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How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

by Leap on September 20, 2022 Los Angeles

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is the scariest night of the season in Los Angeles — but it’s also the fastest. The event officially kicks off at 7 p.m. and lasts until 1 or 2 a.m. on select nights in September and October. While six or seven hours sounds like a long time, the night flies by in a scary fast way. Luckily, we have several tips to maximize time and do as much as possible during the event.

The very first time my wife Flora (Mommy Frog to many of you) and I attended Halloween Horror Nights, we did it all wrong. We did no advance research, had a standard ticket, did not utilize Early Entry time (in fact, we arrived late), spent the first hour in a show and spent a lot of time in long lines. We did not hit all the mazes that year. It was our own night of horror as we are not patient frogs and prefer to skip the lines. The next year, we did our research and accomplished so much more, hitting every house, scare zone and Terror Tram. Now, we have it all down and can share what we've learned with you.

That being said, we also have touring advice for those of you without Early Entry access and for people who don't have an Express ticket. (Those Express tickets sell out scary fast so they may not even be an option when you visit.)

15 Tips to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

You have six to eight hours to see eight houses, several scare zones, a Terror Tram, a show and get food and drink. Our guide to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood has all the event details and ticket options, but this post focuses on how to accomplish the most and save time at this terrifying event. That starts at home by buying the right ticket for you and your budget and pre-planning when to arrive and deciding your priorities for the night.

HHN Hollywood - Tips to Maximize Your Time

Some of these options cost more to save time, but we also offer tips to save time whether you have a standard ticket without any add-ons or choose to invest more in your night. Everyone can save time at this event! Want to take this advice with you? Download our HHN Hollywood tips here!

1. Purchase Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets in Advance to Save Money and Time

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Early Entry Sign

Most tickets sell out in advance or even sell out the same day as the event. You’ll get the best selection and price if you purchase early. You can save some green when you purchase discount Halloween Horror Nights tickets from Undercover Tourist. Even if tickets are still available the day you visit, the price jumps up at the gate. If you want to take advantage of Early Entry, you have to purchase online through Universal Studios Hollywood.

2. Purchase Universal Express Tickets

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Express ticket and bracelet

You can purchase Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood Express tickets directly through Universal Studios online. The lines for popular houses can get frighteningly long. Skip the lines and the stress with Universal Express. Be sure to bring or buy a lanyard to keep your Express ticket handy and make scanning it faster and easier. Every year that we have used Universal Express, we have made it through every house in the park hours before closing.

Another option if you wanted Express tickets but they were sold out for your night is to look for After 11 p.m. Universal Express upgrades. They were $89 on the night we visited.

3. Consider Single Rider Lines for Select Rides

If you do not have Express, several rides offer Single Rider lines. They may be open when you visit. Ask about Single Rider at the Lower Lot rides and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride rides were very short when we visited.

4. Utilize Early Entry

Tickets purchased online through Universal Studios Hollywood allow early entry at 6 p.m. A few houses open by 6:15 p.m. and a few more by 6:45 p.m., so you can knock those out before the event gets started. We usually hit the Early Entry mazes and then the Terror Tram at the event opening.

The 2 p.m. Day/Night Combo ticket allows you to enter the park as early as 2 p.m. and get a head start on even the Early Entry folks.

5. Arrive Early

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Park entrance during the day

Even if you do not have Early Entry, arrive an hour before the event kicks off. Lines to enter can be long. Head straight to your first house. Check the house wait times in the app or on displays around the park. Head to the houses that open at 7 p.m. because they will have the shortest lines. For 2022, that's Halloween and Scarecrow: The Reaping. Both those houses are located down a path that takes you through the Wizarding World. So our advice for Harry Potter fans is to see the Death Eaters, who emerge at 7 p.m. on your way back from the houses.

6. Consider an After 2 p.m. Day/Night Combo Ticket

If you really want to experience rides and the houses, a Day/Night combo ticket will allow you to catch some daytime shows and especially some rides that are not open during the event. Plus, it can free up your evening to enjoy the houses if you already crossed some rides off your list in advance. You can avoid the entrance lines out front since you are already in the park. Also, you can make your way to the Early Entry mazes and hop in line before the early entry crowds arrive. There is an option to add Universal Express, which allows access to rides during the day and rides and mazes during Horror Nights.

This year, we entered the park even earlier than Early Entry and it gave us an advantage. We were able to hop near the front of the line for The Weeknd house at about 4:45 p.m. It opened shortly after 6 p.m. for Early Entry guests but by then the line was 90 minutes long. The people who get in the park early (either due to an After 2 p.m. ticket, a daytime ticket, or an annual pass) can get a jump on even the Early Entry guests these days.

7. Visit on Thursdays and Sundays Early in the Season

If you visit on a “school night” in September you may encounter lower crowds and shorter lines early in the season vs. weekends or nights closer to Halloween. Not only that, you can save some green as these tickets cost less than a visit on a Friday or Saturday. Ticket prices vary per night based on popularity. Keep in mind that the event may be one hour shorter, closing at 1 a.m. on weeknights. We visited opening night on a Thursday. Even though it was a sold-out night, the capacity definitely felt a lot lighter than a Saturday in October.

Another weeknight was added. You can now visit on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. That may be one of the least-crowded nights of October.

8. Eat Before the Event

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Food at Little Cocina

Food lines also get scary long. Fuel up before the event so you don’t have to invest time in good lines. If you arrive early enough, your event ticket may be good for restaurant discounts in CityWalk. That being said, if you do get hungry, we highly recommend the Little Cocina in the Upper Lot. The pop-up bar and restaurant have a Dia de los Muertos theme and it's a great vibe. The tacos and esquites are especially good! We visited between 9 and 10 p.m.

