Not for the faint of heart, Halloween Horror Nights succeeds in entertaining, terrifying and otherwise unnerving thousands of visitors each year. We attended the first two nights of Halloween Horror Nights last year at Universal Orlando Resort had an absolute blast. Across the board, the houses were spectacular, each bringing its own twisted form of terror. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, the returning American Horror Story and The Horrors of Blumhouse were all standouts. The scare zones featured some of the liveliest cast of characters we've encountered — Trick 'R' Treat and The Purge were our favorites.
For the Halloween Horror Nights uninitiated, the most creative minds at Universal Orlando Resort begin planning months and months in advance for this event. No detail is overlooked! For many years running, it has won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Best Halloween Experience. To get you prepared and excited for the nation's premier scare event, we wanted to bring you everything you need to know about Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 28. With houses that are more elaborate every year, you'll want to make a list of your priorities at the outset, get to the park early and plan ahead. In this guide, you'll find details about what to expect from this year's houses, scare zones and other brand-new experiences — plus tips for navigating the event!
Ready to get your scare on? We'll be selling discounted tickets soon.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Dates & Best Times to Visit
The event runs select nights September through November. This year, the dates are Sept. 14 through Nov. 3, 2018, typically from 6:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. at Universal Studios Florida. While all nights are popular, the crowds generally increase as it gets closer to Halloween.
The Halloween Horror Nights 2018 dates are:
- September 14-16, 20-23, 28-30
- October 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31
- November 1-3
Best Dates to Visit Halloween Horror Nights 28
Unlike many other fall theme park events that generally bring in families for one night, Halloween Horror Nights scares up a good portion of guests, especially locals, who attend multiple nights throughout the season to experience the fear over and over. The nature of the event and the number of locals have a significant impact on crowds. Saturdays are the busiest nights, with Friday nights not too far behind them. The very best nights to attend as far as crowds go are Wednesdays. Because of the volume of houses at these events — last year there were nine of them! — it is pretty much impossible to see all of them in one night without upgrading your experience. Still, picking the best night to attend as well as following our tips below will help you see and do as much as you can.
Most recommended days to attend Halloween Horror Nights
September: 15, 16, 20, 23
October: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18
Medium crowd days to attend Halloween Horror Nights
September: 14, 21, 22, 30
October: 5, 7, 14, 24
November: 2, 3
Most crowded days to attend Halloween Horror Nights
September: 28, 29
October: 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Tickets
It's important to note that Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event. It will not get you into the theme parks during regular hours. No need to worry though. We offer discount tickets for Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure or Universal's Volcano Bay in addition to Halloween Horror Nights.
In years' past, those who have regular theme park tickets AND Halloween Horror Nights tickets could remain in Universal Studios Florida in a special "holding area" when the park closed and be one of the first ones in when Halloween Horror Nights opened.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Houses
The biggest draw of the event each year are the haunted houses. It takes months to construct these movie set-quality houses, and each one has a different theme. We probably don't have to tell you that lines can get very long for this event! If you want to make the most of your evening, you need to set your priorities at the outset. Decide what is important to you. Do you want to just focus on houses? Would you like to see a few houses and the shows? Would you just like to ride rides since the wait times for them will be low? Since the houses see the highest waits during this event, that is what we've focused on.
We recommend getting to the park at least 45 minutes ahead of the official opening at 6:30 p.m. so you can hit a few of them with minimal waits. Typically, Universal opens the gates earlier than the official starting time. (If you're staying at one of the Universal Orlando Resort properties — Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort — take advantage of the priority entrance gate until 8 p.m. to get in more quickly.) In our experience, the gates begin to open for guests between 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.
In years' past, the very best way to get into the event early has been to spend the day at Universal Studios Florida (or Universal's Islands of Adventure if you have a Park-to-Park ticket. You'll want to be in Universal Studios before it closes and head to one of the park's "holding areas." The holding areas put you in prime location to a number of houses. Usually at least one house is opened early — with little to no wait! — for each holding area.
These holding areas are subject to change at any time, so please be aware that they may not all be in operation during your visit. Our best advice is to check when you get to the park to confirm which holding pens are open. That said, there is almost always a holding area located around Finnegan's Irish Pub, which offers a place to get out of the heat, enjoy a drink or a bite to eat and prepare for the evening fun.
We generally prefer Finnegan's for a couple of reasons. First, you can have an early dinner and a drink in the pub, which is one of our favorite restaurant inside Universal Studios, and the pub is quite lively while waiting for Halloween Horror Nights. Second, you are in a good location to reach a bunch of house locations. In recent years, there have been tough decisions to make, because there have been up to three holding locations. Last year, here were the holding locations and the houses that open early to them:
- Finnegan's — Dead Waters and The Fallen
- The Hello Kitty area near the front of the park — American Horror Story
- Springfield U.S.A.
Tad has put together a video that showcases the locations of the holding areas. Check it out below.
