We are starting a new series here on Orlando Informer. A few times each month we will pick a topic pertaining to Universal Orlando vacation planning and address the most frequently asked questions we receive. Since we are right in the middle of Halloween Horror Nights season, it seems appropriate to start with Universal’s biggest annual event as our topic.
1. Can I experience all of HHN 2013 without an Express Pass?
We’ve long held the belief that an HHN Express Pass is a luxury, not a necessity, and that it cannot replace solid planning. As we are now well into this year’s event, I see no reason why this belief should change. The truth is that, if you get to the turnstiles at Universal Studios Florida by 5:00pm, and if you use our touring plan (link provided below), you will be able to see and do everything in one night.
And if you want to do everything with the shortest amount of wait times, we highly recommend that you use HHN early admission (link provided below).
Keep in mind that I’m saying you can do everything in one night without an HHN Express Pass; I am not saying that you can do everything in one night without waiting up to/or over two hours in line. Even if you follow all our touring advice, if you pick an HHN peak night for your visit, you will still be doing potentially several hours of queuing.
The best formula for minimizing HHN wait times without Express Passes:
- Go on a Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday +
- Use early admission or be at the USF turnstiles by 5:00pm +
- Follow our touring plan
As noted above, we’ll have links to learn more about all this stuff at the bottom of the post.
2. How do HHN Express Passes work for the shows?
Basically, it doesn’t. You can use it for the very first showing of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, but you cannot use it for any of the shows after that. And as you might suspect, you really don’t need it for the first show. And HHN Express is not available for Universal’s Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute.
3. As a first-time visitor, how many nights should I go?
If you think this event is going to freak you out and you’re not really feelin’ it, so to speak, one night will be plenty. Just make sure you get there early so you can check out a lot of the grounds before the sun totally sets for the night.
If you really like Halloween and horror movies, but your life doesn’t necessarily revolve around them, then for a first-timer we recommend two nights. Keep in mind that if you visit when it’s slower, you’ll easily be able to see and do everything in just one night. But a huge appeal of HHN is the people watching, and a new night means all-new visitors getting scared out of their minds! Plus, since much of the HHN activity happens in the darkened streets of Universal Studios Florida, it is often easy to miss all the small details with just one nights’ tour around the park.
If you are a hardcore Halloween and horror fan, and you basically spend the entire year planning for October 31, then you will fall into an elite category of HHN fans who go as many nights as they can: 10 times, 15 times, or more. In this case definitely plan on three nights at the very least — and also plan on buying a season pass and checking out the VIP tour options.
4. Can I take video and photos inside the HHN haunted houses?
No, you cannot.
Your followup question probably is, “then why are there so many walkthrough videos and photos from inside the houses published online?” There are so many videos because Universal allowed select media to film walkthrough videos of their houses early in the season. In addition, Universal invited a handful of YouTubers to do the same when HHN 2013 started. So yes, there are plenty of videos online, but all were taken with Universal’s explicit permission.
What I just explained also applies to why there are so many photos from inside the houses also published online; in addition, there are many photos because cameras are allowed when guests visit the houses during the daytime Behind the Screams Tours.
5. Should I bring my kids to HHN?
To answer this question, I’ll write what I always write: HHN is basically a horror movie brought to life. So, if you’d rent and watch Evil Dead with your kids, and your kids would enjoy it, then they’ll probably love HHN. If you would never dream of having your kids watch Evil Dead, then they should not attend Halloween Horror Nights. In addition, there is a lot of drinking and a bit of disorderly conduct at the event, despite a large security presence — this is doubly true on Friday and Saturday nights.
6. If I do bring my kids, do I need some sort of proof of age?
Officially, Universal does not recommend the event for anyone 13 or younger, but note that the age of 13 is a recommendation, not a requirement. So even though Universal does not recommend HHN for children, you won’t be asked for proof of age at the turnstiles — if you are so willing, you may bring a baby in a stroller to the event, just be ready to get a lot of ugly looks from your fellow park guests.
And remember, there are no refunds granted just because your toddler got freaked out by the first zombie he sees and you had to leave immediately.
7. Is Finnegan’s open during the holdover from USF daytime operations to HHN?
Yes, it is. And yes, you can make a dining reservation at 4:15pm, enjoy a meal while the park rolls over, and be ready for HHN early admission at around 5:45pm. If you don’t have reservations, you can still enjoy the bar first-come-first-served as usual.
Here’s a great explanation of the experience that our fan Ashlie shared with us on Facebook:
We went last weekend and followed your guide and the early entry advice! There were a couple of moments when we got nervous because even the workers weren’t sure about whether we were in the right place or if we could stay inside the park, but I had faith and I stuck to your suggestions. We went into Finnegan’s for the change over and had a leisurely dinner while everyone else sat outside in the heat! Everything ended up being as easy as you said! It was the absolute best vacation ever! Everything went smoothly and we were able to see our favorite houses multiple times! We never had more than a 30 minute wait even when it got busy and without spending the extra money on express passes because we followed your amazing guide! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!
8. For HHN early admission, are there two waiting areas?
Yes, there are generally two waiting areas, or holding areas, for guests using HHN early admission: one at Finnegan’s and a second at Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. But if you’ve already read through our HHN pages, you know we don’t mention the KidZone option much. This is for two reasons: First, there isn’t a restaurant open in the KidZone waiting area — would you prefer no options for food & beverages, or would you prefer to be able to visit Finnegan’s? Second, for HHN 2013 the Finnegan’s group gets early access to An American Werewolf in London, which most agree is the best house this year.
9. Can you cross over from Islands of Adventure to Halloween Horror Nights?
Yes, you can cross over from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios for HHN. In fact, I did just that opening night this year, and you can see a sequence of it in this Flickr set (the crossover starts right after the photo of the IOA lagoon and Hogwarts).
However, there is one very important note: If you use the IOA crossover, you do not get let into HHN early — IOA crossover guests are let in at the same time as the general admission guests at the turnstiles. So if you are interested in using HHN early admission, then you’ll need to take the long way out of IOA to USF, and get inside USF by 4:30pm.
10. Why is Sunday, October 20 marked as HHN UCF night on your crowd calendar?
On October 20, HHN will host Halloween Horror (K)nights for University of Central Florida students, who are able to purchase admission to USF & HHN starting at 2:00pm for the discount price of $40. UCF is a huge school, and that’s a great price, so even though October 20 is a Sunday we call it a HHN peak night for sure — this is the only Sunday on the HHN calendar that should be avoided.
By the way, if you’re a UCF student, tickets must be purchased in advance — you can learn more here.
11. Do you have a Coke UPC code I can use for the HHN Florida resident discount?
Often with Universal’s Coke promotions, they say you need a code but you are never actually asked for it. In fact, I just went all the way through the online purchase process up to payment, and I was never prompted for a code. So if you want the Florida resident discount, just try using the online ticket store right now.
12. I’m not a Florida resident or an Annual Passholder, I’m not using Stay & Scream, and I’m not interested in a season pass — do I really have to pay $91 for one-night admission to Halloween Horror Nights?
If you don’t qualify for any of those discounts, and if you are buying your ticket directly from Universal, then the answer is yes. However, we found one great deal for HHN 2013 if you can buy your tickets in advance.
The offer comes from Best of Orlando, a very reputable third-party ticket vendor. They are selling a *non-resident* Sunday through Thursday HHN ticket for $49.99, basically half the price of the one-night admission ticket sold directly by Universal. There are only two things to be aware of: First, as noted in the description it’s for admission Sunday through Thursday — but that works out great since these are the best days to go for smaller crowds anyway. Second, you are sent a voucher, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to go through the regular ticket line at the park, exchange the voucher for your actual ticket, and get to the turnstiles.
I hope our question and answer session has provided you with new information. Keep in mind this blog post was created just to provide basic answers to the questions discussed. To learn much more about Halloween Horror Nights, including details on early admission, tickets & discounts, our HHN touring plan, and to see tons of video and photos, follow any of these links to our HHN pages in the OI Universal Center:
- Overview & explanation
- Admission guide: Tickets, Express & Tours
- How to get HHN early admission
- HHN 2013 touring plan
- Our very best HHN tips, tricks & secrets
- Photos & video from HHN 2013
- This year’s haunted houses (mazes)
- Real guest reviews of HHN 2013
If you’ve already read those pages, and don’t miss the dozens of HHN blog posts we’ve published.