I've never been to Halloween Horror Nights before, and I wasn't planning on going this year. Since I'm only 16, I can't legally stay in a hotel alone, and my parents wouldn't dream of driving down to Halloween Horror Nights (they aren't big fans of getting scared...). Then, the impossible happened. I won a radio contest. Grand prize. This prize consisted of 4 Halloween Horror Nights R.I.P. Tour tickets, a parking pass, paid for hotel and 4 separate park hopper tickets to Universal Studios Florida/Islands of Adventure. It was a dream come true! The HHN were to be used on October 28th, 2012, and so they were!
My mom and dad agreed that my dad should be the one to take me. He hadn't been to Universal since the early 90's, way before City Walk and Islands of Adventure existed. I was excited to see his reaction to all the growth that has taken place and shaped what is now Universal Orlando Resort. Since we still had two more tickets, my dad invited his friend. I didn't really want to invite any of my friends and I would prefer it to just be the three of us. My dad's friend had visited HHN before and absolutely loved it. Me and my dad however, didn't know what to expect...
After weeks of anticipation, we left at approximately 11:20 AM for Orlando. We live in Jacksonville Beach Florida, so we are already relatively close. We left pretty early considering the tour starts at 7:00 PM and the check-in is around 6:15. However, my dad and his friend just had to see the Jaguars game (nothing exciting, always a loss for us Jags...). The drive to Orlando went by fairly quickly, as usual, and we arrived at our hotel around 1:40. We checked in to the La Quinta on Universal Blvd. with no problem at all, dropped off our stuff and headed to Universal's City Walk.
The drive to Universal Orlando was about 5 minutes. We pulled up to the park and I pointed out the Islands of Adventure lighthouse, Dr. Doom's FearFall, Hollywood Rip, Ride, RockIt, The Incredible Hulk, Jurassic Park, Hogwarts and Ripsaw Falls! It was fun and he was astounded with the growth of the place.
We parked in E.T. 462 and headed down the escalator to the moving walkways. Now, the trek to City Walk from here is pretty long, and even longer when it's cold. I didn't expect it to be so cold! I quickly slipped my hoodie on and we kept moving. Before we knew it, we were gliding over the Hollywood mini-golf course (which looks amazing) and we entered City Walk. I had a great feeling of excitement come over me, as I LOVE City Walk. It builds my anticipation up perfectly to Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios. We made our way to the right and into the NASCAR Sports Grille, where they had the Jags game on! My dad and his friend ordered some nachos and I took off for a little bit to soak in the atmosphere. I went to the entrance of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Went through parts of City Walk I hadn't seen yet. Watched HRRR. It was great!
The view of Islands of Adventure from the 2nd floor of NASCAR Sports Grill.
I went back and ate and finished watching the game. We got some free drink glasses. Nobody wanted to make the walk back to the car, so I volunteered. I got lost. About 30 minutes later I was back in City Walk and we still had 2 hours to spare until the tour started. We explored City Walk and they got some alcoholic drinks while I got water. We went and sat where the Cineplex is and people watched and talked for about 45 minutes. It was pretty relaxing. We got bored and shopped around some more and we still had an hour left! So, we went and watched HRRR do its little sideways loop by the entrance to USF for while. My dad and friend were beyond excited to ride HRRR, but I proudly boasted that Revenge of the Mummy is my favorite coaster. We explored Hard Rock Cafe for a little bit then sat by the water and watched the water taxis. Finally it was time!
Universal Studios entrance.
Me in front of the Universal globe!
The crowds were enormous. It was insane. We went through the regular security check and scrambled to the right, where the V.I.P. Check-In is located at. We arrived at exactly 6:15, hahaha. We had no problems checking in and the guest service was phenomenal! These people are so nice! Seriously! We met our tour-guide, Jessica, who was amazing and we were directed to the V.I.P. Lounge. Here is where I got really excited. The room was completely decorated with gore and severed heads and brains. Classic horror film clips were playing constantly. My excitement meter was going off the charts!
View from the balcony of the V.I.P. Lounge. (Edited these to be creepy.. Haha.)
A few more groups piled in, some were taken with other tour guides, some stayed with us. We were the last group to depart and we headed down stairs and into the chaotic streets. Jessica handed us our V.I.P. credentials that we wore around our neck and she went over some ground rules. Before we knew it, we were off! We swiftly walked through the streets of Production Central, behind RockIt, and backstage where we would find our first house, Dead End.
