Do you feel that chill in the air? Well, me neither ... this is Orlando, after all! Believe it or not, Halloween season is here. The most creative minds at Universal Orlando have been brewing up new houses and scare zones to haunt you like never before. There are 10 horrifying houses this year for Halloween Horror Nights 28, a new record!
We visited the very first night of the event (and the following two nights ... which you should take as a great sign that we could NOT stay away) and have fallen in love with Halloween Horror Nights all over again. We'll say this again a million times, but the level of creativity and detail is beyond what you could ever dream of or expect! The 80's vibe is well-executed and an absolute blast. Aside from nearly melting in the Florida heat, we wouldn't change a thing about all this event has to offer.
For many years running, Halloween Horror Nights has won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Best Halloween Experience. To get you ready for the nation's premier scare event, we bring you everything you need to know about Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 28. With more houses than ever, you'll want to make a list of your priorities, 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 experiences — plus tips for navigating the event!
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Dates & Best Times to Visit
The event runs select nights September through November at Universal Studios Florida. This year, the dates are Sept. 14 through Nov. 3, 2018, typically from 6:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. 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, 19-23, 26, 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. Universal just added two dates — Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 — so these are both good options. It is impossible to see everything 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
September: 15, 16, 19, 20, 23, 26
October: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18
Medium crowd days
September: 14, 21, 22, 30
October: 5, 7, 14, 24
November: 2, 3
Most crowded days
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 if you want to visit during the day. You'll also need regular park admission if you want to take advantage of Halloween Horror Nights early entry (more on this below). While we will not be offering Halloween Horror Nights tickets this year, you may purchase them from Universal Orlando and book your discount hotel through us!
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Houses & Strategy
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 decide what is important to you. Do you want to just focus on houses? Would you like to see a few houses and the show? Would you just like to ride attractions since the wait times for them will be low? Since the houses are what most people come for — and see the highest waits! — they are our first priority.
We recommend getting to the park at least 45 minutes ahead of the official opening at 6:30 p.m. to make the most of your time. 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, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal's Aventura Hotel — 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.
The very best way to do more at the event is to take advantage of Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry, also known as Stay and Scream. You'll need regular park admission and a Halloween Horror Nights ticket to do this, but many of you will already be spending the day in the parks, so why not take advantage? We've written a full post on how Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry works.
Because of the number of houses and the popularity of the event, it is impossible to see them all in one night. We recommend choosing four or five must-do houses, 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 perhaps 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).
Here are the Halloween Horror Nights Houses for 2018:
If you're a fan of the show, you won't be disappointed by this house that captures the key elements of season one. It feels like you've walked straight into the Stranger Things set (or even better, the actual world of Hawkins) as you visit the Byers residence, the lab, the middle school, the Upside-Down and more. We could spend hours in here just admiring every detail. Keep an eye out for some of your favorite characters.
Fun Fact: The folks at Netflix gave Universal the blueprints to the Byers' home!
The Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces
The name really says it all here: Carnival Graveyard transports you to a junkyard full of leftover circus and carnival paraphernalia acting as tools for your demise. Huge carnival signs, games and props make this such a fun maze to walk through, and you'll find some of the most creative scares of the houses in here. (Keep an eye out for a wicked clown and creepy ringmaster.)
The dedication to backstory puts Slaughter Sinema in our top three original houses. While queueing for the house, you'll find yourself at a drive-in that offers teasers of the 80's B-movies you're about to experience inside the house. Spooky sorority girls and killer barbers are only a couple of the villains to keep an eye out for in this house. Slaughter Sinema honors the cheesiness of 80's horror movies with a gorgeous set and sincere scares.
Dead Exposure: Patient Zero
This is easily the house that had me jumping the most, with well-executed scares and an awesome backstory. It's 1982 in Paris and there's been a zombie invasion. To avoid a zombie attack, you must take an antidote that causes "partial blindness." This house has tons of cool details, including one of the best scenes of the night on a Paris subway. Do not hop in line for this house if too much darkness or extreme strobe lights aren't your cup of tea.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Following the plot of Halloween 4, Myers has escaped prison and is after his niece, determined to destroy everything in his path ... including you. We thought this was one of the best "gotcha" houses in terms of scares, but we also like more of a variety of characters. Fans of the film will LOVE this house.
