Help with Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

August 6, 2023, 5:54 PM

I go to many parks yearly, and get to Orlando about once every two years. Have always wanted to do the HHNs but it never has worked out. I loved, loved, loved the House of Horrors in Hollywood and hated to see it go. Am only going to be able to do one night at Orlando this year, and sprung for the HHN Express Pass, but there is little information for a valid plan of attack. Will not have theme park tickets, only HHN. I used to help put together local haunted houses, so I know this will be fun, but I wonder if I can realistically accomplish much. (I had a prior account here but had to start up a new one once old email was not able to be accessed). Any advice from HHN regulars?

Replies (8)

August 6, 2023, 6:20 PM

With the Express Pass, it's usually fairly easy to get to all the houses in one night. But with the houses changing every year, you're right, it's hard to find any attack plan that will be relevant for the upcoming season until the season actually starts.

When HHN opens in Orlando on September 1, I will have a big review on the front page with advice on hitting up the houses. But yes, people do get to all the houses in one evening. It takes effort on some evenings, but it can be done.

August 6, 2023, 7:28 PM

Great! Looking forward to it. Now my biggest challenge will be staying up way past my bedtime.

Edited: August 7, 2023, 1:19 PM

I think the most important thing is that if you do not have theme park tickets for the day (Stay and Scream), you need to arrive at the entry gates at least 1 hour before opening (preferably 1.5-2 hours), which means you need to be pulling into the garage (if you're driving) at least 2-2.5 hours before HHN starts - lines for the parking garage get ridiculous on HHN nights, so anticipate at least 30-45 minutes just to park your car and another 20-30 minutes to get through security and walk through CityWalk. An increasing number of HHN guests are doing "Stay and Scream", and those guests are released from the holding areas within the park 15-30 minutes BEFORE the front gates open for regular ticketed guests, which means lines are already 30+ minutes long by the time you get to your first house from the front gate. For my money, doing Stay and Scream is more valuable than Express if you do it right, because you can typically get through 2 houses BEFORE most of the guests entering through the front gate can even get in line for their first house.

Obviously having Express will mitigate some of those lines (though expect to wait between 15-30 minutes for each maze even with Express), but if you have Unlimited Express, you still want to have a plan so you can get multiple runs through your favorite houses - the Dueling Dragons maze may have multiple paths, so you will want to do that at least twice.

As far as a touring plan, you will need to wait until after the first week of the event to see which houses are the most popular (though typically IP-based houses tend to naturally have longer lines - I expect Stranger Things and The Last of Us to be the most popular even if they aren't the "best"). HHN groups houses in various zones around the park, so for the sake of your feet (queues for the houses snake thousands of feet through backstage areas), I highly recommend doing houses as you come to them, and not bouncing around the park. There are usually 4-6 houses in the sound stages behind RRR (2-3 you access between Jimmy Fallon and RRR in front of the Hollywood Bowl and 2-3 that you access in the back corner of the park past the RRR turnaround). There are also one or 2 houses that are placed in or near F&F with another 2 between MIB and the Coke refill station on the edge of Springfield. The last 2-4 mazes typically enter through KidZone, though who knows where those entrances will be because of the construction. Not only do you have to pay attention to where the entrances are, but also where exits are for each house, because you might come out in a very different spot than where you enter, though smart planning could allow you to walk from the exit from one maze to the entrance of the next (though it's important to make sure you're not missing any, causing you to backtrack). It may not necessarily hitting the house with the shortest line first, because that may put you out far from the entrance to the adjacent maze with a slightly longer line.

I'm not sure if you have already purchased your Express Pass, but I would highly recommend the RIP Tour, which is a behind the scenes tour of the entire event with a small group of guests and a knowledgeable tour guide. It's a bit on the expensive side, but it's worth every penny if you're an HHN fan.

