OI Center

How to get early admission to Halloween Horror Nights 2018 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2018

Given the popularity of Halloween Horror Nights and the draw of big-name houses, it can seem like there really aren’t “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 HHN 2018 and experience the haunted houses 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 Halloween Horror Nights, and we’ll show you exactly what that looks like.

Halloween Horror Nights Finnegans Holding Area
Halloween Horror Nights – Finnegan’s holding area

IMPORTANT: The information on this page is based on our observations, as Universal representatives have historically chosen to not provide us with the details for the holding areas. This is due to the information being subject to change on a nightly basis.

Who qualifies for early admission to Halloween Horror Nights?

Contrary to popular belief, anyone who has admission to Universal Studios Florida during the day and Halloween Horror Nights admission for that evening can use the early-entry feature. It isn’t restricted to guests who purchase “HHN add-on” tickets, special packages or tours, or guests 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 HHN early admission. Yes, it’s that simple.

Can I get Halloween Horror Nights early admission without a daytime ticket?

Unfortunately, you cannot; having admission during the day is the one and only qualifier. However, it’s worth noting that on-site hotel guests have a special entrance for HHN general admission, to the right of the Universal Studios Florida gates. This does not grant on-site hotel guests early access to houses like HHN early admission does (which we’ll explain in a moment), but it may help you skip some of the general-admission crowds at the park turnstiles.

What about the Florida resident Scream Early ticket?

In past years, Universal sold a “Scream Early” ticket that allowed Florida residents to enter Universal Studios Florida after 2:00 pm, thus allowing these guests to take advantage of HHN early admission. Although we weren’t given a reason, Universal discontinued the Scream Early ticket in 2015.

How HHN early admission works
Please note that the following information was valid for Halloween Horror Nights 2017; we’re keeping it up for your reading and vacation-planning pleasure while we await official confirmation from Universal on this year’s event.

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. At the same time, up to four holding areas are established for guests staying inside the park for Horror Nights: Finnegan’s Bar & Grill; Hello Kitty (near the front of USF, across from Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem); Springfield, USA; and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.

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 admission ticket for the night, it’s scanned, and if it’s valid, you’re in:

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

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 an 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.

Halloween Horror Nights Finnegans Holding Area
HHN early admission (Finnegan’s holding area lets out)
Halloween Horror Nights Springfield Holding Area
HHN early admission (Springfield, USA holding area lets out)
Halloween Horror Nights Hello Kitty Holding Area
HHN early admission (Hello Kitty holding area)

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

What it’s really about

If you’ve studied Halloween Horror Nights before, you may be aware that general-admission guests are often let in through the park’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 admission 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 no waiting. Since there are only nine houses in total, that’s a little under 25 percent 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 HHN 2017 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).

Halloween Horror Nights entrance
HHN general admission waiting at the turnstiles

On the other hand, if you wait in an HHN early-admission 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.

Finnegan’s Bar & Grill

Finnegan’s is the most-crowded option for HHN early entry. Its full-service restaurant and bar are open all day and all evening, and they stay open throughout the Halloween Horror Nights event. This year, they are not accepting reservations during Halloween Horror Nights holding, and parties are seated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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

Even if you don’t feel like having a meal, there is plenty of seating in the streets, and there should be a small beverage cart serving drinks and booze (bring cash). 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.

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

In our experience, the Finnegan’s holding area normally is given access to The Shining and American Horror Story (though this is subject to change), which helps to make it the best area to utilize this year. This one definitely has our top recommendation for Stay and Scream.

Springfield, USA

HHN early admission guests now have the opportunity to wait in Springfield, USA.

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

There’s plenty to do here, 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 shouldn’t be as crowded as Finnegan’s.

In our experience, the Springfield holding area normally is given access to Hive and The Horrors of Blumhouse (which is subject to change).

Hello Kitty (across from Despicable Me)

HHN early admission (Hello Kitty holding area).
HHN early admission (Hello Kitty holding area)

As you see above, there’s not much to do here and basically no atmosphere. There should be a beverage cart (bring cash), and you can access restrooms across the street. However, from a touring prospective, this is often the best holding area.

In our experience, the Hello Kitty holding area is no longer being actively used – it’s simply an overflow area for Finnegan’s, meaning that if you arrive at the latter too late and it’s filled up, you’ll be sent to the former. (All of which is subject to change, of course.)


Diagon Alley/London

As of September 29, Diagon Alley is no longer a holding area. The area remains open for guests once the event begins.

This area provides the most things to do while you wait. It seems to release between 5:45 and 6:00 pm, making it an actual consideration.

VERY IMPORTANT – get into USF 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 USF turnstiles 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 HHN 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 admission, this trick can help save a bit of time and get your evening tour off to a swift start.

The key to this trick: you have to be at USF 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
Line formed in front of the turnstiles for Halloween Horror Nights.
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 USF early enough. As soon as team members come out and start preparing the temporary turnstiles in the middle, all the guests in the long lines will see what’s happening, and the middle area will be flooded.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018