Prepare to enter the world of this 1982 supernatural horror film as you face off against all of its nightmarish creatures ... the giant closet skull, a mantis-like monster and the beyond-freaky clown. Despite having not seen the movie, we thoroughly enjoyed this house for its quality scares and amazing set alone.
Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After
We weren't sure what to expect with Scary Tales, but Universal blew us away with this house. The Wicked Witch of the West is in control of tormenting your beloved storybook characters, and the outcome is much more creative, unique and twisted than expected. We loved the edgy twist on such classics ... the Goldilocks scene is our favorite! Prepare to be both scared and amazed in this house.
The Horrors of Blumhouse
The Horrors of Blumhouse was one of our least favorite houses, but it was still a fun experience since we are fans of the featured films. It combines your worst nightmares from both "Happy Death Day" and "The First Purge" for an inescapably wicked experience and does a great job of staying true to both films.
Trick 'r Treat
This is currently our favorite house based on a movie. The story behind Trick 'r Treat lends itself to an incredible house showcasing horrific details and delicious scents. We cannot get enough of the villain, Sam ... is it bad if we think he's kind of adorable? We LOVE how this house tells the story of every twisted scene in the film. Keep an eye out for a crashed bus full of spooky children, a werewolf party and so much more.
Seeds of Extinction
A meteor has struck Earth, humans are extinct, and preying plants are out to get you with razor-sharp thorns, suffocating vines and poisonous pollen. Nature has gone wrong, and it's out to get you! We LOVE the concept of Seeds of Extinction, and it's a totally different atmosphere than any of the other houses, but it's not one of our favorites. With the exception of a couple of uniquely killer scenes, it mostly sticks to the same greenhouse vibes throughout.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Park Map (Click to enlarge)
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.
Halloween Horror Nights Scare Zones & Shows
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)!
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Scare Zones:
Vamp 85: New Year's Eve
Midnight strikes periodically throughout the night as party-crashing vampires ring in 1985. Keep an eye out for 80's icon lookalikes ... we saw Run DMC, Prince and Michael Jackson! Catching their performance on stage is so much fun.
An old barn full of foul creatures sets the scene for this harvest of flesh and screams. Located at the entrance of Universal Studios Florida on the street outside of Shrek, the Harvest features spooky props representing each house and a wild array of performers.
Ancient evil has awoken in Central Park, complete with rotting pumpkins chock full of human flesh. When we walked through, our first thought was, "Oh my gosh, these costumes are INSANE." Pumpkin guts are pouring out of faces beneath a gorgeous archway of trees filled with glowing jack-o-lanterns.
Revenge of Chucky
The creepy doll himself is back with an army of toys that he's twisted into new nightmares. You can meet Chucky's bizarre friends in the street and even catch Chucky perform a roast of the crowd before torturing his creator. Maybe it's just because we haven't seen the films, but this was our least favorite scare zone.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
As for our favorite scare zone: Cotton candy spun from human victims, produced by horrifying alien clowns? Enough said. After recently watching the wonderfully cheesy 80's film, this scare zone is super enjoyable — with clowns that appear to be STRAIGHT out of the movie, cotton candy corpses and a million other fun details (including a rockin' theme song).
Halloween Horror Nights Show - Academy of Villains: Cyberpunk
We'll be the first to admit it ... we miss Bill and Ted! However, Cyberpunk offers a fun, interactive show with a theme of robot villains that is super unique from the rest of the event. The stunts and choreography from this cast are beyond impressive, and the performers do a great job of getting the crowd hyped. This isn't a top priority, but definitely worth checking out if you have time. (We haven't seen a need to wait for this ... we recommend grabbing a drink and walking in a few minutes prior to showtime!)
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Food and Beverages
Universal is really bringing the heat this year when it comes to HHN-themed treats and snacks.
Why didn't anyone tell us about the Pizza Fries before? We have been seriously missing out on a legendary HHN menu item. Crinkle-cut fries topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and sausage are basically our dream menu item.
Stranger Things, of course, has lent itself to some creative waffle treats. Be warned: Many of these goodies are too sweet to fly solo on ... we definitely recommend sharing! Photographed below, he Triple-Decker Waffle is adorned with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, jelly beans and Reese's Pieces. (And do you see those Christmas light cupcakes? Do you think the chocolate or red velvet would do a better job contacting Will in the Upside Down?) You can find these items at San Francisco Pastry Co. Another item fave is the fudge-dipped waffles on a stick located right by Central Park, or the Waffles and Syrup frozen drink that can be found throughout the park.
What about alcoholic beverages, you ask? Halloween Horror Nights 28 is serving up a sweet selection. This year's signature cocktails are the Wicked Rad Punch and Totally L.I.T., which can be combined in one of those neat split souvenir cups to make the Gnarly Twist.
The Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale has the perfect amount of seasonal flavor while still being crisp and refreshing.
Leap was especially impressed by the yummy beer selection at the special event drink booths. With quite a few craft beers on tap, the Pumpkinhead Ale is his favorite and he deems it to be the perfect Halloween Horror Nights beverage.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Merchandise
Have we mentioned how much we love the 80's theme of the event and how obsessed we are with all of the houses and scare zones? Some of these are already cult classics, or soon-to-be from Halloween Horror Nights alone. The merchandise highlights ALL of your favorites, from Trick 'r Treat's Sam to all of our beloved Killer Klowns. The swag ranges from your typical event tees highlighting each house to actual props and masks.
Be sure to visit the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store (near Fallon and across from the Vamp 85 stage) for the ultimate shopping experience. Be transported into Trick 'r Treat, Stranger Things and beyond while checking out one of the widest selections of souvenirs.
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 p.m. 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 that will 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
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged
Note: When we visited, some of the rides close up to two hours prior to event close. For example, the night we attended, the park closed at 1 a.m. and we noticed both Fast & Furious and TRANSFORMERS were closed for the night at 11 p.m.
Our Top Tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2018
Buy your tickets in advance!
Halloween Horror Nights requires a separate ticket from regular theme park admission. Make sure to purchase in advance from Universal. You don't want to have to wait in any more lines than you have to!
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 early entry.
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
Universal won't let you in with them. Plus, there are enough costumed-creatures inside the park!
Dress light and stay hydrated
OMG — is it just us, or is September in Orlando hotter than ever before? Despite taking place mostly after dark, we were still sweating our lil' frog legs off all weekend at Halloween Horror Nights 28. Be sure to wear cool, comfortable clothes.
You might be sick of good ol' Mommy Frog reminding you to stay hydrated, but I mean it! On top of being deceptively hot and humid, Halloween Horror Nights is a pretty intense event. Be sure to hop on those free cups of water periodically, or bring a water bottle to make staying cool a breeze.
Only take the necessities
As with any visit to Universal, you will go through metal detectors ... so we always recommend traveling as light as you can, but this holds especially true for Halloween Horror Nights 28. When walking through crowded haunted houses and being spooked by scare actors in the streets, you won't want to be hauling too much with you. We recommend a small bag that securely closes ... you don't want anything important spilling out when you jump in fright!
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) can get long at times! 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 (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
- San Francisco Pastry Co.
- Ben & Jerry's
Splurge on snacks
If you have time to dedicate to fun food and drinks, be sure to check out the event-exclusive goodies. This year, the headlining Stranger Things house lends itself to some delicious waffle treats worth trying. Eating (and Instagramming, TBH) these goodies is always enjoyable.
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.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 is one of the most thrilling yet — are you planning on attending? What questions do you have for us about the event? Share in comments below. (Oh, and the Frog Family is trying to settle a debate on the best houses and scare zones of the year, so we toadally welcome your input.)
Related: Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry