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at Universal Orlando Resort
Note that all these 2023 dates are in the past. Future Halloween Horror Nights dates will be posted when they are known.
The major Halloween event at Universal Orlando is Halloween Horror Nights (or HHN, as it's know to its legions of bloodthirsty fans) is a wonderfully frightening theme park event. Originally a locals-friendly filler during a normally slow season, Universal Studios Florida’s Halloween celebration started in 1991 as a single weekend of “Fright Nights,” and proved popular enough to almost single-handedly save Universal's financial skin during the park's lean early years. Over the last quarter-century, HHN has grown so famous that the seven-week-long scare-abration can provide a substantial percentage of USF’s annual attendance statistics. Much like visiting any of Orlando’s theme parks during a peak holiday season, an evening at HHN can be tremendous fun if you go in with a solid plan and sane expectations. Without those things…well, you might be better off eaten by zombies!
HHN Houses are the main draw; these are basically haunted houses that just did a shot of some sugar-packed energy drink. They get huge lines so check out the survival guide below for tips.
Information is pending for 2023. The 2022 houses were:
Almost as fun (or more fun depending on the lines) are the Scare Zones, areas of the park where terrifying creatures are free-roaming.
The 2022 scare zones were:
We've been attending HHN every year since 1996, and it has become one of our favorite after-dark activities in any park, but it is not for everyone. Before beginning, make sure Universal's brand of Halloween is right for you; this ain't Mickey's Not-So-Scary Party at the Magic Kingdom. Halloween Horror Nights is a gory, gruesome bacchanalia of simulated violence and tasteless satire, marinated with a liberal dose of alcohol and rock ‘n’ roll. In other words, it’s a heck of a party as long as you know what you’re getting into! If the idea of copious blood, guts, and booze doesn’t appeal, we advise staying far, far away. Needless to say, it is not appropriate for young children, though you will likely see many there.
Even more so than daytime touring, a successful HHN visit requires careful date selection. In short, you want to avoid all Saturdays (especially the final three leading up to Halloween) like the plague. Fridays in October -- particularly the last two before Halloween -- aren't much better. Wednesday nights are usually the least crowded, followed by Thursdays (especially the first two) and Sundays (especially the first, but excluding the last). Opening weekend brings out all the local fans, so your best bet is the last week of September, or the first week of October. Halloween night itself and any nights after it are often extremely quiet. The price of express tickets on a given night is your best guide to how busy it will be: the larger the cost, the larger the crowds.
The two basic elements of each year's event are haunted houses (or mazes) and outdoor scarezones. Universal also makes a few of their regular rides available during HHN event nights, including Escape From Gringotts (though not the Hogwarts Express) in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley.
If you walk up to the box-office on the night of the event, you'll pay over $105 plus tax -- a frightening sum for a little as 6-1/2 hours in the park -- and likely wait in a ridiculously long line for the privilege. Instead, study the myriad online ticket options in advance and purchase before you leave home.
Deep discounts (up to $49 off) are offered online to Florida residents with coupon codes from Coca-Cola cans. If you aren't eligible for those, consider getting an annual pass, which entitles you to even deeper price breaks and early event entry during Passholder parties on select nights during the opening weekends. If you already have daytime admission to a Universal park, you can purchase an add-on ticket at the park that allows you to remain through the evening’s event for $65-$83, depending on the night.
Universal Orlando's paid line-skipping service is a welcome luxury during the day, but an absolute lifesaver at night. On peak HHN nights, queues for the haunted houses will approach 3 hours, and even on the slowest nights they will hit 60 minutes. HHN Express passes reduce that wait to between 25% and 33% of what it would otherwise be, which can make the difference between experiencing 2 or 3 houses in a night, or visiting 7 or more. The only catch is that Express starts at $119 per person, and goes up over $199 depending on the night. Express is also available as an add-on for Rush of Fear or Frequent Fear multi-night passes. Express passes often sell out and may be more expensive or or unavailable inside the park, so if you do want them buy in advance.
