13 tips for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida
By Helen Wright
Heading to Orlando, Florida this autumn? Here are my top tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2023:
September and October are my favourite months to go to Orlando. I love Halloween and the USA goes ‘crazy’ for it, but nowhere more so than at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. This celebration of horror movies, monsters, zombies and all things terrifying has been the biggest Halloween event in Orlando for 32 years. This year, ten haunted houses took inspiration from Stranger Things, Chucky and, for the first time, a video game. The Last of Us was brought to life in a full-scale interactive horror house with, you guessed it, Clickers, Bloaters and main characters Joel and Ellie (voiced by the original voice actors, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker ) to help you get out alive.
If you have never been to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, take a look at my detailed HHN32 post to find out more details about what to expect. If you’re headed to the event this year, below are 13 (but, of course) expert tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2023 so you can get the most out of your visit.
13 tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2023
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando is not your typical Halloween attraction. In fact, Universal Studios Florida transforms from perky daytime theme park to a festival of Halloween, creeping out from under a curious fog. There is so much to do on the night, so follow my tips for Halloween Horror Nights 32 below so you don’t miss out of any of the spooky fun.
1. Book your Halloween Horror Nights tickets in advance
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida is a popular event with some dates selling out completely. If you already know you will be in Orlando during spooky season, one of my best tips for Halloween Horror Nights is to book your tickets in advance.
Single night tickets can be purchased for specific dates, so you can plan exactly when you’ll be heading to the park. If you want to attend during popular dates, such as opening night or the week leading up to Halloween, booking early will guarantee you entry to the event.
For anyone coming from the UK, you can book an add-on to your Orlando package with Virgin Holidays or have entry to Universal Orlando Resort, plus a day ticket to Halloween Horror Nights included when you book a seven-night package (staying at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort) and including flights from the UK from £1576 person. tips for halloween horror nights
2. Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel
Staying close to the action is a must. Universal resort hotels offer guests a lot of benefits, including early park access* during regular theme park hours and free transport to Universal Citywalk and Universal’s three theme parks. The hotels range from affordable to luxury, including one of the best value hotels in Orlando. Halloween Horror Nights runs from 6:30pm to 2am, and after legging it from zombies all night, you’ll be grateful of the short trip back to hotel with no need to worry about parking, driving or calling a taxi. tips for halloween horror nights
For a mid-rate hotel that has a luxurious feel, extremally comfortable beds and the biggest swimming pool at Universal Orlando Resort, take a look at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Rooms start from £160 per night or you can include the hotel with your Virgin Holiday package. Sapphire Falls Resort is one of my favourite hotels in Orlando.
(*Early access does not include Halloween Horror Nights)
3. One of the best tips for Halloween Horror Nights is to PLAN your night in advance
This year’s Universal Halloween Horror Nights includes 10 Horror Houses, five scare zones, multiple bars and food trucks, a spooky show and of course, the Universal Studios’ attractions that remain open during the event. There is a lot to do, so it’s unlikely you’ll do everything in one night, although there are ways to tackle this, which I talk about in this post.
Before you go, make a list of your must-see houses, hope-to-see houses and any rides or food and drinks you want to try. Prioritise those first. This year’s most popular houses will be Stranger Things and The Last of Us, so if you’re one of the first guests into the park for the event, head there straight away. If you arrive later, start with some of the less famous houses, such as Blood Moon Dark Offerings (which would make an excellent start) and Dr Oddfellow’s Twisted Origins, which is a colourful and fun way to kick off the evening.
Lines for the most popular houses reduce slightly during popular meal times, so you might see a dip in the standby line between 8 and 9pm and 11pm and midnight. Most people leave around 1am, so if you have the energy you can use that extra hour for maximum scares. tips for halloween horror nights
4. Experience a living trailer
Universal Studios has always been about bringing movies to life, but one of the very cool things about HHN32 (Halloween Horror Nights 32) is that guests can experience a live trailer for a new film that doesn’t come out until mid-October! The new Exorcist: Believer is an extension of the original, terrifying, movie and the house themed on the upcoming film is one of the scariest houses at Halloween Horror Nights ever. It’s a non-stop scream fest as you make your way through the Fielding house as sinister happenings (and scareactors descend on you). It’s fantastic and was my favourite house, so make sure you put that high on your list.
5. Tips for Halloween Horror Nights: Try the themed Halloween Horror Nights Food
One of the best things about Halloween Horror Nights is the pop-up food and drink stands that offer themed, Halloween Horor Nights food, drink and snacks around the park. This year, many of the best food options tied in with the theme of the houses, offering an extra bonus to fans.
The Last of Us ‘Left Behind Ravioli’ ($9.99) is a cheese ravioli with marinara, truffle cream, garlic bread, and tempura mushrooms, which comes in a collectable tin and is a decent-sized feed for staving off post-apocalyptic infected zombies. The retro theming of Stranger Things has always been at the heart of the Netflix show and ‘Yuri’s Favorite dessert’ ($5.99), a chocolate cake in a tub with peanut butter mousse and rainbow Reese’s Pieces has been a hit with fans.
My favourite bite of the night, though, was the ‘Cheddar Jalapeño Hellfire Club Sandwich’ ($13.99) from the Stellar Bar in the Production Central area. It is made with jalapeño cheddar bread, shaved pork shoulder, crispy potato sticks, spicy mayo, pineapple chutney, and cheese – what a combo! This sumptious sandwich was both deliclous and filling. Follow it down with an ‘Electric Death’ gin-based blue cocktail from the World Expo bar near to San Francisco – but beware, it’s a strong one!
More tips for halloween horror nights
6. Dress for the occasion
Fancy dress and masks are not allowed at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, but you can still arrive in style with a t-shirt featuring your favourite horror film, or Halloween-esk clothing. People-watching is premium and you’ll see some fantastic fashions in the fog.
Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes for the event. Halloween Horror Nights 32 spans the whole of the Universal Studios Florida park and even further, as the houses extend into the soundstage areas. This means lots of walking, so make you stay on your feet.
The horror houses are dimly lit with lighting effects, so neither heels or flip flops are recommended. Trust me, when your mate leaps out of the way of an approaching ghoul and lands on your toe, you’ll wish you’d put on your trainers!
7. Explore the original houses
With huge brands like Chucky, The Last of Us and Stranger Things on offer, it may feel tempting to disregard the horror houses based on stories you don’t know. This would be a huge mistake as the Universal original houses often turn out to be some of the best.
As mentioned before, Blood Moon is a fantastic horror house with some very sinister scenes. Yeti Campground Kills is also a scare-a-minute house, set in a formally idyllic campground. The Darkest Deal combines music and jump scares under the theme of a musician who sells his soul to the devil. tips for halloween horror nights
Universal Monsters is a fan favourite, returning each year with a different storyline. This year, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Invisible Man stage the ultimate showdown. Finally, Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate is a nod to a former attracyion at Universal’s Island’s of Adventure where the fire and ice dragons face off against each other.
8. Ride the attractions after-dark
This is one of the most underrated tips for Halloween Horror Nights. The main attractions at Universal Studios remain open during HHN32. These include Revenge of the Mummy, Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Men in Black Alien Attack and Transformers: The Ride 3D. With most guests prioritising the horror houses, the lines for the regular attractions are usually low, which means you can walk right on to rides that have long wait times during the day.
Plus, Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it is even better at night and you can see all the splendour of Halloween Horror Nights form the top. On this ride, you can select your own choice of music to play as you go and a top Halloween Horror Night tip is to dial 999 into the keypad, which will reveal a special spooky song or audio that you can’t hear during the day.
9. Tips for Halloween Horror Nights: Don’t miss the Halloween Tribute store
You can buy Halloween Horror Nights merchandise at both Universal theme parks, Universal Citywalk and at the Universal hotels, but there is nowhere better to browse the goods than at the Halloween Tribute Store. As well as the best shop for everything HHN32, the store features special exhibits, photo opportunities, legacy merchandise and collectables.
The good news is, the store is open during regular park hours so you can pop in during the day and stock up on merch in advance. You will find it next to the Revenge of The Mummy attraction.
10. Experience all five scare zones around the park
There are no coincidences here, everything is carefully created with specific themes. The Halloween Horror Nights scare zones are like mini horror houses dotted around with a team of ‘scareactors’ hiding in plain sight to spook you as you move around the park. This year, the themes tie into the story HHN32’s main baddie, Dr Oddfellow with his ‘Collection of Horror’. Think deranged clowns and circus freaks waiting at every turn.
Vamp ’69 has a party atmosphere and great music, but the festival-goers are not what they seem. Shipyard 32: Horrors Unhinged has beautifully eerie music and some not-so-beautiful inhabitants in the San Francisco area. Jungle of Doom gives off ‘lost in the wood’ vibes. Dark Zodiac is a horrifying horoscope of dark characters. tips for halloween horror nights
I like the scare zone areas, because unlike the houses where you have to wait to enter, you can go through the zones as often as you like and they are lots of fun. Scare zones are in specific areas of the park and clearly marked on the map. If you want some down time away from the fright path and the jump scares, head to areas of the park that have not been halloween’d. The best area to take a breather is Diagon Alley, which remains open throughout the event.
11. One of the best tips for Halloween Horror Nights is to visit at less busy times
Halloween Horror Night houses usually have wait time between 20 minutes and 2hrs, depending on the house and the date and time. The most popular houses like Stranger Things, The Last of Us and Exorcist: Believer will command a greater queue.
The best time to visit Halloween Horror Nights is during the week, as many locals with Frequent Fear Passes will come to the event at the weekends. Friday and Saturday night are the busiest times to go.
If you are planning on booking your Florida holiday to coincide with next year’s event, it’s worth noting that September is less busy than October. This year’s HHN32 runs until November 4th, surpassing actual Halloween night. These dates are expected to be quieter, also, so it’s a great time to go and experience the houses before they close and you may even be able to do them all in one night.
12. Get into Universal Studios early for Halloween Horror Nights
One way to get an advantage over other HHN32 guests is to be in the park before the event starts. Already being inside the park gives you a HUGE advantage when beating the queues, and you can do two and sometimes even three horror houses before big lines begin to form.
The way to do this is paying for a Scream Early access pass. For $40 (+tax), you can enter Universal Studios park at 3pm, before being given access to a ‘Stay and Scream’ holding area until Halloween Horror Nights officially opens for the night at 6:30pm. There are different Stay and Scream areas, so choose the one closest to the Haunted Houses you want to do first.
The one thing to know about the HHN Scream Early Access ticket is that if you arrive after 5pm, you will NOT be able to enter the park and no refunds are offered. So, make sure you make it on time.
13. Enjoy Halloween extras at the Universal Resort hotels and get a killer photo
Halloween has taken over at Universal Orlando and, like everyone else, I can’t get enough! You don’t even need a ticket to experience the Universal Monsters Gallery of Legends, a selection of seven spooky photo ops at each of the Universal Orlando Resort. Plus, guests of all Universal Orlando Resort hotels can enjoy an interactive horror selfie room called Chucky’s Twisted Playground at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This is a series of optical illusions, featuring Chucky and his comrades and not recommended for children under 14. Since this exhibit is for hotel guests only, a room key card is required to access the exhibit.
Finally, the hotels all have specialty Halloween-themed cocktails that are exclusively available during the Halloween Horror Nights dates (September 1st – November 4th 2023), so over 21s can have a drink before the scary fun begins.
For more information about Universal Orlando Resort, visit universalorlando.com
MORE FROM PASSPORTSTAMPS.UK
Everything you need to know about Halloween Horror Nights
The ULTIMATE list of tips for Universal Orlando
How to celebrate Halloween in Orlando
What is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween like for kids
Plan the ultimate Florida Road Trip
What to do in Tampa, Florida
Where to go swimming with manatees in Florida
The closest beach to Orlando is…