So you already know that we’re all Halloween crazy, and last week – a dream come true – I got to take Mr E and Sam to Universal Orlando Resort, Florida to experience the amazing Halloween Horror Nights 27. I don’t want to be one of those people who give all the good bits away before you even get there, so I’m not going to go into huge detail about everything you’ll find at HHN27, just in case you’re due to visit. If you’re tempted to attend next year, though – and you really, really should – here are my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, plus a couple of my awful blurry pictures – you’re welcome!
Halloween Horror Nights 27
At the press night, we’d seen some teasers of some of the haunted houses that were going to be at the park, plus we knew a little about some of the scare zones, but the reality was far, far better and a lot scarier! If you don’t know much about the event, the streets of Universal Studios are transformed into a nightmarish world of walking mutants, monsters and ghouls, with different areas of the park’s streets (scare zones) and incredibly detailed haunted houses themed after various horror films.
Why visit HHN27?
It’s the best fun! It’s a more grown up event, making it absolutely perfect if you have teens/young adults or if you’re planning a holiday with a group of friends (but really not suitable for young children – there are babysitting services available in the hotel). It’s a hugely immersive experience – surviving HHN becomes a bit of a badge of honour, and people come back year after year to experience it. I’ve seen people walk around saying ‘oh they don’t scare me’, but that’s not the point – you’re there to be scared – you need to let go and have some fun! Some of the characters (or ‘scareactors’) will interact with you but others stay firmly in character and can be particularly chilling, like my enormous friend Bones here in the Trick ‘r Treat section who stared silently at me for the entire time I was walking past him. It still makes me feel a bit shivery just thinking about it.
Our favourite scare zone was The Purge, where we found ourselves walking the streets of New York during the annual 12-hour period of murder and mayhem made famous by the film. We watched victims being bundled off into vans and then auctioned off to the highest bidder, and everything seems so real, it was like we were actually in the movie.
Another scare zone we loved was based on the horror film Trick ‘r Treat, with an incredibly detailed (and actually really beautiful) area lit with pumpkins and inhabited by terrifying creatures from the film.
We really loved all the haunted houses, but we were especially impressed with The Shining (we’d seen the movie just before we left and even recognised the wallpaper in the house, such is the attention to detail), Dead Waters (a foray into a hideous, stinking swamp) and the fantastic Hive, complete with terrifyin creatures actually flying above you. I also screamed so much in the Horrors of Blumhouse (one house featuring three films from one of horror’s most famous franchises: Blumhouse Productions, makers of The Purge and Insidious) that I made myself have a massive coughing fit and ruined my GoPro video.
Anyway, no more spoilers – here at my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida.
My top tips for Halloween Horror Nights
- Buy an Express Pass – available at the gate or at your hotel – especially if you’re visiting on a busy night. They’ll cost from $80 to well over $100, depending on the date you go, but can cut your wait time in half.
- Avoid the weekends – this is when a lot of the locals attend (also, it’s not as ‘festive’ but avoid dates nearer actual Halloween)
- Go early – and head straight for the houses. Then, once it gets dark, you can take your time wandering the scare zones
- Head to the furthest haunted houses first – the ones nearest the entrance get busy quicker
- Stay at one of the Universal Orlando Resorts – if you’re staying at Loews Portofino Bay, Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort or Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, guests can use a priority entrance gate. Get there well before the official 6.30pm opening time and leg it to the haunted houses you most want to see as soon as the gates open (locals have told us they often open as early as 5.30pm if they’re ready)
- Or stay very late – the crowds start to dissipate at around midnight and the park doesn’t close until 1am (2am on busy dates – check before you go).
- Or just stay in the park – visit the park during the day and ask at the gate about HHN ‘holding areas’ – generally a couple of places like Finnegan’s Irish Pub will let you stay there during the transition period when the park is officially close. It’s a lovely spot to have an early dinner before all the fun starts and you’re in prime position to head to your chosen haunted houses.
- Consider buying a combo ticket – buy day/night combo tickets (from £110 per person), or if you want to do Volcano Bay as well (it’s fab – more of this soon), the Universal 3-Park Explorer with Halloween Horror Nights Combo Ticket is really good ( from £309 per person), and includes 14 days unlimited access to Universal Studios, islands of Adventure, the all new Volcano Bay and admission to all applicable Halloween Horror Nights within the two weeks.
- Or a ‘Frequent Fear Pass’ – these enable you to attend multiple Halloween Horror Nightsduring your stay (from £104). As always, it’s cheaper to book in advance. To book visit www.attraction-tickets-direct.
- And finally – don’t forget to go to Diagon Alley at night – just because it’s gorgeous.
Where to stay
We stayed at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – my absolute favourite place to stay. For more information, check out my full article about this gorgeous hotel. Even though i’ve stayed before, it was the first time that Sam and Mr E had stayed there and they absolutely loved it too. It’s a lovely, bright, open hotel with the friendliest staff and gorgeous, modern rooms. The pool area is utterly gorgeous too. It’s an easy walk to the parks, or you can just hop onto a water taxi which takes you straight there.
Make sure you book your airport parking well in advance. During busy times like school holidays, the meet and greet services are really popular. We always use APH Meet & Greet parking – we really like the staff (I’ve got to know a few of them now) – they’re always just so friendly and helpful. All you do is drive straight to the terminal where your driver will be waiting for you. He takes the car away and it’s stored while you’re away. When you return, ring your driver as you’re picking up your luggage and he’s there with your car when you step out of the terminal building. So easy and convenient.
London Gatwick to Orlando
Seven nights at Universal Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled return Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Orlando, room only accommodation at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, car hire and a Universal Orlando three park Explorer ticket with Halloween Horror Nights combo costs from £1,610 per person. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a Lagoon View Room including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 26th October 2017
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick or Manchester Airport: adults £20, kids from £12. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book visit www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.
As usual, huge thanks go to the wonderful team at Universal for all their hard work and hospitality, and everyone at Virgin Holidays too.