Bottom Line: On off-peak nights it is possible to experience all the haunted houses and at least one show without Express, if you arrive early and stay until closing. On peak nights it is virtually impossible to do the same without Express passes, and can be challenging with them.
If you're feeling particularly flush, and fed up with any kind of queue, an RIP guided tour will whisk you to the head of every line for "only" $180 and up, admission not included. A private RIP tour for you and up to nine of your friends starts at $1799. When money is no object and you want to feel like theme park royalty, the RIP tours are highly recommended.
Call 1-866-604-7556 or email email@example.com for pricing and reservations.
For the superfans with extra spending money, Universal offers a choice of in-depth HHN experiences. Join one of Universal's designers on a daytime light-on trips through three houses on each of the two Unmasking the Horror behind-the-scenes tours ($75 and up for one tour, $120 for both). On event nights, ticket holders can start their night with a $50 Scareactor dinner, which includes an all-you-can-eat buffet and monster meet-and-greet. These upgrades can be booked online at this webpage.
The event officially begins each evening at 6:30 p.m., but the front gates typically open as early as 6 p.m. If you have an HHN ticket but not daytime admission, you'll want to be outside the park gates, ticket in hand, by 5:45 p.m. at the latest on slow nights, and as early as 5 p.m. on peak nights. Be sure to leave ample time for I-4 traffic and parking, which is full price until 8 p.m. and $5 until 10 p.m. Valet parking is available but remember that there is no free or discounted valet for annual passholders on event nights.
Since Universal began security screenings of all guests in the parking hub, there is no longer a gauntlet of metal detectors to navigate at USF’s front gates. Your goal is to secure a spot as close to the turnstiles as possible; don't be shy about lining up at the temporary entry scanners at the center gate.
On-site hotel guests also get their own exclusive entrance on the far right end of the USF arches. Note that the unlimited Express access included with some resort rooms is not valid during HHN.
Early arrivals may also get a view of a gate-opening performance, which usually occurs just inside the main entrance. Don't worry if you miss this minor event; it's a nice touch but not essential.
Better yet, get a jump on the general public outside the gates by being inside the park before they open. The park closes to daytime guests at 5 p.m. on event nights, but anyone holding a ticket for that night's HHN is allowed to remain inside the park in designated holding areas. Universal no longer sells a specific "Stay & Scream" ticket for early entry; anyone can access this opportunity if they have any valid daytime park ticket, including annual passholders.
Note that the park is officially open for regular operations until 5 p.m., but you'll want to enter before 4:30 p.m. to avoid dealing with the arriving evening crowds. Between the park's closing and reopening, guests remaining in the park are confined to one of the following "Stay & Scream" locations:
The haunted houses are the signature attractions at HHN, and quickly develop wait times ranging from moderate to absolutely ridiculous. Four haunted mazes are housed in the huge production soundstages located behind Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit; four are located in a warehouse and large ‘sprung’ tents erected backstage behind KidZone and World Expo; and one takes over one of the two theaters inside the Shrek 4-D attraction.
Each year, due to theme or location, some houses seem to attract longer queues that others. In general licensed houses (based on existing properties) in the sound stages near the front entrance are the most popular, while the original mazes in the rear of the park draw shorter lines than average. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to bite the bullet and queue up for a particular maze.
Tip: Don't waste time at the beginning of the evening queuing for a house that hasn't yet opened, when you could be enjoying short waits at the mazes that are operating. Houses that don't open until after 6:30 will accumulate a large backlog of guests before they begin operating, so save them for the end of the night instead.
Even the least popular houses, however, will have peak waits of 30 minutes or more, even on less busy nights. Your first hour at the event is therefore essential to making the most of evening, and your initial plan of attack is determined by which location you start your night from:
If you are among the first inside the Springfield holding area, queue up for the parade building house (enter near E.T.) as soon as allowed. The exit of that maze leads directly to the entrance of the first sprung tent house which is conveniently your second stop.
