Halloween Horror Nights is a hard-ticket event held at Universal Studios Florida in September & October. This guide covers dates & ticket prices, tips for maximizing your time at HHN, whether it’s worth the money, haunted house info, and photos from our experiences attending Orlando’s event.
This year, Halloween Horror Nights will be held on select nights through October 31. The after hours party runs from 6:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. on most nights. For most of its run, Halloween Horror Nights is held Wednesday through Sunday. Only Mondays and Tuesdays are safe from the carnage!
Single night tickets, multi-night passes, and Express Pass are all sold for Halloween Horror Nights. Prices for HHN vary dramatically, starting at around $75 if purchased in advance online (which you absolutely should do, as prices can be $50 more expensive day of at the gates). This may seem steep, but it’s cheaper than Walt Disney World’s Halloween parties–plus, multi-night HHN passes are considerably more affordable per visit.
Halloween Horror Nights is not included in normal daytime park admission, meaning if you only buy a regular ticket to Universal Studios Florida, you will have to leave once HHN starts (so plan accordingly if you don’t want to do HHN and visit on a day it is not happening).
In addition to single night tickets and multi-night passes, there are also hotel packages that include general admission tickets and admission to Halloween Horror Nights. Beyond that, there are a bunch of add-on options, from dining packages to R.I.P. (get it?!) tours.
In terms of Halloween Horror Nights dates, here’s every night the event will be held:
September 2-4, 7-11, 15-18, 21-25, 28-30
October 1-2, 5-9, 11-16, 19-24, 26-31
If at all possible, we recommend avoiding Friday and Saturday nights. Not only are these more popular, but they’re more expensive. More on this in the strategy section below.
You should also be aware that multiple night passes typically offer considerably more bang for buck. Here are the details for HHN 31 passes:
Rush of Fear Pass ($129.99): Valid for admission the first four weeks of the event (September 2-4, 7-11, 15-18, and 21-25), but no dates in October. Rush of Fear with Express Pass costs $429.99.
Frequent Fear Pass($179.99): Valid for admission for every event night Sunday through Thursday plus the first weekend of the event. Frequent Fear with Express Pass costs $509.99.
Frequent Fear Plus Pass ($219.99): Valid for admission every event night Sunday through Friday plus the first and last Saturday event nights. Frequent Fear Plus with Express Pass costs $599.99.
Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass ($329.99): Valid for admission every night of the event. Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass with Express Pass costs $819.99.
What follows is general information for the Halloween Horror Nights, strategy, tips, etc. based upon our experiences doing HHN over the years. Let’s cover some basic info…
Halloween Horror Nights Info
First, let’s start with what it is. Basically, Halloween Horror Nights is Universal’s “version” of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party over in Magic Kingdom. Except, instead of family-friendly fun trick-or-treating wearing costumes with Mickey and his pals, a parade, and fireworks, it has none of those things. (In fact, costumes are not even allowed.) Instead, there’s a much more gory and frightening vibe. It really is so scary.
In other words, once you get past the “Halloween” theme that the two events that the two events share, they have literally nothing in common. Halloween Horror Nights is aimed squarely at adults who want the bejesus scared out of them, with an edgy, almost explicit vibe that caters to the young ‘bro’ set (more on this later). To reiterate: it is definitely not for kids. (The good news, if you have kids, is that there are virtually no signs of the event in the park during the day, so it’s “safe” to visit then.)
Universal Orlando does not offer any kid-friendly Halloween events. Halloween Horror Nights takes place in Universal Studios Florida, not in Islands of Adventure. If you don’t want your fall visit to Universal Orlando Resort to be impacted by Halloween Horror Nights, it’s as simple as visiting Universal Studios Florida on a Monday or Tuesday (or Wednesday if the event is not happening then), and visiting Islands of Adventure any night of the week.
HHN 31 Haunted Houses
The primary draw of Halloween Horror Nights is the walk-through haunted house “mazes.” There are typically around 10 mazes, half of which are based on horror franchises. The others are usually original creations, unique to HHN.
Here’s the lineup of Halloween Horror Nights houses:
The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare – Enter the macabre mind of musician The Weeknd in this haunted house as he stalks you through the surreal nightmare of his After Hours music.
Hellblock Horror – Enter a prison whose savage inmates are monstrous creatures. If they break free from their cells, it’s a death sentence for everyone.
Horrors of Blumhouse – Enter the worlds of two horror masterpieces from Blumhouse as you face the most terrifying moments of Freaky and The Black Phone.
Spirits of the Coven – A coven of beautiful ﬂapper witches will lure you into their 1920s speakeasy, reveal their haggish true form and turn your scream squad into a witch’s brew. They’ll be cackling; you’ll be screaming.
Halloween – Come face to face with Michael Myers and go back to where it all began. Step into terrifying moments from the 1978 horror classic, Halloween.
Universal Monsters: Legends Collide – You’re about to get caught in the middle of an epic battle between The Wolf Man, Dracula and The Mummy, together for the first time ever.
Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake – In a New England ﬁshing village, undead ﬁshermen emerge from the waves to seek their revenge. You and your scream squad may have escaped their hooks in the scare zone. Now they’ll reel you in and drag you under.
Bugs: Eaten Alive – While touring a 1950s home of the future, you’ll be surrounded by the slime of bugs everywhere as hordes of many-legged terrors descend upon you and your scream squad. You’ll be dropping like flies.
Descendants of Destruction – Careful not to leave any of your scream squad behind as you descend the subway tunnels of a deserted New York. Lurking in the dark are hungry mutants looking to feast on the last remnants of humanity.
Fiesta de Chupacabras – Visit a Latin American village where the legend of the creature Chupacabras is celebrated with a colorful ﬁesta. And the streets are lined with the crimson blood of tourists like you and your amigos.
Each haunted house is an elaborately-designed indoors walk-through (they’re referred to as mazes, but this is a misnomer since there’s only one way to go, and you cannot possibly get lost), lasting about 3-5 minutes. A constant trickle of guests is sent through, so you’re never alone in the dark. The houses are usually set up beyond the normal bounds of the theme park (slightly backstage) in sound stages or in unused queue area. Photography is not allowed inside the houses.
Beyond the intricate design–which really is quite impressive for temporary structures–the haunted houses rely heavily on actors seemingly come out of nowhere to startle guests. Additionally, there are sound & lighting effects, music, narrow passages & tight corners, air bursts, mirror effects, and gruesome details to achieve an eerie and suspenseful experience. Basically, these are traditional haunted houses, but with lavish budgets and locations drawn from popular horror franchises.
HHN Scare Zones
There are also 5 scare zones filled with hordes of ‘scare-actors. For Halloween Horror Nights 31, the scare zones are as follows:
Horrors of Halloween – The Pumpkin Lord, the spirit of Halloween, has taken over this year’s event, summoning hordes of fiendish creatures. Terror has taken root.
Scarecrow: Cursed Soil – At an abandoned farm, scarecrows have risen from the crust of the earth to hunt you and seek revenge. They’ll harvest your screams.
Sweet Revenge – The sweets from Major Sweets’ candy company have turned children into crazed killers. This Halloween’s all trick, no treat and total mayhem.
Graveyard: Deadly Unrest – On All Hallow’s Eve, a dark storm descends upon a cemetery and awakens long-dead spirits. No one living can escape them
Conjure the Dark – On the first All Hallow’s Eve, an evil sorceress called forth monstrosities from dark dimensions. Now your blood will fuel them.
Some of these scare zones are narrowly-themed with a very specific horror motif, while others are more open-ended with a range of mutants. These are great places to just wander around and see the monsters/scare-actors interact with guests. Great for people-watching.
As smartphone cameras have improved and social media has risen in popularity, scare zones have become more of ‘selfie spots.’ This is unfortunate, although some scareactors still attempt to terrify unwitting guests rather than stopping for photos.
In addition to these houses/mazes, there’s other entertainment including stage shows that change from year to year. We found that both of these show can be hit or miss, but there are enough ‘hits’ that they’re worth watching. The latest show is Halloween Nightmare Fuel. The crowd went wild for this, and we were generally impressed by the performers–especially the pyro performers. The story, to the extent there is one, is meh.
There’s also the excellent lagoon show Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory, which features water fountains, film projections, lighting, and projection-mapping. It is also very, very loud. (I know I might sound old there, but we’ve seen several other guests plugging their ears during this.)
As far as attractions go, this is actually quite a huge slate. Numerous rides are also open (all with minimal waits); we do not recommend doing them. You cannot possibly see and do all of the Halloween entertainment without a good plan of attack for Halloween Horror Nights.
Halloween Horror Nights Tips
Over the last several years, we’ve gained a lot of experience with Halloween Horror Nights. It helped that the first year we did HHN, we visited with a friend in Operations at Universal Orlando who was basically an HHN-ninja, and we gleaned quite a bit from that experience. Additionally, many of the same principles that apply in terms of crowds, etc., to MNSSHP also apply to Halloween Horror Nights.
First, if at all possible, you want to attend on the least busy night you can. This means as early in the season as possible, and avoiding Fridays and Saturdays. Going on a weeknight in September will be the best option because locals have work the next morning and Halloween isn’t yet on people’s minds.
Arrive with a full stomach before Halloween Horror Nights starts. You don’t want to waste time eating once the event starts, as lines are shortest at the outset of the night, and time is valuable. You’ll also want something to soak up the booze, if you plan on drinking.
Speaking of booze, it’s expensive, so you might want to responsibly pregame if you’re going to go that route. We cannot emphasize the “responsibly” part of that enough, as we’ve been told that Universal security regularly turns away guests who show up to the event too drunk.
Speaking of security, they’re everywhere. Plain clothes and uniformed, and Orlando police have a significant presence. Halloween Horror Nights has a reputation as a raucous event, and that’s definitely deserved. That does not mean you have carte blanche to act like a drunken buffoon. I’m not sure this qualifies as a “tip” but one important thing to remember is that just because you’re in a theme park doesn’t mean you can’t be arrested or kicked out. Even in fantasy land, drunk & disorderly conduct can still get you thrown in the drunk tank.
In terms of touring plans and strategy, we highly recommend doing Halloween Horror Nights on the same night as you attend Universal Studios Florida. This is because you’ll have a 15-minute head start on the houses before HHN-only guests. It might not seem like much, but that first 15 minutes is critical to avoiding lines.
To take advantage of this, you head to HHN check-in areas in Universal Studios Florida around 5 p.m. Then, you head to one of the holding areas, getting in line by around 5:15 p.m. (We recommend grabbing beer and the glorious Brain Freezin’ D’oh-Nut Sundaes above in Springfield and then headed to that holding area.) At around 5:45 p.m., you’re released. If you’re at the front of one of these holding areas, you’ll exit your first house before 6 p.m.
By contrast, guests at the very front of the line outside the turnstiles will enter the park at around 6 p.m. (official start time of HHN is 6:30 p.m.) and those front of line guests have probably waited a good 90 minutes for that position. They won’t arrive at their first house until 6:10 p.m. Guests who arrive at 6 p.m. are farther back in line to get in won’t hit a house until maybe 6:30 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., you’ll be on house #3 or #4.
You can start in Springfield or the front of the park, which is better all depends upon where the popular IP houses are located. Although houses at the front of the park lure guests as they enter, these popular IPs located deeper in the park are bigger draws, so we opted to knock them out first. We completed 3 houses in short order, and were onto house #4 before 6:30–still ahead of the crowds.
Following this, we had a dilemma: head deeper into the park and knock out a couple of less-popular houses with no waits, or head forward and experience houses at the front with moderate waits. We opted for the former strategy, with the idea in mind that we would hit those houses, and then do other entertainment for a while.
We would then do the front of park houses after midnight, towards the end of the event when the hordes started stumbling home. This strategy worked flawlessly, and we recommend it. Our longest wait of the night ended up being 45 minutes. Otherwise, I don’t think we waited more than 10-15 minutes for anything.
Alternatively, if you’re going a busy night or just don’t want to hassle with strategy, the HHN Express Pass is available for purchase (it is not included with hotel stays) for $100+ per person. That’s a lot of money, but it might be worth it if you only have one night for HHN and you’re going on a night when waits might peak at 120 minutes for a single house.
