Undercover Tourist.com provides a Survival Guide for Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 26.
It’s almost time—the nation’s biggest scare event of the year is just a few short months away! To get you prepared, yeah, excited and scared too, we wanted to bring you everything you need to know about Halloween Horror Nights® 2016. If you’ve ever thought about attending or you’re thinking about returning, this is the year to do it! We’re looking at everything happening at Halloween Horror Nights 26—including the houses, scare zones and a brand virtual reality experience—plus tips for navigating the event. We’ve also got photos and video from last year’s event.
Keep scrolling to read or jump to the most popular sections: Dates | Houses & Touring Advice | Scare Zones | Shows | Special Experiences | Rides | Tips
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Dates & Best Times to Visit
Not for the faint of heart, Halloween Horror Nights succeeds in entertaining, terrifying and otherwise unnerving thousands of visitors each year. The event runs select nights, typically September through early November. We are once again offering discount tickets for this event.
The Halloween Horror Nights 2016 dates are:
September 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30
October 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Best Dates to Visit Halloween Horror Nights 26
Unlike Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which generally brings in families for one night, Halloween Horror Nights draws a good portion of guests, especially locals, who attend multiple nights throughout the season to experience the fear over and over. The nature of the event and the number of locals have a significant impact on crowds. Saturdays are the busiest nights, with Friday nights not too far behind them. The very best nights to attend as far as crowds go are Wednesdays.
September: 16, 18, 22, 25, 29
October: 2, 6, 12, 19, 26
September: 17, 23, 30
October: 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30, 31
September: 24, 30
October: 1, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
Navigating the Halloween Horror Nights 26 Haunted Houses
The biggest draw of the event each year are the haunted houses. It takes months to construct these movie set-quality houses, and each one has a different theme. Lines get very long for the houses. We recommend getting to the park ahead of the official opening at 6:30 p.m., so you can hit at least a few of them with minimal waits. Typically, Universal opens the gates earlier than the official starting time. (If you’re staying at one of the Universal Orlando Resort properties — the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel®, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort — take advantage of the priority entrance gate until 8 p.m. to get in more quickly.) In our experience, the gates begin to open for guests between 5:30 and 6 p.m.
The very best way to get into the event early is to spend the day at Universal Studios Florida® (or Universal’s Islands of Adventure® if you have a Park to Park Combo Ticket). You’ll want to be in Universal Studios before it closes and head to one of the park’s “holding areas.” The holding areas occasionally change, but last year, the two main pens were around Finnegan’s Irish Pub and Springfield USA. However, holding areas are subject to change at the discretion of park operations. Our best advice is to check when you get to the park to confirm which holding pens are open.
We generally prefer Finnegan’s for a couple of reasons. First, you can have an early dinner and a drink in the pub, which is one of our favorite restaurant inside Universal Studios, and the pub is quite lively while waiting for Halloween Horror Nights. Second, you are in a good location to reach more of the popular house locations. Third, the holding areas typically open up in advance of the official event start time, so you can get a jump on visiting the houses with little to no wait! With the change in houses this year, the holding pen in Springfield is tempting because there are plenty of food and drink options.
Here is last year’s park map (click to enlarge) (Halloween Horror Nights 26 map has not yet been released):
Queues get quite long for the houses closest to the front gates, but if you move back to the houses scattered further away, waits are typically much shorter. Typically those houses in the Woody Woodpecker Zone and Simpsons areas of the park have seen much lower waits. Last year, Universal was trying to better balance waits across the park this year by putting The Walking Dead, Purge and Insidious houses in this area. It also put The Carnage Returns show near the Central Park area. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™ and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ were also open last year, which also helped balance the park, but we don’t yet know if it will be open for Halloween Horror Nights in 2016.
