Halloween Horror Nights: A Complete Review and Guide

Unfortunately, the days of trick-or-treating and classroom Halloween parties are over for most college students.

The whole month of October used to be filled with pillowcases of candy and thoughtfully planned costumes; nowadays, most of us get into the holiday spirit by buying a bag of Reese’s, playing "Halloweentown" and calling it a night.

However, less than two hours from Gainesville, a frighteningly awesome world exists. If you’re looking to bring excitement back into this spooky holiday, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando is the way to go. 

After attending for a couple of years, I can confidently say each time at HHN is better than the last. Currently celebrating its 29th year, the annual event was not lacking in nostalgia, chilling houses and interactive scare zones. 

Beginning at golden hour, the warm glow over the park welcomed visitors into a realm of fog machines and gruesome SFX makeup.

This year’s initial scare zone is called Anarch-cade. Complete with pinball machines and neon-cloaked figures, it serves as a fun and thrilling entrance, and it lights up like an EDM festival at night. As I ran through this area, trying to avoid being snuck up on by actors, I encountered my first house: Ghostbusters. 

Being one of the most iconic movies from the ‘80s, you could practically feel the anticipation as hundreds of people waited in line.

As I entered the house with the classic theme song blasting, I could not stop smiling. I personally loved that this particular house wasn’t too terrifying.

I found the Stranger Things house to be similar. Featuring Demogorgons and a Steve Harrington look-alike, I was simultaneously pointing at my favorite characters while also screaming at extraterrestrial creatures.

My ‘80s cravings were satisfied before heading into some truly terrifying locations. 

Some of the most disturbing houses were Us and Yeti: Terror of the Yukon. In Us, the set design was so perfect I genuinely felt like I was walking through the movie, scene by scene.

The carnival maze was almost too realistic. In Yeti, the temperature was set so low I was practically shaking -- though that was possibly with fear.

With yetis clawing overhead and wounded lumberjacks at every corner, this frosty nightmare is a must-visit. 

One of my most crucial suggestions is to get in line as soon as you can. Certain houses are inevitably more popular than others.

This year, I noticed the houses with the longest wait-times were Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, Us and Yeti, some even stretching past two hours.

I recommend checking these off first, since the wait times get longer throughout the night. 

Some of the less sought-after houses that I recommend checking out are Universal Monsters, Killer Klowns From Outer Space and House of 1,000 Corpses.

Not only are the lines considerably shorter, but these houses will undeniably get your adrenaline pumping. Universal Monsters is a recurring house that has returned to the park for years.

Featuring Dracula, Frankenstein and more, this is a chance to experience classic terror with timeless figures. Killer Klowns is a colorful labyrinth playing eerie carnival music.

If you have a fear of clowns, this may be additionally frightening. (Also, keep an eye out for interactive buttons in this house. Pressing them will activate extra jump-scares!)

House of 1,000 Corpses was surprisingly entertaining. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I soon faced a ‘psychotic’ family inside a murderous home. 

The last three houses are Depths of Fear, Graveyard Games and Nightingales Blood Pit. If you have time toward the end of the night, absolutely go in these. However, if you are pressed for time, I recommend completing the aforementioned first. 

After conquering all the houses, I was ready to walk through some more scare-zones. My favorite was the Vanity Ball.

As I made my way toward this area, I saw a runway cutting through the streets of Universal. Strutting around the zone were actors sporting botched makeup and eccentric clothing.

This plastic-surgery-gone-wrong location showcased the talent of the makeup artists and also allowed the scare-actors to interact with passersby. 

Overall, I was so impressed with Halloween Horror Nights this year; it was the perfect balance of humor and horror. I loved it so much, I’ve already planned another trip back.

Figuring out how to feel festive during October as a college student can be difficult, but a quick trip to Orlando is a great solution. Here’s to another spooky season, time to get in the spirit!