Aside from the houses, we spent the middle of the evening walking the scare zones and watching the two stage shows. If you’re into photography, the scare zones are a great option, and I’d recommend trying for photos at dusk while there’s still a bit of light. The scare-actors will ham it up for photos to some degree, but they are still moving, making nighttime photos of them a challenge. (I wish I focused more on photography, as the event has great potential for that–if you have the patience.)
That’s really it in the way of strategy. With the plan described above, we were able to walk-through each of the houses one time, see both stage shows, and spend around an hour (collectively) in the scare zones by staying until the bitter end. We did not eat during the event and restroom usage was minimal.
With that said, I still felt like we had insufficient time at Halloween Horror Nights. I wanted to spend more time in the scare zones to people watch, and also hit a couple of the houses a second time to explore all of the details. Although the houses are the main draw in terms of wait times, I found the eerie vibe of the event to be a bigger draw, and would not have minded a second night to slow down and take in the ambiance.
Halloween Horror Nights Review
Let’s pick up on that note about ambiance and get the bad out of the way. You might recall my ‘bro’ comment above. That’s because there is an undeniable frat-bro vibe to Halloween Horror Nights. (Some might take that a step further and contend the event is misogynistic and sexist.)
From my perspective, it’s more a case of the former than the latter, but I’m also a man who has never experienced the negative side of sexism firsthand. There were a couple instances of one-dimensional ‘sex object’ female characters in Halloween Horror Nights, but other than that, I didn’t notice anything overt.
To me, guests are the bigger issue than the event itself. This has been something of an elephant in the room, but it boiled over as reports of scare-actors being groped were made public. It remains to be seen what measures Universal will take to address the atmosphere of HHN, or if there’s really anything that can be done. Certainly, the free flow of alcohol doesn’t help, but it’s also true that alcohol alone isn’t a kiss that turns princes into douchey frogs.
Nor is this to say that everyone who attends or enjoys Halloween Horror Nights is a douchey frat bro. While the audience is decidedly different from Disney’s Halloween events, by and large, the event is not douchey nor are its attendees.
I enjoy Halloween Horror Nights and enjoy most elements of the event enough to make it an annual draw. Just as I don’t have issue conceding (what I view as) Disney’s flaws, I don’t have a problem confronting the same with Halloween Horror Nights. I don’t think there is any way of skirting the issue: HHN draws an audience that skews towards the raucous side. I mean, it’s no Insane Clown Posse concert, but it’s an adult-oriented Halloween event…what do you expect?
I mention this so you know what you’re getting yourself into. This isn’t in the same ballpark–or league…or sport–as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Each are good on their own respective merits, but there’s little to no Venn overlap.
There is a lot to enjoy about Halloween Horror Nights, and its problems (I think) are relatively minor as compared to its strengths. The big strength, I think, is the design of the mazes/houses. These can be hit or miss, but the best of them do an amazing job re-creating environments from films, or just creating environments from the ground up.
The biggest misses for me in terms of the houses were those based on modern IP–including those I recognize. In recent years, the Walking Dead and Stranger Things houses have been among the worst in this regard, resting on their laurels with recognizable visuals from the film. The problem was that beyond the “oh, I recognize that from my favorite [not for me, but maybe for someone] TV series!” moments, the whole thing was dull and monotonous.
I’d hazard a guess that opinions on the houses will vary based largely on personal preference, but as a whole, the designs are really well done. Hard to believe some of these are temporary.
The scare zones were also very well done, particularly the icons one that featured stages with brief shows throughout the night. My personal preference is more towards the narrowly focused scare zones with a single concept than the ‘vague collection’ ones, but both work. These were a lot of fun to visit and revisit.
Criticism aside, I had an absolute blast at Halloween Horror Nights last year, and plan to attend again in 2023. If you enjoy horror films or the adult side of Halloween and don’t have kids in tow, I highly recommend dedicating an evening to Halloween Horror Nights. If I were a local, I’d probably opt for a lower level Annual Pass and attend 2-3 nights.
Have you attended a Halloween Horror Nights event? What did you think of it? Any tips of your own to add? Does HHN interest you, or are you more a MNSSHP kind of person? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of Halloween Horror Nights? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!