With the Hello Kitty area opening to American Horror Story — one of the most popular houses last year, you would think it would be tempting to hang out there. But this holding area is much smaller than the others, so it can get crowded. It also doesn't offer as much in the way of food and drink than the others. The Simpsons area offers good food and drink options and is near quite a few houses, but they typically see lower waits in general because of their location. We still think Finnegan's is your best bet.
Halloween Horror Nights Park 27 Map (click to enlarge)
Once we get ahold of the 2018 Halloween Horror Nights 28 map, we'll update this post. For now, you can use last year's map for reference.
Queues get quite long for the houses closest to the front gates. Waits for houses in the back of the park are shorter early in the evening but build through the night.
Because of the number of houses and the popularity of the event, it is almost impossible to see them all in one night. We recommend choosing four or five must-do houses, especially if you want to see the shows, and get those in first. Then see if you have any time left after you’ve checked them off the list. Those of you staying in the park or arriving ahead of official opening could do five, six or more houses. If you want to experience everything, either purchase a Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass (only sold through Universal), plan on visiting Halloween Horror Nights multiple nights or opt for a RIP Tour (only sold through Universal).
Halloween Horror Nights Houses
Below are the houses that were open during last year's event. We're hoping many of these will make a return this year, as well as a few new ones!
American Horror Story : Volume 2
Three seasons of FX's popular series have come to life in this uber maze with incredible details and a few truly amazing effects. In Asylum, guests travel through the decades of the notorious Briarcliff. Coven transports you to New Orleans and push you into the wrath of descendants of the Salem witches. Finally, relive the horrific story of the Millers in Roanoke. For us, it doesn't get much more terrifying than the asylum, but perhaps it's a personal issue;) American Horror Story's location at the front of the park and its length—roughly double the size of the others—means it sees very high waits. If you are one of the first to enter the park, see it first. Otherwise, save it for the end of the evening.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Based off the hit STARZ show Ash Vs. Evil Dead, this maze puts you squarely into the world of this crazy show based off the cult film. Immerse yourself in '70s nostalgia and detailing as you step inside. You'll encounter plenty of chain saws and Deadites as Ash takes up arms against this evil.
SAW: The Games of Jigsaw
Master craftsman "Jigsaw" returns to Halloween Horror Nights with a new collection of traps. The house re-enacts some of the most twisted traps from all eight of the "SAW" movies. Its final scene is a preview of latest installment of the "SAW" series, "JIGSAW." If torture is your idea of terror, this one will truly terrify you.
Perhaps the most anticipated house of the year, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining immerses guests in the psychological torment that takes place at the Overlook Hotel. Guests will encounter many of the iconic scenes from the film — yes, even that one involving the elevator. Because of this house's popularity, expect long lines most of the night. If you can't see it at the start of the evening, save it until the end.
All work and no pllay makes Leap a dull frog.
All work and no play makes Leap dyll frog.
All work and no play makes Leap a dullfrog.
The Horrors of Blumhouse
Are you ready for one amazing maze that features three of horror’s darkest franchises? Blumhouse Productions has created some of the most terrifying films over the last two decades. This year, the worlds of "Sinister," "Insidious," and "The Purge" are coming together for one uniquely terrifying experience. Each of the films are tied by the themes that run through all of these iconic horror franchises. Plus, elements of the upcoming "Insidious: Chapter 4" — coming 2018 — are featured in this maze. This house felt like it was packed "gotchas" at every turn.
Halloween Horror Nights Houses - Original Houses
While fans flock to Halloween Horror Nights to experience their favorite films and shows, the original houses pack the same about of terrifying thrills. Dreamed up by the twisted minds of Universal Creative, the original houses feature chilling storylines, amazing sets and plenty of ways to make you scream. Here are the original houses at last year's Halloween Horror Nights Orlando.
Featuring a similar setting to the fan-favorite Gothic haunted house, The Fallen is set inside a cathedral. In this lair of winged creatures, you're trapped inside the eternal war of light versus dark. Look for a never-been-used effect inside this one!
On the banks of a murky swamp, you'll enter the home of the Voodoo Queen and her village of creatures and creepy voodoo dolls. This house features a partially-sunken paddle-wheeler, designed to keep visitors off-balance as they wander through. This has been an early fan favorite among the original houses, largely because of the incredible detailing.
Scarecrow: The Reaping
Wander into a Depression-era farm that's haunted by menacingly tall scarecrows. The farmhouse has been overtaken by "scarecrow guardians" who are seeking revenge against the farmers.
Set in the 1980s, you'll make your way into a nest of bloodthirsty vampires. Universal says they have taking "everything that is 'sexy, beautiful or cool' about vampires and destroying it, offering up “animalistic and vicious” creatures."
Halloween Horror Nights Scare Zones
Second to the houses but central to the terror are the street experiences, more commonly referred to as "scare zones." The scare zones are in various open areas of the park with their own sets, sounds and, yes, even scents. Expect to be terrified and harassed by creatures of the night. These scare actors come out of nowhere and have no illusions about respecting your personal space (although they are not allowed to touch you, and you are not allowed to touch them)!
Festival of the Deadliest – Step inside an ancient tradition from the depths of where nightmares are born. Terrifying creatures from the darkest corners of despair will emerge to surround AND scare you. This scare zone is set to terrify on the streets of Hollywood.
Trick 'r Treat - Inspired by the film "Trick 'r Treat" this Central Park scare zone promises to show you the rules of this haunted holiday. You'll come face to face with characters from the films, including the terrifying Sam. Are you ready to know what happens when you don't follow the rules? With a cast of interesting characters, including a few from your favorite fairy tales, this was easily our favorite.
The Purge - Returning to terrorize the New Your Streets, The Purge scare zone shows how a night of Purge might play out in the street. This was our second-favorite scare zone and — at the risk of sounding a little too depraved — one of the most fun to witness.
Altars of Horror - Get your photo ops with some of the iconic film characters from this year's houses, including the infamous Grady sisters from The Shining. This scare zone is positioned perfectly near the front gate on Avenue of the Stars as you walk in.
Invasion! - Beings from another planet have crashed on earth and are creating chaos on the streets of San Francisco.
Halloween Horror Nights Shows
Here's a look at last year's Halloween Horror Nights shows. Bill and Ted won't be back for 2018.
Academy of Villains: Afterlife - This performance troupe and their mind-blowing dance performances will show you what happens after we leave this life. Full of mayhem and maniacal terror, the Academy of Villains show will have you stomping and screaming for more!
Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure - Bogus. Universal has announced that this will be the final time we'll be treated to Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. This crowd pleasing will no doubt crank up the fun pop culture references and raunchy humor for its farewell performances.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Special Experiences
We don't yet know what special experiences will be available for Halloween Horror Nights 28. Here is what you could scare up last year!
Scareactor Dining Experience
This year, visitors can scare up an appetite at the Scareactor Dining Experience, at Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe. Scareactors are available for photo ops, as you enjoy a themed, all-you-can-eat buffet. This package cost $49.99 (plus tax) and includes dinner, a digital download of one photo taken during the experience and more. Dining experiences take place every nights, with seating times between 5 and 7 p.m.
RIP and Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tours
Those looking for an enhanced Halloween Horror Nights experience might consider these special tours that take you through the gauntlet of ghastly creatures and a multitude of menacing maniacs. The RIP Tour is a guided experience that grants VIP access to everything Halloween Horror Nights has to offer. Tour includes one-time entry to all of the houses, reserved seating at Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, Universal Express for one-time use on each attraction (weather permitting), and admission to the exclusive RIP Lounge with cash bar locations throughout the tour.
The Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour gives guests a unique, lights-on look into the Art & Design team’s process as they transform our deepest fears into haunted houses. Guests can choose from Behind The Screams: 3-House Unmasking the Horror Tour (two and a half hours, morning or afternoon) or a Behind The Screams: 6-House Unmasking the Horror Tour (four to five hours). The tours give you the chance to see houses with the lights on and a chance to photograph every gory detail of select houses. More details about both can be found here.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Rides
While most of the focus of the night is on horror, some of the rides are open. Waits are very low during this time, so it's a great way to experience them if you don't care as much about the houses. Please note that the regular Express Pass does not work during Halloween Horror Nights. These are the rides anticipated to be open during Halloween Horror Nights 28:
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3D
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Men in Black Alien Attack
- The Simpsons Ride
Our Top Tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2018
Halloween Horror Nights requires a separate ticket from regular theme park admission. You will save money, and you won't have to wait in line to buy Halloween Horror Nights tickets.
Get to the park early!
This is the single best way to ensure you make the most of your night. The event typically begins at 6:30 p.m., but Universal often lets guests in up to half an hour early. Universal Resort guests have a dedicated line from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the right side of the entrance. Even better is staying in the park after it closes for the day before the night's event begins (see my notes on this above).
Leave the kids at the hotel
This event is too intense for young children. It is not recommended for those under age 13. Leave them with a sitter service or at the resort's children's activity center.
Leave your costumes and masks at home
Take only the necessities with you
To make getting through security a snap, take only your phone, a couple of credit cards, Halloween Horror Nights tickets, cash, ID and camera. You will be asked to remove everything—and we mean everything—from your pockets!
Have a plan
This is absolutely key to this event, especially if you want to see most of the houses. Plan in advance what your priorities are. Map out your evening, based on where and when you'll be starting.
You'll find snacks for sale as well as alcohol in abundance throughout the park. Look for carts set up along the streets. Lines for food (and alcohol) aren't terribly long, but the lines to the houses and attractions are! Fuel up before you leave or early in the evening, and you can spend more time getting the daylights scared out of you.
Here are the Halloween Horror Nights 28 dining options we expect to be open (in addition to food and beverage carts):
- Universal Studios Classic Monsters Café
- Finnegan's Bar & Grill
- Louie's Italian Restaurant
- Richter's Burger Co.
- Mel's Drive-In
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie
- Ben & Jerry's
Watch out for the creatures of the night!
If you want to avoid the street creatures, although we can't imagine why you'd want to, they largely stick to the streets and leave guests on the sidewalks alone.
Are you planning on attending Halloween Horror Nights 28? What questions do you have for us about the event? Share in comments below.