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...

A double rainbow?!


I realized that in my reviews of previous years, I never really talked about the rides at Universal, but there are several that are open during Halloween Horror Nights. Here is a list of the rides that are open during HHN, and quick reviews of them:

Revenge of the Mummy: This is a roller coaster based on the Brendan Fraser Mummy films, and if you are a fan of that series of films, consider this ride a must-do. This is actually one of my favorite roller coasters, and, next to possibly Mako at SeaWorld, may be the best in Central Florida. The ride is fast, indoors, has some surprises, lots of fire, and is designed wonderfully. The wait is usually really short for this during HHN, so if you are into coasters, give yourself some time to ride this one.

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.

This guy breaths fire

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!

Break 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.

Going up!

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. 


The main event of this madness is unquestionably the houses. Spread out pretty well throughout the park, Universal has ten houses this year. I have some general complaints about the process involved with these experiences, but I will save those for the end--now is the time to get to the fun part! I will list the houses in the order you would experience them if you were to enter the park and go around it clockwise.

Long-time readers and close friends know my favorite movie of all time is Ghostbusters, so when I heard Universal was bringing this house to Halloween Horror Nights, I was very skeptical. My first vision was of the abomination of a movie that came out a few years ago, and I was furious. Once I was assured this house would have nothing to do with that film and was all about the original, I was a bit happier, but remained skeptical--after all, there is NO CHANCE they can create a house based on my favorite movie and do it justice, right? Wrong! This house is amazing, and the detail put into it is wonderful. As you walk through this house, you get the feel you are actually in the movie, stepping into rooms and scenes you are very familiar with. You come across Janine in the office, Dana in her apartment, many of the ghosts, Gozer, Louis, and, of course, our four heroes. What may be a bit off-putting to fans is the re-recording of some familiar lines from the movie, but that is a very minor complaint. There are not a ton of scares in this house (though Slimer scared my girlfriend so bad one night she almost fell), but as a fan, I am very okay with this. Checking out the detail is the main appeal of this house, and it stands head and shoulders above the rest this year.

My rad birthday gift

Loggers in a remote part of the Yukon territory of Canada try to escape the elements, but encounter something much more terrifying! This is the story of this one, and my God, what a house! We know from the title what to expect in the house, and they are everywhere...even above you! The snow monsters are all menacing, scary looking creatures, but there is even more than that to scare you here. The layout of the house is nice, and there are plenty of things that, if you don't see them coming, will scare you out of your snow boots! There is one scene in particular involving one of the men and one of the Yeti that, if timed right, is one of the best things you will see anywhere throughout the entire event. This is the best original house of the year.

Based on the 2019 movie of the same name, Us is a fun little trip through the world of doppelgangers. The first few times we went through this house, we had not seen the movie, so, while cool, we couldn't fully appreciate the work that was put into it. Just before our final visit of the year, however, we did get the movie from Redbox, so our last visit made us appreciate this one much more. Much like the Ghostbusters house, the scares are relatively minimal in this house, but the resemblance to the film are solid. It's a popular house as well, as the line, even with the Express Pass, was fairly long each time through.

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.

Step into the demented world of the Firefly Family in this house, based on Rob Zombie's 2003 film which, incidentally, was inspired partially by a haunted house Zombie was helping to create...don't you love it when things come full circle? The outside of the house is very well done, offering a wicked welcome.

Music plays out here too

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.

A mining company digs deep into the water, uncovering a parasitic species known as Mouthbrooders. Another original house, this one has all kinds of stuff going on.

Entering the madness

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!

In this one, you enter Ancient Rome, where there is bloody combat and weird, bloodthirsty bird-like creatures. Nightingales possibly has the coolest setting prior to entering the house, but once you go in, the awesomeness lessens considerably.

This looks menacing

They even kill the horses!

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).

Universal Monsters is just what it sounds like, which is awesome! As you enter this house, you go through a graveyard featuring some of the classic Universal monsters. Once through there, you enter the worlds of  The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and even The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you are a fan of these classics, you will likely love this house...I am, and I did. One of the scenes in the Wolf Man area is possibly the best scene in any house this year. Each room had it's own unique feel, and many--especially The Hunchback and Creature from the Black Lagoon rooms--make you feel like you are in the movies. One thing you may not like about this house is how some of the characters look.

Just outside the house


The Monster and Wolf Man?

The t-shirt I didn't buy

Instead of the faces we are used to, we get some strange cartoon caricature versions of them. These images are all over the park, on the t-shirts, and, yes, in this house. In spite of this, I loved this house and we went through it several times.

Teenagers up to no good in a cemetery accidentally unleash evil spirits of the dead. As you are standing in line you see fake text messages displayed on the building, beginning the story of what you are about to experience.

There's a lot of this

There are tons of scares in this house, but some of the coolest stuff in here is more subtle--keep an eye on the tombstones and urns. Also be sure to look up, as there is stuff going on above you as well. The cell phone bit is kind of weird, but all things considered, that can be overlooked. Be sure to be silent (and hope those around you are as well) as you go through the very dark finale for one of the creepiest experiences in any of the houses.

Last year we had Killer Klowns from Outer Space as a scare zone, and this year they get their own house. If you're interested, a couple clowns are usually parked out front of the entrance for photo ops. Once you enter the house, you're pretty much in the movie. As somebody who is not a fan of the movie, I couldn't get into this house a lot, but there are some fun elements to it. You will find some red buttons to push for surprises, and sweet scents that make you forget there are clowns all around. If you're into the movie, you will probably love the house.


A tradition of ours is to rank the houses in order from our least favorite to our favorite. The order will be how I ranked them, with the number my girlfriend ranked them following the name of the house.

10. Killer Klowns From Outer Space  (10)

9.  Nightingales: Blood Pit  (8)

8.  House of 1,000 Corpses  (9)

7.  Us  (6)

6.  Graveyard Games  (7)

5.  Stranger Things  (3)

4.  Depths of Fear  (5)

3.  Yeti: Terror of the Yukon  (1)

2.  Universal Monsters  (2)

1.  Ghostbusters  (4)


As you walk throughout the park, from house to house or ride to ride, you come across scare zones--areas where creatures and monsters of varying degrees terrorize you up close. We'll imagine we are following the same route as we did the houses, and with that, the first scare zone we come across is...

As you can tell by now, much of what we have at this year's Halloween Horror Nights was inspired by the 1980's--this scare zone follows that theme, as you step into a dark arcade, filled with neon-laced villains with chainsaws and knives and sinister women who tower over you. There is a good bit of fog, which highlights the lighting well, and giant arcade games. This is a fun zone, but I wish they had put a bit more into it. It was a wonderful idea that had the potential to be amazing. Oddly, you have to walk a bit further to get to the first scare zone than in previous years. 

Anybody have a quarter?

Who doesn't love neon?

Neon carrot?

Bloody chainsaw!

Attack of the 10 foot woman

As you hit the end of the street, you come across the Zombieland: Double Tap scare zone. The first thing in this area that will likely get your attention is the portable toilets, which warn you not to enter--of course, if you do open them, they are propped with different surprises. You make your way along and see some zombies walking about, several props from the original movie and presumably from the new film, and some cool lighting. I found this an odd addition to this year's scare zones, as the movie had not even yet been released when Halloween Horror Nights started, so the familiarity connection is not there, and despite being titled Zombieland: Double Tap, much of what we see if from the first film. It is a fine scare zone--we had fun laughing as we saw the zombie power walking guy every night--but is certainly not one you would expect to be in the area that houses the largest scare zone every year.

Maybe this is in the new movie too?


Cool wheels

Speaking of what you don't expect, this scare zone is designed after the music videos from Rob Zombie's 1998 album "Hellbilly Deluxe". One would assume this has a lot to do with the House of 1,000 Corpses house, but no matter--this scare zone is surprisingly awesome! Music from the album blasts, fire shoots from large towers, and you come across characters from the music videos. Though not necessarily packed with scares (one guy hiding behind a speaker got me good), this scare zone is a lot of fun (if you can maneuver around the drunk guys standing there gawking at the dancers), and was my favorite of this year. 

A fiery entrance

Living Dead Girl

"What are you thinking about?"

"Dance for me"...

...or don't

Werewolf Woman of the SS?

I somehow didn't see this guy coming

Some goof driving the dragula

If you are walking from the Hellbilly Deluxe scare zone and to the next house along the way, House of 1,000 Corpses, and continue to the next houses, it is quite a while before you get to the next scare zone. You go through the Simpsons area of the park, which has lots of characters with chainsaws chasing you, but you still walk quite a bit before coming across the next properly themed scare zone, which is...

The dead vikings have risen from their graves and are unleashing terror on unsuspecting victims. There are sacrifices, cannibalistic vikings cooking their next meal, fog and awesome lighting, and a really cool scare zone. This is set in the Central Park area of Universal, and something about this area of the park makes for a wonderful natural setting for these scare zones--last year, Twisted Traditions was here, and was the best scare zone in the park. In 2014, it was the location that gave my girlfriend possibly the biggest scare she's had at any scare zone--this year, she got the second biggest scare she has every had in a scare zone--in the exact same spot! Vikings Undead is a really cool area that I enjoyed every time I went through it (but tragically took few pictures of). 

This guy loves clubbing

Supper time


Hollywood is all about the glamour and beauty, and some will go to great lengths to achieve it. But what happens when the plastic surgeons are knife-wielding maniacs with a whole different idea of beauty? That is the idea I took away from this zone, which features a stage showcasing the mangled faces of runway models, a smaller stage featuring the surgical procedure, and the scarred walking around to scare you. This is an example of a good idea not living up to expectation, and there are a couple reasons for this. First, the stage show is not nearly as entertaining as it should be. The other concern is the bigger one, and that is that many of the scare actors just didn't seem into it. While a few were good, most made no attempt to interact with the people walking through the zone, be it to scare them, pose for pictures, or even acknowledge they were there. On the last night we went, we even saw two of the scare actors at different times talking to their friends (not part of the show--they were talking to park visitors) and one ducked kind of off the street to be on her cell phone. From a distance, this zone does look cool, but walking through it is less impressive.

Very posh

Cool lighting

The end of the show

Looking for another victim patient

Looking for friends?


Marathon of Mayhem is a light show on the water, and it is fabulous. The prime area for watching this show is in the Central Park area, behind the Vikings Undead scare zone--you will see a large entrance area--just look for this...

You can't miss it

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.

Academy of Villains: Altered States is a stage show featuring dancers, stunt people, very loud music (you can hear the music if you happen to be in line for House of 1,000 Corpses while the show is going on), and much more...or so I read. For the second year in a row, we didn't set aside the time to actually watch the show, but a few people have told me it is really good.

Snack time

We have a couple things going on in this picture. What you see at the top of the picture is a refillable cup. This will cost you about $18, but it comes with unlimited refills (every 10 minutes, in case you don't bother reading the small print) at several Coca-Cola Freestyle locations throughout the park. If you come back additional nights, you can get the cup reactivated for $10. While this may sound like a good bit of money, let's consider a couple things. If you were to buy a bottle or cup of pop, or even a bottle of water, you'll pay between $3.50 and $4.50 each. If you are there for hours, you will want more than one bottle. Keep in mind, this is Central Florida, so even as you get into October, it's still routinely in the 90's and humid. If you are going to be walking around an amusement park all day and night, you will want to stay hydrated, and this refillable cup is a great way to do so. Believe me when I tell you refilling this cup with ice and water out of a Freestyle machine tastes much better than the warm Florida swamp water you will get from the water fountains! We more than got out money's worth out of this cup. 

If you read my review of the 2018 Halloween Horror Nights event, you saw a picture of a sign for pizza fries, with me wondering what those may be. This year, we decided to get them, and that is the other thing you see in the picture. They are about what you would think--french fries with cheese and pizza toppings. The portion is small and the price high--it's a tasty snack, but you're probably better off just getting a pizza.

Next year

The Scariest Part? The Prices

If you are not from Central Florida or have never visited us, you may not be ready for the prices, but in the world of Harry Potter and Mickey Mouse, nothing comes cheap. If you want to experience Halloween Horror Nights 2019, there are a few ticket options, the cheapest being for a weekday night at about $68 a ticket...if you order online. The price at the door will be more (about twice that), and the price will go up the closer to Halloween you get. Spoiler alert--you will not have time to do everything in one night. With ten houses, scare zones, shows, rides, and lines that often push two hours (and even longer on weekends), coupled with limited hours (the hours vary by the night, but are generally 6:30 PM until one or two in the morning), your chances of getting everything done in one night are slim. Thankfully, for just a bit more, Universal offers the Frequent Fear Pass. If you live in the area or will be here long enough to go two or more nights, this is the way to go. For around $120 a ticket, you can go multiple nights, and there are a lot of nights to choose from, especially if you start in September. 

There is one huge catch to this--the parking. It will cost you $26 to park your car...no, that was not a typo. Twenty-six dollars is what you will pay to park your car. So if you do go with the Frequent Fear Pass, keep this in mind--parking is not included, there is no multiple-day parking pass to buy, and you do not get a discount on parking for having that pass. You can't even take advantage of the offer Universal Cinemark usually offers--on most days, if you see a matinee at the theatre, they refund your parking...not so during HHN nights! Unless you arrive after 10:00 PM, when parking becomes free, you WILL pay $26 to park your car. There's always Uber or Lyft, but I have heard stories of them charging a fortune for service leaving the event--I have yet to test this, however. 

You've paid your $26 and parked your car, but you still have a long walk ahead of you--keep this in mind. This walk will include moving walk ways (please, watch your step), escalators, metal detectors, lots of stores, and even more people--if you arrive at just the wrong time, simply trying to move in the CityWalk area will be a challenge, as THAT many people will be there. CityWalk itself is pretty cool--there are tons of stores, restaurants, the aforementioned movie theatre, Hard Rock Cafe, and much more there, and it all looks really nice lit up at night.

And creepy with the mist

Back to the tickets--if you do only have one night, the Express Pass may be something to consider. This gets you into a faster line, which cuts down your wait time considerably. You are able to use this at each house once per night, and can also use it at most of the rides once per night. As with everything else, however, this will cost you...starting at about $90 per person for September dates, and going up to $170 on weekends in October. To put the whole price thing in perspective, I just selected a random Saturday in October--the 19th, to be exact--and looked at the prices. Ordering online for that night would cost $93.99 for the ticket, and $169.99 for the Express Pass--add tax and you have a total of $281.14 per person...throw in that $26 for parking, and you are over $300 for one night. Like I said, this event is not cheap. 

Let me clear up one thing a lot of people ask about--the price of the ticket to get into Halloween Horror Nights DOES NOT get you into the park at the start of the day. If you want to enjoy the park prior to the start of Halloween Horror Nights, you do have to purchase a separate ticket for that. The price for that is around $115, though there is a special offer for about $25. That ticket would get you into the park at 3:00 PM. Confused yet? Let me add to it--Universal is actually two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They are connected, but require separate entrance...in other words, you have to pay extra to visit both parks, and neither is very big. If you are more used to parks such as my all-time favorite, Kings Island, this can be confusing and frustrating...just imagine being from Central Ohio and somebody telling you Kings Island was going to split the park in half, charge separate admission to each, and the price to get into one half for one day was more than a Season Pass when it was one awesome park! That's pretty much what Universal is. Anyway, Halloween Horror Nights is on the Universal Studios side, so if you plan on spending the extra money to get in at the start of the day, be sure you are going there, not to Islands of Adventure. 

So with all that laid out, what did I decide to do this year you ask? Well, it started with my girlfriend and I getting the Frequent Fear Passes. This lined up nicely with our days off, and we figured we would go at least 3 or 4 times, so it would pay for itself in that way. Besides, with us going that  many times, we would have time to do each house at least once, and some of the less popular houses more. We were happy with this decision, and on September 19 set out for our first night. We made it through the first two houses fairly quickly, but in line for the third house, we were standing in front of two men from England--both were beyond drunk (exhibit A if anybody ever tries to tell you the English all hold their drink well), loud, and acting like they were teenagers--I heard them say their ages at one point--they were 52 and 48 years old. After 20 minutes of this, I asked my girlfriend what it would cost to add the Express Pass, and after a quick search, we decided to go for it, got out of line, and went to one of the many mobile stations throughout the parks that allow you to purchase the Express Pass. So we ended up paying $119.99 each for the Frequent Fear Pass, then $280 each to add the Express Pass, which is good for every time we go. Going that route, it came to $399 plus tax for each of us. Is that worth it? I would say that if you plan on going to the event multiple times, and your tolerance for long lines and the obnoxious drunks that come with them is as low as mine, yes...it's worth every penny.


My complaints from previous years still hold true. The practice of sending people into the houses in one continuously moving line too often results in you seeing every scare coming. Once you are inside the house, the Universal employees are still in there to rush you along. During many of the houses, this can take you completely out of the moment, so it's best to try to ignore these people as much as you can and pretend they are not even there. As the night goes on, the people in the park get drunker, so your patience with them may be tested, especially as you walk throughout the park. Having the Express Pass minimizes this while standing in line, as you can be a little more selective of who you are standing next to in line and, if they are intolerable, at least it's for a relatively short time. That said, however, we didn't come across anybody too terrible this year, except the aforementioned English drunks who inspired us to get the Express Pass--thanks, you stupid idiots! The increased parking fee is frustrating as well--I believe this should be free, or at least bundled some way, with the purchase of the Frequent Fear Pass...maybe some year.

That is really it for the complaints. We had a blast this year. The houses were up to what you would expect from Universal. I would say that, on average, the houses were a bit better last year, but the difference is not huge. The scare zones weren't the best this year, but the Hellbilly Deluxe and Vikings Undead were both a lot of fun. The opening scaremony wasn't as large of a production as in years past, where it was themed to known movies and shows such as The Walking Dead and The Purge. This year we were greeted by the characters from Anarch-Cade, which was a bit confusing the first time we were there (having no idea who they were) but was much cooler the second time around. The purchase of the reusable cup was a good investment, we didn't waste our time on the bad rides this year, and, other than a brief rain shower our third night, the weather was good. Next year will be the 30th, so I can imagine Universal will come up with something big...I can't wait!

So long, HHN 29!

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