riding the Los Angeles Live Steamers Ghost Train and walking through Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns is relatively minor.

We do not include year-round rides in theme parks with Halloween overlays, unless the rides are substantially re-themed for Halloween; consequently, enjoyable attractions such as The Simpsons Ride and Transformers 3D: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood are not included.

And speaking of the L.A Live Steamers Ghost Train, the ride is disqualified, having won in this category in 2013. Nevertheless, there were several highly enjoyable entries among this year's nominees.

And the nominees are...

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Los Angeles Haunted Hayride 2014 lizard man 2 cropped

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

Always great, the L.A. Haunted Hayride massively revamped their presentation with a brand new theme (Echoes from the Rift) that featured apocalyptic imagery realized with some incredible monsters and effects, turning the Old Zoo area of Griffith Park into Hell on Earth. The result was the most elaborate and amazing Haunted Hayride ever.

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Reign of Terror Skeleton in Cage

Reign of Terror Cue Line

The Reign of Terror Haunted House in Thousand Oaksis one of the few Halloween attractions of which one can say that waiting in line is half the fun. If you pay for the fast pass ticket, you will skip an impressive display of sets, mannequins, and mechanical effects (a skeleton ratting its cage, a body falling from the gallows). The elaborate scenery does a perfect job setting up viewers for the horrors they will encounter inside the maze.

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Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns 2014: Skeleton

Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns

A lengthy art installation at the Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, this display features thousands of intricately carved Jack O'Lanterns: some with traditional faces, some with more unusual designs. The individual works are impressive; their cumulative impact is stunning, with many organized thematically around such concepts as Dia De Los Muertos, horror movies, an alien invasion, and even prehistoric dinosaurs.

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Walking Dead Terror Tram

Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead at Halloween Horror Nights

The tram ride at Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the big features of Halloween Horror Nights; though there are few sights on the actual ride (except for video promoting The Walking Dead), the walking portion of the back lot tour features some incredible displays, including the Bates house from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and the plane crash site from War of the Worlds.

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The Green Witch in the Calico Mine Ride
The Green Witch in the Calico Mine Ride

The Witch's Keep on the Calico Mine Ride at Knotts Scary Farm

No matter what theme goes into this ride, it remains more or less the same from one Halloween to the next: a trip through the Calico Mines with some spooky decorations added. Yet for some reason, Hollywood Gothique emerged from the caverns this year happier than we had been in many a Halloween. Perhaps it was just good fortune - we were in a half-empty car that allowed a 360-degree view on either side of the track - but we saw more more clearly than ever before. The darkness was just right - enough to be mysterious but allowing the eye to pick out details - and the colored lights created phantasmagorical effects. Spirits floated in the air; shadows danced on the rock walls; and a giant witch hand extended as if to pluck us from the rails. Incredible!

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