Most people run from things that go bump in the night, but Halloween Horror Nights (HNN) at Universal Orlando Resort’s Universal Studios Florida park invites guests to run straight toward them. On select nights in September and October each year, the Orlando, FL theme park transforms from a family-friendly vacation spot into a playground for monsters, ghosts, and chainsaw-wielding maniacs.
If you dare, you can spend the evening navigating haunted houses and outdoor scare zones, watching horror-themed live entertainment, and dining on specialty food and drinks. Think you can handle it? Here’s your ultimate guide to spending a weekend at Halloween Horror Nights.
Note – This itinerary is based on two single-night Halloween Horror Nights tickets, two Scream Early tickets, and one Unmasking the Horror tour per person. You can view all ticket options here.
5pm | “Scream Early” (and scream often)
You will want to purchase your Halloween Horror Nights ticket online before your trip because you’ll save money off the gate price. Plus, some nights definitely sell out. You can purchase single-night, date-based tickets, but when you do, make sure you also add on a “Scream Early” ticket. This will allow you into Universal Studios Florida park anytime between 3pm and 5pm.
During that time, you can hop on a few rides or do a lap around the park to get the lay of the land. At 5pm, the park closes to day guests and you’ll wait in a designated “Stay & Scream” area until HHN begins (usually at 6:30pm). If there is a particular house you want to visit first, ask a Team Member which Stay & Scream area is closest to that house. You’ll be one of the first in line for what’s sure to be a night of sheer terror.
6:30pm | Hit up the houses and scare zones
After you escape your first house of the evening, spend a few hours exploring the rest! Wait times and a map are available in the official Universal Orlando app. Wait times tend to be the longest between 9pm and 11pm, and die down as closing time approaches (typically 1am or 2am, depending on the day of the week). If any of your must-see houses have a really long wait time, hold off until later in the evening for shorter lines.
While you walk through the streets of Universal Studios Florida, you’ll pass through HHN’s outdoor scare zones. These open-air scare zones are just as creepy and gory as the haunted houses and are populated by costumed “scareactors” who roam through the crowd waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. They aren’t quite as scary as the houses, but you still need to be on your toes. If they see an opportunity to rev their chainsaw right behind you or pop out of a dark corner, they’ll take it.
9pm | Take a tasty break
At some point, you need a break from the screams to rest and refuel. HHN mainstays like Pizza Fries and Twisted Taters are available every year, but Universal’s chefs also create a selection of items themed to the different houses. You might find a “Leatherface Cherry Pie” for Texas Chainsaw Massacre or a “Bride of Frankenstein’s Swirl” cone made with black sesame and white swirl ice cream in a black waffle cone. Of course, there’s also plenty of beers and specialty cocktails to wash it down with. Pick up a few snacks, find a spot at one of the live shows, and relax for a bit. When you’re ready, hit up some more houses and scare zones until you’re ready to call it a night.
10am | Go behind the screams
Start the day with a not-so-scary “Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour.” A V.I.P. guide will take you through the houses with the lights on and sans scareactors. They’ll also give you tons of behind-the-scenes information and allow you to take photos inside the houses (which is typically not allowed). 3- and 6-house group tours are available and you’ll get to see a lot of details you may have missed the night before while you were screaming your head off.
12pm | Take a nap by the pool
You’ve got another big night of scares ahead of you, so take a few hours to swim, take a nap (or both), and grab a bite to eat at your hotel. If you had trouble sleeping last night for some reason, now is a good time to catch up.
2pm | Visit Cabana Bay for the JACK’D UP Experience
This year, Universal added an offering that’s available only to guests staying in one of their onsite hotels. The JACK’D UP Experience at Cabana Bay Beach Resort takes guests inside the sick, twisted, murderous mind of HHN’s original icon, Jack the Clown. Inside, you’ll find props, costumes, and other paraphernalia from HHN, as well as several photo ops. There are no scares (promise!), so it’s a great way to warm up for the main event. Admission is free, you only need your room key to get in.
3pm | Get to the parks early to visit the HHN Tribute Store
Each year, Universal sets up a Tribute Store inside Universal Studios Florida park with exclusive event merchandise and themed treats (think heart-shaped gummies that are actually beating). Even if you aren’t planning to bring home any souvenirs, the Tribute Store doubles as an elaborately themed walkthrough attraction. Each room is themed differently and it changes from year to year. You may encounter a creepy attic, a room full of jack-o-lanterns, or props from years past. Once you’ve seen all you want to see, you can eat, ride, or relax until 5pm when you’ll need to wait in a Stay and Scream area until the evening’s festivities begin.
6:30pm | Check out the rest of the houses (or redo your favorites)
If you missed any houses the night before, use your second evening to check them off your list. If you’ve already been through every house, you have a full evening to redo your favorites, watch the shows, or just hang out in the scare zones and watch everyone else get scared silly.
11am | Enjoy a late recovery brunch and shopping at CityWalk
After two very long nights, you deserve to sleep in. Before you head home, though, walk or take a resort bus or water taxi to CityWalk. There’s tons of dining options, but your best recovery brunch bet is Voodoo Doughnut. Their selection of specialty and vegan doughnuts can’t be beat and they offer devilishly delicious limited-time Halloween doughnuts this time of year, too. Don’t forget to check out the Universal Studios Store and the Universal Legacy Store for last-minute gifts to remember the scariest trip of your life.
Where to Stay in Orlando
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s retro theming and kitschy decor make it one of the most unique hotels on property. This budget-friendly hotel has a large food court, lobby bar, Starbucks, two pools, and a lazy river. There’s a walking path that leads straight to Universal’s theme parks and bus transportation is also available.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort is one of Universal’s Premier hotels, but the bigger price tag comes with bigger perks like a Universal Express Unlimited pass that lets you skip the line on most attractions (HHN houses require a separate Express pass), complimentary water taxi transportation to the parks, deluxe accommodations, sit-down dining, and more. Royal Pacific is also one of the closest hotels to Universal’s theme parks so your trek back at the end of the evening will be a short one.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites is one of Universal’s newest onsite properties and one of its best options for budget travelers. You still get laid back beach theming and amenities like an outdoor pool and poolside lounge, Starbucks in the lobby, and complimentary bus transportation to the theme parks, but it’s also a bit further away from the parks than the other onsite hotels.