This year, we broke the bank and had our first experience at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Despite the annual event’s explosive popularity over the past few years, we’d never had the chance to partake in the fun. Once we saw the 2016 lineup of mazes though, we knew this was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.
Universal Studios held their first Halloween-themed event in 1991 at the theme park’s Florida location under the name “Fright Nights”, an event that only lasted 3 days with a $19 admission price. Since then, the event has become an annual fan favorite. With increased production value and licensed iconic horror film properties, Halloween Horror Nights now lasts select nights from September through early November with admission costing upwards of $100.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s creative director of entertainment, John Murdy, unleashed an all star lineup of mazes for 2016’s Halloween Horror Nights. This year’s event featured a diverse range of horror classics and new fan favorites from the last few decades, including Halloween, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy vs. Jason, Krampus, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and The Purge.
After hearing a behind the scenes interview with Murdy on Blumhouse’s Shock Waves podcast, we knew HHN this year was particularly special and something we couldn’t pass up.
We quickly found out there are a few tricks from theme park aficionados to help you get the best bang for your buck and make the most of your experience at the park. If you haven’t experienced HHN or if you’re thinking of attending next year, keep these 5 tips in mind to enjoy a terrifying night that will haunt your nightmares for years to come.
1. Buy Tickets Early
HHN’s increasing popularity means the event often sells out fast. Waiting until the day of or purchasing passes at the gate could be a risky move if you don’t have unlimited opportunities to attend.
2. Select The Right Night
Admission can run higher for certain nights, so check the schedule in advance to see which nights offer discounted prices. Aside from price, attendance is much higher on Friday and Saturday nights close to Halloween. Choosing to go early in the season, after Halloween ends, on Halloween itself, or on Thursdays or Sundays means the park may be less crowded which in turn means shorter attraction wait times.
Another bonus to going after the night of Halloween is the discounts on HHN merchandise. We were able to snag some sweet horror swag for 50% off the original price.
3. Arrive Early
General admission will grant you access to the night time events at the park which officially begin at 7pm. However, many recommend arriving as early as 5pm to gain early entry. Some of the mazes open early around 5:15pm, and although they may be less intimidating before the sun sets, arriving early can help you beat the crowds and go through your favorite mazes multiple times without facing monstrous wait times.
4. Make a Plan & Know Your Limitations
In order to get the most out of the experience, a little planning and preparation can set your night up for success before you arrive.
It’s a good idea to eat before you enter the park. Whether you have a meal before leaving home or grab a bite from one of the many restaurants offering HHN special discounts at Universal CityWalk, eating beforehand ensures you don’t waste valuable time in the park chowing down or waiting in concession stand lines.
Before you enter the gates, mentally map out your game plan. You should have an idea of which attractions are available to you, which ones are on your “Can’t Miss” list, and which ones have the highest wait times. Insiders and annual HHN attendees provide insight online each year warning guests about the mazes with the longest wait times.
Once you’re in, head straight to the mazes that are rumored to be the most popular and consequently have the highest wait times. This ensures you get to experience the attractions you’re looking forward to most with the shortest wait possible. With a clear plan of action in mind, you’re guaranteed to check off all the attractions on your list before burnout and fatigue set in.
Speaking of limitations, it’s important that first time guests know HHN does not include access to all sections or attractions within the park during normal operating hours. Certain shops are closed and some popular attractions are inaccessible during the special event. HHN Hollywood does not include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Studio Tour, Fast & Furious, or Despicable Me. However, there’s plenty to keep you busy and many favorites remain open, including Jurassic Park: In The Dark, The Simpsons Ride, Transformers: The Ride, and Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride. (Although Revenge of the Mummy was closed the night we attended.)
If you want to experience all the park has to offer, there is a 2pm Day/Night Combo Ticket available.
5. Buy Front of the Line Passes
One complaint we heard from so many guests of the past is the mind numbing wait times you can experience on busy nights. What’s the point of spending so much on an ticket and standing in line most of the night? So yes, a Front of Line pass is significantly more expensive (almost $100 more), but if you’re already dropping major bucks for this, it’s the only way to ensure you aren’t standing in line all night and that you don’t miss out on any mazes you had your heart set on. It’s a wise investment in the long run. Save your pennies in other areas by eating at home and limiting your souvenir budget.
Be warned though: the Front of Line Pass will allow you ONE TIME front of line access to each maze and attraction. Once they’ve scanned the code on your pass, you cannot use it again at that maze or attraction to skip to the front of the line. Knowing this, it’s smart to arrive early and go through popular mazes and rides once before the long lines form without using your Front of Line Pass. Then, once the crowds are at their peak, you can hit the attraction again using the pass to “cut through lines like a chainsaw and spend more time being scared to death.”
In the end, our trip to Halloween Horror Nights was well worth the expense and made for a night we’ll remember forever. If you’re considering attending, we highly recommend putting it on your calendar next Halloween season. It’s a night guaranteed to make your nightmares a horrifying reality in the best way possible.
What tips do you recommend to make the most of your HHN experience? Share your advice with us below!
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