Horror has always played an important part in Universal Studios’ history. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) has transformed the horror industry by creating our own dreadful storylines and characters, as well as placing you right in the middle of your favorite scary movies. On select nights in the fall in Universal Studios Florida, you can step into terrifying haunted houses, come face-to-face with ghastly creatures in scare zones, and marvel at mind-bending live shows. Written words don’t do the event justice, but I will say it’s so realistic and intense, there’s a reason why Halloween Horror Nights has earned the title of the “World’s Premier Halloween Event”.
If you’re visiting the theme parks soon for the first time and just hearing of Halloween Horror Nights, this guide will tell you how to get the most out of your upcoming fall vacation. The same goes for you if you’re a local and looking for something bigger and better to do for this Halloween season. And for all you fellow die-hard HHN fans, share your own tips for the event in the comments below to help these soon-to-be first timers.
(Jump ahead, if you dare)
THINGS TO DO
The beating heart of Halloween Horror Nights is the haunted houses. Every year, Universal’s Entertainment team brings to life the biggest names in horror from movies, TV shows, musicians, video games, and urban legends in twisted, maze-like haunted houses. They also create their own original storylines that have given birth to iconic characters over the years. There’s no better way to celebrate Halloween like walking through your very own real-life horror movie where you’ve been casted in the role of playing the victim.
- Never Go Alone: Whether you’re a scaredy cat yourself and you need a friend to get through the haunted houses, or you’re a die-hard fan that enjoys seeing your scaredy cat friend jump, the best way to experience HHN is to bring your crew with you to maximize the scares and fun.
- Start in the Back: The haunted houses near the front of the park tend to get crowded first. Start with the houses in the back of the park and you’ll be able to get half of the haunted houses done quickly.
- Appreciate the Details: Take time to appreciate the level of detail the Art & Design team puts into the houses. They’re movie-set quality and you may even discover hidden easter eggs.
- Watch the Movies: Before you come to HHN, binge watch the movies or TV shows that are featured in this year’s event. You’ll be able to truly appreciate the houses by recognizing the iconic scenes, details, and characters.
During Halloween Horror Nights, there is nowhere safe to escape to in the theme park. The streets transform into demented scare zones that are swarming with creatures and monsters that are birthed from the darkness like hellish demons, morbid deformities, and the undead. You are quite literally walking through real life nightmares, including scare zones themed to popular horror movies and TV shows. Oh, and watch out for the roaming chainsaw hordes!
- Snap a Photo if You Dare: If you’re lucky and ask nicely, you may be able to snap a photo of the scareactors. And keep an eye out for killer photo ops that will give your friends who were too scared to come serious fomo.
- Scaredy Cats: If you’re a little bit of a wussie when it comes to all things scary, check out these 7 tips on how to survive going through the scare zones. My favorite is tip #5.
Every year there are new live shows that bring horror to life in a whole new way. In the past, there have been pulse-pounding dance troupes, mind-bending acts, pop-culture infused comedy skits, and a jaw-dropping lagoon show. These performances are perfect for those who may not be too keen with the intense scares of haunted houses, but still want some thrills. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year!
- Take a Break: I recommend downloading the Universal Orlando Resort mobile app to see the show times. That way you can navigate around house wait times and grab a drink or quick bite before the show starts.
Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store
One of my first stops at HHN is the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store where I can check out what merch I’m going to snatch up. Not only is it a spot for merchandise, but the store is themed with a design level that rivals the haunted houses. You’ll find event merchandise like T-shirts, hats, drinkware, pins, lanyards, and collectibles. There are also fun photo ops inside as well. The Tribute Store is located in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida right next to Revenge of the Mummy. The best part? It’s open during regular daytime park hours, too!
Mobile App Game
Take the horror to the next level with the Universal Orlando Resort Mobile App. Not only are you able to purchase your tickets and check wait times for the haunted houses, but you can access the HHN mobile game. Test your friends on HHN trivia, read up on the backstories of the haunted houses, and more. It’s the personal scare buddy you never knew you needed, especially when you’re waiting in line.
Need a break from all that screaming in the haunted houses? How about screaming on some rides? A select number of Universal Studios Florida rides are open during the event, including Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, and more. Since there is so much to do at HHN, the wait times are typically short. Make sure to check the Universal Orlando Resort Mobile App for ride times.
- If there’s a ride you or your friends definitely want to do, make sure to do it early on in the event. Although HHN goes until late, a lot of the rides will close before the event ends.
WHAT TO EAT
Dinner, Snacks & Drinks
All that screaming, jumping, and running from getting scared can be tiring work. Make sure to fuel up for the fear. Elevate your HHN experience by trying the new themed specialty dishes and drinks inspired by this year’s event. The Food & Beverage team starts planning the HHN menu one year in advance. They look at what the event theme and haunted houses will be and see what cuisines and trends they can pair with the different themes and characters, while keeping quality top of mind and also looking at what fans are saying. Expect some fun dishes and treats based on the haunted houses and specialty drinks paired to enhance the flavors. You can find these offerings in select food tents, restaurants, and bars during the event.
You can also grab dinner at one of the many restaurants in Universal CityWalk or at the hotels if you have some time to kill before the event starts. Wash it all down with HHN-themed signature drinks at select bars at the hotels or at the event in the famous blinky souvenir cup! There are also plenty of yummy snacks you can grab on the go like Twisted Taters in the event or a Voodoo Doughnut afterwards in CityWalk.
- Pizza Fries: If there’s one thing you need to try during HHN, it’s Pizza Fries — a dish with a mound of French fries topped with the fixings of a pizza and then baked to delicious perfection.
- Twisted Taters: A twisted potato, fried, and sprinkled with your choice of seasoning. My favorite is sour cream and chive.
THINGS TO KNOW
It’s a Separately Ticketed Event
In order to experience all Halloween Horror Nights has to offer you’ll need to purchase a separate event ticket for a night of your choosing. If you’re visiting the theme parks during the day, make note of when Universal Studios Florida will be closing for the event. If you have a Stay and Scream ticket, you’ll receive a wristband and wait in a designated area until the event begins (this is the best way to get a head start as you’ll already be in the theme park). The event is known to sell out on certain nights, so make sure to grab your tickets early!
Upgrade Your Scares
I’m a die-hard horror fan so every year I splurge to get the most out of my nights at HHN. You can choose from a number of event extras to “upgrade” your experience from getting front-of-the-line access with a R.I.P. Tour to an Unmasking the Horror Tour where you can see a select number of haunted houses during the daytime to learn how they’re created.
Stay in the Middle of the Horror
Halloween Horror Nights ends late with closing times that vary depending on the night. You’re most likely going to stay until close to get the most scares in, so how great would it be to not have to drive home after? Recruit your friends and split a hotel room at one of Universal Orlando’s hotels. Plus, you get an exclusive resort entrance into the event to get to the screams faster and there have even been known to be additional perks that pop up. I’m talking about themed interactive experiences at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which get your adrenaline pumping before you’re even at the event. These experiences are inspired directly by the ICONic characters and themes of HHN, featuring a twisted interactive walkthrough with photo opportunities and the Swizzle Lounge being transformed into a HHN-themed bar with specialty drinks.
Experience the Event Like a Pro
Whether you’re coming to do one haunted house that caught your eye, or if this is the year you decided to face your biggest fears, it can be scary to come to Halloween Horror Nights for the first time. I mean, it isn’t called the world’s premier Halloween event for no reason. Have no fear, there are plenty of tips and tricks from HHN veterans to put your mind at ease. Coming with your friends and making a game plan are just a couple tips to get you started.
Passholder Perks So Good, It’s Scary
Universal Orlando Annual and Seasonal Passholders get exclusive benefits and discounts for Halloween Horror Nights tickets (on select nights), event extras, hotel rates, and merchandise including Premier Passholders getting one free event ticket. Plus, you can enjoy extra perks like themed button and magnet collectibles. *While supplies last, one per Passholder.*
WHAT TO BRING & WEAR
If it’s your first time, you may be wondering what you should bring or wear for a nighttime Halloween event at a theme park. In short, you should pack light and dress comfy, but you can have some fun with it. Here are some of the more frequent questions we’ve seen pop up.
- Bag or Lanyard? My recommendation would be to wear a lanyard to hold your tickets, passes, money, etc. You’ll get through security faster, avoid lockers at rides, and not have to worry about hauling a heavy bag around. If you do bring one, I would go small with a fanny pack or a crossbody and only bring the essentials (like chapstick in my case).
- Can I Bring in a Refillable Cup? Yes, you can bring your refillable Coke Freestyle cup to the event to get soda and water refills. Getting scared, and laughing from getting scared, makes for thirsty work. Stay hydrated!
- What’s the Weather Like? It’s Florida. It can change its mind weather-wise last minute, so be prepared for warm, rainy, or even chilly weather. Check ahead of time and plan accordingly. I usually wear layers just in case, and if you’re in for a rainy night, I recommend boots to avoid soggy shoes.
- Comfort or Style? How about a mix of both? You’re going to do a lot of standing and walking, so wear comfortable clothes and shoes. HHN is the perfect place to let your freak flag fly though, so don’t be afraid to rock some cute fishnets, boots, or rep your favorite horror movie or villain with a T-shirt or accessory.
- Can I Wear a Costume? Nope. Costumes and costume masks are not allowed at the event. Leave that to our scareactors.
Get ready to face your biggest fears this fall. Sign up to be among the first to receive updates on this year’s event and join us for daily horror banter on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll see you in the fog!
WARNING: Event may be too intense for young children and is not recommended for children under the age of 13. No costumes or costume masks allowed.
Must be 21 years and older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages.