In Orlando the festive holiday season tends to start a little early. And with Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) kicking off September 3 – October 31, 2021, the spooky Halloween season has officially begun!
This year marks the 30th year of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Although popular Netflix shows like Stranger Things are absent this year, there are plenty of other popular shows and movies being featured, plus some very interesting original concepts. And, with the absence of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights last year, many fans are excited about its triumphant return.
This 30th anniversary is heightened by the focus on popular Halloween Horror Nights icons like Jack, Chance, and icons of past years. In fact, this year there is a house dedicated to all the major Horror Nights icons of the past. The concept of having all the big icons combined in one haunted house is reason enough to plan a Universal Orlando visit.
With such a special anniversary this year, you and your honey might be curious about experiencing this event together. But be warned, Orlando’s premier Halloween event is not for the faint of heart nor those that don’t plan ahead. So read on for our guide on making the most of a date night, or should we say dare night, at Halloween Horror Nights 2021.
Note: Admission to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights is NOT included with regular park admission. You will need a separate event ticket in order to attend. Also, parking is NOT free until after 10pm, so be prepared to pay full price.
Check out the full Halloween Horror Nights line up
Chances are you’ve heard of some of the main Halloween Horror Nights attractions this year such as The Haunting of Hill House, Beetlejuice, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre houses. These headlining houses are worthy of the buzz, but you won't get the full experience if you overlook the incredible scare zones, shows, and original concept houses. Be sure to review the full list of Universal Orlando's HHN houses, scare zones, shows and rides in advance.
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS HOUSES
Focusing just on the Halloween Horror Nights houses can sometimes lead to disappointment due to the long wait times. Plan out 3-4 must see houses, including at least two original concept houses (ones that aren’t based on a movie or TV show). The original concept houses tend to have less wait times and the Universal Orlando's creative design team has more freedom with HHN house designs.
“Get there early and go to your favorite houses first when the lines are shortest. You’ll be able to get through a couple houses and maximize your time together.” [email protected]_pix
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS SCARE ZONES
The spooky scare zones feature intricate themes without the wait times and the enclosed space of a house. Many repeat guests cite the scare zones as their favorite part of HHN. There are five scare zones this year, and two live entertainment shows. The most anticipated scare zone features Crypt TV is an incredible collection of monstrous characters. Even if you've never seen Crypt TV the elaborate costumes and creatures are sure to cause your jaw to drop. Another way to Universal Orlando is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights is with a scarezone featuring icons of the past. This scarezone welcomes you to Horror Nights and is a fitting way to kick off the night.
STAGE SHOW + LAGOON SHOW
There is also an elaborate and impressive stage show featuring fire, pyro, and aerial performances at Halloween Horror Nights this year. Halloween Nightmare Fuel makes a hot impression and offers a place to sit for a bit and be entertained together.
The lagoon show, Marathon of Mayhem Carnage Factory is something to behold. Who knew water fountains and projections on water could give you goosebumps? You may want to cuddle together for this one. This larger-than-life show takes place in Universal Studios’ lagoon using projection technology, fireworks, lasers, and a killer soundtrack.
How to save time at Halloween Horror Nights
The lines for the most popular Universal Orlando HHN houses can get as long as three hours, with average wait times around at least an hour or more for popular houses based on movies and TV shows. Alternatively, the original concept houses such as Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and The Wicked Growth: Realm Of The Pumpkin are full of detail and unique experiences, and tend to have lower wait times – not a bad Halloween Horror Nights shortcut!
Halloween Horror Nights officially kicks off at 6pm on most nights and generally runs until 1am. Take breaks, enjoy the experience, and show those scary fiends they are no match for the power of love!
If you have regular park admission to Universal Studios Florida for the day as well as for Halloween Horror Nights that night, you won't be required to exit the park and come back in for HHN. You’ll just need to head to one of the holding areas. At the time of writing this guide, the holding areas have not yet been published. For this early admission option, you must enter the park before the official park closing for the day.
After about 45 minutes to an hour from park closing, the holding areas are opened up and at least one house in the immediate area will be available to experience with little to no wait. It is wise to map out the event ahead of time and determine which part of the park has one or two houses you want to see the most so you can utilize the proper holding area. You should be able to get through one house right away and then get in line for your next house with little wait time.
The alternative to early admission is the Halloween Horror Night's Express Pass – and it is going to cost extra. The prices range from $89.99 all the way up to $159.99. The question always is “is it worth it?” And there’s no easy answer to that. Will you get through more houses in less time? Yes. Will it eliminate all waits at all the houses completely? Not so much.
