Universal Announces New Year-Round Horror Experience in Las Vegas

Universal Parks & Resorts announced a new year-round entertainment experience in Las Vegas that will basically be a permanent Halloween Horror Nights. This post shares details about the new HHN-like concept, plus our commentary about moving from temporary haunts during spook season to a permanent attraction.

Obviously, the big thing here is that Universal is the creator of Halloween Horror Nights, the world’s most popular global Halloween event that is held in Florida, California, Japan, and Singapore. This original concept will draw from that, bringing to life Universal’s vast library of classic horror films and today’s most terrifying tales.

The new concept marks the first time Universal has created a permanent horror experience beyond its theme parks. Universal’s Las Vegas horror location will feature a variety of unique and immersive horror-centric experiences that surround high energy food and beverage spaces by day turned haunting bars and eateries by night.

The Vegas venue will deliver on the thrills and frights that Universal’s horror fans have come to expect, and excite anyone looking for a new level of experiential entertainment. The space will also feature a continuously updated experience, must see seasonal events, and one-of-a-kind merchandise.

Universal has long defined the horror genre with its classic films featuring iconic characters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and the Wolf Man. More recently, the studio has redefined modern horror and suspense stories through collaborations with high-profile filmmakers such as Jason Blum, James Wan, and Jordan Peele.

“Universal is known for our ability to deliver original, highly-themed and terrifying horror entertainment experiences for millions of fans every year,” said Page Thompson, President, New Ventures, Universal Parks & Resorts. “We are excited to give our global fanbase yet another way to get scared and have fun with fear in the heart of Las Vegas, the perfect place for this type of unique concept.”

Universal’s new horror experience will be the anchor tenant in a new 20-acre expansion of Las Vegas’ immersive AREA15 entertainment district that initially opened to the public in September 2020 and has attracted more than four million visitors since that time. Occupying a 110,000 square-foot space, the new Universal experience is an innovative, creative complement to AREA15’s roots in experiential art and entertainment.

Thanks to its sprawling size, Universal’s unnamed horror nights installation will be the anchor tenant in a 20-acre expansion of AREA15. The location is near the famous Las Vegas Strip and off of the 15 freeway, and already includes themed restaurants and themed entertainment attractions, such as Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart–an incredibly popular and celebrated experiential art and entertainment offering.

“AREA15 curates a constellation of best-in-class experiences. Universal’s never-been-done-before concept will be a perfect fit because our guests know they can expect fresh, exciting entertainment at AREA15,” said Winston Fisher, Chief Executive Officer, AREA15. “We are enormously gratified to have an extraordinary company like Universal as our partner as we embark on the next phase of growth for AREA15.”

“Las Vegas is an entertainment destination unlike any other – and we are thrilled to welcome Universal to our city,” said City of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. “The Universal experience will bring exactly the kind of high-quality, exciting entertainment our city, our visitors and our residents want.”

“Las Vegas is a vibrant community and increasingly known internationally for the creative arts experiences that we offer,” said City of Las Vegas Councilwoman Olivia Diaz. “Universal’s decision to anchor their next innovative creation in the city is exciting news for my residents and visitors alike. The job opportunities will be invaluable for our community, especially for those interested in the entertainment industry.”

As plans take shape for this horror experience in Las Vegas, Universal Parks & Resorts will share more details about the concept, including the opening date. Already known for quicker turnaround times than Disney, this is the type of project that could be fast-tracked if all of the necessary groundwork has been laid. (Based on social media reports from members of Universal Creative, this horror attraction at AREA15 in Las Vegas has been in development for well over a year.)

Our Commentary

This follows today’s earlier news that Universal Announced a New Family Theme Park in Frisco, Texas. That is probably the more consequential story; there’s a lot of potential for regional parks aimed at families with small children, and that’s the main demo for Disney.

However, this news is far more interesting to me, personally. I love Halloween Horror Nights, as well as experiential art. I’m really excited for the AREA15 development coming to Orlando (concept art above), and think that’s an under-the-radar themed entertainment industry initiative that isn’t being talked about enough. Sure, it’s not as exciting or mainstream as Epic Universe, but it’s a really big deal that’s going to offer surprise upside on the basis of low hype alone.

Getting haunts attractions right is tricky. I am by no means an expert on this front, as almost the entirety of my experience is with HHN in the United States and Japan. What I will say is that it seems to me like Halloween Horror Nights has the tough task of striking a delicate balance; the crowd feeds off of itself, in ways both good and very bad. (I’m not going to explain this further for fear of alienating the HHN fans, but the audience it attracts is both awesome and awful.)

It’ll be interesting to see how that translates to a permanent venue. A few years back, Universal Studios Hollywood opened a walk-through attraction based on the Walking Dead. Even as a fan of that show and HHN houses, that did almost nothing for me. It fell flat, which likely had as much to do with its substance as its standalone nature. Obviously, this experience will offer far more than that, so not exactly a good comparison–just a thought I had about how much getting the mood right matters, as does the audience energy.

Then there’s experiential art and experiences. This is how you could categorize Meow Wolf, along with a growing number of similar concepts. This seems to be a burgeoning area of the attractions industry, and some of the envelope-pushing ideas here are truly impressive. (They are also, arguably, the genesis of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.)

We just did TeamLab Planets, which was an absolutely mind blowing experience. (I cannot recommend it highly enough.) It was creative, immersive, dynamic, and expectations-defying. The kind of thing Imagineers would likely create if not for the “guardrails” of Disney and a theme park aimed at a large cross-section of the general public.

I mention this seemingly off-topic installation because it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d imagined Universal Creative doing (but with horror) if given the budget and time to create a permanent version of HHN. This is type of concept has a huge amount of untapped potential, and will only proliferate in the years to come.

While I don’t expect Universal’s AREA15 haunts attraction to experiment and subvert expectations quite so much, it also doesn’t have to follow the familiar formula of Halloween Horror Nights. Universal can try new things and think outside the box–literally, as this will be built from scratch.

This will also likely benefit from being in Las Vegas instead of Orlando or Southern California. Locating it outside the traditional theme park complex hubs–and in a place known for experimentation and pushing boundaries–probably offers Universal greater latitude in doing something more creative, different, and interesting.

Then again, maybe I’m just mapping what I would like to see on this, rather than what it’ll actually be. Universal has a tried and true formula with Halloween Horror Nights, and a solid stable of horror IP (both thanks to HHN and the studio). With all of the big bets that Comcast is already making, there’s a good chance they won’t want to do anything risky here. Although “hungrier” than Disney, it’s not like Universal is exactly a startup or anything.

Ultimately, regardless of what form this year-round horror experience takes in Las Vegas, it is yet another example of Universal doing something new and ambitious as it looks to grow its footprint in the attractions industry. While plenty of concepts like this have failed over the years, I highly doubt this will join them. Both the Universal and Halloween Horror Nights brands are incredibly powerful, and the latter should travel well outside of Hollywood and Orlando.

My hope is that Universal swings for the fences with this and shakes up its HHN formula. But honestly, I’ll be pretty satisfied even with a more permanent and high-budget version of Halloween Horror Nights. Some of the recent houses that have clearly had “Netflix money” have been phenomenal from a themed design perspective, and I look forward to seeing what Universal Creative can do when given the resources. My only request: Resident Evil. (That’s actually not my only request, but if I list all of them, I’ll invariably get a bunch of comments about Universal not owning those IPs.)

If you’re preparing for a Southern California vacation, check out our other planning posts, including our exhaustive Guide to Universal Studios HollywoodNeed advice for LA? Read our Ultimate Los Angeles, California Planning GuideVisiting other SoCal theme parks? Consult our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide and Knott’s Berry Farm Planning Guide.


What do you think of Universal’s plan to build a permanent horror attraction at AREA15 in Las Vegas? Think this will be a success–similar to Halloween Horror Nights? Would you like to see Universal Creative push the envelope with this, or stick to the tried and true formula of HHN, but with better polish? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Will you be attempting to visit Universal Orlando or Hollywood anytime soon? 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!

10 Responses to “Universal Announces New Year-Round Horror Experience in Las Vegas”
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