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 RIP 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, or "hard" ticket, 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. 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 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 day-time crowds, we recommend you arrive at the parks ahead of 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).
Important Note: You must have regular park admission and a Halloween Horror Nights ticket for early entry. If you do not have regular park admission, then we recommend being at the entrance of Universal Studios Florida by 5:00 p.m. so you will be one of the earliest guests to be let in.
Halloween Horror Nights Passholder Early Access and Q&A Event
Universal Orlando Resort passholders get special access to the event on select evenings. For Scream In Early, passholders (and one guest) have their own special early access to three designated houses and the first performance of Academy of Villains: Cyberpunk on select dates. Passholders must RSVP since space is limited, but they can choose one of the following dates (Sept. 14, 15, 21 or 22) to enter the park at 4 p.m. and then access the houses starting at 5:30 p.m. A valid annual or seasonal pass and Halloween Horror Nights event ticket is required.
Annual and seaonal passholders can also RSVP to attend an exclusive Q&A with show directors on Sept. 28, 29 or 30 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and then receive access to one designated house prior to general admission. A valid annual or seasonal pass and Halloween Horror Nights event ticket is required.
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 prime location to a number of houses! Plus your specific holding area allows you early access to at least one house — sometimes two — and there is little to no wait! The only exception here is Stranger Things, which can still grow up to about a 45 minute wait, even if you are in a holding area for it. With up to three holding areas open, it can be tough to make a decision based on which houses are your top priorities.
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. We doubt this will ever be the case, but always be sure to 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 will 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!
Here are the Halloween Horror Nights early entry holding locations for 2018:
Finnegan's Irish Pub
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 what is easily the most sought-after house of the event, Stranger Things, as well as Poltergeist. 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. Lucky for us, there are drink carts and food options throughout.
If Stranger Things isn't your top priority, we recommend hopping to Poltergeist first and then taking the leap towards the back of the park to knock out Trick 'R' Treat, Seeds of Extinction, Slaughter Sinema and Dead Exposure ... then circle back later in the night for Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After and Carnival Graveyard. Since they're further back, these typically maintain short wait times within the first hour (or more!) of the event ... and they're just as amazing as the houses in the front!
While they don't open quite as early as Stranger Things and Poltergeist, Finnegan's also allows you to be one of the first in line for Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After and Carnival Graveyard when they open, with both entrances located outside of Jimmy Fallon. These are incredible houses and not a bad start to your night if you're not interested in, or have already done, Poltergeist and Stranger Things.
Springfield (Simpsons Area)
Located towards the back of the park, The Simpsons area grants early access to the two houses to the right of the Men in Black gift shop. This year, that means Slaughter Sinema (one of our absolute favorites!) and Dead Exposure: Patient Zero (be warned, this one is heavy on the strobe lights.)
If you don't have your sights set on Stranger Things or Poltergeist, we definitely recommend Springfield as the best holding area option. It is much less crowded and chaotic than Finnegan's and has just as many great food and drink options while you wait. It's also super close to Seeds of Extinction and Trick 'R' Treat (behind E.T. and Barney Theater) and Blumhouse (on the left side of the Men in Black gift shop) so you can easily leap in line for those afterwards with super short waits. We LOVE Stranger Things, but you can tackle three or four other awesome houses in the time it takes to get through the one Stranger Things house if you use this holding area instead.
The only catch here is that on select nights, usually early in the HHN season, Springfield is reserved for passholder exclusive access. Be sure to ask a team member prior to hopping back there!
Hello Kitty Area
The Hello Kitty area at the front of the park is used as an overflow location for Finnegan's. It is only open once Finnegan's has reached maximum capacity. Note that you will only be released from this holding area after everyone from Finnegan's has been let out, otherwise this would likely result in a major crowd face-off in front of the Stranger Things queue!
Hello Kitty is a great holding area if the Halloween 4 house is your top priority. While it doesn't open as early as Stranger Things and Poltergeist, you can be the first in line for when it does open a bit later. Hello Kitty also offers decent access to Trick 'R' Treat and Seeds of Extinction. The only catch is that you can't necessarily plan on being here, since it depends on if and when Finnegan's fills up. Safe to say, this is way more likely on Friday and Saturday nights. We've arrived into Finnegan's as late as 5:20 p.m. on a Sunday and Hello Kitty still wasn't open as a holding area.
Tad has put together a video that showcases the locations of the holding areas. Check it out below.
Halloween Horror Nights 28 Park Map (Click to enlarge)
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. 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 comments below! Do you have a favorite holding area for Halloween Horror Nights? Share the location and tell us why you like it!