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Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – complete insider’s guide

Halloween Horror Nights 2020

NOTE: Halloween Horror Nights 2020 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will return again next year. You can get all the details in our announcement article and then read on below for what 2020’s event would have been like.

It’s never too early to start panicking for the nation’s premier Halloween event: Halloween Horror Nights 2020. 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!

Once you’ve read through our complete overview of HHN, use the navigation links at the top or bottom of the page to learn so, so much more.

Skip to: Overview | Haunted houses | Scare zones | Shows | Rides | Map | Annual passholder exclusives | Tribute Store | Merch | FAQ

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – overview and explanation

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

Now in its landmark 30th terrifying year (well, sort of), 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 water park!). But on select nights from September 10 through November 1, 2020 (before the cancellation, that is), the streets of Universal Studios Florida come alive with hordes of horrifying mutants, monsters, and maniacs. That’s right – all throughout the night, you’ll be completely immersed in the worlds of the biggest names in horror.

With 29 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, to boot.

Halloween Horror Nights is an 11-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.” And the 30th edition of this must-see event promises to bring to life the ultimate in scares past, present, and future (in 2021).

What are the dates of this year’s event?

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 was originally scheduled to go from Thursday, September 10 to Sunday, November 1. That would’ve been a grand total of 40 event nights, which was two fewer than 2019’s record-breaking 42 dates – though it was originally three fewer, as Universal didn’t add Sunday, November 1 to this year’s roster until later on. (This is actually something of a recurring theme now, as the company tacked on three additional nights in 2018 and one in 2019.)

Here’s what the full breakdown of the dates looked like, before the cancellation:

Sept. 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18. 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30
Oct. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Nov. 1

Although we never got the hours, here is 2019’s info, just to give you an idea of what to expect:

Sept. 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, Oct. 2, 21, 29, 2019 – 6:30 pm-1:00 am
Sept. 26, 27, 28, 29, Oct. 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, Nov. 1, 2, 2019 – 6:30 pm-2:00 am

So, how busy will Halloween Horror Nights 2020 be on ____ night?

Since this is the most common question we receive, we wanted to answer it right away (again, using 2019’s info as a placeholder):

Least crowded: Sept. 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 25, 26, Oct. 2, 21, 29, 30, Nov. 1, 2, 2019
Medium crowded: Sept. 14, 21, 22, 27, 29, Oct. 3, 4, 9, 10, 17, 23, 24, 31, 2019
Most crowded: Sept. 28, Oct. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 2019

To put it more generally, always expect Saturdays to be busy throughout the entire run of the event, while, on the other hand, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and the first two weeks tend to be some of the least-crowded nights.

Will Diagon Alley be open during Halloween Horror Nights 2020 event nights?

We think it would’ve been, yes, although we always need to wait on official confirmation from Universal, of course. But for the past five events, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley has been accessible to guests during the scare fest, allowing visitors to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and check out all of the various wizarding shops. Just don’t expect the area to have any decorations – or seasonal alterations of any kind – up, whether it’s open or not.

What is the Halloween Horror Nights 2020 theme?

Nothing was officially announced before the cancellation, but the merchandise that was – and still is – on sale brandished the anniversary slogan of “30 Years, 30 Fears.”

How many haunted houses and scare zones will there be?

For the third time in a row, there was supposed to have been an absolutely mammoth 10 haunted houses – the biggest lineup in Horror Nights’s entire existence (some of which will be “reimagined haunts inspired by the past”). Universal had also confirmed a grand total of five scare zones, which has been the standard number for the past few years.

(There seemed to have been indication from Universal about there being two live stage shows, but this was never officially confirmed.)

I want to read the review of Halloween Horror Nights 2020!

Well, you’ll have to wait until September 2021 for that. In the meantime, though, you can enjoy last year’s review here.

What if I’m not a horror fan?

Are you not a horror fan, generally, but are still maybe, possibly interested in heading to the event? It turns out you should be – there’s more than enough to do here to warrant at least a one-night visit. We explore this possibility in-depth in our HHN guide for non-horror fans.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – haunted houses

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 haunts 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 maze is typically a three- to four-minute experience.

