We love hopping to the lands of wizards, superheroes and minions any time of the year, but there's just something special about the fall season. Whether it's the beautiful weather, the seasonal spirit in the air or all-new attractions, we have quite a few reasons why we enjoy visiting Universal Orlando Resort in the fall. Let's explore all of the fall fun in store this year, starting with a HHN-esque experience!
Our Favorite Reasons to Visit Universal Orlando This Fall
Spooky Seasonal Fun
The biggest scare of the season has already hit us: Halloween Horror Nights will not be taking place in 2020 (its 30th anniversary!). But not to worry! Universal played the ultimate trick-or-treat game with HHN fans and hosted a limited-time experience Sept. 19 and 20. We screamed all day long, thanks to two haunted houses that were accessible through the Virtual Line Experience as part of regular park admission. In Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, the Bride brought Frankenstein back to life and experimented on unsuspecting victims. Then, goblin-like tooth fairies extracted teeth by force in the Revenge of the Tooth Fairy. We could tell these houses were meant for the actual event and not just thrown together last minute despite being a surprise announcement. As an additional treat, Universal announced that its Halloween hoppenings will return Sept. 26 to 27 and Oct. 3 to Nov. 1!
This slice of Halloween Horror Nights satisfied our desire for the smell of fog and sudden loud, blood curdling noises, considering we didn't think we would go through any haunted houses this year. (We certainly wish we had more houses, but at least we can now make repeat visits through the two houses!) To maintain social distancing, team members were stationed throughout the house to keep parties separated and the masked scare actors remained behind plexiglass. Yes, we could easily predict a scare because we saw where the plexiglass was, but we felt it was no different than approaching a suspicious dark hole. We still got scared silly!
Our experience may be slightly different because we went the first weekend before it was announced that the Halloween activities would continue through the fall. (But we're definitely planning to hop back, so we'll update with additional details about the crowds when we do!). However, we still expect that weekends will be busier than weekdays, and the virtual lines for the houses could reach capacity any day. We arrived on property shortly before 8 a.m. Even though the app said the virtual lines would open at 9 a.m. when the park opened, we were able to snag virtual line passes for both houses at 8:42 a.m. Early birds were able to hop in the houses' standby lines once the park let guests in. Once filled, the queues became Virtual Line Passes only. If you don't get a Virtual Pass in the morning, keep checking throughout the day. The app may release additional passes, or if the lines aren't too busy, walk-ons may be accepted. Once you're in the queue, the line moves quickly! We didn't wait more than 10 minutes for each house.
There's also a new Scarecrow Stalk scavenger hunt, which will be available from Sept. 18 until Nov. 1 at Universal Studios Florida. Pick up a map at Universal Studios Store, which is the first of 13 retail locations where you'll find a uniquely themed scarecrow. Each scarecrow was extremely detailed and fit right in with the theming of the store. Our favorites were the glamorous skeleton at Silver Screen Collectibles and the leprechaun skeleton at Rosie's Irish Shop. Get your map stamped at each location by a team member. Once you have all 13 stamps, redeem your prize (a bag of candy!) at either San Francisco Factory Candy or Studio Sweets.
The tadpoles can also go trick or treating and receive tasty treats from select retail stores over at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Look out for the pumpkin stickers marking each location. This experience is meant for guests 12 years old or younger with an accompanying adult. However, all guests may dress in their best Halloween costumes at both parks. Costumes must be family-friendly, and if deemed not permissible, a person will be asked to change into something more appropriate or exit the park. You can review Universal's costume guidelines on its official website.
From exploring the Tribute Store (if you dare) for HHN merch and event easter eggs from years past, to braving some of the creepiest coasters and their queues (looking at you, Mummy and Skull Island: Reign of Kong!), there's no shortage of adrenaline-pumping experiences at Universal. You can also select the theme song from last year's Academy of Villains: Altered States show on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, or get some laughs in at Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show. Even better, themed treats and eats can still be found all around the park — including Louie's iconic pizza fries.
Scrumptious Seasonal Sweets and Treats
Two words: HOT BUTTERBEER. Forget pumpkin spice lattes. I know it’s officially fall when Hot Butterbeer returns to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This Butterbeer option is only available seasonally, which makes me appreciate it so much more. Last year, it apparated on menus by the middle of October.
You can find lots of festive food in the theme parks and Universal CityWalk throughout the fall and into the holiday season. Voodoo Doughnut usually makes specialty treats for the Halloween and Christmas seasons. We've already spotted a Pumpkin Spice doughnut and a Jack the Clown doughnut! And, of course, there's pizza fries, a Halloween Horror Nights fave (that is definitely worth mentioning twice!).
Looking for Twisted Taters? This popular spiraled-potato snack has returned at a food truck stationed in the New York area across from the Tribute Store and Revenge of the Mummy. And there's a new twist! You can opt for a Twisted Tater with "blood and guts" (chili and cheese), or a Twisted Frank-N-Coils — a Twisted Tater with a hot dog in the middle — which can be served with "blood and guts" as well. At a second food truck closer to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, you'll find Franken Fried Chicken and Funnel Brains (fried chicken and funnel cake) and Electrofried Skin and Guts (pork rinds with chili and cheese).