Because of the number of houses and the popularity of the event, it is becoming harder to see them all in one night. I recommend choosing four or five must-do houses, especially if you want to see the shows, and get those in first and then see how much time you have left after you’ve checked those off the list. We’ll put together a touring plan once we know all of the Halloween Horror Nights 26 houses and their locations. If you want to experience everything, either purchase a Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass or plan on visiting Halloween Horror Nights a second time.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Houses
American Horror Story
Three seasons of FX’s popular series will be brought to life in one uber maze—featuring scenes from the evil that lurks in the Harmon’s basement, the roadside Freak Show and Twisty, and the Hotel Cortez and its Countess.
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Michael Myers is back! This new house picks up from where the 2014 maze left off. Guests will walk among the homes of Haddonfield and the cold, stark setting of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital—with Myers following all the way!
One of the scariest movies of all time makes its Halloween Horror Nights debut, including the iconic bedroom scene! Will it possess you?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Guests will enter the old farmhouse and come face to face with Leatherface, the legend of horror, in this 1974 classic.
The Walking Dead
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is back at Halloween Horror Nights for its fifth year. This year’s house will combine all six seasons, including iconic locations such as Hershel’s barn, the Governor’s home, Terminus and Alexandria’s sewers.
Christmas legend Krampus will be gathering more souls for his sinister workshop with some help from the dark elves, gingerbread men wielding nail guns, an engorged Jack-in-the-Box and the Teddy Bear.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Original Houses
Lunatics Playground 3D – You Won’t Stand a Chance
Universal Studios Florida becomes the stage for this Halloween Horror Nights fan favorite, who will be getting her own house and scare zone. The right-hand woman to Jack the Clown, Chance is similar to DC Comics villain Harley Quinn. Her twisted delusions become the focus of this 3D house of carnage.
Ghost Town – The Curse of Lightning Gulch
The doomed souls of this wild west town who went searching for gold come to life when lightning strikes.
Tomb of the Ancients
The Ancient Ones, immortal beings from mankind’s past, have been released from the pits of hell. Tight corners make this one that those with claustrophobia may want to skip!
Brand New for Halloween Horror Nights 26—Virtual Reality Experience “The Repository”
For the first time in Horror Nights history, Universal is debuting a add-on house using virtual reality technology. In “The Repository,” guests will encounter real-life characters in this centuries-old warehouse where the paranormal and supernatural have been collected for years. In teams of four, guests will work to uncover paranormal mystery across the spectral dark portal. “The Repository” is an additional upgrade on your Halloween Horror Nights admission at $49.99 plus tax per person and will be running Sept. 29 through Oct. 31. Annual passholders can purchase tickets Aug. 16. Tickets for the general public will go on sale Aug. 23.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Scare Zones:
Second to the houses, but central to the terror, are the street experiences, more commonly referred to as “scare zones.” Inside the scare zones, which are in various open areas of the park with their own sets, sounds and, yes, even scents, you can expect to be terrified and harassed by creatures of the night. These scare actors come out of nowhere and have no illusions about respecting your personal space! Even though you may tell yourself over and over again, “They are only acting,” you cannot help but be frightened.
Survive or Die – Global catastrophe has struck, and two groups of survivors are looking for recruits.
Banshee’s Lair – Inside the forest, evil spirits and horrific creatures roam free.
Dead Man’s Wharf – While fishing vessel Annabel Lee has been lost at sea, the spirits of her long-lost fisherman have returned to the town that left them.
Vamp 1955 – Hollywood High School’s 1955 Homecoming Parade is dripping with blood from greasers with fangs.
A Chance in Hell – Chance is busy looking for recruits to audition for the bloodiest role of a lifetime.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Shows
Academy of Villains: House of Fear – All new for 2016, this performance troupe of inmates will entertain you with their mayhem and maniacal terror.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure – Bill and Ted return for an all new excellent adventure.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Special Experiences
Scareactor Dining Experience
Scare up an appetite at the latest addition to Halloween Horror Nights, the Scareactor Dining Experience, at Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe. Scareactors are available for photo ops, as you enjoy a themed, all-you-can-eat buffet. The $49.99 package (plus tax) includes dinner, a digital download of one photo taken during the experience and more. Dining experiences take place on select nights, with seating times between 5 and 7 p.m. For reservations, call 407-224-7554 or book online.
RIP and Behind the Screams Tours
Those looking for an enhanced Halloween Horror Nights experience might consider these special tours that take you through the gauntlet of ghastly creatures and a multitude of menacing maniacs. The RIP Tour is a guided experience that grants VIP access to everything Halloween Horror Nights has to offer. Tour includes one-time entry to all of the houses, reserved seating at Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, Universal Express for one time use on each attraction (weather permitting), and admission to the exclusive RIP Lounge with cash bar locations throughout the tour.
The Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour gives guests a unique, lights-on look into the Art & Design team’s process as they transform our deepest fears into haunted houses. Guests can choose a 2 ½ hour Morning Tour, 2 ½ hour Afternoon Tour, or a combination of the two with the opportunity to visit up to three (morning or afternoon) to six (combination) houses with the lights on, and a chance to photograph every gory detail. More details about both can be found here.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 Rides
While most of the focus of the night is on horror, some of the rides are open! As mentioned above, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, including Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, is not yet confirmed to be open this year along, but we expect the following rides will be. Please note that the regular Express Pass does not work during Halloween Horror Nights. This is yet another reason to consider the Park to Park With Halloween Horror Nights Combo Ticket.
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3D
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Men in Black Alien Attack
- The Simpsons Ride
Our Top Tips for Halloween Horror Nights 2016:
1. Buy tickets in advance
Halloween Horror Nights requires a separate ticket from regular theme park admission. You will save money, and you won’t have to wait in line to buy tickets. We’re offering the Universal 2-Day Park to Park with Halloween Horror Nights® Combo Ticket ($30 savings) and the Universal 3-Day Park to Park with Halloween Horror Nights® Combo Ticket ($35 savings). Regular Halloween Horror Nights tickets are also available.
2. Get to the park early!
This is the single-best way to insure you make the most of your night. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., but Universal often lets guests in up to half an hour early. Universal Resort guests have a dedicated line from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the right side of the entrance. Even better is staying in the park after it closes for the day before the night’s event begins (see my notes on this above).
3. Leave the kids at the hotel.
This event is too intense for young children — leave them with a sitter service or at the resort’s children’s activity center.
4. Leave your costumes and masks at home.
Universal won’t let you in with them. Plus, there are enough costumed-creatures inside the park!
5. Take only the necessities with you
To make getting through security a snap, take only your phone, a couple of credit cards, tickets, cash, ID and camera. You will be asked to remove everything—and we mean everything—from your pockets! Do not bring any water or soda bottles; they will be thrown out. (Free ice water is available at any permanent quick-service location.) Expect security to go through your bags thoroughly. There is greater security at this event than a regular day at the park, with Universal security as well as Orlando police visible throughout.
6. Eat early!
You’ll find snacks for sale as well as alcohol in abundance throughout the park. Look for carts set up along the streets, or if you’re in need of a shot, see one of the nurses roaming the streets with “blood bags.” Lines for food (and alcohol) aren’t terribly long, but the lines to the houses and attractions are! Fuel up before you leave or early in the evening, and you can spend more time getting the daylights scared out of you. The best places to get drinks and snacks with the shortest waits are often in the exit areas of the houses.
Here are the Halloween Horror Nights 26 dining options we expect to be open (in addition to food and beverage carts):
- Universal Studios Classic Monsters Café
- Finnegan’s Bar & Grill
- Louie’s Italian Restaurant
- Richter’s Burger Co.
- Mel’s Drive-In
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie
- Ben & Jerry’s
7. Watch out for the creatures of the night!
If you want to avoid the street creatures, although we can’t imagine why you’d want to, they largely stick to the streets and leave guests on the sidewalks alone.
— Destinations Gal (@ChiaraAmina) September 15, 2016