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Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – complete insider’s guide

Halloween Horror Nights 2018

It’s never too early to start panicking for the nation’s premier Halloween event: Halloween Horror Nights 2018.

On these pages, you will find all the information and insider secrets you need to survive the terror – as well as our very best expert advice on how to save time and money as you face your worst fears.

Orlando Informer is proud to provide our fans with the world’s most popular unofficial guide to this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event. Just like the entire OI Universal Center, our information is comprehensive, obsessively updated, and completely free. We hope you will use all the wisdom we’ve gained over the years to make sure your family’s HHN trip is one night you will never want to forget!

Below, we present our complete overview of Halloween Horror Nights 2018. Once you’ve read through it, use the navigation links at the top or bottom of the page to learn so, so much more.

Last update
May 17, 2018

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – overview and explanation

Atmosphere at Halloween Horror Nights 26.
Atmosphere at Halloween Horror Nights 26

Think you have what it takes to survive the biggest names in horror and venture through original, twisted nightmares?

Now in its 28th terrifying year, Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights, the nation’s premier annual Halloween event, puts you right into some of the most pulse-pounding moments in horror history. During the day, you can experience the fun and excitement of Universal Orlando’s two amazing theme parks (and new water park!). But on select nights from September 14 through November 3, 2018, the streets of the Universal Studios Florida theme park come alive with hordes of horrifying mutants, monsters, and maniacs. All throughout the night, you’ll be completely immersed in the worlds of the biggest names in horror.

With 27 years of experience to draw from, nobody creates a more nightmarish Halloween event than Universal, filled with truly original scares and authentic horror-movie moments. You can explore terrifying haunted houses, each remarkably themed and detailed by Universal’s designers and special-effects wizards. You’ll make your way through multiple scare zones, where gory and grotesque creatures lurk around every turn. You’ll roar with laughter at outrageous live shows. And you can experience many of the park’s most exciting rides and attractions.

Halloween Horror Nights is a ten-time winner of Amusement Today’s “Best Halloween Event” Golden Ticket award. Tony Timpone, editor of Fangoria magazine, said, “After visiting scream parks all across the US for the last 20 years, I can easily say that Universal’s is the best in the business… Halloween Horror Nights is the ultimate Halloween experience.” The 28th edition of this must-see event promises to bring to life the ultimate in scares past, present, and future.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 will consist of a whopping 34 nights, from Friday, September 14 through Saturday, November 3 (that makes it tied for the longest run in its history). Here’s the full breakdown of the dates:

Sept. 14-16, 20-23, 28-30
Oct. 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31
Nov. 1-3

What can we expect for this year? According to Universal, a whole bunch of good stuff:

This year’s event will be the most intense yet, bringing some of the most terrifying names in horror – both from the past and the present – to life in nine all-new haunted houses and five sinister scare zones throughout the park. Guests brave enough to enter the event will encounter everything from iconic horror films to cult classics to terrifying hit TV shows to disturbing original stories that only the twisted minds of Universal’s award-winning Entertainment team could imagine. And when they need a break from the screams, guests can enjoy Universal Studios’s exciting rides and attractions.

So, how busy will Halloween Horror Nights 2018 be on ____ night?

Since this is the most common question we receive, we want to answer it right away. In general, Saturdays are always busy. The first two weeks, Wednesdays, October 30-31, and November 2-3 are always some of the least-crowded nights.

Will Diagon Alley be open during Halloween Horror Nights 2018 event nights?

We don’t know just yet. However, since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley was open for the past two years, we imagine this will be the case for 2018, as well.

What is the Halloween Horror Nights 2018 theme?

It is currently unknown whether this year’s event will have either a central icon or an overarching theme. Stay tuned!

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – haunted houses

Stranger Things at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 2018 poster
Prepare to go upside down…

Although there are shows, scare zones, and plenty of terrifying activities as part of Halloween Horror Nights, the haunted houses are the primary attractions for the event.

HHN haunts are best described as “movie-set quality” recreations of fantastic and fearsome locations. Sometimes referred to as mazes, each house is indoors, often set up in the unused queue area of a daytime attraction or one of the Universal soundstages. These mazes rely on every effect you can imagine to scare the pants off you, including hideous creatures, blood-curdling sound effects, loud music, tight passages, strobe lights, air bursts, mirror effects, and, of course, very elaborate – and, in many cases, very gruesome – props and set decoration. In general, guests are sent through the houses in a steady flow (sort of like a conga line, versus being “pulsed” through in small groups), and, once inside, each haunt is typically a three- to four-minute experience.