Alternatively, if you are late entering the holding area, the queue for the first house may already be posted at an hour or more. In that case do the tent house first, saving the parade building for later the early entry period (the wait should diminish rapidly) or late in the evening.
Guests should be released from the KidZone area between 5:45 and 6:00 p.m., and can line up for the second tent house near MIB Gear, or cross the park to the open soundstage houses.
Enter the New York holding area between 4 and 5 p.m. (the earlier the better, especially if you want get food or drink), receive a wristband, and relax until released around 5:45 p.m. You will have a short head-start on everyone else for the first of the soundstage houses to open.
Hollywood Holding Area: Check into the holding area outside the Hello Kitty store before park closing, and push your way through the plaza as close to the Despicable Me ride as possible. Guests will be released shortly before the front gates open, and make a mad dash across the street to the first soundstage entrance. By the time the first holding area guests exit the haunted house, the line behind them may be an hour or more, so you should head towards KidZone immediately afterwards.
Once the general public is admitted through the front gates (as early as 6 p.m.) queues at the soundstage houses will swiftly build; see as many as you can until waits exceed 30 minutes, then proceed to the houses in the back of the park.
If you are among the first folks through the gates when they open around 6:00 p.m., head straight to the open soundstage houses and jump in line if it is still 15 minutes or less. Otherwise, the majority of guests will mob the four houses located in the sound stages near the front of the park. You should avoid the horde by heading in the opposite direction, towards KidZone, which should have processed the majority of stay & scream guests by now. You can also continue through Springfield to the houses outside MIB Gear and in the MEN IN BLACK extended queue.
After the sun sets (around 7:30 p.m.) and the waits for the houses become unbearable, begin exploring the scarezones, which are like open-air haunted mazes minus the conga-line queues. Just as much fun as getting scared yourself is finding a vantage point to stand still and see others getting spooked; this is some of the best people-watching you'll ever find. Be on the lookout for staged scenes, in which actors attack planted "victims" within the crowd.
By the mid-point of the evening, standby waits for all the houses will be substantial, and lines for the rides will be astronomical on Saturdays) but experiencing several top attractions should still be manageable using single rider queues. Men In Black, Revenge of the Mummy, Escape from Gringotts, and Transformers all have fairly efficient single-rider operations. (Transformers' singles queue is closed when it hits about 30 minutes, but usually reopens after 10 or 15 minutes, so hang around nearby without blocking the entrance.) Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit has a single rider line but it is often as long as the standby queue, and none of the other operating rides have one at all. On off-peak nights, you may find ride queues shockingly short: Transformers has been as short as 10 minutes, even on peak nights.
Even on a slow night, Horror Nights crowds can drive you to drink, and many of your fellow guests will doubtlessly be imbibing. There are temporary bars serving expensive mixed drinks on seemingly every spare square foot of sidewalk, but but serious in-park boozing we prefer Finnegan's bar or Duff Brewery in Springfield USA. Better yet, if the park is open past 1 a.m., get out of Dodge for an hour or so and retreat to CityWalk. Most HHN passes include admission to CityWalk's clubs, or you can grab a drink at Antojitos or NBC Sports Grill & Brew without a cover charge.
As the evening's event approaches its final hour, wait times at the haunted mazes drop dramatically. Use final hours to catch up on the houses you missed earlier. The last 30 to 60 minutes before park close is the best time to hit the most popular houses. If you didn't see the most popular mazes at the start of the night, step into line for one of them at the last possible minute; you'll be allowed to stay in the queue until you're through.
Unless you leave significantly before closing time, you're best off dawdling in the park or CityWalk on the way out. The parking garage exits will be at a standstill, so you might as well grab a seat outside and relax rather than breathing fumes in a traffic jam.
The roster of attractions during this event may vary day-to-day due to refurbishments and other factors, but the list below is what is normally available for Halloween Horror Nights