We attended our second ever Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) at Universal Studios park in Orlando on October 16th, 2015. It happened to be my daughter's 21st birthday, so our mood obviously started off extremely well anyway, but the party was delightful. I laughed, screamed, jumped, an laughed some more. For more pictures and video links, go HERE
My preplanning blog can be found HERE so I won't go into tremendous detail about each section. As you can see, there are nine haunted houses this year, and six scare zones. For the 25th anniversary celebration, they really pulled out all the stops with the houses.
Lets start from the beginning.
Although cheaper if you have already purchased a day ticket, full price was $101 this year, ouch.
This is a ticket add on. It allows the purchaser entrance to each haunted house and each ride open that night once. If you are staying onsite at one of the deluxe resorts and have grown used to the Express pass benefit, please note that HHN is excluded from that, so if you want Express you have to purchase it. The price goes from around $60 to $127, depending on crowd expectations. Guess how much ours were? Yep, $127. But I decided we would not spend my daughter's 21st birthday standing in line all night for the houses. For us, it was well worth it, but is very cost prohibitive.
If there are Express passes left, they will be sold to guests at the party after 11 PM at a discounted price, I heard them being sold for $60 on the night we attended.
Park closes to day guests at 5 PM, but we saw them herding out stragglers still around 5:45. Islands of Adventure is still open for a couple of hours so guests can head over there if they don't want to end their day.
The party officially reports to open at 7 (some places say 6:30). In reality, the park will be open right around 6 PM.
If you are already in the park, they have "holding zones" where you can wait until they reopen the park. Some people like to get a dinner reservation at Finnegan's while they wait, but reports this year said that once released that area was quite busy immediately, and the holding area by the Simpsons was better. Keep in mind, year to year the holding areas could change. From a holding zone you'll be released right back into the park.
If you have general admission and are staying offsite, you'll get in line. Here is what that looks like:
You will be let in right around 6 PM.
If you are an onsite resort guest, there is a special line for you. Here is what ours looked like:
This was around 5:45
You will have your bags searched and there are metal detectors to enter the parks for these parties.
You will be let in right around 6 PM. Please note, you can see the line for the general public and they will start entering at the same time, so I'd recommend getting in that line around 5:30. The Universal employees were really fun at the gate, entertaining and enthusiastic. They had us chanting, and also brought my daughter to the front for some birthday fun.
Once you enter, you'll feel chaos, and not just because the general public is also rushing in. We heard chainsaws, and saw many creatures come at us. We were surrounded, as you can see by this video, and it was quite fun.
This is what we did, and I highly recommend it to anyone, it really worked extremely well.
We entered the onsite resort line around 5:30, we were only a few people back. If you are staying offsite, I'd say get there by 5 at the latest, that line was much more packed. We had already looked at the map of the houses beforehand, and had decided on kind of a convoluted criss cross, but the bottom line is we walked into two haunted houses with no wait, we didn't use our Express access. The third had a 10 minute wait, so we used our passes, and regretted it because it happened to be our favorite house (The Body Collectors), and we went a second time later that night (it was very late though so the wait was about 15 minutes).
Despite being told to start at the back of the park, we started at the front, because getting in at opening allowed us no waits for the first few attractions.
We continued around to hit other haunted houses. We figured we'd experience the Scare Zones while doing that. Since we had Express, we didn't really hurry. No strategy was needed after that, we went where we pleased.
This is what a line looks like in the peak of the night for non Express pass holders:
In the end, two of us experienced eight haunted houses plus a duplicate, and one of us nine haunted houses plus a duplicate, all six scare zones, lots of street shows, a handful of rides, lots of creepy characters and good cocktails.
Our favorite house was The Body Collectors. I personally didn't expect to like that one much, and we liked it so much we went twice! The first scene was shocking...I mean, it looks really, really real...my guess is younger kids would flip the heck out immediately. Other scenes, less real, were creepy, funny and diabolical. It was even better the second experience!
Asylum in Wonderland was good. Fun characters, psychedelic 3D effects, this house was enjoyable. When you first enter though be aware it looks like you are spinning. Since it is like a 4D experience and you have glasses on, it can be quite trippy. And if you are like me and get motion sickness, that isn't a welcome feeling. It doesn't last long and thankfully doesn't happen again.
The Purge was interesting. I wasn't familiar with The Purge, so I looked at it with fresh eyes and zero expectation. It was very creepy but in a "we are 1950's bank robbers" kind of way. Lots of gore, here, you are distracted by the masks, they reminded me of the movie Point Break.
Starting with Freddy Vs. Jason, that was the one I was most looking forward to. And I was thrilled upon crossing the threshold into the house on Elm Street. However, Jason and Freddy repeat. A lot. One or both of them is in every seen, almost always live. I'm glad I went in, but it was the least well done house because of that...it just got repetitive. It was also one of the houses with the longest waits throughout the night, I saw 90 minutes at one point.
The atmosphere around the park is awesome. Everyone is in a good mood, and shrieks abound. The Scare Zones are really a cool experience because creatures familiar and new surround guests, walking among them, popping out from next to signs or dark corners. A couple of the zones had small stages, performing little, uh...skits? The Director uses a bloody bathtub. One involved apple bobbing.
Quite thrilling to me was to see the familiars...Freddy, Chuckie and his Bride, and even Carrie!
The Shadybrook Asylum run Scare Zone was totally bizarre, as you can see from these videos.
- We couldn't find The Mummy. It was the weirdest thing...we kept talking about the Mummy and never seemed to walk past it. Maybe it was all the shots.
- Try a blood bag. Sure it is an overpriced bag of jello that is very hard to suck out, and might enjoy splattering all over your white tank like mine did, but this might be the only chance you'll ever have to drink out of a blood bag.
- We got a pretzel in the stand next to the shark Jaws, and it was hard as a brick. I think as the night went on they figured everyone was buzzed so who cared if the pretzels could take out an enemy if thrown.
- Certain houses are busy all night (Freddy Vs. Jason) and some weren't busy at all (An American Werewolf in Paris).
- The creatures won't touch you
- Be considerate when you are taking pictures. Ask, and refrain from using flash photography, in the dark it can really blind the actors.
- Ask the characters nicely if they will take a photograph with you and they are usually happy to pose.
- You can get a wristband at various stations proclaiming your status as a guest that has been carded and is over 21. However, they don't work at the individual random stands that sell drinks, because they are outside vendors, so keep your ID handy unless you are old like me.
- There are a lot of fun blinky and light up things to buy and wear, but be warned, you have to turn them off and cover up any lighting at all inside the haunted houses.
- If you are staying offsite, you can expect a large amount of traffic going in and a large amount of traffic driving out, we saw a huge stream of people before and then around 1:30 AM in Citywalk exiting.
- You can buy a cute HHN cup and the drinks are cheaper for refills, plus they make a cute souvenir
- The clothing options for souvenirs weren't great. They have absolutely nothing subtle...like a logo or something depicting HHN without a huge image of gore or scary. I really liked the hoodie jacket they sold this year but it had a weird plastic piping. Somewhat disappointing because I would have shopped if anything was more "mature".
- They didn't have Rocky Horror Picture Show this year as a stage show, which was also disappointing, that needs to come back.
- All through the night I kept thinking "I'm having the BEST time!"
Universal does it right. They are really masters at this. I can imagine no other Halloween event hosted this well with this much detail and commitment. It was a very good time and I highly recommend it!
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