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Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is starting earlier than ever this year

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

Universal has been a fixture in the world of monster movies since the 1930s, bringing fictional characters like the Wolf Man, Dracula and the Invisible Man to the big screen.

These famous monsters have been a mainstay at Universal Orlando Resort since the park opened in Orlando in 1990; they have shown up in attractions like the “Horror Make-Up Show” and the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. It only makes sense that Universal would drive full-throttle into the world of haunted attractions by turning its entire park into one.

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights began as a three-night event in 1991 (hosted by none other than Beetlejuice himself) with just one haunted house. Now in its 33rd year, Halloween Horror Nights will run for a record-breaking 48 nights beginning in August for the first time ever. After all, who doesn’t want to start celebrating spooky season a little early?

Throughout the event’s more than two-month run, guests can experience a more sinister side of Universal Orlando. The event occurs in the dark of night after Universal Studios Florida closes to daytime guests. The haunted houses, outdoor scare zones and live entertainment serve as a terrifying counterpart to the family-friendly fun that Universal is otherwise known for.

There is no minimum age requirement for Halloween Horror Nights, but the event is not recommended for children under 13 due to the intense nature and extreme gore. If you want to bring kids, consider whether they are ready for this event.

Popular dates, including opening weekend and Halloween, sell out early, so you must plan ahead if you want to get the socks scared right off your feet. Get your tickets now so you don’t miss out. Start planning in advance so you know the ins and outs before exploring the darker side of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Related: 7 spooky destinations for a Halloween vacation

When does Halloween Horror Nights start?

Entrance to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida

This year, Halloween Horror Nights will occur on select nights from Aug. 30 through Nov. 3. The event is open every night of the week except Mondays and Tuesdays. Halloween Horror Nights typically begins at 6:30 p.m. on event nights and operates until 2 a.m.

Haunted houses

Stranger Things haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights
“Stranger Things” haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

As is typical for HHN, there will be 10 haunted houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights this year. Houses are always a terrifying mix of original concepts dreamt up by the menacing minds at Universal; they are inspired by pop culture horror favorites like “Stranger Things” and “Halloween.”

The houses are scattered throughout the park. You can find them using the Universal Orlando app’s map. Some are in overflow queue areas for rides, while others are in real working soundstages. Some are in large tents and don’t look nearly as scary on the outside as they do inside.

Scare zones

Halloween Horror Nights scare zone
Halloween Horror Nights scare zone. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.

In addition to the haunted houses, Universal creates a series of outdoor scare zones throughout the park. This year, there will be five scare zones, and there’s pretty much no way to get around the park without facing the scare zones head-on.

“Scareactors” (it rhymes with “characters”) roam around the scare zones looking for unwitting victims to frighten, but they aren’t as scary as the houses. They are more likely to shoot you an evil glare or follow behind you a bit too closely. However, they also won’t hesitate to rev a chainsaw right in front of you if they think it’ll make you jump.

How much are tickets to Halloween Horror Nights?

Guests in Texas Chainsaw Massacre haunted house
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

Single-night tickets for this year’s event start at $82.99 per person, plus tax. Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event, so this doesn’t get you daytime access to the parks. This year, select ticket types include a six-month subscription to the Peacock streaming service so you can catch up on your favorite horror franchises before the event.

If you do have a daytime ticket (or annual pass), Universal usually keeps small “Stay & Scream” areas of the park open; this way, you can have a drink and a bite to eat while the park is transformed for that night’s festivities. Universal also usually offers a “Scream Early” ticket that allows you to enter Universal Studios Florida as early as 3 p.m. to enjoy the regular daytime attractions and be first in line for the houses.

Universal also offers multinight “Frequent Fear” and “Rush of Fear” passes for those who plan on visiting multiple times throughout the event. They are not yet on sale for this year.

If you want to enjoy the parks during the day and at night, vacation packages that include hotel accommodations, park tickets and admission to Halloween Horror Nights are available. You can even use your hotel keycard to access a dedicated event entrance designed exclusively for hotel guests.

Related: How to use points to save money at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights ticket upgrades

Halloween Horror Nights Express lets you skip the line at the haunted houses
Halloween Horror Nights Express lets you skip the line at the haunted houses. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Universal offers a variety of add-ons and upgrades for Halloween Horror Nights. These include:

  • Halloween Horror Nights R.I.P. Tour —This is Universal’s play on a VIP tour for Halloween Horror Nights. Your expert guide will lead you to a priority entrance at each house, sharing their in-depth knowledge of the event along the way. You’ll also get access to a pretour reception with complimentary food and a cash bar, unlimited Universal Express skip-the-line ride access, a commemorative tour credential, a lanyard and a pin. Group and private tours are available, and pricing begins at $369.99 per person; this doesn’t include the cost of your Halloween Horror Nights ticket.
  • Halloween Horror Nights Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour — Two types of people would benefit from the Unmasking the Horror Tour: those who are too scared to visit the haunted houses at night and those who want to dive deeper into the details of the houses. This is a lights-on tour that takes place during daytime hours. You can choose to tour three or six haunted houses. Prices start at $99.99 per person, plus tax and $179.99 per person, plus tax, respectively. Regular theme park admission or Halloween Horror Nights tickets are not required for this experience.
  • Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass — Universal also offers the Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass, which lets you skip the standby line once per night at the haunted houses and select attractions, much like the daytime Universal Express Pass. Wait times for the haunted houses can climb as high as 90 minutes on busy nights, so this add-on is well worth the money. Pricing starts at $129.99 per person, plus tax. Halloween Horror Nights event admissions are not included and must be purchased separately.

Related: The best credit cards for Universal vacations

Tips for visiting

Save time for live shows

"Halloween Nightmare Fuel" show at Halloween Horror Nights
“Halloween Nightmare Fuel” show at Halloween Horror Nights. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

When we say that Halloween Horror Nights takes over the entire park, we mean it. Aside from the haunted houses and scare zones, there are two live shows, themed food and drink booths, and exclusive Halloween Horror Nights merchandise.

The Universal Orlando app includes times for live entertainment. You typically want to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to showtime to get a good spot.

Follow this advice if you’re a scaredy cat

Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween Horror Nights. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

If you typically don’t like to go to haunted houses, you may wonder if you should even visit Universal Orlando during Halloween Horror Nights. If you’re not quite sure you can handle it, there are still ways to enjoy the event.

As we mentioned, the outdoor scare zones aren’t quite as scary as the houses, so they’re a good way to tiptoe into the event. You can also spend your time playing carnival games, eating themed foods, riding roller coasters and watching the shows if you need a break from the houses.

You can book the aforementioned Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour to see the houses during the day with the lights on and without the jump scares. Seeing the houses with the lights on and getting the lay of the land, so to speak, may even give you the courage you need to visit again at night.

Look for Halloween Horror Nights merchandise

Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store
Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Most of the merchandise is in the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store near the Revenge of the Mummy coaster. The store itself is a themed attraction: It has multiple rooms filled with props and decor that make it feel like a haunted house without jump scares.

You can purchase the requisite hats and T-shirts, along with specialty masks, art and memorabilia. There’s also an entire room dedicated to spooky treats.

Keep an eye out for original characters

Jack the Clown at Halloween Horror Nights
Jack the Clown at Halloween Horror Nights. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

One of the most interesting things about Halloween Horror Nights is the well-developed original characters, which seem to find their way into the event year after year.

You don’t have to know these characters and the tangled web of lore surrounding the event in order to enjoy it. Still, several articles on Universal Orlando’s blog go “behind the screams” of the event if you want to learn more.

Stay tuned for additional details as this year’s event draws near.

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