Halloween Horror Nights Advice

May 11, 2017, 11:50 AM

We are going to be in Orlando the last week of September & first week of October, staying at Disney All Star Music. My first time staying at a Disney hotel :-).

I have been to Disney and Universal several times over the years but have never made it to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. I like the idea of going but have always been put off by talk of big crowds and 2-3 hour queues.

Can anyone advise - are such long queues/crowds inevitable, or are there certain periods/days when you can avoid this and, if so, are we ever talking much shorter waits (maybe no more than 30 min queues)?

We have so much to do/see in 2 weeks, I'm not sure I can be bothered with really long waits

Do they do the express pass for HHN?


Replies (4)

Edited: May 11, 2017, 12:44 PM

They do sell Universal Express, but it is very expensive (typically more than the price of admission), and only gets you into each maze once through the shorter line.

Going on Sundays and Wednesdays (HHN is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays except the week of Halloween) usually result in smaller crowds, and obviously going earlier in the season is better than the week of Halloween. However, even a Sunday or Wednesday in late September/early October can bring 1+ hour waits to the mazes.

Here are my tips to successfully navigating HHN...

1. Stay and Scream - Enjoy your day in IOA/USF, and purchase the add-on ticket that allows you to stay in the park during the hour when the park changes over to HHN. By doing this, you're already past security, and can stage yourself closer to the mazes to get at least 2-3 trips through with minimal lines. If you don't have Stay and Scream, you need to get to the gate at least an hour before they open to ensure that you're through the gate within the first 15 minutes of operation. If you show up when HHN starts, lines for virtually every maze will be over an hour before you even walk through the turnstiles.

2. Eat during the changeover hour. If you do Stay and Scream, make an Open Table reservation for Finnegan's, which is one of the holding areas during the changeover. If you don't have a reservation, put your name on the list at least 30-45 minutes before USF closes for regular day guests. Not only do you get some food in your before starting, but you get to sit down for a little while before HHN starts.

3. Take advantage of sound stage mazes first. Forget doing mazes in order of popularity or your own interest. If you want to see as many mazes as possible (you need to be totally focused or buy UE if you want to see every maze in a single night), you MUST take advantage of the time when it's not yet dark out. The sound stage mazes (behind Rip Ride Rocket) are perfect to do during the first 2 hours of the event. Bring a really dark pair of sunglasses, so your eyes are adjusted before you walk into the stage, and you'll be treated to sights everyone around you will miss. A lot of the sound stage houses get a bad rap for this very reason because people go in them early (mostly because they're closest to the front gate), and are essentially walking through the first half of the maze blind before their eyes have adjusted to the darkness.

4. Plan to stay until the end. I know I said to spend the day in the parks so you can do Stay and Scream, but you should just plan on a really long day to take full advantage of the event. If you started your day at 8 or 9, making it to 1 AM might be tough, so perhaps plan a waterpark day or rest day after HHN. The lines really die down after 11 PM.

5. Make sure your phone is charged or bring an external battery. Even if you execute a perfect plan, you will spend at least half your HHN evening waiting in a line. You'll want something to do while you're waiting in line, so a fully charged cell phone is almost a necessity. Don't be afraid to chat up guests around you in line too.

6. Don't chase short lines. I've found it much more efficient to just do mazes as I get to them while walking systematically around the park. HHN is a lot more walking than you think (many of the queues stretch far back into the backstage areas), and you could end up walking more during an evening at HHN than you would during a full day at EPCOT. The app and signs are nice to let you know what the current waits are for mazes, but it's simply not worth the effort to crisscross back and forth around the park chasing slightly shorter lines. If your goal is to see every maze, you're going to eventually end up in a couple of 1+ hour long lines, it's just a nature of the beast. Now if you're standing in front of the entrance to 2 different mazes near the end of the night, it might make sense to do the shorter line first, but in the end, I think you would ultimately end up standing in lines for about the same amount of time regardless what order you do the mazes in (unless there's a real stinker or overwhelming hit among the offerings).

7. Don't drink...This is probably the hardest recommendation since HHN is very forward with alcohol sales during the event. If you really want to enjoy yourself, and see all the great work Mike Aiello and his team put together, you just can't do it while intoxicated. Not only that, but the mixed drinks and shots are full of syrup (not so much alcohol), and are way overpriced. If you really need to be "in the spirit", one or two might not kill you, but over-imbibing is a recipe for disaster, especially if it's a warm evening.

8. Spend time in the scare zones. Plan your route between mazes to walk slowly through the scare zones. While some of the characters are there just to have their pictures taken and perform some jump scares, some groups have developed scripts that they follow. If you simply zip through and see the standing characters and jump scares, you'll miss some of the more more nuanced performances found during HHN. I don't know if they're going to do another Purge scare zone, but those have traditionally been exceptional with 5-10 minute lightly scripted performances that are quite good, assuming you're interested in the IP being presented.

9. Don't forget to ride. If you get tired of standing in 2 hour lines, it's almost guaranteed that there are rides that are close to walk-on or minimal wait. Universal changes the rides they operate during HHN from year to year, but Transformers, MIB, and RRR can be fun diversions.

10. See Bill and Ted. I usually try to time my walk around the park so I'm near the Bill and Ted Theater (Fear Factor Theater) near the penultimate performance. The first 2 shows are usually packed, but the last 2 tend to be a little easier to get into without having to wait 30 minutes in advance.

The thought of super long lines can be intimidating, but unfortunately, that's what the event has become. Even with what seem to be endless lines, the event is still worth it, and if you've never been before, it should be a must do at least once in your life. I'll be going for my 5th time this fall, and can't wait!!!

May 11, 2017, 12:38 PM

They indeed do express pass for HHN, but it tends to sell out early in the evening if not completely beforehand. In my experience the smallest crowds have been on weekdays and on Halloween itself (many people are trick or treating or at parties). The most popular houses though will have longer waits (60 min+) no matter what day.

May 11, 2017, 12:45 PM

Hey that is really helpful and has given me plenty to think about. Thank you both and Russell for the really detailed information, that is really useful stuff

May 11, 2017, 5:25 PM

Russell has excellent advice. I've used the express pass option before but it is expensive. Russell has a very thorough game plan and I would follow it to the letter.

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