August 9, 2023, 10:45 AM

I've been to 2017, 2018, and 2019 and only bought express passes. We did manage to do everything including the shows. My first year we didn't have "stay and scream" and all though we still got everything done it was definitely a lot more of a headache. The entrance line is no joke and was very unpleasant! The next 2 years we did stay and scream and it was a lot better. We were able to do 2 houses without using express and then later on in the evening did then again using express which was really nice.

If you won't have a park ticket and have already bought your express passes I would seriously consider buying the "stay and scream" tickets. It would 100% be worth it to skip the insane lines at the beginning of the event.

Last year was our first time trying the RIP tour and we liked it so much we are doing that again this year. I doubt we will go back to express since we liked the tour a lot better. We especially liked the fact that its less walking since the route to the house entrance is actually more direct then even the express line.

Edited: August 9, 2023, 12:27 PM

@Francis24 - You're absolutely right about saving on the walking. A number of the houses are literally right next to each other, but even with Express, you have to walk down the entrance queue and through the exit line back into the park. RIP allows you to walk directly to the house entrance and from the exit of that house to the next adjacent house without needing to go back into the park. In addition to the incredible insight and notes (and with Q&A - will always vary depending on the participation of your tour group), the RIP Tour takes you around to every house during the peak of the event when lines are their longest. If you really want to maximize the event, you can do Stay and Scream, tour 2-3 houses at the beginning of the event with shorter lines before front gate guests enter the park, do the RIP Tour (which includes a buffet before you leave for the tour), and then circle around at the end of the tour to revisit the best houses when lines die down in the last 2-3 hours of the night (or ride the rides, which you get Express access for with your RIP lanyard).

RIP is probably not worth it if you've already bought Express, but as Francis noted, it's definitely worth it to do Stay and Scream paired with Express (assuming you've already bought it), even if you just enter USF at 3-4 PM and hang out in one of the holding areas - I highly recommend Finnegan's since that's the holding area for the houses in the sound stages that are better to do earlier in the evening because they're completely dark inside (bring dark sunglasses to help adjust your eyes).

August 25, 2023, 5:49 AM

I really appreciate the advice. October is always a difficult month for us, so we have never made it to Orlando then. Made it all other months other than summer since I want to avoid that Florida summer heat. We are also making a side trip to Disney which will be fun. I will skip on the VIP but just because we like to walk and I don't care for 'behind the scenes.' I prefer to not know how things are done, but thank you nonetheless. Might get the stay and scream though. If you do stay and scream, what does 'hang out in the holding area' entail? Can you ride other attractions during this time. By the way, this site introduced me to the advice of playing Kickstart My Heart on the Rip Ride Rocket, which may be the best theme park advice I have ever gotten.

Edited: August 25, 2023, 8:08 AM

Stay and Scream is pretty much what it says. You purchase a ticket to enter the theme parks during normal hours, and when closing time rolls around (typically 5 PM), staff will set up the holding areas around the park. Personally, I've always gone to the holding area near Finnegan's, because that's closest to the sound stage houses that are better to tour during daylight hours because they are still completely dark inside (though you should bring some really dark sunglasses to help your eyes adjust because it can be hard to see going from bright sunshine to dark HHN house early in the night).

When you reach a holding area, staff will scan your HHN ticket and give you a wrist band, and you're free to roam the fenced in area. You cannot leave the holding area until they release guests for HHN, which is usually 15-30 minutes before the front gates open at 6:30. Depending on what time you enter the holding area (I think you can officially enter the holding areas as early as 4 PM), you can expect to hang out there for an hour or 2 before they release Stay and Scream guests into the park, but you don't have any access to rides or anything else beyond the holding area you've entered - you can eat and drink at the restaurants in each holding area, but more and more people are lining up before being released into the park.

The time you're waiting in the holding area to be released into HHN is a good opportunity to plan your strategy for the event and to read all the backstories on the houses and scare zones. It's also an excellent time to talk to fellow guests to see where they're from and their strategies for the event - contrary to what you might think hard-core HHN guests (the ones who are smart enough to do Stay and Scream) are all really nice people and share the same love for Halloween events.

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