How to Use Early Entry for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando

by Leap on September 19, 2023 974 Orlando

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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!

HHN Early Entry Sign

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. which is when the park closes to daytime guests (you can see park hours on our Orlando Crowd Calendar).

Scream Early Ticket

If you don't have a regular daytime admission ticket or an annual pass, you can add on a Scream Early Ticket (available directly through Universal) for $40. 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

HHN Early Entry - Central Park

For Halloween Horror Nights early entry at Universal Orlando, you'll be ushered into one of the park's "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. With up to five 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 of the event since a lot of people flock to the first one they see. (Stranger Things is one of the most popular houses this year and it's located near the front of the park.)

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 ... 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 may be different at each holding area. Because Stranger Things is so popular, the line usually starts moving around 5:15 p.m. but Chucky opens later at 6 p.m.

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 2023:

New York 

HHN Early Entry - New York Holding Area Entrance

Located in the New York area of the park across from the Revenge of the Mummy, Louie's Italian Restaurant is unofficially considered the primary holding area. 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.

If Stranger Things is a top priority, you'll want to enter this holding area much earlier than 5 p.m. It also lets out to The Exorcist and Dueling Dragons. On opening night, the entire holding area was at capacity by 4:40 p.m. While the time it takes to reach capacity may vary night by night, we'd suggest that you start scouting out the area around 4 p.m. and hop in line if you see a line already forming.

Central Park/Springfield

HHN Early Entry - Central Park Holding Area Entrance

This holding area is divided into two different queues, and team members hold signs to designate each house. You enter through the Central Park entrance across from Mel's Drive-In. This year, there are lines for The Last of Us and Universal Monsters: Unmasked. 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. 

San Francisco (Richter's Burger Co./Chez Alcatraz)

HHN Early Entry - San Francisco Holding Area Entrance

This Stay & Scream location is back in 2023. Richter's Burger Co. and Chez Alcatraz are located in San Francisco across from Fast & Furious - Supercharged, which houses Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count.

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 holding areas reach maximum capacity. If you're directed to this holding area, you'll be released after the others are released, but it's closest to Bloodmoon: Dark Offerings and The Exorcist. The TODAY Show location also offers decent access to Universal Monsters: Unmasked, but because it has its own queue in the Central Park holding area, 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.

Sound Stage 18

HHN Early Entry - Hotel Guest Priority Entrance

This holding area is exclusive for Universal hotel guests since it is located right next to the Universal hotel guests' priority entrance. It leads out right next to Bloodmoon: Dark Offerings.

Our Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Experience

HHN Early Entry - Lines in New York Holding Area

This year, we checked out the Halloween Horror Nights early entry procedures on opening night. We arrived at the park around 4:30 p.m. and headed toward the New York holding area, but it was already at capacity.

So, we pivoted and went to the Central Park holding area and got in line for The Last of Us. The line finally started to move around 5:58 p.m. before briefly stopping again in Springfield. We officially entered the queue at 6:21 p.m. with a 25-minute posted wait time. While we were waiting in line, we noticed the wait time jumped to 45 minutes on the app. Eventually, we made our way to the entrance of the house at 6:59 p.m. in the standby line, so it ultimately took about 36 minutes. Note: On the opening night, there was a severe thunderstorm that came through, so the openings for a few houses were delayed. (According to the app, The Last of Us was scheduled to open at 5:45 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 in 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 for the rest of the night.

If you've purchased Express Passes, 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 if you have the time! We had decided to wait out 35 minutes in standby for The Last of Us, which ended up being one of the lowest waits of the night for that particular house. Then we got to go through it again later at night with our Express pass when the standby line reached its peak at 100 minutes.

Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Strategic Advice for 2023

HHN Early Entry - Central Park Holding Area

Go to the New York holding area if ... Stranger Things is at the top of your list. Afterward, you can also hop in line for Dueling Dragons or The Exorcist.

