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.
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 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).
Scream Early Ticket
If you don't have a regular day admission ticket, you can add on a Scream Early Ticket (available directly through Universal) for $25. 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 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 2019:
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 some of the most popular houses of the event, including Stranger Things and Ghostbusters. 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. Luckily for us, there are drink carts and food options throughout.
If Stranger Things or Ghostbusters aren't your top priority houses, we recommend hopping to Us first and then taking the leap towards the back of the park to knock out Universal Monsters, Graveyard Games, Depths of Fear and Nightingales: Blood Pit ... then circle back later in the night for Yeti: Terror of the Yukon. 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 Ghostbusters and Stranger Things, Finnegan's also allows you to be one of the first in line for Yeti: Terror of the Yukon and Us when they open at 6:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively, 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, Ghostbusters and Stranger Things.
Springfield (Simpsons Area)
Located toward 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 Depths of Fear and Nightingales: Blood Pit.
If you don't have your sights set on Stranger Things or Ghostbusters, 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 Universal Monsters and Graveyard Games (behind E.T. and Barney Theater) and House of 1000 Corpses (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.
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 Killer Klowns from Outer Space house is your top priority. While it doesn't open as early as Stranger Things and Ghostbusters, you can be the first in line for when it does open a bit later. Hello Kitty also offers decent access to Universal Monsters and Graveyard Games. 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.
Halloween Horror Nights 29 Park Map
Take a look at the event map, so you can visually see where these haunted houses will be. Once you get a better understanding of the house and scare zone placements, you can begin your plan of attack.
Our Halloween Horror Nights Early Entry Experience
This year, we checked out the Halloween Horror Nights early entry procedures on a Thursday during the last week of September. We arrived at the park by 4:30 p.m. and headed straight to the Finnegan's holding area. They were letting people inside the area by 4:45 p.m. Two lines formed for the Stranger Things and Ghostbusters houses in front of The Mummy ride. Once 5:30 p.m. rolled around, the lines in the holding area started moving toward each of the queues. We stayed in the Ghostbusters one.
The first group of people entered the Ghostbusters house just before 5:45 p.m. We only waited in line for about 15 minutes and were out by 6:03 p.m.! The Stranger Things line was already a 90+ minute wait, so we went through Us right when it opened at 6 p.m. It said there was a 20-minute wait, but we actually only waited for 5 minutes. Then, we hopped back to House of 1000 Corpses, which was sporting a 5-minute wait but we just walked right in. By the time we screamed through that one, it was 6:30 p.m. — knocking out three houses before the event officially started!
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!