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Halloween Horror Nights

30 years of screams

Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights takes place
select nights Sept. 3 - Oct. 31.

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How to Get Early Admission to Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2021

Given the popularity of Halloween Horror Nights and the draw of big-name haunted houses, it can seem like there really aren’t any “slow” nights anymore. This is why Horror Nights early admission, which used to be a fun trick for insiders, has now become a necessity for any guest who wants to go to the event and experience the haunts with only a sensible amount of waiting – with or without Express Passes.

On this page, we’ll explain how any guest can get early entry to HHN 2021, and we’ll show you exactly what that looks like.

IMPORTANT: the information on this page is based on our daily observations, as Universal representatives have historically chosen not to provide the details of the event’s various holding areas (more about which in just a moment). This is more than likely due to the situation being subject to change on a nightly basis.

Skip to: The basics | Overview | Holding areas | FAQ

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission – the basics

Halloween Horror Nights entrance
HHN general admission waiting at the turnstiles

Before we get into the nuts-and-bolts of how early entry to Halloween Horror Nights works, let’s first take just a quick moment to answer a few basic questions – it’s important for all of us to be on the same horror page in order to fully soak up every last bit of time-saving information.

Who qualifies for Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission (Stay & Scream)?

Contrary to popular belief, anyone who has admission to Universal Studios Florida during the day and HHN admission for that evening can use the early-entry feature. It isn’t restricted to guests who purchase special packages or tours or those who win the lottery – if you are in the park during the day and your Horror Nights ticket grants you admission to the event that evening, you qualify for early entry. Yes, it’s that simple.

Can I get Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Early Admission without a daytime ticket?

Short response? Yes! Let us explain.

Once you’ve purchased your HHN admission, you can then opt to also buy an add-on called a Scream Early ticket; for $30, it enables you to access Universal Studios Florida starting at 3:00 pm, allowing you to take advantage of early entry to the event (which we’ll explain in just a moment).

If you don’t want to pay for the Scream Early upgrade, it’s worth noting that Universal Orlando hotel guests have a special entrance for HHN general admission, to the right of the park gates. This does not grant hotel guests early access to houses like HHN early admission does, but it may help you skip some of the general-admission crowds at the park turnstiles.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission – overview and explanation

Halloween Horror Nights Finnegans Holding Area
HHN early admission (Finnegan’s holding area)

Okay – now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it’s time to dive head-first into our early-entry explanation and guide.

How Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission works

This is the process Universal used to call Stay and Scream, and although the company no longer officially employs the term, many guests and fans still do.

  1. Around 4:45 pm, with Universal Studios Florida closing at 5:00 pm on Halloween Horror Nights event nights, regular daytime guests are asked to leave the park.
  2. At the same time, up to four holding areas are established for guests staying inside the park for Horror Nights: Finnegan’s Bar & Grill; Today Cafe (near the front of the park, across from Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem); Springfield, USA; and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
  3. By 5:00 pm, you need to get yourself in line to “check in” at the holding area. The check-in process itself is simple: you present your HHN ticket for the night, it’s scanned, and, if it’s valid, you’re in.

Now is a good time to mention again that you don’t need a special ticket to use HHN early admission. When you’re checking in, they don’t care how you got into the park earlier in the day (you could have a one-day ticket, you could be an annual passholder – doesn’t matter), and they don’t care what kind of Horror Nights ticket you have (one-night admission, Frequent Fear, whatever), as long as your ticket is valid for that night.

Between 5:45 and 6:00 pm, the crowds in the holding areas are let out to start touring the haunted houses. While only one or two houses are accessible from each holding area immediately, this is an awesome way to see these houses with essentially no waiting.

2021 Note:
This year, we noticed that team members are queuing guests for houses early. So, for example, those in the stay & scream area of Finnegans can hypothetically get in line for Bride of Frankenstein as early as 5:00 or 5:15, even if the house doesn’t open until 5:45 or 6:00. While this wait may be worth it to some, we have observed that once the house opens, the line moves quickly and there is basically no wait after 10 minutes or so. In our estimation, we’d rather relax and have another pint at Finnegans before embarking on our adventures!

See how easy it works? Ultimately, this is the best way to jump-start your Horror Nights touring.

What Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission is really about

If you’ve studied Halloween Horror Nights before, you may be aware that general-admission guests are often let in through Universal Studios Florida’s turnstiles as early as 6:00 pm. This may lead you to wonder, “If I’m getting let out of a holding area at 5:45 and general guests are getting in at 6:00, is HHN early admission really only 15 minutes?” In terms of minutes on a clock, yes, you are right – but HHN early admission is more about the following two factors.

First, even though you may only be let out of a holding area 15 minutes or less before general admission gets in, during those 15 minutes you should be able to get through one haunted house and then get to the front of a line for a second. Essentially, you’re able to visit at least two houses with little to no waiting – and since there are only 10 houses in total, you’ve just knocked out 20% of them. Just as importantly, with two houses visited by 6:15, you’re then in a great spot to continue on to the less-popular houses, which won’t get long lines until much later in the evening. So, even without Express Passes, it’s not unreasonable to get three or four houses done by 7:00 if you move quickly and know what you’re doing (in other words, use HHN early admission and our touring plan).

The second factor is that, if you’re in the general-admission line from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, you’re basically standing in a big crowd doing absolutely nothing for an hour. That’s a terrible way to start your night (read: buzzkill).