Go to the Central Park holding area if ... either The Last of Us or Universal Monsters: Unmasked is one of your must-dos. Get there early and still expect to wait a while.

Go to the San Francisco holding area if ... you want to hit up Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count first.

If you end up in the TODAY Show or Sound Stage 18 holding areas ... it's a toss-up of either going to the Bloodmoon or Exorcist houses first.

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 4:30 p.m.) Sometimes, guests are allowed in before the 6:30 p.m. start time — but this year on opening night, gates opened right at 6:30 p.m.

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! 

Related: Guide to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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1–50 of 896 comments
Nov 10, 2023 at 6:33 p.m. Helio Says...

I went for HHN in the end of October/23 and I didn't see any checking for HHN tickets. Disney give you a wristband, how universal check guests?

Reply
Nov 17, 2023 at 2:18 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Helio!

The park closes at 5 p.m. and HHN begins at 6:30 p.m. At 5 p.m., daytime guests would need to leave the park. If you have an HHN ticket and you're already inside the park before 5 p.m., you can go to one of the Early Entry areas, which requires your ticket to be scanned in order to enter. So those who are not in Early Entry areas will need to leave the park before the gates officially open for the event.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 4, 2023 at 5:57 a.m. Jay Says...

I bought both scream early and HHN express pass. Does my express pass work on the other rides before HHN starts? ( let's say I want to ride the Simpsons before the park closes, can I use my HHN express pass for that ride?)

Reply
Oct 4, 2023 at 9:04 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jay!

The HHN Express pass would only work for rides during the evening.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 24, 2023 at 11:13 a.m. Catherine Harris Says...

Thinking of going to the Halloween evening at Orlando and thinking of going for the day as well is there a deal to buy both? Thank you

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Sep 29, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. Sammy Says...

This was super helpful thanks for your expertise.

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Sep 26, 2023 at 10:50 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Catherine!

We offer discount tickets for both daytime general admission and Halloween Horror Nights, but there isn't one combo ticket that works for both. The closest option is purchasing the Scream Early ticket (available directly through Universal), which allows you to enter the park at 3 p.m., and an HHN ticket if you just want to explore the park in the daytime for a little bit.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 23, 2023 at 10:29 p.m. Diana Says...

If we got the scream early and we arrive to the park at 3:00 can we get on some rides or will they usher us to the holding areas right away?

Reply
Sep 26, 2023 at 11:01 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Diana!

You're welcome to hop on some rides before you have to enter a holding area by 5 p.m.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 17, 2023 at 8:49 a.m. Deb Hearon Says...

Hello, If I have a premier pass and I go to universal for the day on one of the free admission days, can I do the early entry spots? Because my pass gets me in for one free admission. Thanks for any info.

Reply
Sep 18, 2023 at 2:47 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Deb!

Yup! You'll scan your pass to get inside the park before 5 p.m. and then present your pass again at the holding area entrance where they're scanning tickets.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 14, 2023 at 5:58 p.m. Jennifer Says...

If we already have a pass for the daytime at universal….do we still need the early pass??

Reply
Sep 14, 2023 at 1:05 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jennifer!

No, no need! If you already have daytime admission with your pass, you can head directly to a holding area with your HHN ticket.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 14, 2023 at 12:16 a.m. Natacha Says...

Hey what if I forget to add the scream early pass to my purchase? Can I still buy them separately and use them the day I go?

Reply
Sep 14, 2023 at 8:20 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Natacha!

Yes, you can purchase Scream Early tickets separately.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 5:51 a.m. EVIE B Says...

GREAT INFO

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Sep 11, 2023 at 5:15 a.m. Rebecca McCourt Says...

Soooo ready for Halloween now!!

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Sep 11, 2023 at 4:49 a.m. Rajee Pandi Says...

I need to visit there

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 4:20 a.m. Zaheer Says...

I'm ready!

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 4:12 a.m. codimarie Says...

lots of great tips and info in here

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 4:08 a.m. Kelseyw513 Says...