A few important notes: Halloween Horror Night Express Passes do sell out on peak nights, including weekends and dates in mid to late October, so make your decision about purchasing Halloween Horror Night Express Passes well in advance. If you choose to go on a peak night, some wait times can be as long as 2 hours or more for the most popular houses. An Express Pass for Halloween Horror Nights 2021 does not guarantee you won’t have to wait in line. On peak nights, the line for the Express Pass can still be up to half of the posted wait time.
“As a team member, express passes are the way to go. They have hundreds of people that do the stay and scream and get in early (they open certain houses 15 minutes early). When the event actually starts, many lines can be longer than an hour.” [email protected]
“We always splurge and get the Express Pass. It’s double the price but so worth it. Definitely hit all the houses you really want to see first, then enjoy the rest. The Killer Klowns scare zone is the absolute best!!!!!!” – @mustangcaryn
If you're able to splurge, Universal offers a special R.I.P. Tour where you'll join fellow fans on a guided VIP tour of Halloween Horror Nights 2021. The tour includes VIP entry to all houses along with other perks. R.I.P. tours begin at $299.99/person and require separate event admission. If you can swing it, this is a pricey but fun way to ensure you won't have to wait in line and will be able to see all of the houses.
VISIT ON A WEEKNIGHT
I recommend visiting Halloween Horror Nights on a non-peak night (such as a weeknight and in September or early October) and that you take advantage of early admission if eligible. It is also recommended that you enjoy the scare zones and shows and a ride or two to get the full value of your event ticket.
Fuel up on signature food & drink
Over the years the good people at Universal Orlando have learned that special events require special food and drinks. This year the Halloween Horror Night food and beverage game has been taken up a notch, again. There are multiple food and beverage kiosks throughout the park.
Some of the HHN highlights include:
- Jack’d Donut Slider: beef patties with bacon jam and American cheese on bourbon-glazed donuts
- Bourbon Candied Pork Belly: skewered thick cut bacon coated in an apple bourbon candy coating
- Pumpkin Guts (Vegan): zucchini and squash ring with toasted hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds
There are lots of signature drinks too like Jack’s Old-Fashioned Jack and Coke®*: with Tennessee whiskey, cherry brandy and old-fashioned syrup and Beer Floats.
Check out Universal's full foodie guide to Halloween Horror Nights for more details.
Ride some non-Halloween Horror Nights rides
Take a break from the horror to ride some rides. Some of Universal Studio's top attractions are open during HHN. This is a great way to experience rides with very low wait times and without having to pay regular park admission.
The following five rides are open during Halloween Horror Nights 2021:
- Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley (Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts)
- Men In Black Alien Attack
OTHER HELPFUL HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS TIPS
Talk about your HHN comfort level
Perhaps one of you is more enthusiastic about being scared. Perhaps you're both a little hesitant. Or maybe you're both brave and ready to face the Halloween Horror Night scare zones and dark, loud houses together. Whatever your tolerance level for scary stuff may be, it is best to get it out in the open up front. This way you're both on the same page and prepared to be supportive of each other if needed. It is fun to push yourself and conquer your fears, but you also don't want to end up make each other uncomfortable without realizing it. The best way to have a date night at Halloween Horror Nights is to be supportive and understanding of each other’s comfort level.
Map it out
Even if you’ve been to Universal Studios before, Halloween Horror Nights is a different experience and layout. In order to maximize your time it is best to review the official Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights map. Take note of the location of your must-see houses and scarezones. Start in the back of the park and work your way back to the front.
Make it a getaway
Consider making your trip to HHN an overnight getaway. Universal Orlando has a great variety of resorts that are perfect for couples. Cabana Bay Resort offers a Jack the Clown pop-up experience just for Universal Resort hotel guests. It features photo opportunities and a Horror Icons Bar. The pop-up is open from 2-10pm September 3 – October 31, 2021, and is free for Universal Orlando hotel guests. Guests must show their room key. Cabana Bay guests will receive priority access, and guests staying at other Universal Orlando hotels will wait in a standby line.
Get a Taste of Fear
If you're not quite ready for Halloween Horror Nights and want to get a glimpse of what it is like, head to the Tribute Store inside Universal Studios Florida. This store is open during regular park hours. It has an elaborate facade and multiple themed rooms including spooky lighting and sounds. You'll find loads of Horror Nights merchandise and even Horror Nights-themed snacks. It's a great way to celebrate the spooky season without going all in for Halloween Horror Nights 2021.
We hope these insider tips help you have your best Halloween Horror Nights ever!
Feature image credit: Select images (including feature image) used with permission from @thefloridalocal