Leap's Note: Good news, horror fans! After canceling last year's event, Universal Orlando Resort confirmed that Halloween Horror Nights 30 will be hoppening on select nights, starting Sept. 3 through Oct. 31, 2021. Universal Orlando will continue to monitor the environment, and specific details about health and safety procedures will be revealed closer to the event's debut. Tickets are on sale now!
Have you had any good nightmares lately? While the 2020 event was canceled, we expect a full slate of houses for 2021's epic event. The most creative minds at Universal Orlando Resort are brewing up all-new scares and reimagined haunts inspired by the past. The evil geniuses promised 10 brand-new haunted houses, five scare zones, live entertainment and more for its 30th anniversary. Halloween Horror Nights will return on select dates from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31, 2021. We may still have information from past years (so you can prep and plan for the future!), but be sure to bookmark this post because we update it as new information is released.
We're hoppy to announce that an old friend is making his terrifying comeback. The most notorious icon in HHN history, Jack the Clown, will be returning to scare the living daylights out of us frogs! This year, he'll be invading every corner of the event with unsuspecting "Jack Attacks" that will send you running for your life. Nowhere is safe, as Jack's ominous and unrelenting presence will infiltrate every corner of the event — from the streets to the houses to places you will never expect in your wildest nightmares.
You won't just find Jack at the event itself, though. Universal Orlando Hotel guests will be granted access to an all-new, limited time "Jack'd Up" experience at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Here, you'll be able to get a closer look into the world of Jack and some sinister environments inspired by his past invasions of Halloween Horror Nights. Additionally, the hotel's Swizzle Lounge lobby bar will transform into the "Horror Icons Bar" and will feature speciality beverages and snacks inspired by the event's most infamous icons, as well as props and costumes that pay an eerie homage to HHN past.
For many years running, Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 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 we know about Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights. Keep reading to learn what you should expect and how to navigate this popular event!
Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Dates & Best Times to Visit
The event runs select nights September through November at Universal Studios Florida. This year, Halloween Horror Nights 30 will start Sept. 3 and run until Oct. 31, 2021, typically from 6:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. The event initially runs on weekends, then expands to include Wednesdays and Thursdays closer to Halloween. While all nights are popular, the crowds generally increase as it gets closer to Halloween. Halloween Horror Nights will be scaring up the night on the following dates in 2021:
- Sept. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30
- Oct. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Best Dates to Visit Halloween Horror Nights
Unlike many other fall theme park events that generally bring in families for one night, Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 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. It is nearly 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.
Halloween Horror Nights Tickets 2021
It's important to note that Halloween Horror Nights 2021 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). And don't froget, you can book your discount hotel through us too! Universal did announce that guests who purchased tickets or packages for the canceled Halloween Horror Nights 2020 event and did not request a full refund will be able to use their tickets or packages to visit the 2021 event. More details on how guests can use their tickets for Halloween Horror Nights 2021 will be shared in the months ahead.
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 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, Universal's Aventura Hotel or Universal's Endless Summer — 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. In 2019, we were able to knock out three houses before the event officially started at 6:30 p.m (on a Thursday).
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 who are staying in the park or arriving ahead of official opening could do five, six or perhaps even 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).
Like we mentioned, planning these houses takes a lot of time — and back in October 2020, Universal gave a sneak peek of a house they planned to have as part of HHN 30! Puppet Theater: Captive Audience was ready to make its dark debut in 2020 before the event was canceled. In a special behind-the-scenes video, Universal gave us all an advance look at the scares to come. You can see the full video here. So far, Universal has yet to officially reconfirm this house. It's also unknown if the Revenge of the Tooth Fairy, which ran in a modified format last year, will also return. But stay tuned!
Here's a look at the houses confirmed for Halloween Horror Nights 30!
After debuting as an exclusive surprise during Halloween weekend in 2020, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, BEETLEJUICE is coming to haunt, taunt and send you screaming out of the Maitlands' home. Wander checkerboard hallways and succumb to your fate in the Lost Souls Room. Stroll through the model graveyard and let loose in Dante's Inferno. Crash a dinner party you'll never forget and witness the wedding of the century. The classic Tim Burton film is coming to life — more twisted and terrifying than ever!