Sounds like a good way to do things.

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 4:04 a.m. Rose Ellen Epstein Says...

Early entry is such a great deal!

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 3:46 a.m. brian Says...

I don't wanna wake up early for early entry

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Sep 11, 2023 at 3:45 a.m. Vickie Hite Says...

This helps out so much with planning.

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Sep 11, 2023 at 3:41 a.m. Lindsey Hendricks Says...

Thanks for the info!

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Sep 11, 2023 at 3:28 a.m. Gerald Dillon Says...

This is amazing!!

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Sep 11, 2023 at 3:08 a.m. Jessie g Says...

Nice

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Sep 11, 2023 at 2:36 a.m. Lauren Reynolds Says...

Would love to go!

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Sep 11, 2023 at 2:10 a.m. Angie Says...

Cool!

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Sep 11, 2023 at 2 a.m. Camimeco Says...

Great tips! Thanks!

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 12:45 a.m. Ellen T Says...

Yassss! Get me in on early entry! These tips are great! Thank you!

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 12:33 a.m. Barron Says...

I can't wait to visit

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 12:11 a.m. Milo garfein Says...

Good luck on the giveaway everyone!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 11:43 p.m. David Fink Says...

I got the R.I.P. tour so I’m pretty much set.

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 11:35 p.m. Claribelvlza Says...

It is a wonderful experience! Halloween is my children's favorite time!! we love it !! we are excited for our next vacation!! they will be so soon!!! thanks for the opportunity ????????

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Sep 10, 2023 at 11:22 p.m. Christopher A Says...

Would definitely take advantage of early entry

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Sep 10, 2023 at 11:15 p.m. Addie Says...

So exciting!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 11:08 p.m. Jennifer W Says...

knowing there's early entry makes it more attractive

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Sep 10, 2023 at 11:02 p.m. Veronica R Says...

Didn't know about capacity. Great article with lots of informative information

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Sep 10, 2023 at 10:59 p.m. Virginia Alworth Says...

Early entry is always good to use.

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 10:47 p.m. Jordan KM Says...

Love the tips on where to go depending if you're after a certain area first!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 10:30 p.m. Angel Sharks Says...

Whenever we stay at the disneyland resort we do early entry so I couldn’t imagine going to universal and not doing the same!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 10:16 p.m. Laura Says...

Thank you!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 9:36 p.m. Caroline Says...

Love this!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 9:32 p.m. NN Says...

Ooh! Thanks for this info

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Sep 10, 2023 at 9 p.m. Cody Cockerham Says...

I want to go!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 8:59 p.m. Samantha G Says...

I’m keeping all this info for our upcoming trip in October!!!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 8:50 p.m. Lauren Says...

Wish I could go!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 8:41 p.m. Christopher D Says...

Interesting info! Do you have similar information for Hollywood?

Reply
Sep 11, 2023 at 3:31 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Christopher!

We do have a main guide for Horror Nights at Hollywood, along with additional posts about tips for maximizing your time, a first timer's guide, food and a post about Early Entry coming soon.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 8:35 p.m. Jennifer Says...

Love that HHN is a special ticket event! Limited tickets! Lower crowds!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 8:22 p.m. Aborn Says...

Nice!

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Sep 10, 2023 at 8:07 p.m. Hung Huynh Says...

This is good to know about early entry into the parks for HHN !

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:57 p.m. VChacon Says...

Early entry could give you such an edge over regular entry! Such a deal!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:56 p.m. bandito Says...

so neat!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:45 p.m. Jessbuchanan79 Says...

Smart thinking!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:29 p.m. Carolyn Says...

My favorite time of the year!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:24 p.m. Jessica Elizabeth Says...

I want to go so bad!

Reply
Sep 10, 2023 at 7:16 p.m. KristenD Says...

Undercover tourist is amazing!! I'm so excited I found this site and recommend you guys all the time ????

Reply
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