Leap's Note: Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood have made the difficult decision to cancel Halloween Horror Nights for 2020. We are hopful that the event will return in 2021.
Have you had any good nightmares lately? If not, here's one: Halloween Horror Nights is returning to Universal Studios Florida for its 30th anniversary on select nights from Sept. 10 to Nov. 1, 2020! The most creative minds at Universal Orlando Resort are currently brewing up all-new scares and reimagined haunts inspired by the past. Those evil geniuses are promising 10 brand-new haunted houses, five scare zones, live entertainment and more in an anniversary-year event sure to keep you up at night.
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 30 so far, and will keep you updated as details are unmasked. In the meantime, check out our guide to learn what you should expect and how to navigate this popular event!
Halloween Horror Nights 30 Dates & Best Times to Visit
The event runs select nights September through November at Universal Studios Florida. For 2020, the event will take place between Sept. 10 and Nov. 1, 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 Orlando 2020 dates are:
- September 10-13, 16-20, 23-27, 30
- October 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 27-31
- November 1
Best Dates to Visit Halloween Horror Nights 30
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.
Most recommended days
September: 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 30
October: 1, 7, 8, 14, 15
Medium crowd days
September: 18, 19, 27
October: 2, 4, 11, 21, 22
Most crowded days
September: 25, 26
October: 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Halloween Horror Nights 30 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). And don't froget, you can book your discount hotel through us too!
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 - Surfside Inn & Suites — 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. Last year, 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).
Universal has not made any announcements about the 2020 haunted houses yet. But to give you a grim understanding of them, here's a look at the houses from Halloween Horror Nights 29.
Fan-favorite Stranger Things returned to Halloween Horror Nights Orlando in 2019. This house took us to Hawkins, Ind., and featured scenes not only from season two of the show, but also season three (which had just been released!). With so much material to work with, this was the longest house of the night we ran through — our RIP tour guide said it had 14 scenes. We saw our favorite characters, such as Eleven using her telekinesis powers, and faced the creepy Demodogs. Flora hates to admit that she hasn't seen the show, but she was impressed ... as were super fans, like me!
Nightingales: Blood Pit
The original house, Nightingales: Blood Pit, transported us back to Ancient Rome during its worst drought in centuries. A ruthless emperor declared that gladiatorial games would occur nonstop until the rains returned. To add onto the bloodshed of the games, we learned the origin of the nightingales (which first appeared in 2011's Nightingales: Blood Prey) as they feasted upon the dead and dying. We could practically smell death in the air. This house felt a bit claustrophobic but had some good jump scares that got us!
In this new house, we faced many iconic monsters all in one — Universal took "the more, the scarier" to a whole new level! From Dracula in his gothic castle to the Wolfman in a Bavarian forest, we escaped these monsters one by one in each of their natural habitats. We saw Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy and more. My personal favorite was the Creature from the Black Lagoon scene because the lighting really made you feel like you were underwater. (We saw a body "floating in the water" above us!)
Depths of Fear
We dove into the unknown in this new original house. Workers of a deep-sea mining company delved too deep and encountered "Mouthbrooders," a parasitic race of creatures that spewed flesh-eating acidic eggs. We were trapped in a claustrophobic mining facility underwater as we witnessed infected miners being driven mad by infection, all while there was a high-pressure countdown to the self-destruction of the facility. The sound design was incredible in this house! The blaring alarms and the buzzing of electrical failure heightened the urgency to get out as quickly as possible.
I ain't afraid of no ghosts ... but I still got scared in this house! For the first time ever, Ghostbusters came to Halloween Horror Nights. In time for the original movie's 35th anniversary, we were transported to New York and walked through favorite scenes from the iconic movies, including the New York Public Library and the Temple of Gozer. We saved the day with Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston, as we faced Slimer, Gozer the Gozerian, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and more ghoulish spirits. It was definitely more of a fun tribute house than one that was packed with jump scares. However, there was at least one jump scare that got me good!
Yeti: Terror of the Yukon
Fellow loggers and trappers froze to death while trying to escape the Yeti clan from the torn-apart logging camp in the remote Canadian tundra. But it wasn't just the winter elements we feared. We entered the labyrinth of caves into Yeti territory, and narrowly missed the same doom of those who came before us and couldn't escape. The beasts didn't stop until the snow turned blood red.
This haunted house was based off the horror movie hit, "Us," that was released earlier in 2019. We followed in the footsteps of Adelaide Wilson through the Wilson family beach house and Santa Cruz Pier, as well as the underground tunnels that stretch for miles below America. We escaped "The Tethered," a group of doppelgängers of every living man, woman and child in the country. As far as best sets go, we thought this incredibly detailed house was at the top of the list.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Universal Orlando brought back 2018's popular scare zone and turned it into a full-fledged house. This new experience featured the baby Klowns, Boco and Klownzilla, who weren't at the 2018 scare zone but brought terror inside the house. Before we entered their circus tent, we grabbed a photo with those Killer Klowns. The sweet smells of cotton candy and buttery popcorn were a sign that the Klowns were right around the corner! We couldn't let the bright neon colors and whimsical carnival music distract us. The Klowns came at us in all directions — in my case, two directions at the same time.
In Ascension Parish Cemetery, it's normal to find teenagers playing games among the tombstones. But two teens went too far, and they defaced the cemetery and awakened the spirits. Ghosts of every shape and form sought revenge as we tried to escape the maze of mausoleums and decaying coffins. While waiting in line for this original haunted house, we were able to chat with a few teens and town storytellers through a cool Facebook chat function, and we learned more about the history and legends of the cemetery. Hands down, the creepiest part was at the end as we heard the ghosts whispering, "Come play with us," in total darkness.
House of 1000 Corpses
Let's just start off with the facts: Yes, there were a thousand corpses in this house. We confronted the Firefly family and encountered the legendary Dr. Satan. We also saw Fish Boy, the latest addition to Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. This house had lots of guts and gore!
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Park Map
The official map for Halloween Horror Nights 2020 has not been released. 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)!
Like the haunted houses, we don't know any dastardly details about the scare zones for 2020's event. Here's a look back at last year's scare zones.
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 last year, 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 2020!
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Food and Beverages
Universal really brought the heat last year 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, last year, 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 2020.
Last year, we were obsessed with the variety of the houses and scare zones. The merchandise highlighted ALL of our favorites, from Ghostbusters to Universal Monsters. The swag ranged from your typical event tees highlighting each house to actual props and masks.
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Special Experiences
Here is what you can expect in terms of special experiences available at Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2020.
Scareactor Dining Experience
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
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.
Halloween Horror Nights 30 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 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 last year, 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 2020
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 busier 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 last year 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 are the Halloween Horror Nights Orlando 2019 dining options (in addition to food and beverage carts) — we expect a similar list for the 2020 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. Last year, 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 2020? What questions do you have for us about the event? Share in comments below.
Related: Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry