Halloween Horror Nights at Universal

Halloween Horror Nights 2021
Courtesy of Universal Orlando® Resort / Ali Beemer (NBCUniversal)

Many people enjoy haunted houses, hayrides, and spooky mazes around Halloween, but an event that really sticks out for horror fans is Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Whether you like a fright or want to pretend you’re starring in your favorite scary movie, this is the event for you!

My first time going to Halloween Horror Nights was a few years ago. I went with some friends and, while I like horror movies a decent amount, I figured I wouldn’t enjoy being scared IRL. But man, I was wrong! There is a lot to do at HHN and I found that I didn’t scare as easily as I thought I would (guess I’m stronger than I thought!). Instead, I got to take pleasure in my friends’ jitters and excitement, which was special in itself. You really get to know someone when you see what their fear response is.

Luckily, I was able to go to Halloween Horror Nights again this year, and I can’t wait to share my experience with you. Below, we’ll cover everything going on and everything you need to know about the 2021 event!

What is Halloween Horror Nights at Universal?

Halloween Horror Nights, also known as HHN, is Universal’s annual Halloween-themed event. It takes place for a month and a half at both Hollywood and Orlando locations. Each theme park has similar haunted houses and scare zones with a few small exceptions.

There are multiple ticket types at both locations, from single tickets to “Frequent Fear” pass.. There’s also an option to add on a fast pass to skip lines at all of the houses and rides.

I went to Halloween Horror Nights on a Sunday at Universal Orlando and managed to visit pretty much the entire park while also taking some breaks. There’s no way to predict how busy any night will be. You can definitely avoid the wait times by purchasing that fast pass option or getting a multi-day pass so you don’t need to worry about cramming all the scares into 1 night.

Pro tip from a HHN veteran: make sure you’re buying the ticket for the right park. It’s really common for people to purchase Universal Orlando tickets when they actually want to go to Universal Studios Hollywood and vice versa.

Halloween Horror Nights: Haunted Houses and Mazes

Both theme parks have slightly different terminology and my particular experience is with Universal Orlando. In Orlando, indoor buildings you travel through are referred to as houses. These attractions have a beginning and end. You walk between different rooms of these themed houses, and, throughout your visit, “scareactors” try to scare you (luckily, without touching you).

The houses in Orlando are as follows: The Haunting of Hill House, Beetlejuice, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, HHN Icons: Captured, Welcome to Scarey: Horror in the Heartland, Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth, The Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin, Puppet Theatre: Captive Audience, and Revenge of the Tooth Fairy.

While I originally expected not to be very interested in these haunted houses, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives. Both houses had impeccable theming that felt more immersive than some of the other houses I visited. The only houses I didn’t get to travel through were The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Welcome to Scarey: Horror in the Heartland. I think if I didn’t take multiple breaks there would have been time for both of them. But #sorrynotsorry I needed a rest from all the spooks!

At Universal Studios Hollywood, they refer to the houses as mazes, which are seemingly the same thing just under different titles. The mazes in Hollywood are as follows: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, AMC’s The Walking Dead Attraction, Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Curse of Pandora’s Box.

The main difference with the 2 parks is that at Universal Orlando, guests are sent into the houses in a conga line. At Universal Studios Hollywood, guests enter the mazes in groups with pauses in between to try and deepen the scare. Both parks focus on theming; some are based on popular media properties and others are Universal original ideas.

In order to get the most houses or mazes in 1 visit, I’d recommend getting to Universal a bit before Halloween Horror Nights officially begins. That way you’re 1 of the first people to enter the park. Definitely have the app downloaded so you can refer to the wait times, and before you go, decide which houses are the most important to you. If it’s a popular house, like The Haunting of Hill House or Beetlejuice, you’ll want to hit it up first because it’ll likely have the longest wait. The shortest wait times tend to be at the beginning and end of the night.

Halloween Horror Nights: Scare Zones

Scare zones are open areas outdoors that you walk through. Think of an open street with props, set pieces, and actors. The scare zones connect different areas of the park and, for the most part, you must stroll through them to go from 1 place to another. Some of these attractions are also based on movies, TV shows, or they’re Universal originals.

Universal Orlando has the following scare zones:

Crypt TV: “Step inside Crypt TV, a dark universe of monsters that reside in the same reality—on your screen, in your pockets and now San Francisco.”

30 Years 30 Fears: “The monsters you’ve most dreaded from past Halloween Horror Nights have taken over the streets. They’re back and you’re history.”

Seek and Destroy: “A ruthless alien cyber regime led by The Controller has taken over New York, turning humans into fuel. Succumb or be destroyed.”

Gorewood Forest: “Sixteen years after the gory sacrifices of Terra Cruentus, the heartless Terra Queen is back. Evil is in her nature.”

Lights, Camera, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge: “Get ready for the feel-bad movie of the year. Eddie Schmidt, Jack the Clown’s brother, is filming a horror film and the monsters are real.”

Universal Hollywood has the following scare zones:

Silver Scream Queenz: “The Bride of Frankenstein is bringing classic female movie monsters back from the grave to strike fear into the hearts of men. Sinister sisters unite!”

Chainsaw Rangers: “Get ready to howl, roar and bellow with fear as you’re hounded by a bloodthirsty band of chainsaw-wielding maniacs wearing grotesque animal masks.”

Demon City: “This Manhattan neighborhood has gone to hell. A diabolical new nightclub, Inferno, has opened with demonic clientele straight from the Underworld.”

In my experience, the “scareactors” try to frighten people who walk alone as those who look scared. If you show an ounce of fear, they’ll probably flock to you. Want to avoid that? Pull a straight face and casually look around as you walk at a normal pace through the scare zone.

Or, as the event advises…

Halloween Horror Nights: Shows

If you want a break from the houses/mazes and scare zones, Halloween Horror Night also puts on shows. These shows have specific start times, so check the app and make sure to arrive early enough to get a seat!

Universal Orlando has 2 shows:

Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory: “There’s no manufacturing the screams as a terrifying show comes to life in Universal Studios’ lagoon. It’s a fear factory.”

Halloween Nightmare Fuel: “A new show is igniting Halloween Horror Nights, featuring fire, pyro and aerial performers. A fearsome and unforgettable performance will ignite guests’ waking nightmares in the all-new show, Halloween Nightmare Fuel – where nocturnal creatures, aerialists of the night and frightful fire performers will come alive to the crackling beat of rock, metal, and electronica music.”

I didn’t personally make it to Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory, but I did go to Halloween Nightmare Fuel. It was an unforgettable performance and not particularly child-friendly! It’s also not a show to watch with family members (including your in-laws!) due to suggestive themes. But my friends and I had a good time watching the story play out to music we knew.

Universal Studios Hollywood has 1 show:

Jabbawockeez is a hip-hop dance crew that was popularized by America’s Best Dance Crew. They have performed at Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights since 2015. The group brings a mix of dance, effects, music, and humor to the stage.

Halloween Horror Nights: Rides

Both parks have a selection of rides open during Halloween Horror Nights. Not all of the daytime rides are in action, so if there’s a specific ride you’re looking forward to, make sure to check before visiting. Some Halloween Horror Nights goers opt not to go on rides during the event because it’s something they have access to during the day. Others need a break throughout the night from all the scary parts.

Universal Orlando has the following rides open: Transformers: The Ride 3-D, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Men In Black Alien Attack, and Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts.

Universal Hollywood has the following rides open: Jurassic World: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Transformers: The Ride-3D, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of Hippogriff, and The Simpson Ride.

For me and my group, we were able to ride everything but Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. My advice is to check what time each attraction closes (some of them, like Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, close earlier in the night). Plenty of the rides have shower wait times, so I would encourage you to pursue those since other rides could be up to an hour’s wait. Using the app, I was able to monitor the wait times throughout the night to seize the best opportunity to get in line.

Halloween Horror Nights: Backlot

One element that sets Hollywood apart is The Terror Tram. It is a nighttime version of the Universal Backlot Tour. This year’s theme is The Ultimate Purge, which features “scareactors” from different movies of The Purge series.

In Universal’s words:

“The Terror Tram is back. Unfortunately for you, some of the most iconic Purgers from each of the terrifying Purge films have taken over and are running rampant. It’s every man and woman for themselves as masked and costumed marauders are out to ambush anyone outside during Purge hours. So climb aboard the Terror Tram at your own risk. Because once you get off the tram it’s no rules. No laws. No escape.”

I loved Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights this year. I feel like, for the first time, I was able to get a lot done in 1 night at a slower pace. Seeing others around me enjoying their time reminds me of why I like events like this, and why I like going to movie theaters. Experiencing anything with other people is a different kind of enjoyment. And that’s something we’ve all missed these last 18 months!

What houses and attractions interest you the most? Let us know on Twitter!

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