If you’re a Halloween fan and your travels find you in Central Florida during the latter part of September or the month of October, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is a not to be missed event — no one does Halloween better than Universal Orlando! And if you are planning on attending the event, I would like to recommend something that can make your Halloween Horror Nights experience even better, the “Unmasking the Horror” Tour.
The Unmasking the Horror Tour is a two to two-and-half hour, guided tour that is offered twice daily (Morning Menace at 10:30am and Afternoon Abominations at 2:00 p.m.) on event days, except for opening night. The price for the tour is $59.99, per person, plus tax, and park admission is not required. Participants are placed in groups of no more than 15 people and are given a behind-the-scenes look at the event, including walkthroughs of three HHN haunted houses during the day with the lights on! You will also receive a commemorative HHN lanyard.
New for 2013: Universal has slightly changed the way the tours operate. In previous years, both the morning and afternoon tours generally took you through the same three houses. This year, the morning tour will take you through three houses (rumored to be Evil Dead, The Walking Dead, and Resident Evil) and the afternoon tour will take you through different houses (rumored to be La Llorona, Cabin in the Woods, and American Werewolf in London). This change has allowed for a new option for those wishing to take part in both tours: you can nook the Morning Menace and Afternoon Abominations tour on the same day for a special price of $99.99, per person, plus tax, which is a $20 savings over booking them separately. To get the special price, you must take the tours on the same day.
I’ll be taking both the Morning Menace and Afternoon Abominations tour in a couple weeks, so I’ll have a new review of both tours as well as lots of pictures to share from them shortly. UPDATE: I’ve gone on the tours — see my new review.
If you are considering the tour, you may be having the same thought I originally did: “If I go through the houses during the day and get to see everything, won’t that ruin the experience for me?” After having gone on the tour several years, I can say the answer to that question is a resounding “NO!” Being able to walk the houses during the day has only enhanced my enjoyment of the event, and you really find out what you might have missed just going through them at night.
The tours generally start with a quick overview of the event led by one of the tour guides, where they may talk a little bit about the year’s theme and perhaps offer a chance to see some of the props or design pieces created for the event. For example, the first year I attended the tour, we got a close-up look at the model of the “Universal Palace Theater,” home of that year’s icon, “The Usher.” The model had been used in part for creating the interactive website in 2009, and had I not taken the tour, I would have never had the opportunity to see this wonderful creation.
The next part of the tour takes you to three of the houses. The first year I took the tour, those houses were three of the soundstage houses, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. The second year I went, we visited two of the houses that were in soundstages and the third house was within what is known as the parade building.
Once you’re taken into the house, your guide will give you an overview of that house’s theme and a little bit of a background. This is also your chance to get a good look at the house’s façade, something you’re often too rushed to really appreciate when going through the houses in the evening. The houses that are built in the soundstages generally have the most elaborate entrances, as you seen in this image from Frankenstein:
After the guide has given an overview of the house, the group will get to walk through the house with the lights on with your tour guide answering questions and pointing out interesting tidbits along the way. In the tours I have gone on, I have been told details of backstories for some of the houses that could never be expressed in a descriptive paragraph on a guide map. You can also found out fun things from your guide, like where they might have hidden a guest-triggered scare that you can set off later to frighten others, or funny names they have come up with for props, like this table in the “Dracula” house where hapless victims were exsanguinated that was jokingly referred to as the “Squeezeinart”.
The tour really allows a detailed look at the interiors of the houses. When you go through them at night, it’s generally too dark and too hurried to truly appreciate everything around you. The tours give you an opportunity to see so many things you might have missed otherwise. I find this especially true for things that are not at eye level in a house. For example, I probably would have completely missed this elaborate bone chandelier in the Dracula house going through it at night:
Touring the houses and finding out additional information is great, but personally I think the best part is being able to take pictures in the houses. You are allowed to take pictures of the houses, as well as with some of the props within the house. Obviously, you must be respectful of the props and sets, and when in doubt definitely ask your tour guide if the picture you’d like to take is okay. But, having seen people sit in Dracula’s chair, cuddle up to a severed head, and lay down on the Bride of Frankenstein’s table, I’ve found that they are fairly lenient about what you pose with. The ability to take pictures in the environment these houses provide is truly a unique experience and one that will allow you some great photo ops.
After you’ve toured the final house, your guide will usually gather the group together and ask if you have any further questions. This wrap-up Q&A is the perfect opportunity to ask about anything you might have forgotten while touring a house, event information, or even general park information. The guides I have had were very good at answering questions, and if they didn’t know the answer, knew where to send you to find out.
If the Unmasking the Horror Tour sounds like it’s for you, be sure to check out the HHN 2013 admission guide in the OI Universal Center for info on how to sign up. Space is limited so be sure to book early!
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