It's that time of year again--the time when Universal Orlando transforms from mild-mannered, half Disney owned theme park into the terrifying Halloween Horror Nights! These are the nights the park is overrun by creatures, ghouls, and goblins in ten haunted houses and several scare zones. 2019 brings us a combination of the old, the new, and the 1980's. Let us take a look at what this, the 29th year of this annual event, has in store for us. On our first day we were welcomed by...
Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts: Known simply as Gringotts to most locals, this ride is tucked away from the rest of the park--if you don't know where you're looking, and you're not a fan of the Harry Potter films, this ride is easy to miss, as it is inside the Diagon Alley section. Look for King's Cross and head in that direction. The queue is quite a bit to get through, but once you make it to the front, you are in for a fun ride. You do wear 3D glasses for this one, but unlike on many rides, you are actually moving quite a bit. You don't have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy this ride, but I can imagine those folks love it even more than those who are not fans. The wait will certainly be longer for this ride than most others, but most of that time will be spent checking out the cool surroundings. If you have an extra 20 or 30 minutes, you should check this one out.
Transformers: The Ride-3D: Much like the films, it's Transformers. It's loud. It's 3D. It's not my thing, but if you're into the movies, have at it.
Men In Black Alien Attack: Enter the world of aliens as you train to be a Men In Black agent! With this one, you sit in a car that holds a total of 6 people (3 in the front, 3 in the back) and go through the streets of New York City, zapping aliens and racking up points for doing so. My girlfriend and I absolutely love this ride, and do it at least a couple times every time we're there...and she wins every time!
Fast & Furious - Supercharged: Once upon a time, there existed an attraction called Disaster! at Universal. This attraction took you onto movie sets, showing you really cool special effects and how they make movie magic. Disaster! was absolutely amazing, and was truly one of the funnest things to do in the park. Universal closed that attraction in 2015 and replaced it with Fast & Furious - Supercharged. To put the difference in perspective, imagine you just watched the original Friday the 13th, then followed that by immediately watching Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. You walk forever to get to it, passing through several uninteresting, pre-filmed presentations, only to get onto a ride that does very little in front of a couple screens. Boring is not strong enough for this...I'd rather ride It's A Small World at Magic Kingdom consecutively for an entire week than ride this joke of a ride just once more.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: This is another roller coaster, and a quite interesting one at that. You board on a continuously moving platform, strap in, and select a song to listen to as you ride. As the ride gets going, you have speakers on either side of your head playing whichever song you chose. You start off by going up the first hill...straight up the hill! This is actually a pretty fun coaster, but one I may never ride again, as my girlfriend has sworn it off. We rode it during our October 3 visit, and were lucky enough to get the front seats! We pulled the lap bars over us and were selecting our songs, when suddenly the bars swung out. We pulled them back, and out they went again. As this happened the third time, we were approaching the end of the platform, and the only assurance we received that we weren't going to fly to our deaths, ala Final Destination 3, was a few shrugging teenagers. We lived, but wow, what a ride! Should you decide to brave this one, try to catch it at sunset, as the view from up there is amazing.
There's yet another screen ride called The Simpsons Ride, but it is only open on select HHN nights--don't feel like you're missing anything if you don't get to do this one.
One thing to keep in mind when riding these rides is you cannot bring anything through the lines with you, so if you have cups, backpacks, or whatever else, you have to throw them in a locker before getting in line--fortunately, these are free, but during a busy time it can be hard to get through the masses of people around them.
Once again, we get to visit the city of Hawkins at Halloween Horror Nights. As huge fans of the show, we were pretty excited about this one, and were not let down. This year, the entire house is based on the events that unfolded in Season Three of the show, so having seen that season is important to get a general idea of what you are seeing all around you. This is another house that has a lot of detail and small touches that make it nice, though packed with more scares than the previous two houses based on films. There is a lot of chaos unfolding in this house, making it a little harder to appreciate the design, but you will likely get scared in this one! The final room you walk through is absolutely fantastic, so try to slow down a bit to enjoy it.
You immediately come across Captain Spaulding as you enter--I have mixed feelings about this. While it was nice they kept this character in the house, I couldn't help but be a bit sad every time I entered the house after Sid Haig died on September 21. The house looks similar to the movie, but I felt like they came up a bit short in creating the authentic feel of the other houses based on movies. I was expecting a bit more from this house, but it's still a fun experience. As a side note, two of the nights we were there, there was an awful smell around this house, so don't be surprised if you experience that.
We encounter the Mouthbrooders, who are some strange mutant fish creatures. We also have several corporation employees who have been infected, underwater scenery, and a countdown is going off, as the entire place is about to self-destruct. This is a really fun experience, and sits a very close second to Yeti as far as the original houses this year. There are tons of scares in this house, it has a cool story, and if your timing is just right, it can be one of the funnest experiences of the night. One of our trips through this house resulted in the most scares of any house this year. Also, the workers outside, who are not characters, seem more involved than those outside other houses--during our first trip through, one asked us to look for his dog in there. We found him, and I will say no more of that!
The bird creatures look kind of creepy, but are certainly not the scariest creatures you will stumble across--and there are dozens of them. The combat scenes are less impressive, but also fewer. This house is build nicely in that it does have many corners, and there are some nice scares around them. One cool moment during our third or fourth trip through saw two of the creatures attack my girlfriend from opposite sides, trapping her. While not at the bottom of the list this year, it's close to it (as you will see soon).
If you decide to catch this show, be sure to get there a bit early, maybe 15 minutes before show time, to get a good spot. Don't think of it like the parade at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party where you have to park it well in advance to have a good view--both nights we watched Marathon of Mayhem, there was surprisingly few people there. The water shoots up from the lagoon, with a laser light show projected on the water and on the buildings in the distance, behind the water show. This is very much themed like the 1980's--it starts by playing music from Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, songs from season three of Stranger Things, and other stuff from the 80's. When the show actually starts, it is played out as if on VHS, as we see clips from some of the Universal Monsters movies, Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, and Killer Klowns From Outer Space. I wasn't a hundred percent sure I even wanted to give this show a shot, but I am really happy we did. It was phenomenal.