Every year, one of our top tips for getting a hop on crowds at Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando is to take advantage of early entry. In fact, aside from purchasing Halloween Horror Nights Express Passes or doing a private R.I.P. Tour, using Halloween Horror Nights early entry is the best way to see and do more at the nation's premier scare event.
While we have a full guide dedicated to this annual event, we wanted to spend a little bit of time explaining the ins and outs of early entry and how to get it. Taking advantage of Halloween Horror Nights' early entry requires a little bit of planning and a few decisions. Luckily for you, we're here to outline everything you need to know, including how to get it!
How Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Works
Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event. This means if you have a ticket for the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks during the day but want to attend Horror Nights, you will need separate admission. But on the other hand, you don't need daytime admission if you just want to go to Halloween Horror Nights. However, in order to take advantage of early entry, which allows you to enter Universal Studios Florida during regular park hours and remain in the park until it reopens at 6:30 p.m. for Halloween Horror Nights, you'll need both regular park admission (whether it's a ticket or annual pass) and a Halloween Horror Nights ticket.
To take advantage of this, we recommend you spend the day at Universal Studios Florida (and Universal's Islands of Adventure if you have a park-to-park ticket) experiencing the best the park has to offer. If you want a little downtime, and for the best jump on daytime crowds, we recommend you arrive at the parks ahead of the official opening, tour for a few hours and then take a break in the afternoon when crowds hit their peak. You just need to be back inside Universal Studios Florida by 5 p.m., or when the park closes (you can see park hours on our Orlando Crowd Calendar).
Scream Early Ticket
If you don't have a regular day admission ticket or an annual pass, you can add on a Scream Early Ticket (available directly through Universal) for $30. This will allow access to Universal Studios Florida, starting at 3 p.m. Then at 5 p.m., you can proceed to a Stay and Scream holding area.
Halloween Horror Nights Holding Areas
For Halloween Horror Nights' early entry at Universal Orlando, you'll be ushered into one of the park "holding" areas. These are designated places for you to wait until the park reopens for the event. Your Halloween Horror Nights ticket will be scanned for entry into the holding area when you enter.
The advantage of the holding areas is that they put you in a prime location for a number of houses! Plus, your specific holding area allows you early access to at least one house, sometimes two or even three, before the event officially starts at 6:30 p.m. In our experience this year, a couple exceptions for low waits were Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House, which started with 45- to 60-minute wait times, even for those who waited in a holding area for them. With up to three holding areas open, it can be tough to make a decision based on which houses are your top priorities. Keep in mind that the houses farther back typically maintain short wait times within the first hour (or more!) of the event ... however, they're just as amazing as the houses in the front!
These holding areas are subject to change at any time, so please be aware that while highly unlikely, they may not all be in operation during your visit ... or may open to different houses than those listed. Always verify with a team member before committing. Our best advice is to check when you get to the park to confirm which holding areas are open.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the early opening time isn't always consistent. We've been released as early as 5:40 p.m. or as late as 6 p.m. While this may sound like just a small difference, you'll want to make sure your party is together and ready to go by 5:30 p.m. just to be safe.
Note that while in the holding area, you may need a ticket in order to go to the restroom and return to your spot. With that being said, we highly recommend you purchase any desired outside food and beverages prior to entering and enjoying them while you wait!
These are the Halloween Horror Nights early entry holding locations in 2021:
New York (Finnegan's/Revenge of the Mummy)
Located in the New York area of the park across from the Revenge of the Mummy, Finnegan's Irish Pub is unofficially considered the primary holding area. Finnegan's opens up to Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I pictured Finnegan's as a holding area, I thought it was just the restaurant and bar itself. Boy, was I wrong! This holding area fills a ton of outdoor space in the streets of New York. There are drink carts and food options available. You'll need to enter this holding area over by Starbucks and Louie's.
This holding area is actually divided into two different queues, so it can get pretty confusing. You enter through the Central Park entrance across from Mel's Drive-In. By the time we arrived (it was closer to 5 p.m.), the more popular queue for Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House was already at capacity. So, if these are top priority houses, you'll want to enter this holding area much earlier than 5 p.m.! The queue snakes with switchbacks, taking up the majority of Central Park and spilling out into KidZone.