On the other hand, if you wait in an HHN early-entry holding area, you’ll have access to places to sit, you can go to the restroom without having to worry about losing your place in line, and, depending on exactly which holding area you chose, you may even be able to eat a meal or sit down at a bar. Any way you cut it, HHN early admission is far superior to general admission.

Now that we all agree, let’s talk about the specific holding areas.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission – holding areas

Halloween Horror Nights Springfield Holding Area
HHN early admission (Springfield, USA holding area)

Universal usually has four Halloween Horror Nights holding areas in place, although – we can’t stress this enough – this can change on a nightly basis, with some areas either popping up or closing down with minimal advance warning. (Stay tuned to our Twitter account for up-to-the-minute updates during the horror season, although we’ll be sure to keep this guide page current, as well.)

1. Finnegan’s Bar & Grill

Finnegan’s Bar & Grill is the most-crowded option for Horror Nights early entry. Its full-service restaurant and bar are open all day and all evening, and they remain open throughout the entirety of the event, until late at night. (Just please note that Finnegan’s doesn’t accept reservations during Halloween Horror Nights holding, and parties are seated on a first-come, first-serve basis.)

Even if you don’t feel like having a meal, there is plenty of space in the streets, where there should be a small beverage cart serving drinks and booze outside. In addition, the nearby Louie’s Italian Restaurant is also sometimes open for seating, so be sure to ask a team member if Finnegan’s and its surrounding area are too full for your liking. Finally, we should note that you can also try to belly up to the bar inside Finnegan’s, but just be aware that it can be difficult to find a spot. (There are also restrooms inside, which is an important note.)

Please be aware that guests staying inside the Finnegan’s holding area after 5:00 pm must have valid HHN admission – don’t think you can sneak into the event that night by eating at the restaurant.

The house(s) it lets out to:

Bride of Frankenstein and Texas Chain Saw Massacre. When taken with its setup, Finnegan’s earns our top recommendation for Stay and Scream.

2. Springfield, USA

There’s plenty to do at Springfield, USA, with the following venues open for business: Duff Brewery, Moe’s Tavern, Lard Lad Donuts, and Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck. There is also a lot of seating available, including the stretch along the lagoon. Finally, because this is a newer Horror Nights early-admission holding area, it normally isn’t as crowded as Finnegan’s.

The house(s) it lets out to:

Beetlejuice and The Haunting of Hill House

3. Today Cafe

The Today Cafe holding area, located across from Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, doesn’t have much to do, nor does it contain much in the way of atmosphere – though there should be a beverage cart, and you can access the nearby restrooms.

The detractors of this holding area are significant: on the one hand, it isn’t even always available. And on the other, when it is, it is sometimes just an overflow area for Finnegan’s (meaning if you arrived too late and the restaurant was filled up, you were sent here, just a few feet ahead of those at the gate) instead of a holding area unto itself. This holding area releases when the front gate opens, so you will need a game plan to implement immediately to get full advantage of your “early admission.”

What makes this holding station desirable is its value to your touring plan: since it’s located next to one of the most popular haunted houses every year (Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth is placed here this year, and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was in 2018), it can really give you a leg up on your HHN adventure – but you will have to hustle. The other advantage to this holding area is that you are able to see the opening moment, but the fact that you can see the opening moment should give you a hint as to your proximity to those guests at the gate.

The house(s) it lets out to:

Overflow to Finnegan’s holding area

4. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

The London waterfront of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley has, on occasion, been employed as a holding area, although this location spent most of Halloween Horror Nights 2017 empty during the Stay and Scream period (and wasn’t used at all for 2018). When it is being used, however, it tends to be the most pleasant holding area, providing lots of great aesthetics and the most things to do while you wait for the horror carnage to begin.

The house(s) it lets out to:


Halloween Horror Nights 2021 early admission – FAQ

Still have a few early-entry questions for us? That’s good – we’ve still got a few answers for you!

VERY IMPORTANT: get into the park on-time

Okay, this final instruction is critical: your group needs to be inside the turnstiles of Universal Studios Florida by 4:45 pm so you can get to a holding area on time – if you show up at the park gate later, you may not get in, and you’ll have to wait with everyone else for general admission.

Any tips if I can’t get HHN early admission?

Because you’re a fan of Orlando Informer, we’ll share with you a quick secret to skipping most of the HHN turnstile line. Please keep in mind that this is not an alternative to getting early entry, as described above – if you have daytime admission, we still highly recommend you get yourself inside Universal Studios Florida before 4:30 pm. But if you don’t have daytime access to the park, this trick can help save a bit of time and get your evening tour off to a swift start.

The key to this trick is that you have to be at Universal Studios one hour before HHN starts. When you arrive at the turnstiles by 5:30 pm, you will likely see a scene that looks like this:

Halloween Horror Nights entrance
Line formed in front of the turnstiles for Halloween Horror Nights

Do you really want to be stuck in a line going all the way back to the ticket windows? We don’t think so!

What most guests don’t realize is that the middle section of the USF park gates, seen here…

Halloween Horror Nights entrance
Halloween Horror Nights entrance

…will have temporary turnstiles open to add capacity to the permanent turnstiles found on either side. So if you wait in the middle, where lines won’t form until guests actually see Universal team members preparing the temporary turnstiles, you will get a significant jump start!

As we mentioned above, the key to this trick is timing – you need to get to Universal Studios Florida early enough. As soon as employees come out and start preparing the temporary turnstiles in the middle, all the guests in the long lines will see what’s happening, and thise area will be flooded.

Do you have a question about the information on this page, would like to provide feedback, or did you spot an inaccuracy? Please let us know by posting in our Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.
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