Universal Studios crowds in October.......

Edited: July 28, 2015, 9:11 PM

Wondering if you guys can help me out, me and a mate of mine going in October to Universal/Islands of Adventure and want to know how the crowd situation is usually during this time, Im going from the 8-12th (which is Thursday-Monday) and I want to know if I should spring for an Express Pass

Thanks in Advance

PS. On the Topic of Express Passes, we're also planning to hit HHN for 3 nights, (all nights except for saturday) how are crowds for the event usually on thursdays, fridays and sundays?? and any tips on how to watch everything in HHN? thanks

Replies (12)

Edited: July 29, 2015, 7:13 AM

October crowds are pretty manageable. That is the time of year we typically travel to Orlando, and love doing the parks in October (not only for HHN and lighter crowds, but also Disney's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Sea World's Halloween Spooktacular, and EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival). Expect 20-30 minute lines for the top attractions and occasional 45-60 minute lines for Forbidden Journey and Gringott's if there are breakdowns. If you can utilize the single rider lines, you won't have to wait much at all for anything. October is not a ghost town like it used to be 10 years ago, but it's still a great time to visit (typically nice weather too - upper 70's/low 80's).

Since you're going over Columbus Day Weekend, I would expect Thursday night to be the slowest of the 3 followed by Sunday and then Friday. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it's as crowded on Sunday night as it is on Friday that weekend because of the holiday. If you're planning on 3 nights at the event, you should not have a problem seeing everything (including multiple trips through the top mazes). Universal Express is probably not needed if you're going to spend so much time at the event, but if you're already going to be there 3 days, I'd highly recommend doing an RIP tour one of the days to mix things up. I've never done one personally, but have heard nothing but good things about them, and the day that you do one, you get Universal Express good for one time at each maze. I cannot recommend the Stay and Scream passes enough, especially if you're already planning on visiting USF and IOA during the day. Guests already in the park before USF opens the gates for HHN have a HUGE advantage over those waiting outside. You can easily get through 2 mazes with minimal lines before the crush of people flood the park through the main gate. If you're doing Stay and Scream, consider making reservations through Open Table for Finnegan's since the bar/restaurant serves as a holding area for Stay and Scream guests during the hour that the park converts from normal operations to HHN. If you don't have a reservation ahead of time, you will be relegated to the bar, or a waiting list that will not get you a table before HHN starts.

With a 3-day visit, plan on spending some time in each of the scare zones. A single day visitor typically would go from maze to maze to make sure they experience everything, but with 3 days to explore, you will have some time to enjoy the intricacies of the scare zones. The actors in those areas have loose scripts for their characters that are not fully understood unless you spend some time with them. I was really drawn to The Purge scare zone last year, and wish I had some more time to spend in that area, but was too busy making sure I experienced all of the mazes. Depending on the type of person you are, try to stay until the end of the event. The park tends to clear out during the last hour of operation (except for Friday and Saturday nights), and you can typically get through 2 or 3 mazes in that last hour if you're willing to stay until the end. HHN is an amazing event, and you've picked a great year to attend, the 25th anniversary. Follow them on twitter (@HorrorNightsORL), and take the time to participate in their social media aspect of the event.

July 29, 2015, 7:27 AM

The crowds, as Russell said, should be manageable during the day, moderate levels, so you can get by without an express, especially if you go to the parks early. But they will probably be crazy busy during the evening HHN events. Last year the park reached peak capacity a couple of times. This year will probably be even busier since it's a HHN anniversary celebration year. The onsite hotel rooms were just about sold out more than a month ago. In years past there were always plenty of vacancies up through booking at the end of September. Fridays & Sundays are super busy for HHN, so you may want to consider express unless it doesn't bother you to stand in really long lines. Russell's tip on Stay & Scream is excellent. We did that also and it gives you a real jump on the houses. If you don't have an AP or stay at an onsite hotel (they have shorter line entrances), it will take you a really long time to get through the turnstiles. HHN is a blast. You will enjoy it, no doubt.

July 29, 2015, 2:34 PM

Always go early and stay late.

July 29, 2015, 5:03 PM

TH: That's good advice for just about any enjoyable entertainment, especially theme parks. I agree wholeheartedly.

Edited: July 29, 2015, 7:15 PM

Thank you guys soo much, from the looks of things it seems that crowds will be alright and manageable, as for the HHN, originally we were going to opt for stay and scream, however seeing as it would raise the price upwards to $200+ (yikes) for 3 nights , we decided to go for a FFP+ (we haven't bought it YET, so if you guys think its better to opt for stay and scream, im all ears),which gives us the 3 nights for just $118. Do FFP+ users in park also get to stay in park while they set things up for HHN or would we have to exit the park to re-enter? Also, since Russell got me curious, has anyone experienced the RIP tours and if so, are they worth the admission? How long do they usually last and after the tour has ended is there time left to enjoy the rides of the park?

EDIT: Also, forgot to mention, that the first HHN (Thursday) we'll be going just to HHN as thats the day we arrive at Orlando so for that night we cant opt in for stay and scream

July 29, 2015, 8:05 PM

PS (Sorry for so many questions) but can someone explain how does the dining plan work? Is it worth it or is it better to not get it

July 30, 2015, 7:05 AM

The Frequent Fear pass might be worth it, but I'm not sure if those guests can stay in the park during the conversion if they visit the parks during the day. The Universal Orlando customer service representatives tend to be pretty helpful, so I would recommend calling or e-mailing them to verify. Since you're starting at HHN on Thursday night, and would thus have to purchase a single night admission to cover that, it's probably wise to go with the Frequent Fear pass even if you're not allowed to stay in the park the other days. If you're not able to stay in the park during the conversion, I highly recommend lining up at the gate as soon as USF closes for daily operation (i.e. don't go to City Walk for dinner or hang out in IOA or Diagon Alley). Chances are when the park closes at 5 PM, there will already be a sizable crowd (1,000 or more) already lining up at the gates for the start of HHN. The one time I did HHN without Stay and Scream (on a Wednesday night no less), I got to the USF gate at 4:30, and there were still hundreds of people there ahead of me, and because of the guests already in the park for Stay and Scream and the time it took to get through the gates (security is much more thorough during HHN than regular park operations), my first maze line was 20 minutes, second was already 45 minutes, and third was 90 minutes. Last year when I did Stay and Scream, I was able to finish all 3 mazes on the backlot side of the park in the first hour of operation.

Universal has gotten rid of the All-Day Dining Deal, so the only dining plans they have are single meal plans. They're not terribly valuable since you're essentially getting a "snack" at a slightly discounted price, depending upon which entree you select. You're probably better off just eating al a carte. Remember you receive a discount for flashing a AAA card or an AMEX card on all in-park purchases (don't forget about the semi-secret AMEX lounge across from Shrek that serves free snacks and bottled water to card holders). Purchasing a refillable cup might be a good value if you tend to buy a lot of sodas in the park. You can get bottomless beverages throughout the day for $12.99. However, I'm not sure if the "day" extends from standard park hours through HHN. Obviously if it does, it becomes a very good value, but you might want to call or e-mail Universal to check.

July 30, 2015, 8:59 AM

I believe AAA changed their rules a few months ago. The new policy requires you to purchase your theme park tickets through AAA to qualify for the food & merchandise discounts. In the past you could just flash your card at the establishments that honored it.

July 30, 2015, 5:36 PM

If you're in the Studios park before it closes and you have a Frequent Fear Pass, you can go to one of the two holding areas to wait. I highly recommend doing that. You couldn't pay me to stand outside the park and wait to go through the metal detector lines to get in. All you need to do is show your ticket to the attendant at the holding area and they will let you in. Ask for a map too so that you can plan out where you'll need to head for the mazes.

If you're a fast walker you can probably cover 3-4 mazes with minimum wait on Thursday and Sunday utilizing the holding area. True, you're going through them while it is still daylight out and the scareactors are warming up, but if you wear sunglasses, the transition to a dark building isn't too bad and the mazes are still worthwhile to go through.

The weekend you're going is a bit of a wildcard since it is technically a "holiday" weekend. I usually go about a week later. My experience has been that Wednesdays are great and the crowd is light. Thursday is a bit heavier, but manageable. I don't go on Fridays or Saturdays anymore. The crowds were too obnoxious with locals and the wait times for houses and rides rise quickly. Sunday is about the same as Thursday, but it will usually thin out within the last 2-3 hours because Monday is usually a workday for folks.

July 31, 2015, 9:23 PM

Thank you guys soo much, ill check with Universal on the FFP+ thing and hopefully the crowds dont get to uncontrollable, -fingers crossed for no ride with more than 120 min line wait-

Edited: August 3, 2015, 6:45 AM

I doubt any rides will be over 120 minutes, but mazes will get over that mark during the peak hours (8 PM to 10 PM), and will probably top 210 minutes on the Friday night you're there. That's when you know it's time to see Bill and Ted or hang out in the scare zones.

Also, Kris V. makes a good point in terms of touring while the sun it still up. Make sure you bring a dark pair of sunglasses to allow your eyes to adjust from the bright outside to the dark interior houses. I'd also take a look at early reviews of the mazes to see if any on the backlot side of the park (behind Twister and RRR) have exterior portions. Last year, The Walking Dead did, which I strategically did third of my first 3 mazes to tour during slightly lower light levels (in October, anything before about 7:00 is going to have too much light for exterior scenes). Typically the mazes behind MIB and KidZone are housed in tents and/or include exterior scenes, so you probably would want to hold off on those until after 8 (might even want to wait until the last 2 hours of the night depending upon lines). Mazes on the backlot side of the park are housed within those soundstages. I've seen people go into those mazes completely blind during the early hours because they're not wearing sunglasses and end up running into walls or simply miss the excellent details of the mazes because they're eyes aren't adjusted to the dark. There was one themed around From Dusk to Dawn (both the TV show and movie), that the group in front of me completely missed the first 5 scare actors because they simply didn't see what was going on. Those actors were wearing great costumes if you were paying attention. Check early reviews (if you don't mind some spoilers) to see which houses are worth waiting for and how the event is laid out. I'd also recommend brushing up on some of the IPs that they use. You don't necessarily need to be a fanboy to enjoy the mazes, but having some familiarity with the IPs will increase your enjoyment of the mazes. Last year there was a Dracula Untold maze that most people probably didn't understand because the movie it was based upon was not terribly successful or popular. However, I happened to have watched a free preview screening of the film a few months before HHN so I had a better understanding of why the characters were wearing Crusades-era costumes and why some of the rooms had more of an Arabian theme. Since the HHN crew has already revealed that the Walking Dead maze will focus on Season 5 of the show, it might be worth while to binge watch the season.

August 3, 2015, 4:20 PM

As far as the IP's apart from Insidious, already brushed up on em (not a big fan of TWD but will see season 5 just to get what the house will be about) really hyped for Freddy vs Jason, big fan of Freddy right here, and well then, 210 mins for one house.... And yea will be checking for reviews but im already set that FvJ will be the first house i see and most likely repeat cause, even if its not good, just a big Freddy fan.

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