It's that most wonderful time of the year again, and I'm certainly not talking about Christmas. Rather, it's time for fall weather, carved pumpkins and Halloween Horror Nights. In following up on 2020's truncated lineup, Universal Studios put a lot of time and effort into making the event's 30th anniversary as mighty and monstrous as possible, and everyone involved succeeded with flying colors. (Mostly blood red.) From now until October 31, genre fans and theme park lovers have access to one of the world's greatest Halloween celebrations, and there's a lot to experience, from ten different haunted mazes to the live shows to the scare zones and more.
For all the expert planners and dedicated timekeepers out there, Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 30 can very likely be enjoyed in full without making any sacrifices. (At least non-ritual sacrifices.) But for those who aren't so schedule-oriented and want to enjoy a more casual evening, I've rounded up seven key experiences that every HHN 30 attendee should prioritize before visiting the park.
The Haunting Of Hill House Maze
As one of television's most meticulously detailed and emotionally haunting horror series, The Haunting of Hill House is a perfect inspiration for a Halloween Horror Nights experience. And not just as an adapted form of Mike Flanagan's Netflix show, but also as an innovative blend of tech-savvy and traditional scares that surprisingly come close to replicating the heartbreak and sorrow that surrounds the Crain family members, both living and dead. (It definitely helps to be familiar with the material though, as a slight caveat.)
The Halloween Nightmare Fuel Show
Outside of ridiculous stunt shows, I'll admit to being wary about making time for live entertainment in theme parks. But the Halloween Nightmare Fuel show is a total blast from beginning to end, especially for anybody needing a sit and a jolt of energy. As not to give anything away, the show features a mix of choreographed dancing, high-flying acrobatics, jaw-dropping pyrotechnics, and a few more magical surprises, all set to bass-booming metal covers. If you can only do one of the two evening shows, fuel up on this one. (But don't sleep on Marathon of Mayhem Carnage Factory if you have time, since that shit is also awesome.)
The HHN Icons: Captured Maze
In its 30-year history, Halloween Horror Nights has curated a small universe of original characters and canonized narratives, and nowhere is that universe on full display more than in the HHN Icons: Captured Maze. Visitors will walk through a smorgasbord of violent delights, with each sub-section dedicated to the parks' most gloriously evil monsters and ghouls, from The Director to the Harley Quinn-esque Chance to The Caretaker to the king of them all, Jack the Clown. Even if you've never heard of these characters before, they'll be carved into your memories when you leave.
The Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store
While there is no lack of shopping options throughout Universal Studios Orlando, the absolute best place to drop some coinage during the Halloween season is the annual HHN Tribute Store. Because not only does the store contain certain merch that isn't readily available at all other spots, but it's also a spooky feast for the eyes, with photo ops aplenty. This year's Tribute House features a Victorian home theming that serves as a solid compliment to the Hill House maze.
Exclusive Halloween Horror Nights Food And Drinks
This is the loosest of all the entries listed here, since there's a massive amount of specialty treats and beverages for any kind of park-goer's taste buds, and it can't possibly all be experienced in one night. Personally, I could have made myself miserable scarfing down a bunch of the Jack'd Donut Sliders seen above, all while drowning those calories with the Ghoul Juice as my libation of choice. But it's not like anyone can go wrong with Bourbon Candied Pork Belly, the Field of Screams Gyoza or the Dulce Pumpkin Spiced Churros. Be sure to check out the full list of exclusive bites and sips to plan those stops accordingly.
The Beetlejuice Maze
For anyone who has waited their entire life to step inside Tim Burton's 1988 classic Beetlejuice, that time has come. (And, coincidentally enough, it also involves a waiting room, because few things are more horrific.) Bringing many of the film's most vivid locations and iconic moments to life, Halloween Horror Nights' Beetlejuice maze is not only a magnificent callback to the film, but it also honors Beetlejuice's role as the initial Icon for the very first Halloween Horror Nights event, which was then dubbed Fright Nights (and lasted only three nights). And thankfully, this Beetlejuice does more than two shows a night, babe.
The Jack'd Up Experience
While not technically within any of the Universal Studios Orlando parks themselves, the HHN 30 exclusive Jack'd Up Experience is a mini-maze devoted entirely to the history and lore of Halloween Horror Night's Jack the Clown. Jack'd Up is set up at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and is available for anyone staying within the Universal hotels, even if they aren't going to HHN specifically. Do note that this should definitely be visited well in advance, or the day after the actual park visit, since there will likely be a wait.
For those in need of other activities to stay busy with during Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, I would also recommend spending some time walking around the 30 Years 30 Fears and Gorewood Forest scare zones, as those seemed to feature the creepiest walk-around characters and well-designed set pieces. The Bride of Frankenstein and Revenge of the Tooth Fairy mazes are extremely solid as well, and the aforementioned Marathon of Mayhem show is a definite eye-grabber with all of its water and light features.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.