Each year, as we approached Independence Day, the early part of the summer season heralds a surprising beginning to a whole new year of Halloween!

As we tuck into our hot dogs and burgers on July 4th, we are a mere 120 days away from the ever popular and spooky Holiday of October 31st.

Preparations at the parks have long been under way, and in the case of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, it is an all year round task of visualizing, designing, constructing and enacting what has always been recognized as Orlando’s scariest Halloween event.

With another 76 days between July 4th and Universal’s first evening of the Halloween Horror Nights 25 season, you could rightly assume we’ve gone crazy by getting excited so soon.
The thing is, as with anything in the movie business (Universal is of course just that!), the build up is everything!

Bloggers, fans and news desk editors went crazy last year, rushing to be the first to break the news by scurrying at midnight to update websites, blogs and social media pages.
The frenzy of course is NOTHING compared to the sheer terror that surges through your body when you attend your very first Halloween Horror Night at Universal!  Read on…..


Clueless Participants

As we parked the rental car in CityWalk, our team of four brave clueless souls made our way towards our very first Halloween event at Universal Orlando.  It was about 7pm and all of the human traffic was heading in one direction only; towards the infamous Security check area at CityWalk.
Back then, there were no Mini Golf courses to greet you, just that fabulous Universal Orlando ‘bridge’ ahead, and the warm scented Florida air that always makes an evening so special.  If you’ve been to Orlando before, you can probably smell that gorgeous air from your living room right now!
As we gathered near the security inspection tables, we caught sight of a mother heading back to the parking lot, guiding her sobbing teenage daughter.
The poor couple adorned fabulous fancy dress costumes and the girl’s tears were ruining what appeared to have been a really cool horror make-up effect.
As the guests in front murmured, we instantly realized that ‘Fancy Dress’ of any kind is not permitted at Universal’s HHN events.
To this day, we always hoped that the couple did return that evening in regular park clothes!  At the time, we thought the rule a little ‘severe’, but we were soon to be educated!


We spent an hour of HHN waiting to watch Shrek?

StreetWe confess that we arrived clueless, and Adam, our supposed leader for the evening clearly hadn’t a clue what HHN was all about and took us to see Shrek, again!
Why he loved Shrek quite so much, we have no idea, but he and Donkey definitely share the same humor.
Thankfully the HHN version of the Shrek pre-show is tuned a fair bit to include a Halloween theme, so we did get a great laugh out of Mistake #1.
What eventually worked out to be Mistake #2 was staying in the park and venturing into our very first ‘scare house’.
Please believe me, until we saw the 50 minute line wait, we were at that time, entirely clueless that HHN was fundamentally a bunch of scare mazes that would frighten the living c*** out of you!
I can not recall for one bit what the theme of our very first scare house experience was at Universal, but I do recall hearing my wife screaming as she ran; “go away Santa!  You are supposed to be nice!”.
What happens in a scare house is stunningly simple; spooky lighting, barely visible walls, dreadful noises, stunning theatrical sets and worst of all; scare actors.
If ever there was an accurate job description, it would indeed be ‘HHN Scare Actor’.
Some of these wicked people hide, some drift past your silently, others leap out with an ‘Arggggghhh’, many rap a big metal door knocker to make you leap out of your skin, and some lunge at you with what are ‘apparently’ fake weapons.
Whatever goes on inside a scare maze is sure to affect your pulse, and as we soon discovered, the ability to hold a cup of beer without spilling it!

Now we know why guests can not wear fancy dress!


Mistake #3 Beer!

HHNAfter our first visit to the maze (that we will now name ‘Nasty Santa’), we regrouped and jabbered away at each other like idiots, as we retold the crazy ‘goings on’ in that hell hole we’d just survived.
Seriously, that is literally how it felt.  We’d made it out alive!
Nerves were buzzing with electricity and we headed to the Budweiser cart for alcohol assistance.
As we rapidly became ‘slightly’ more aware of what on earth was going on at HHN, we made  a much better job of working out how to make best use of our HHN tickets.
Seven more scare houses to go, but only a handful of hours of park time left made us realise that we weren’t going to get through all of the line waits (more about Mistake #4 later!).
By the time we had waited 20 minutes in maze number 2 (lets call it the ‘Chop People to Bits Maze’), we quickly began to realize that our bodies were advising us all about Mistake #3.
That old physics law of; Beer in = Beer out.
Luckily, our designated driver, me, hadn’t had a beer, so I could hold the line places as the others scattered frantically into the park for a pee.
HHN line waits and beer aren’t particularly a great mix it seemed!


Mistake #4

HHN 22 - The Walking Dead - LRAfter our first visit, you will be pleased to know that we now enjoy HHN to the full, without missing any of the scare houses, and without clutching our shorts while trying to find the restrooms.
Admittedly, we still adore HHN, but none of our subsequent visits ever did quite have that same ‘Magic’ as our first visit, but, to be fair, the more we’ve been, the more we’ve grown to love it for many different reasons.
So what in fact was Mistake #4?
Simple; now we always buy an Express Pass when we visit HHN.
Admittedly at between an additional $50 to $100+ per person, it is a huge premium to pay over and above the regular $100 HHN ticket, but, it makes all of the difference to the scariest evening of your year life!
If you only get to Orlando every now and then in the Fall, this will be the best special ticket event you could possibly attend.  It really is worth paying the ticket price for!

We really hope you enjoyed reading about our first visit to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and sincerely hope that you maybe pick up on some of the mistakes we made and make your next visit to Orlando is more dreadful than ever!  😉

Visit our Universal Studios Parks Guide article for Halloween Horror Nights
Visit the Official Halloween Horror Nights website

Top Tip For Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

The Express Pass option looks extortionate at first glance, but we highly recommend them for HHN if you can pull out that extra cash.  If not, the only way to stand a chance of seeing all 8 mazes is to get into the HHN event as soon as the gates open at 6:30pm.
(But still be prepared to come out of the last Scare Houses as the park closes!)


You may also be interested in;