Ah, fall…the season of crunchy leaves, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and haunted attractions. No one has mastered the art of the scare like Universal during their annual Halloween Horror Nights event. Now in its 28th year, Halloween Horror Nights (taking place at both Universal Studios Hollywood & Universal Orlando) brings your fears to life with a host of terrifying houses and scare zones guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. The best part? There is truly something for everyone attending the event, as the haunts are a mixture of original ideas and classic horror properties.
Universal Orlando recently invited me to face my fears at Halloween Horror Nights and I lived to tell the tale. Read on for some of my best tips and tricks for ‘surviving’ your first Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando…
It sounds simple enough, but it bears mentioning: drink plenty of water before and during the event. You will spend hours at Halloween Horror Nights standing in the hot Florida sun which will leave you dehydrated much faster than you may realize. Drinking plenty of water will allow you to keep screaming throughout the night’s festivities. Pro tip: you can get free cups of water at many of Universal’s quick-service restaurants and avoid paying for overpriced bottles of water.
Stay and Scream
Halloween Horror Nights is a massively popular event with thousands attending each year. If you plan on spending the day in one of Universal Orlando’s theme parks you can stay in one of the designated holding areas (Finnegan’s Bar & Grill is the most popular of these) and be among the first inside the gates when the event begins. Just be sure you’re in Universal Orlando by 5 pm to secure your spot.
Make a List
This year’s Halloween Horror Nights features more houses than ever before and conquering the entire event is impossible without paying extra for an Express Pass to skip the regular lines. Before heading to the event, research the houses and scare zones then create a list of the ones you must do. This will help keep you on track throughout the night.
Need a few recommendations to get you started? My favorite houses of the year (in no particular order) were:
- Stranger Things
- Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After
- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
- Seeds of Extinction
Download the Universal Orlando App
With so much to do and see at Halloween Horror Nights, finding your way around the park can be overwhelming. Luckily, Universal Orlando has a mobile app (available for free on iOS and Android) featuring a park map, wait times for the haunted houses, trivia games to play in line for the houses, and more. I highly recommend using the wait time notification feature. This feature allows you to set your desired wait time for each of the houses and receive a notification when the wait falls to the time you selected.
Stop by the Tribute Store
Universal Orlando has no shortage of merchandise available for this year’s event. You will find a host of shirts, pins, lanyards, masks, and so much more at the Tribute Store. While there are plenty of other places in the park to shop for HHN merchandise, the Tribute Store has some wicked cool displays that double as perfect photo opportunities.
Try the Food & Drinks
If you find yourself hungry or needing a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) during Halloween Horror Nights, you have plenty of options. This year’s themed alcoholic drinks are:
- Totally L.I.T. (Long Island Iced Tea) – Vodka, tequila, gin, rum with triple sec, lime, sour and Coca-Cola
- Wicked Rad Punch – Blueberry vodka, raspberry vodka, triple sec, lemonade and grenadine
- Gnarly Twist – A perfect sweet and sour combo of both the Wicked Rad Punch and Totally L.I.T.
It’s important to note that all three of the drinks are on the sweeter side. If sweet drinks aren’t your thing, you can find beer throughout the park as well.
With Stranger Things headlining this year’s event, Universal Orlando has no shortage of themed foods perfect for fans of the hit Netflix series. Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) fans need not worry: variations of waffles make up many of this year’s offerings, including waffles on a stick, bananas foster waffles, and more. Another fun Stranger Things-themed offering is the Christmas tree light cupcake – a nod to the wall Joyce (Winona Ryder) uses to communicate with her son in the Upside Down.
For those not looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with my personal favorite: Twisted Taters. An HHN staple, Twisted Taters are available in multiple seasoning options like garlic butter or sour cream and chive.
Attend a Behind-The-Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour
The team behind Halloween Horror Nights spends months planning the event, selecting houses and scare zones, and building the sets to make sure each year is better than the last. The detail in each of the houses is truly remarkable, but it is impossible to take it all in with the lights off and figures popping out of the shadows to frighten you. If you are a die-hard HHN fan like myself, I highly recommend taking a Behind-The-Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour. This behind-the-scenes tour allows you to get an inside look at select houses with the lights on. A tour guide walks you through, providing insider tips and information along the way. While not free, I have done the tour twice now and each year I am blown away by the experience. You can book a 3-house or 6-house tour online at www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.
There you have it! Now that you’re equipped with tips and tricks, it’s time to brave Halloween Horror Nights on your own. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort runs select nights now through November 3rd. You can purchase tickets and learn more at www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.