Our theme park expert provides some information about the event so you can decide if it’s right for your family
If your kids are indulging in some trick-or-treating with their candy this spooky season, you might consider visiting the annual Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort or Universal Studios Hollywood. Fix the nights before Halloween each fall, when theme parks known for their adorable Minions and Harry Potter-fueled lands evoke a sinister feeling. You’ll find everything from immersive haunted houses to roaming ghouls, all brought to you by the creative minds behind one of the world’s biggest entertainment giants.
Halloween Horror Nights have evolved to include many interpretations of the horror genre, ranging from classic franchises, such as “Halloween,” to current pop culture phenomena, such as “Stranger Things” this year, Expanding its mainstream appeal and sparking interest among younger horror fans.
Tickets can cost a family several hundred dollars, so it’s natural to be hesitant before making this financial leap. Is now a good time to call up your budding horror fans to join your scream troupe at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights? Let’s analyze the event.
What are Halloween Horror Nights?
It is first important to understand exactly what an event is. Halloween Horror Nights is a separately booked after-hours event that takes over the entire theme park – meaning it’s nearly impossible to avoid scares once you’re inside. ‘Ghosts’ may be lurking in the shadows as night falls and a thick (albeit fake) fog descends over the entire park. Although it may seem scary, the event has a festive atmosphere throughout.
Its cornerstone is a collection of immersive haunted houses based on iconic intellectual properties and original stories dreamed up by Universal’s creative team. These large-scale attractions resemble actual movie sets and feature intricate details, props, and of course, creepy actors waiting at every turn. This year features houses from major, beloved franchises, including “Stranger Things,” “Chucky” and “The Exorcist.”
Another key element is the Scare Zones, which are themed areas that guests must wander through and encounter scary actors as they move through the different sections of the theme park. Live entertainment and themed food and drinks are some of the most accessible offerings for the reluctant horror and completion of the event.
Who is Halloween Horror Nights for?
This event was created with horror fans in mind. Although Universal recommends attendees be 13 years and older, no minimum age is required to attend. Horror actors may appear to be approaching you, but they are never allowed to touch you.
With Halloween Horror Nights featuring a host of intellectual properties, such as “The Last of Us” on PlayStation, they reach fan bases of all ages, making them a sought-after event.
How can you prepare your kids for Halloween Horror Nights?
You know your child best, no one else can.. Much like experiencing the thrill of riding a horse for the first time, this can be a difficult situation to deal with.
“My oldest son, Avery, is 10 and is already asking to join us for Halloween Horror Nights,” the family travel writer and mother of three shares, Tara Sheffy.
Josh Morrow He’s been a fan of HHN since the ’90s, and the self-proclaimed horror fanatic has been bringing his now 6-year-old daughter Skye to the event since she was born. “Encouraging and embracing Everything,” Morrow shares.
The family took a gradual approach to the matter, and at the age of three, Skye attempted to create her first haunted house at the event, one of which was “Ghostbusters”-themed – and she was hooked.
“”Let them experience scare zones and shows in the first year,” recommends Morrow. “Help them understand that homes are similar but in more objective detail.”
Morrow also suggests splurging on Express Passes, Universal’s express lane system that allows guests to cut down on their usual wait time, to reduce any stress or tension before getting home. “Encourage them to try new things (even if it’s scary) but don’t force them. We’ve never done that, and we couldn’t have asked for a better result.”
After decades of attending this event, here are some quick tips:
- Your family may want to try dipping their toes first into the terrifying possibilities. Best way to do it: The Unmasking The Horror Tour, available at Universal Orlando. Separate from the event ticket, this daytime show is a light-lit, scary-actor-free tour of select haunted houses, and can be a good way to get a feel for the feel of the event.
- Not all houses are created equal, as some lean towards a fun and comedic element, while others can be downright terrifying and elicit jump scares. It is important to familiarize yourself with the content of the houses if you are interested. It may also be helpful for newcomers to prepare by watching YouTube videos on home tours.
- While haunted houses and live actors are reserved for evening events, there are some ways to get a feel for what your child can handle during the day. Spooky decor, specifically related to scare zones, will be clearly visible during normal daytime operations and can be a good way to gauge how prepared your family is to experience the event.
- If you’ve decided to purchase tickets but your child has become too afraid to experience the haunted house, all is not lost. Many of the theme park’s attractions are open and with most crowds flocking towards the horror shows, this means the added bonus of shorter wait times for the rides.
- The event brings new energy to the park with loud music and bright lights. Guests with neurological differences or those with sensory issues may want to prepare with noise canceling headphones.