Throughout much of the event’s history, the haunted houses’ themes have been original creations. However, in more recent years, Universal has started basing more and more of its Halloween mazes on third-party licenses (often referred to by fans as intellectual properties, or IPs), such as AMC’s The Walking Dead or, more recently, Netflix’s Stranger Things. Although we don’t yet know (obviously) what this year’s breakdown is going to be between the two camps, 2018 saw them split evenly down the middle, with five IPs and five originals.

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no haunted houses this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – scare zones

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 mazes’, but there are still many tricks employed to get screams out of guests – and the “oversized” aspects of some zones, allowed by their position outdoors, often make them as thrilling as the average haunt. This is particularly true for the ghastly part of you that likes to watch other people scream their heads off!

For 2020, we’re getting a total of five scare zones, but we don’t yet know what the ratio will be between intellectual-property and original ones (in the past few years, it was two and three, respectively).

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no scare zones this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – live stage shows

Halloween Horror Nights features unique and outrageous shows each year, typically the only time that attendees are allowed to sit back, relax, and laugh ‘til their bellies hurt.

The headlining attraction here used to be Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, but after an unbelievable 27-year run, Universal pulled the plug on the production in 2017 (you can read our full accounting of the reasons why, as well as a full-on retrospective of the show, in our in-depth feature). The HHN torch has seemingly been passed on to professional dance group Academy of Villains, which has, for the past four years, put on a different mind-bending performance that combines acrobatics, detailed visuals, stunt work, multimedia elements, and “intense” choreography.

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no live shows this year.

BONUS: Regular daytime attractions

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida during Halloween Horror Nights
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, as seen during Halloween Horror Nights

During Halloween Horror Nights, there are quite a few of the regular attractions running – and since they take a backseat to the horror thrills and chills, they are often walk-ons.

(And if you purchase an HHN Express Pass, it works on the rides in addition to the haunted houses.)

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no rides this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – park map

Once you know what all the attractions are, we’ll post what they look like laid out in Universal Studios Florida here.

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no park map this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – annual passholder benefits

NOTE: since the 2020 event has been cancelled, there will be no annual-passholder benefits this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – Tribute Store

Although Halloween Horror Nights 2020 has been cancelled, that hasn’t stopped Universal from throwing some Halloween love our way: the Tribute Store was opened on Tuesday, July 28, consoling us with a bunch of general and retro Horror Nights merchandise.

This may only be the sixth year that the store has been a part of the event, but it’s quickly become an iconic element, making it a fan-favorite and must-hit aspect of the whole HHN experience. It started off life, back in 2015, comparatively modestly, originally taking up residence in Aftermath, the gift shop attached to the now-retired Twister… Ride It Out attraction (which is today Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon). It was from its very first day a collection of all Halloween Horror Nights merchandise, but this original iteration was limited by the retail space it was temporarily borrowing; it came across as a Twister-dedicated store that was momentarily possessed by the spirit of Halloween. Even still, Tribute more than earned its name by also collecting a fairly large swath of props, both big and small, from events past, ranging from pieces that were mounted on the wall (say, Resident Evil’s dog puppets from just two years earlier) to larger items that took up space out on the floor (like the Terra Queen’s chopper from 2005).

It didn’t take long for the Tribute Store to evolve. Starting the very next year, in 2016, it took up residence in its now-customary home, in the Macy’s façade right next to Revenge of the Mummy, occupying two rooms that were designed specifically for the purpose. Initially, Universal would take its roster of various intellectual properties that formed most of that year’s haunted houses and divide them more-or-less evenly among these two rooms, but the arrival of Stranger Things in 2018 changed things up (just as the franchise did with practically everything else HHN). From here on out, at least one room would be specifically dedicated to just one IP, with 2019 adding another variation to the mix by introducing a third themed area (the Tribute Store that year consisted of Ghostbusters-, Stranger Things-, and Universal Monsters-themed spaces).

2020 has only seen Tribute grow in importance. First up, another one of Universal Orlando’s venerable annual events, Mardi Gras, received a commemorative store of its very own for the first time, with theming that was near-impeccable – its three rooms recreated three archetypal parts of Louisiana: a French Quarter flat, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and the bayou. And swinging back to Halloween Horror Nights, its Tribute Store not only opened up earlier than ever before (44 days before the planned start of the event, instead of the usual two or three), it also became the sole surviving element of that year’s intended experience.

What does the HHN Tribute Store look like for this strangest of outings? First up there is an anteroom, depicting a ruined Frankenstein’s castle (a nod, perhaps, to 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, which ends with the good doctor’s home being destroyed). This, of course, leads to the first main themed space: Frankenstein’s lab, which is filled with turning gears and other iconic equipment from the classic ’31 film, all arrayed around the central Monster, who is hidden under his sheet on his infamous slab (awaiting to be resurrected, it would seem). There is a ton of merchandise available here, starting with the Universal Classic Monsters and moving on to “30 Years, 30 Fears” retro wares, such as t-shirts, pins, and shot glasses.

The second room is devoted to Jack the Clown, the original Horror Nights icon, who appears to preside over Oddfellow’s Dark Carnival and Emporium. This area is dominated by classic Halloween colors and HHN iconography, including a preponderance of jack-o-lanterns and loving portraits of the other event icons. A huge selection of masks is also at hand here, representing a wide swath of IPs from years past – Stranger Things, Halloween, Saw, and, our personal favorite, Ghostbusters (in the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, naturally).

HHN Tribute Store 2020 - hidden room
At least we have something to look forward to this Halloween

But the most intriguing detail of them all is, for the time being, just that – a detail. Of the myriad event posters scattered about Tribute, one of them – advertising the “world famous” Tribute Store – promises a coming attraction in the form of a third, secret room. We don’t know what it’ll consist of or when it’ll arrive, but it’s a tantalizing hint, nonetheless.

The 2020 HHN Tribute Store is open daily during parks hours from now “through the fall.”

HHN Tribute Store 2020 – photo gallery

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Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – merchandise

The wide selection of items that heavily feature the big intellectual properties may not be coming this year, but Universal has kept its range of anniversary merchandise up for sale (both in the HHN Tribute Store and on its website). The slogan for this year’s retro offerings is “30 Years, 30 Fears,” and there’s still a surprising variety of keepsakes to call your own.

HHN 2020 merch – CityWalk kiosk

Perhaps because of 2020’s Horror Nights cancellation, Universal decided to do something else a little out of the ordinary: open up a horror-dedicated kiosk in CityWalk, near Voodoo Doughnut. You can find many of your HHN needs right here, without having to make the trek all the way out to the Tribute Store in Universal Studios Florida.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 – FAQ

We’ve collected the most-talked-about topics and questions related to Universal’s popular annual event and deposited them all here for your horror education.

If, for whatever reason, you still can’t find the answers you’re looking for, we strongly recommend that you ask all of your questions in our OI Community Facebook group – with over 100,000 members, you’re going to find all sorts of expertise floating around in there.

What Halloween Horror Nights is not

This event is not Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Walt Disney World Resort’s annual kid-friendly Halloween bash, set at Universal Orlando; there is no trick-or-treating, and there are no characters dressed up in cutsey outfits.

The single purpose of Halloween Horror Nights is to scare you – and, 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 Horror Nights; 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 Orlando?

For better or for worse, Universal really puts all of its energy into Halloween Horror Nights. The “for worse” part means the resort isn’t 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 – its Halloween event is included with regular admission, and it’s a great experience, too.

Will my kids get scared visiting Universal Studios Florida 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 (and the first weekend of November), 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?

For the most part, no, Islands of Adventure doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with Halloween – in fact, in most respects, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that the holiday was even going on.

There’s one key exception, however, and it’s a doozy: starting in 2019, a new seasonal projection-mapping show came to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Called Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle, it’s a celebration of all things dark and dangerous in Harry’s wondrous world, but the best part for Harry Potter and Halloween fans alike is the occasional preshow, which revolves around Death Eaters prowling the streets of Hogsmeade Village. While still not technically holiday-related, it’s nonetheless fun and just a tad on the spooky side.

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 Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.