The Haunting of Hill House
Welcome to Hill House. Full of decaying remains, this aging mansion lives — even if all its inhabitants are long dead. In this haunted house inspired by Netflix's "The Haunting of Hill House," each unsettling room and darkened hallway takes you deeper and deeper into your greatest fears. Encounter infamous ghosts, including the Tall Man, the Bent-Neck Lady, the Ghost in the Basement and more. Step foot in the dreaded Red Room where only the sound of your own screams awaits you. Walk in the footsteps of the Crain family as you either escape the estate's eternal stranglehold or succumb to the house's powerful forces — leaving you to wander the endless halls forever ... alone.
Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives
One of two houses that were open to daytime guests at Universal Studios Florida last year, Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives picks up where the 1935 classic film "The Bride of Frankenstein" left off. Enter the ruins of the tower that came crashing down over Frankenstein's monster and his bride and watch in horror as she attempts to bring him back to life at any cost. Get caught in a frenzied battle between the Bride of Frankenstein and the Brides of Dracula, who she captures and drains in hopes of reanimating her lost love. The Bride is honing her diabolical genius one harvested body part at a time. Be careful ... because she might just need one of yours.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
That horrific sound could only mean one thing. You're about to come face to face with Leatherface and his cannibalistic family. From the dilapidated gas station to that eerie, old farmhouse, you'll witness unimaginable horrors around every corner. Explore the familiar rooms of the Sawyer house where you'll be chased by cannibals with carving knives, meat cleavers, meat hooks and, of course, that roaring, slicing, flesh-ripping chainsaw. It's time to experience the 1974 film for yourself, and hopefully, leave in one piece.
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Park Map
We do not yet have an official map for Halloween Horror Nights 2021. For now, know that the 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)!
While we wait for more details about the 2021 event, here's a look back at Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2019 Scare Zones:
Zombieland Double Tap
Based off the "Zombieland" movie and its sequel, this scare zone welcomed us to the United States of Zombieland. We fended off the spreading infection and bloodthirsty zombies. We just had to remember: Always double tap and beware of the bathrooms. The blue lighting and extra fog hid the zombies pretty well!
Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe
Rob Zombie's music came to life in this scare zone. His heavy metal sounds and imagery took center stage as we came face-to-face with his twisted, otherworldly creations. There was also a photo-op of the car that resembled a Munster Koach from the "Dragula" music video.
Neon slashers were out to play this 80s-inspired arcade game, which took over Avenue of the Stars. However, we quickly learned that "Game Over" meant a permanent end. This was one of the first scare zones we encountered. We loved the neon colors and arcade game-inspired props.
You know what they say: "Beauty is pain." In the streets of Hollywood, blade-wielding artists sliced up willing participants into horrific living works of art. We saw them strut down the runway, showing off their grotesque make-overs.
We faced brutal undead Viking warriors, who took over Central Park. There was a lot of bloodlust and gore in this scare zone. We spotted a very tall Viking who seemed to be in charge of scaring guests entering their territory. Out of all the scare zones, we enjoyed this one the most because it completely transformed once the sun went down. It was also the narrowest, so we were forced closer to the Vikings.
Halloween Horror Nights Shows:
Academy of Villains: Altered States
The Academy of Villains show returned with an epic experiment of mind and body in 2019. Man’s true nature was dragged out into the dark, gothic streets of anarchy. This performance featured a killer mix of theatrics and dance, including an aerial performer and a mind-blowing contortionist that we weren't able to look away from. The show had performances at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.
Halloween Marathon of Mayhem
This show made its debut in 2019, providing even more spooks and scares. The lagoon lit up with iconic scenes from "Stranger Things," "Ghostbusters," "Universal Monsters" and "Killer Klowns from Outer Space," with water effects, lasers and projections. The 10-minute show took place at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. each night. We hope it returns in 2021!
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Food and Beverages
Universal really brought the heat in 2019 when it came to HHN-themed treats and snacks!
The Pizza Fries returned and were as popular as ever. These crinkle-cut fries topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and sausage are basically our dream menu item (and we wish they were available year-round!). However, the new S'mores Fries (sweet potato fries, marshmallow, chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs) added some competition.
"Stranger Things" inspired a series of tents called Starcourt Mall Food Court, which was dedicated to the restaurants spotted in the background of season three, such as Imperial Panda (Chinese food) and Ole Amigo (Mexican food).
What about alcoholic beverages, you ask? Well, Halloween Horror Nights 29 served up a sweet selection. There were four special event drinks: The Saturn, Vampire's Curse, The Twilight Galaxy and Blood Pit. Two frozen drinks — Syrup & Waffles and Candy Corn — made a return.
I was especially impressed by the beer selection at the special event drink booths. With quite a few craft beers on tap, the Pumpkinhead Ale was my favorite. This was the perfect Halloween Horror Nights beverage for me and perhaps for many other Papa frogs out there!
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Merchandise
Each year, the event’s merchandise typically features all of the haunted houses and scare zones, so you’ll be sure to find a nice memento (whether it’s a T-shirt or a souvenir cup) for Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2021. Look for T-shirts and other ghoulish delights in the Tribute Store in Universal Studios Florida.
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Special Experiences
Here are some of the special experiences that normally hoppen during Halloween Horror Nights. (Some have not been confirmed yet for 2021.)
Scareactor Dining Experience (Not Confirmed)
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 is $49.99 (plus tax) and includes dinner, a digital download of one photo taken during the experience and more. Get more details and book here once reservations open up.
RIP and Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tours (You Can Book Now!)
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. The tour includes one-time entry to all of the houses, reserved seating at Academy of Villains, 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.
Rides Open During Halloween Horror Nights
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 were the rides that remained open during Halloween Horror Nights 29:
- 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
- The Simpsons Ride (open select event nights only)
Note: When we visited in 2019, some of the rides closed up to two hours prior to event close. For example, the night we attended, the park closed at 1 a.m. and we noticed that Fast & Furious, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and TRANSFORMERS were closed for the night by 11 p.m.
Our Top Tips for Halloween Horror Nights Orlando
Buy your tickets in advance!
Halloween Horror Nights requires a separate ticket from regular theme park admission. Make sure to purchase in advance (bonus: you can save money too). You don't want to have to wait in any more lines than you have to!
Consider an Express Pass only if hitting all 10 houses in one night is a priority
We always get asked if the Express Passes are worth it. Our answer is that it really depends on when you're going and if you want to hit all 10 houses in one night. We'd definitely recommend it on Fridays and Saturdays in October, especially closer to Halloween. Wednesdays and Thursdays are less busy days, and if you take advantage of early entry (see our next tip!), you have a better chance of hitting all 10 without an Express Pass.
Universal does sell Express Passes at kiosks throughout the park. So if you change your mind while you're there, you have that last-minute opportunity. You can also buy an Express Pass that's half the original price but only works after 11 p.m. Just keep in mind that both of these Express Pass options are subject to availability.
Get to the park early
We can't stress this enough: Arriving early 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 hotel guests have a dedicated line from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the left side of the entrance. Even better is staying in the park after it closes for early entry, so you can hit a few houses before it gets super busy later at night.
Leave the kids at the hotel
Lily always stays at home for Halloween Horror Nights. 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
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 29. Be sure to wear cool, comfortable clothes.
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 30. 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 drinks 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 were the Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2019 dining options (in addition to food and beverage carts) — we expect a similar list for the 2021 event:
- TODAY Cafe
- Universal Studios Classic Monsters Café
- Finnegan's Bar & Grill
- Louie's Italian Restaurant
- Richter's Burger Co.
- Mel's DIE-IN (Mel's Drive-In)
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie
- San Francisco Pastry Co.
- Ben & Jerry's
- The Fountain of Fair Fortune
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
- Fast Food Boulevard
- KidZone Pizza Company
Splurge on snacks
If you have time to dedicate to fun food and drinks, be sure to check out the event-exclusive goodies, like this candy corn (nonalcoholic) frozen drink. In 2019, the hit Stranger Things house also lent 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.
Respect the scare actors
Last but not least, please remember that the scare actors are people too! No matter how monstrous they may seem, the scare actors will not actually touch or hurt you ... so please treat them with the same respect! Keep your hands, food, drinks and any unkind words to yourself for the best experience for everyone involved. This event is all about having FUN! Avoid using flash to photograph any "creatures" in the scare zones, and be sure to ask if you really feel the need. They'll usually be happy to pose for (or with!) you.
Are you planning on attending Halloween Horror Nights Orlando in 2021? What questions do you have for us about the event? Share in comments below.
Related: Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry