There’s only so much you can do in one night at Halloween Horror Nights. Yes, you can buy the Express, but it can be up to almost $200 a person just for the Express Pass. If you can’t afford that or you need some insight into what’s good this year, I have a couple of observations. I know it’s the last week of HHN, but these aspects really stood out, and at least one of them will likely be back next year. I have the Frequent Fear Pass because I thought it made the most sense with my schedule. So far, it has worked out well. I am not one to wait in lines, and I’ve only waited in one. Either way, there are a couple of recommendations I can make as I follow them myself.
There are a few reoccurring tips that can be used pretty much every year to get you in the door and off to a good start. To avoid the long house lines, I try to get in line outside the front gate before the park opens. The official start time is 6:30 pm, but they open anywhere from 15-45 minutes early regularly. It is a little bit of a hassle at the front gate, so if you don’t like waiting in line or crowds, I’d avoid it. It’s crowded; there’s nothing going on, and the sun is shining in your face. It’s probably smarter to hang out at NBC Sports Grill or the Hard Rock area and wait. You can either grab a snack or drink there and wait for the park to open or take it with you to wait in the front gate line.
The reason to get in right when the gate opens is to knock out a couple of houses quickly right from the start. This plan involves a little rushing, which isn’t my style, but it gets the job done and is worth the effort to avoid 90- 120-minute waits. The complicated part is that Universal doesn’t open all the houses at the same time. This part of HHN is annoying and nearly impossible to predict. Either go to the house you want to be first in line for and wait for it to open or go into the houses that are open as soon as you can. Your choice will depend on how quickly you get into the park and where the houses are located you’re interested in doing. Either way, you will get through your main house or a few quick ones early on. If your HHN time is limited, I have two recommendations that I will make your night the most worthwhile.
This year I was most excited to see the Ghostbusters house, with Killer Klowns From Outer Space a close second. The first night we went, Ghostbusters was open and had a massive line. We made the quick decision to skip it and instead rushed and knocked out a few houses that had no lines. By the time we got into the park the second night, there again was already a line for Ghostbusters. It didn’t seem like the house was even open, though, and that was about 6:40. The wait for the standstill line said 50 minutes and from the outside looked to be roughly accurate. Since it was the most important house to me, we grabbed a drink, got in line, and decided to deal with the wait.
There isn’t much to see outside the Ghostbusters house, which is in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster, and there’s not even a decorated front entrance. There is a large TV showing some footage of HHN, but it’s hard to pay attention to it. When you get close to the doorway into the house, you can hear the music from the movie. This moment is when I finally got excited rather than frustrated with waiting. The wait time ended up being about 70 minutes, which is the longest I can remember waiting for a house, but it is worth it.
Since the Ghostbusters house, I’ve been through all the scarezones and multiple other houses, and it is by far, my favorite. I am a Ghostbusters fan and have been since I was a kid. The closest experience to the house I can think of was the Ghostbusters show that used to be at Universal Studios. The house is full of authentic Ghostbusters costumes, characters, sounds, and scenes from the movie. I felt like I was walking through parts of the film, watching them take place. My inner child came out as I stared, smiling at Gozer, as she told us to “Die!” and blasted us. The house isn’t necessarily scary, although there are a few jump scares, as its only content from the movie. Therefore, it’s less dark and scary and much easier to appreciate than a typical house. The house is spooky, goofy, lighthearted fun, just like the movie. I would say it’s the most family-friendly house Universal has ever done. The house is worth the wait if you’re a movie or Ghostbuster fan and probably worth going twice. I would recommend going through it to see the film quality recreations or if you are scared by the rest of HHN.
I believe the second-best part of Halloween Horror Nights this year is the Marathon of Mayhem water show. The show takes place three times a night at 10, 11 and 12 pm in the lagoon in the center of the park. Unfortunately, the display is only viewable from one side of the water. The viewing area is on the waterfront in the Central Park Area of Universal. Anywhere else around the lagoon either gets you soaked, or you can’t see what’s being projected onto the water. There’s no seating, but there are railings to lean on, and the show isn’t that long. The show uses a combination of sound and visual technology to show clips of the major properties used in the houses for HHN this year. It isn’t just a montage though it’s a full presentation, and the love for the properties shines through in the final product.
While the water projects giant images of Killer Klowns and Universal Monsters, the surrounding images project onto all the buildings behind the water. The theme of HHN this year is 80’s oriented, and therefore the visuals are all neon, and the music is Synthwave, which is basically 80’s soundtracks and video games. The combination of all of this makes for a visually stunning and overall enjoyable show. The show isn’t terrifying, but it does display some snips of scenes from Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, Universal Monsters, and Killer Klowns that could be a little frightening to a younger audience. I am a big fan of the Bill and Ted show and still miss it, but this show satisfied me differently. Although there isn’t the comedy and story of Bill and Ted, there is evident creativity, time, and effort dedicated to putting the production together. The show doesn’t take a lot of time out of your night, and I guarantee you will be impressed by it.
These two aspects of HHN stood out to me this year. I forgot about the frustration of having to rush getting in and waiting in line when I was experiencing these two. The other houses and scarezones are impressive and what you’d expect from HHN. Getting to walk through and interact with a classic like Ghostbusters is something that I’ve never been able to do before. It serves as more than just a haunted house and evokes a lot more than just fear. The new show looks and sounds unique. It’s a great tribute to the rest of the event and the properties that brought us all to HHN this year. I recommend the Ghostbusters house twice if you can manage it and plan to watch Marathons of Mayhem as a break from the lines or at the end of the night before you leave.