If you arrive after it has reached capacity (or if you want to start with the houses in the very back of the park), you'll be directed to the second queue in the holding area, which leads into Springfield and grants access to Welcome to SCarey: Horror in the Heartland. (But we noticed the Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin also opened early, despite having no signage for it.) Dining options in the Simpsons area, including Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck, Lard Lad Donuts and Duff Brewery, are open if you want food or drinks.
The TODAY Show
The TODAY Show restaurant at the front of the park is used as an overflow location. It usually only opens if the other two holding areas reach maximum capacity. If you're directed to this holding area, you'll be released after the other two are released, but you'll be closest to Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth. This is a great holding area for guests who have that house as a top priority. While it didn't open as early as Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, they were the first in line for when it did open a bit later. The TODAY Show location also offers decent access to Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House, but because those are two of the most popular houses, we wouldn't go over there directly until the line lessens a bit.
The main catch for this holding area is that you can't necessarily plan on being here, since it depends on if and when the other areas fill up — which is more likely on Friday and Saturday nights.
Our Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Experience
In 2021, we checked out the Halloween Horror Nights' early entry procedures on a Thursday during the second week of the event. We arrived at the park around 4:45 p.m. and headed toward the Central Park holding area. There was a long line to get in, but it went quickly and we were inside the holding area right before 5 p.m. As we mentioned before, the queue for Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House was already at capacity, so we were ushered toward the Simpsons area in a separate line for Welcome to SCarey. (In the picture above, the queue for SCarey is on the left and the queue for Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House is on the right.) We were closer to the end of the SCarey line, which moved forward twice while we were in Springfield before we were finally led over and entered the actual queue for the house at 5:38 p.m.
The first group of people entered Welcome to SCarey right around 5:45 p.m. We only waited in line for about 15 minutes and were out by 6:06 p.m.! By the way, it can be very difficult to walk through a house when it's still light outside because your eyes don't adjust right away, making it seem much darker. Mommy Frog was in front of me leading the way (ladies first, right?). She went the opposite direction because she couldn't see and ran into the wall. I thought it was hoppin' hilarious, but she thought it was just as bad as a jump scare and made me go first.
After the SCarey house, we hopped over to Puppet Theatre, which was sporting a 15-minute wait. It ended up being an easy walk-in, so we easily knocked out two houses before the official start time. Oh, and by the way, this was without using our Express Pass. If you've purchased Express Passes like us, we don't recommend using them during the early entry timeframe since the wait times are relatively short (depending on which one you go to). Save them for later when the lines are longer and you can go through those houses twice!
Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Strategic Advice
Go to the New York holding area if ... you did not experience Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives or Revenge of the Tooth Fairy last year. Unlike in years past, the most popular houses are not in the front of the park, so more people will have the Central Park/Springfield holding area as their first choice. You can easily get knock out Universal Monsters and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which both started with 20-minute waits. Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and HHN Icons, which are right next door to those two, had longer lines by 6 p.m. but you could potentially already be in line for your third house before 6:30 p.m. or make a beeline back to SCarey House, which also had a similar 25-minute initial wait.
Go to the Central Park holding area if ... either Beetlejuice or the Haunting of Hill House is one of your absolute must-dos. Get there early and still expect to wait a while. Also if you want to get the houses in the very back first, head directly to the Springfield area.
If you end up in the TODAY Show holding area ... it's a toss-up of either going to the Universal Monsters and Texas Chainsaw Massacre houses first or waiting to be the first in line for Case Files Unearthed once it opens. Don't go to Beetlejuice or the Haunting of Hill House just yet.
When are Beetlejuice and the Haunting of Hill House at their lowest? Honestly, they will likely have long waits all night, but we did catch a little lull around 7 p.m. It makes sense because it should be right after the last people in the early entry line would be exiting those houses, and it's still just early enough before more crowds come in for the night. We saw the Haunting of Hill House briefly dip down to 35 minutes around this time.
Overall, we think early entry inside the holding areas is the best way to get the most out of Halloween Horror Nights for the least amount of money! If you can't use Halloween Horror Nights early entry, definitely be at the gate by 5:45 p.m. (We even saw a small crowd already camped outside the gate when we arrived at 4:45 p.m.) Guests are typically allowed in before the 6:30 p.m. start time!
Have a question about Halloween Horror Nights' early entry? Share it in the comments below! Do you have a favorite holding area for Halloween Horror Nights? Share the location and tell us why you like it!