Saturday, October 17, 2015

Spooky Shangrila 2015: Tips and Tricks for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

The season of fear is here, and all this month, I'll be putting up some spine-tingling Halloween-themed posts to set the stage for the 31st...

On certain nights in October, Universal Studios Orlando turns into a macabre playground of haunted houses, "Scareactors," and dark delights...Halloween Horror Nights...

My friends and I have been hanging out at HHN for years, and we've learned quite a bit about how to make the night go smoothly. So, in celebration of HHN's 25th anniversary, here is our advice for newbies to the event:

1. Buy an Express Pass - Base HHN tickets are temptingly priced at around $50, with the Express Pass upgrade running an extra $100 or so. However, you need to buy the upgrade (unless you want to spend most of the night standing in line). The regular wait for a popular haunted house, like this year's "Freddy vs. Jason," can reach two hours; the Express Pass lines usually average 20-30 minutes. Pay the money and thank me later.

2. Eat before you enter - There are some decent places to chow down in the CityWalk area outside the park (my friends swear by The Cowfish), but once you're inside, you're relegated to the same overpriced fast-food they always serve at Universal.

3. Don't carry your gun in - For HHN, Universal sets up metal detectors at the entrance, and it's not somewhere you can tote your CCW. Unlike a lot of so-called "gun-free" zones, though, they do have armed police officers and security everywhere, so I can live with the restriction for a night.

4. Go back to front - If you're planning on doing HHN right when the gates open, you'll be best served by skipping the houses near the front of the park and marching to the back (the strip of land from "A Day in the Park with Barney" to "Men in Black"). There are usually a few houses in close proximity here, and if you're quick, you can easily knock out them out before the wait times get too crazy.

5. There's time to check out non-HHN stuff - Many of the park's normal rides are open during the night, with smaller crowds and shorter lines than a normal day. If you're not a regular visitor to Universal, it might be worth it to take 20 minutes and ride "Transformers," sample a Butterbeer in Diagon Alley, or simply enjoy the atmosphere in a walk around the park.


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