Be sure to check out the brand-new Skeleton Bar over at Cafe La Bamba! Menu items include both food and drinks, such as Vegan Jack'D up Mac, Bloody Charred Tandoori Skewers and three specialty alcoholic concoctions (Circus Peanut, Mango Inferno and Loup-Garou). Even if you're not hungry or thirsty, it's worth stopping in (especially if there's not a line) to see the immersive walk-through display of skeletons. It'll get you in the spooky spirit!
Lastly, the Tribute Store has added a bakery with devilishly delicious desserts, including doughnuts, cake pops, cookie dough and more. We tried the Werewolf Chocolate Cake Pop, and thoroughly enjoyed sinking our teeth into it. But beware ... the frosting turned our teeth black.
Lower Crowd Levels
Harry Potter heads back to Hogwarts on Sept. 1, just like many other tadpoles in the muggle world who have to hop back to school by the time Labor Day weekend is over. Because school is newly in session, generally there are fewer frog families planning trips to Universal Orlando in September. Not to say there aren’t any crowds, but they are usually lower this month. For that reason, September is generally one of the best times to visit Universal Orlando!
Now this September, we expect lower crowds on weekdays, but weekends will be busier — not pre-pandemic-summertime busy but busier-than-most-of-this-summer busy. This is because Universal Orlando has offered some incredible ticket deals to Florida residents, including what amounts to a mini-annual pass for a super-low price. Since most locals visit on the weekends, if you're an out-of-towner, plan your park time for weekdays.
Last year, the theme parks saw higher crowds throughout October, especially around Columbus Day weekend and Halloween. Without Halloween Horror Nights, the crowds should be fairly level through October and November, with the exception of Thanksgiving week.
We don't yet know about Universal Orlando's holiday hoppenings this year, but we would expect Universal to follow Disney's lead and eliminate entertainment that draws major crowds and gatherings in one place. Universal Orlando has a park capacity limit in place so that social distancing practices can be safely maintained, so even typically "busy" times will be more manageable! That said, with capacity limits in place, the resort could turn away guests temporarily on the busiest days. If you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel, you are automatically included in the day's capacity count (which means you won't be turned away if the parks hit capacity!).
Toadally Awesome Hotel and Ticket Deals
And speaking of hotels, be on the lookout for amazing rates at the Universal Orlando hotels. Help your wallet out even more by booking through your favorite frogs! Whether you’re sticking to a budget or wanting to splurge, Universal Orlando has a variety of options, ranging from value to premier hotels.
Take advantage of the special perks you get when you stay on-site, such as Early Park Admission. If your frog squad is staying at a premier hotel, the entire party will be able to skip the lines with free Universal Express Unlimited passes at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Already thinking about making a reservation? Take the leap, and book your hotel stay for the fall!
What's more, Universal Orlando Resort is offering some toadally great ticket deals this fall (including the buy a day, get unlimited admission ticket for Florida Residents, and a buy 2 days, get 2 days free promo!). Be sure to check out all of the deals available now before they hop away!
When fall hits in Florida, there isn’t much of a significant change in temperature during the day compared to the summer months. It remains warm and toasty, so you can still wear a T-shirt and shorts and hop on those water rides! But once the sun sets, it cools down and you may actually need a light jacket or sweater. September can still have moments with inclement weather (be prepared with a poncho or an umbrella!), but the overall rainfall begins to decline this month, which makes it less humid too. It isn’t usually until November when the first cold front of the season passes through. Generally, you’ll get enjoyable weather if you visit Universal Orlando in fall!
Hoppy Holidays at Universal Orlando
Halloween transitions into Christmas faster than you can say, “Jack-o’-lanterns and jingle bells.” After Halloween, colorful garlands quickly replace the somber decorations from spooky season. The festivities of Holidays at Universal Orlando will run Nov. 14, 2020, through Jan. 3, 2021.
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter toadally gets you in the holiday spirit. As we mentioned before, we still don't know exact details about this year's festivities, but we're expecting Universal to eliminate entertainment that draws large crowds. Typically, we love seeing our favorite characters in their holiday best during Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. But this year, we may see them separately from socially distanced spots around the park.
The Bourne Stuntacular reopened shortly after the parks did in June. This live-action stunt show merged with high-tech screens follows Jason Bourne around the world. It delivers action-packed chase scenes, fistfights and death-defying leaps.
Then there's also the mysterious, yet-to-be-confirmed coaster in the Jurassic Park area of Universal's Islands of Adventure Resort. It's definitely coming — and we'll keep you posted as soon as more details are released! In the meantime, you can get your dino jumps in by meeting Blue the velociraptor nearby at Raptor Encounter.
What do you like most about visiting Universal Orlando in the fall? If you're planning a fall trip this year, let us know in the comments and share this post with the rest of your frog squad!