9. Follow a Touring Plan

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Studio Directory with wait times

Have a game plan in mind before you start. Know your must-do houses and their locations. Follow the shortest wait times noted on park signage and the app. Hit the Terror Tram early and save the show for a time when you need to sit and rest.

Visit all the Lower Lot or far mazes in an area at once. We recommend saving them for the end of the night. You only want to walk the long paths or take the Starway once. Otherwise, you can spend 20 minutes of unnecessary travel time going up and down escalators or walking to far-off houses. Complete everything in an area before leaving that section of the park.

On the night we visited, everyone else started in the Lower Lot, so we backtracked to the Upper Lot to see the Death Eaters emerge at 7 p.m. When we saw that the Halloween and Scarecrow houses had just opened at 7, we headed that way for very short waits. Then we hit the Terror Tram and the rest of the Upper Lot houses before hopping back down to the Lower Lot where the wait times were shorter at the end of the night. It felt like we went against the main flow of guests. As nights get busier that is subject to change. The following Friday and Saturday had significantly longer wait times than opening night, so that means setting priorities.

Here is a good touring plan pattern that may help you plan your night without Early Entry or Express:

  1. Scarecrow: The Reaping
  2. Halloween
  3. Death eaters in Wizarding World
  4. Terror Tram
  5. The Horrors of Blumhouse
  6. Snacks and drinks at Dia de los Muertos Bar and Little Cocina
  7. Universal Horror Hotel
  8. La Llorona followed by scare zones
  9. Head to Lower Lot
  10. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
  11. The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare
  12. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide
  13. Upper Lot Scare Zones again

Ultimately, check the wait times and follow the shortest lines. Sometimes a house is popular due to the fans of the movie or show it is based on, but a long line does not necessarily mean it's the best house. Many times we are hoppily surprised by a seemingly less popular theme and a little underwhelmed by the house we were most looking forward to. So keep an open mind and go for enjoying the most houses rather than spending 300 minutes and your whole night in one line.

If you are visiting on a later night in the season, feel free to pop into the Universal Studios app on a night before your visit. Look at wait times and when some houses are busy or less congested. Then you can set up expectations about what you can accomplish and where to go when.

In 2022, Killer Klowns and The Weeknd houses in the Lower Lot started the night with 90- to 120-minute waits while Upper Lot houses had some shorter waits. At the end of the night, the Lower Lot houses had shorter waits while Upper Lot houses were longer. So aim for the shortest waits. Don't get caught in the crowd.

10. Know Your AAP Options

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Attraction Assistance pass area

If you use an Attraction Assistance Pass, usually you have to collect a return time for each house, one at a time. But if you are traveling far to access houses that are near each other, you may be able to collect a return time for both of them at once. Alternate transportation is available for people who require it.

11. Prioritize Houses and Scare Zones Over Rides

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-Exterior of a house

The rides are not going anywhere, but the houses, scare zones and Terror Tram are only here for a limited time. If you have never visited Universal Studios Hollywood before, we recommend the After 2 p.m. Day/Night Combo Express ticket or visiting for a full day on a day that is different from the one you are attending Horror Nights.

If you do want to ride rides, be aware that some, such as Jurassic World and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey may close early. The last terror Tram leaves 45 minutes before park close. Park signage should alert you to the last terror Tram of the night when you visit.

12. Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App and Park Map

The app will show you a park map, wait times, show times and food locations. Another thing that will help you plan your night is to look at the park map. Then you know where all the houses, scare zones and food locations are so you can set up a game plan. Just be flexible.

13. Consider the R.I.P Tour

If it’s within your budget, sign up for a R.I.P. Tour. It includes:

  • Exclusive Universal Backlot Halloween experience with private VIP trolley transportation
  • Universal Express UNLIMITED access to all houses and available rides
  • Gourmet dinner in the private VIP dining room (alcoholic beverages excluded)
  • Special interactive themed photo opportunities with a scare actor
  • Reserved VIP seating at a live show (while on the tour with R.I.P. Tour Guide)
  • Complimentary valet parking (one vehicle)
  • Special VIP entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood where you will receive your commemorative “R.I.P.” credentials and lanyard
  • R.I.P. Tour tickets include Early Event Admission to select houses beginning at 6 p.m.

You can definitely do it all with this tour!

14. Get a Fear Pass

How to Maximize Time at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood-A Death Eater beckons

Listen up locals, here is the cheapest deal around if you can visit on multiple nights. Then you can take your time, visit a few mazes a night and just come back for more and more terror, like that recurring nightmare you can’t shake. Universal sells a Frequent Fear Pass ($199) for up to 27 nights (we are talking about $7 a night!) and the Ultimate Fear Pass ($329), which is good every single night of the season. Prices are subject to change as the season progresses.

15. Don’t Bring Banned Items Through Security

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood has stricter rules than normal park hours. Don’t waste time heading back to your car, which can be a 20-minute round-trip journey to return your water bottle, gum or other banned items. All bags are x-rayed and/or inspected. Leave these items behind:

  • Any type of explosive or weapon
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Marijuana
  • Illegal drugs
  • Clothing likely to create a danger or disturbance or that has profanity
  • Clothing that may create a false impression of employment by Universal or as emergency personnel
  • Segways (unless utilized as an ADA mobility device), hoverboards and drones
  • Costumes, costume masks and face paint (wizard robes are allowed)
  • Water (you can bring an empty water bottle)
  • Food except for special dietary needs
  • Gum
  • Glass
  • Laser pens

You can purchase your Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood tickets at Undercover Tourist or through Universal Studios directly online in advance to save money. 

Related: Your Screamin' Guide to Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood

Related: Ranking the top rides at Universal Studios Hollywood

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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