1. Dead End - I honestly do not remember much about this house except the amazing facade. They really outdid theirselves with Dead End, as the sets and the facade were gorgeous! I don't remember any particular scares from this house, but as my first HHN house I learned that these houses rely heavily on sound and lighting effects, which is to be expected but these effects are really great! I also learned that it was a constant "line" throughout the house, which really reduced the scare factor for me.
After we exited Dead End, we found Jessica. She gave us a back-story on our next house... Gothic! This is the one I was most excited for as I only heard good things about it! We quickly followed her right to the front of the line and we began our tour of the creepiest cathedral around.
2. Gothic - Wow, this house lived up to the hype. Much like Dead End, the facade was just amazing and so were the sets you walked through. I was completely blown away. The scares in here were memorable. Far too often did a gargoyle pop out of nowhere and make me scream. Plus, this house had my favorite effect of the night, the Pepper's Ghost Effect. I swore I was really 3 stories high. The candle effect was neat too, but I didn't get that scare at the end of it. This house was purely amazing!
Gothic was done, and now we had one more house in Production Central... Silent Hill. Now, I know nothing about the games or movies, but the trailers for both make it seem pretty weird and creepy, and boy was I right. Jessica quickly walked us over to the entrance of Silent Hill and we began!
3. Silent Hill - This was another one of my favorites in set design, but I didn't get that many scares out of it (except the end). The entrance is ominous, with the smoke and ash and the Silent Hill sign. The noises in there are creepy also. The first half was pretty creepy, but like I said, I didn't get that many scares. However, when I neared the end of the house, the line of people in front of me disappeared, and I ended up being the first in my group. My dad and friend started laughing and I quickly sped off. I saw Pyramid Head for a brief moment but I was going way to fast. He did scare my dad pretty good though. Silent Hill was a very interesting house, and one where I genuinely got scared.
When we finished Silent Hill, Jessica informed our group that she can take us to the front of any two select attractions. We picked RockIt and Mummy! We hurried over RockIt and made our way to the front of the line! (Sorry people...)
Hollywood Rip, Ride, RockIt - While I find the theming to be a little... Underwhelming, there is no denying RockIt is a fun coaster! And very cool to ride and look at during night time! I luckily got front row and pulled down the lap bar. My father was giddy finally being on this ride and being able to pick his own music. I selected "Intergalactic" by the Beastie Boys. The vertical lift is so much fun, as is the drop. And the views are amazing! This ride seriously increases in the fun factor by 100% during night-time. My head bounced and hit the headrest a few times in a jarring way, but it wasn't too bad. What an adrenaline rush!
After RockIt, we regrouped with Jessica in front of Monsters Cafe. The group split up to use the restrooms and I stayed with Jessica by the cafe. I asked her about all the construction and asked what it was, but she said she couldn't say. I said I knew already and she laughed and told me she told the other R.I.P. Tour Groups it was a promo for Spider-Man where he will swing through a construction site, hahahahaha. The group gathered again, and we headed to Mummy!
Revenge of the Mummy - Jessica led us to an employee entrance on the right side of the entrance. We climbed up the staircase and straight to the loading area! We hopped on and we were off! Now, my dad had never been on Mummy and I was excited to see his reaction to how completely amazing is. The first few scenes were great and I noticed some subtle changes. However, the turntable scene and the arena were far too bright, though my eyes could have already been adjusted to the darkness. My dad really like it, but much preferred RockIt.
We met up with Jessica after the Mummy and started giving us information on our next house, the Walking Dead. As we entered San Francisco, it was obvious that the Walking Dead was one of the only semi-scare zones of the year. The walkers were everywhere and very convincing and scary. There was a very cool fire effect and the bus from the show was outside the entrance to the maze. I was pretty nervous about this one!
4. The Walking Dead: Dead Inside - This house was simply not that scary. I may have jumped once or twice, but the constant fear wasn't there. The sets were very nice though, like the supermarket scene and the hospital scene. The end was a little spooky as it was long and foggy and I was waiting for a scare, but it didn't happen.
Once we were done with Walking Dead, Jessica took us over the bridge from San Francisco to World Expo. There was a ton of Prisoners and Traditionals in this area. One prisoner was hiding in the Coca-Cola thing and really sent me running. Jessica took us backstage behind the Simpsons Ride and to Universal's House of Horrors...