Throughout much of the event’s history, the haunts’ themes have been original creations. However, in more recent years, Universal has started basing more and more of its Halloween locations on third-party licenses (often referred to by fans as intellectual properties, or IPs), such as AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Stranger Things

One of the biggest names in horror is making its inaugural debut at Halloween Horror Nights: Netflix’s Stranger Things. The first season, which originally landed on the streamer in July 2016, will be the basis of the house, taking guests step by step through all eight of its episodes – starting with Will Byers’s abduction at the hands of the Demogorgon in Mirkwood and going all the way through to the climactic showdown in Hawkins Middle School. Along the way, expect to see flashing Christmas lights, explore the Hawkins National Laboratory, and, of course, make some excursions to the Upside Down.

Read our full analysis here.

Dead Exposure: Patient Zero

Upsetting years of tradition, Universal announced the first original haunt of the event well before all of the licensed mazes were fully revealed. Dead Exposure: Patient Zero is the follow-up – well, prequel, if we’re being technical – to the fan-favorite Dead Exposure from Halloween Horror Nights 2008, and both heavily rely on plunging guests in total darkness while a zombie horde descends upon them. This could easily be one of the more intriguing houses of the year, especially given Patient Zero’s continued utilization of blacklight strobes to punctuate the blackness.

Read our full analysis here.

Trick ‘r Treat

The 2009 anthology film Trick ‘r Treat is making an encore appearance at Halloween Horror Nights, this time landing as a haunted house instead of the head-turning and photogenic scare zone from last year. Guests will be plunged into each of the movie’s various storylines, from creeping through Mr. Kreeg’s “infamous” house to watching the seemingly-normal-looking costumed girls transform into bloodthirsty werewolves.

For a brief breakdown of the cult-favorite Trick ‘r Treat‘s surprisingly-rich history – including a rare but must-see Easter short film – read our full analysis here.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – scare zones

Trick r Treat scare zone at Halloween Horror Nights 27
Scare zone at Halloween Horror Nights 27

Stopping you mid-breath as you walk between attractions, scare zones are essentially outdoor haunted houses set up in open areas around Universal Studios Florida (for example, in the street area of New York, right in front of Revenge of the Mummy). The decorations and effects are usually not quite as elaborate as the haunted houses, but there are still many tricks employed to get screams out of guests – and the “oversized” aspects of some scare zones, allowed by their position outdoors, often make them as thrilling as the average maze. This is particularly true for the ghastly part of you that likes to watch other people scream their heads off!

2018’s experiences have yet to be revealed, which means we’ll have to simply take a look back at last year’s lineup, just to give you an idea of what HHN’s usual roster looks – and scares – like.

The Purge (located in New York)

The Purge is coming to Universal Studios Florida in more ways than one this year, with Halloween Horror Nights’s designers asking, “What would it really be like if the Purge came to our New York streets?” You’ll find out – including learning how the night’s massive body count is cleaned away by morning.

The Festival of the Deadliest (Hollywood)

Billed as an “ancient tradition from the depths of where nightmares are born,” this hallowed celebration will unleash hellish terrors all night long.

Trick ‘r Treat (Central Park)

The second IP scare zone, Trick ‘r Treat shares the name – and several characters – with the 2007 anthology movie. Come learn the rules of the haunted holiday – or else…

Invasion! (San Francisco)

The year is 1956. Aliens have crash-landed in the San Fransisco wharf, but that hasn’t stopped them from terrorizing Earthlings or conducting sinister medical experiments on them.

Altars of Horror (Production Central)

Need even more chances to experience all of Halloween Horror Nights 2017’s various intellectual properties? Head to the first-of-its-kind Altars of Horror and get your gruesome hearts’ fill.

Roaming Hordes (various)

Chainsaw-wielding scary clowns – what Universal calls a “grotesque gang of gigglers” – are on the prowl, angry with how pop-culture has treated their clowning brethren.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – live stage shows

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure
Most excellent!

Halloween Horror Nights features unique and outrageous shows each year. This used to include, for an unbelievable 27 years, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, but Universal pulled the plug on the long-running production in 2017. We’re all anxiously awaiting to see what, if anything, will replace it – especially considering the show’s are the only time HHN attendees are allowed to sit back, relax, and laugh ’til their bellies hurt.

Here’s what 2017’s productions looked like:

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure is similar in style to the former Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue production – lampooning popular culture and so on and so forth – except it’s written for more of an adult audience, it’s performed on the larger Fear Factor stage next to Men in Black: Alien Attack, and photography is strictly prohibited. The first show time is typically at 7:30 pm, with additional performances scheduled about every hour-and-a-half. Exact times can be found in the in-park event guide map.

(Check out our in-depth feature for a full accounting of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure’s history – and the probable reasons for its cancellation.)

Last year, professional dance group Academy of Villains took Horror Nights crowds by storm. This year, they’re coming back with an all-new production called “Afterlife” that will “make you bear witness to what happens after we leave this life. They’re going to give you one mind-blowing and shocking dance performance that will escort you from this world to the great beyond.”

Academy of Villains at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 26
Academy of Villains at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 26

BONUS: Regular daytime attractions

During Halloween Horror Nights, there are quite a few of the regular attractions running – and since they take a backseat to the HHN thrills and chills, they are often walk-ons. Here’s the ride lineup for 2017 (and, more than likely, 2018, too):

Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon will not be included in this year’s ride lineup.

Please note: if you purchase an HHN Express Pass, it works on the rides in addition to the haunted houses.

Halloween Horror Nights – park map

Below is the map for Halloween Horror Nights 27. Keep in mind that it does not feature the rides that are open during the event.

Universal provides free event guide maps at the front of Universal Studios Florida for all guests, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own. We simply provide this example to help you plan and get a sense of the Horror Nights layout.

Halloween Horror Nights 2017 map at Universal Orlando
Halloween Horror Nights 2017 map at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – Passholder Nights

NOTE: no info for 2018 has been unveiled yet.

Not unlike the numerous previous years, Universal will continue the tradition of offering passholder nights the first two Fridays and Saturdays of the event. Learn more on this page.

RSVP is always required for Annual Passholder Nights, and dates fill up quickly. We’ll share the RSVP form on our Twitter handle and update this page as soon as it’s released.

Update (09.07.17 12:20 pm): reservations for Passholder Nights are now live! You can find the form here.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – merchandise

The merchandise for Halloween Horror Nights 28 has yet to be released, but you can take a look at what was offered in 2016 below.

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What Halloween Horror Nights is not

This event is not Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party set at Universal Orlando; there is no trick-or-treating, and there are no characters dressed up in cutsie outfits.

The single purpose of Halloween Horror Nights is to scare you. As such, Universal strongly advises that children under the age of 13 do not attend. We tell people that HHN is like a horror movie brought to life. If you like horror movies, you will love HHN; if you don’t like them, you’ll probably hate the event. It’s that simple.

Just for clarification, the “children under the age of 13″ statement is a guideline, not a policy, so you can bring your kids to HHN, and Universal will not ask for proof of age. However, be aware that if anyone in your party does not like the event and needs to leave early, Universal has the right not to refund used tickets or change the valid date. Since at least one adult will need to leave with an unhappy child, this could prove to be an expensive gamble.

Universal Orlando Halloween events for kids

The section above usually leads parents directly to this question: so what can I do with my kids during Halloween at Universal?

For better or for worse, Universal really puts all of its energy into Halloween Horror Nights. The “for worse” part means the resort likely won’t be organizing anything for kids this year – at least, not in the size and scope of Horror Nights.

If you have young kids who want to celebrate the holiday, plan on taking them to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or SeaWorld’s Spooktacular. Personally, we recommend SeaWorld because its Halloween event is included with regular admission, and it’s a great experience, too.

Will my kids get scared visiting Universal Studios during the day?

This is the other popular question asked by parents with young kids. Because many of the decorations for Halloween Horror Nights are elaborate and large, it’s not possible for Universal to remove everything HHN-related during the regular daytime hours. This means, when touring Universal Studios Florida in September and October, you’ll occasionally come across stuff that looks like this:

Halloween Horror Nights 2016
Halloween Horror Nights 2016
Halloween Horror Nights 2016
Halloween Horror Nights 2016

The good news is that Universal doesn’t do a single thing during the day, like it does during Halloween Horror Nights – not one scareactor, not one siren effect blaring, no sudden air bursts, nothing. So, aside from the oversized props spaced out in a few spots around the park, there is absolutely nothing to fear visiting Universal Studios Florida during the day. Honestly, most of the HHN props look more silly than scary in the bright sunlight.

Think the props will be distracting? Remind your friends that you’re visiting a working movie production studio, so everyone should expect to see miscellaneous props set out around the park!

Does anything happen at Islands of Adventure?

Unfortunately, no. Other than perhaps some very minor decorating, there is nothing Halloween-related at Islands of Adventure. In fact, when you’re inside the park in the fall, you’ll be hard pressed to even know it’s the Halloween season; like we explained earlier, Universal really does put every ounce of its seasonal effort into Halloween Horror Nights.

I wanna learn more about Halloween Horror Nights!

That’s good, because we have so much more to share. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to view our expert advice regarding admission, Express Passes, first-time visitor planning, and more.

If you just want to get more of a “feel” for the event, check out our HHN 2013 video playlist on YouTube – you can experience the atmosphere of the event and see exactly what the scare zones looked like from that year.

Last but not least…

We have an entire community of Universal and HHN fans discussing the event right now! When you’re done here, join us for vacation planning and more in our Facebook community.