Do you feel that chill in the air? Well, me neither ... this is Orlando, after all! Believe it or not, Halloween season is approaching quickly at Universal Orlando Resort, and preparation for Halloween Horror Nights 28 is in full swing. The most creative minds at Universal have been brewing up new houses and scare zones to haunt you like never before ... literally! There are 10 horrifying houses headed your way, a record for Halloween Horror Nights Orlando.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 kicked off with the super exciting announcement that a Stranger Things house would be featured, and we are hoppin' with excitement (and fear of the demogorgon.) Following suit, many of the houses and scare zones thus far have a distinctly 80's vibe that we can't wait to check out. With such fun and unique theming, we've never been so thrilled for Halloween Horror Nights.
For many years running, Halloween Horror Nights 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. Be sure to check back!
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 ... those tickets will be coming soon!
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 Overview
The biggest draw of the event each year is 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 attractions 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. Definitely hop on that first. 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:
- The Hello Kitty area near the front of the park
- Springfield U.S.A.
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 restaurants 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.
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.
Last Year's Halloween Horror Nights 27 Park 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 throughout 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 28 Houses
So far for 2018, these houses have been announced:
Be transported to 1980's Hawkins and fight the demogorgon alongside your favorite friends. The suspenseful first season of Stranger Things will be brought to life in a frightening, supernatural maze.
Trick 'r Treat
The infamous Sam is teaching everyone how to properly celebrate Halloween with an all new Trick 'r Treat-inspired house with monsters around every turn.
80's B-movie monsters and and creatures haunt the local drive-in as you're taken through multiple films ... including werewolves, a deadly pumpkin patch and killer barbers. This original house sounds like it's every scary you've ever seen in one!
Dead Exposure: Patient Zero
Existing in the same universe as a popular past house, Dead Exposure: Patient Zero has you on the run from zombies as you search for a cure before the military forces you into quarantine.
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)!
The scares zones announced for 2018 so far are:
Vamp 85: New Year's Eve
Vampires crash an 80's New Year's Eve party to feast on flesh as the ball drops.
An old barn full of foul creatures sets the scene for this harvest of flesh and screams.
Ancient evil has awoken in Central Park, complete with rotting pumpkins chock full of human flesh.
The creepy doll himself is back with an army of toys that he's twisted into new nightmares.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Cotton candy spun from human victims, produced by horrifying alien clowns? Enough said.
Halloween Horror Nights Shows
Here's a look at the Halloween Horror Nights 28 shows that have been announced so far for 2018. Bad news, dudes: Bill and Ted won't be back for 2018.
Academy of Villains
This year’s performance will be taken to the next level with an all-new show jam packed with mind-bending entertainment.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Special Experiences
Here is what you can scare up in terms of special experiences available at Halloween Horror Nights 28.
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 too. 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.