5. Universal's House of Horrors - I was excited about this maze, after hearing about how it is all black and white. Entering through a movie theater was a clever idea and we jumped right into the Wolfman scene. Not my favorite scene. I can't remember much about the sets after that. I got two really good scares. The first was Frankenstein. He was hidden in some corridor and he lunged really, really fast at me. I screamed pretty loudly. The end scene was very cool and very creepy. It was disorienting and seeing the creatures come at you through the film strips was terrifying!
Alice Cooper was a short walk away, so we headed there. I wasn't scared at all due to the music sounding kind of upbeat and not knowing anything about Alice Cooper.
6. Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare - As a house I wasn't anticipating, I had very low expectations. It did surpass my low expectations however, but it still wasn't my favorite. There wasn't really anything that "wowed" me. The scares were pretty predictable and the sets weren't all the amazing. The addition of music for each room was a nice touch, however none of the rooms tied in with each other, it was just sort of random.
We immediately headed to the last house, Penn & Teller.
7. Penn & Teller's New(kd) Vegas - I didn't know what to expect here and I was pleasantly surprised. It didn't seem as much of a scary house, but it was more fun. The glasses made the colors pop more and there was some wacky things to look at. I got scared around 2 times, though I can't remember specifically. The narration was very interesting, as were the sets.
Once Penn & Teller was over, we had some time to kill, so Jessica took us over to The Simpsons Ride. Don't laugh, but I've never ridden The Simpsons Ride. Usually when I come to Universal Orlando, I park-hop and just do my favorite attractions in USF and IOA and then my day is done. I never had an interest in trying Simpsons, as I assumed it would just be like Back to the Future but more boring...
The Simpsons Ride - Wow, I was wrong. This ride is so much fun. It's hilarious and just so much fun! The pre-show(s) made me laugh until my sides hurt! I couldn't remember all that much about BTTF so I was confused when we got in our seats in a tiny room. I thought the screens would be tiny! Then we started moving upwards and the movie started. I was wowed with the massiveness of the screen and how realistic the ride felt. This is definitely a must-do for me at USF and one of my favorite rides there!
After Simpsons, we rushed over to Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. We said our goodbyes to Jessica as the tour was over and the show was beginning. The show was pretty hilarious, though I would definitely classify it as "offensive". But who cares, it's all for fun! What a fun show. After the show, we waited for the crowd to disperse and we agreed to do Men In Black: Alien Attack. My dad's friend opted to go to Starbucks in New York instead while we did Men In Black.
Men In Black: Alien Attack - We hopped in the Express line and we walked pretty quickly to the loading area. My dad was impressed with the theming of the "Training Institute" and so was I! This is one of my favorite rides and it is very well done. He had never been on before and I warned about the possibility of a need to push the red button. My dad loved MIB, and I realized my full love for it to after we were done. What an awesome ride and a must-do at USF.
After Men In Black, we headed back to New York. New York is one of my favorite areas of the park, and under the presence of HHN, it is perfect. The tiny alleyways get even scarier and the city setting is perfect for HHN. We explored and admired New York for a good 30 minutes. At one point, I was peering into a store and admiring the detail. When I turned around, a scare actor was right there. I'd never jumped so hard in my life! This is an example of where the roaming hoards of scare actors works really well!
We took our second ride of the Mummy. This time we did the Express queue and I was glad my dad could see the creepy queue and the buildup to the ride. This time, it wasn't much darker, though we were back-row and I got some good air-time! It felt "wilder" this time around, which I surely enjoyed. After Mummy, we headed to Production Central. My dad was drooling over RockIt again, but we passed and headed to Despicable Me.
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem - Universal really outdid theirselves on this attraction. The pre-shows are great and very funny/cute and the interior of Gru's house is very well detailed, just like the movie! My only gripe is how the ride itself isn't an "individual" experience. I much prefer Star Tours or Simpsons because of this. With all the simulators in one massive room, I didn't get the same effect. However, the r ide is very family friendly and fun! It's a great replacement for Jimmy Neutron and it should hopefully appeal to all ages, like the movie did.
After Despicable Me, we entered Hollywood where it seemed like there was a scare zone just past Brown Derby. There was a TON of scare actors! They were literally swarming the streets. I got chased and scared around 8 times just walking through. After Hollywood, we did RockIt one more time and left around 1:30 AM.
Overall, I had an amazing time at Halloween Horror Nights. It seems the only way to do this event in the future is with an Express pass or the R.I.P. Tour.
2. Dead End
3. Universal's House of Horrors
4. Penn & Teller's New(kd) Vegas
5. Silent Hill
6. The Walking Dead: Dead Inside
7. Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare