Editor’s note: We welcome another blog from our Italian friend, Alessandra. Thank you for your review of Halloween Horror Nights! Tickets for this year’s event are on sale now.
Disclaimer: Prices are from 2012, I don’t know if Universal is actually raising them or are the same.
Halloween Horror nights, to do or not to do? A crucial question for a lot of people traveling to Orlando. To begin with Halloween Horror Nights is an event held by Universal Studios at selected dates throughout September and October. I will be reviewing the event of Universal Studios at Orlando, I know there is also the same event in California but I’ve heard that is quite different.
For the ones that doesn’t know me I’m Alessandra and I live in Italy, my boyfriend and I planned a vacation to Walt Disney World (with Travel on a Dream of course) and Universal Studios/Island of adventures last year from the ending of September through the first week of October. To begin with I must say I don’t enjoy horror movies because I am a chicken. I get scared easily, you can tell me you are going to scare me and I still get scared even though I had a warning. But my boyfriend, Alessandro, on the other hand LOVES horror movies so when he heard about this event he literally made me do it (as I dragged him to Walt Disney World, at beginning he wasn’t that happy about it then he loved it).
I will start with the pricing of the event and then I’ll write to you about our experience. The event has a separate cost, with that said you have to pay for it even though you have a ticket for Universal Studios or Island of adventures. The price for the event alone is $88.99 per person (plus tax) but there is another option which is the one we used. We were planning only two days on the “dark side” (Universal Studios/Island of Adventure) so we figured we could do Halloween Horror Nights the same day we were going to Universal Studios. Tracy Whipple (the boss) recommended me to do the “add on” option (Stay and Scream) and I really want to stress this as the best option if you plan to attend on a Thursday or Sunday as you can get cheaper tickets to the event. This option makes you purchase a ticket to Universal Studios or Island of Adventure, then for $36.99 per person (plus tax) (nights from Sundays through Thursday) you can attend the event the SAME day you visited the park. You can do this on a Friday $51.99 or a Saturday $66.99 but I don’t think the price is worth it for those nights. We chose a Thursday night as Alessandro and I don’t handle crowds very well, we did though purchase a Halloween Horror night Express Pass, this pass allows you (one entry per event night per person) to skip the regular lines at all haunted houses, open rides and attractions. The price varies depending on the night you are going, we payed $39.99 as it was again a Thursday and a September night. I was really glad we purchase this by the end of the night but I’ll tell you about that later.
Now I’ll tell you about our experience. We were staying at Pop Century Resort (Walt Disney property) without any intention of driving that trip so we opted for Mears transportation, if you purchased two day tickets to Universal Studios/Island of adventures you could get transportation (roundtrip) for $17. This works good, you have to call 24 hours before and they give you different hours to choose from (keep in mind service is not available between the hours of 10:00am and 3:00pm) and they pick you up right at the front of your hotel door, you can also schedule your pick up time on advance or just call from the theme parks with three hours on advance. We decided that we wanted to go to Universal Studios by 3:00pm so we wouldn’t be that tired by that night and we could still stay in the parks, they hold you at Finnegan’s Bar and grill when they close the park (I think by 5:00pm) and then they release you a little bit before all the crowds.
We chilled that morning by the pool and went to check out Art of Animation for lunch, I didn’t enjoyed that much my morning because I was beyond nervous about this event (and I’m a big girl, I’m 24 years old). I’ve read lots of stuff about how they chase you to scare you and how scary this event was for “chicken people”, to add to my nervousness this was the first year were there were NO scare zones, that meant that costumed cast members could scare you EVERYWHERE.
By 2:30 pm Alessandro decided to make a reservation at the concierge of Pop Century for a fishing trip, what a BAD decision. Everything took more time than we expected but I was certain that the bus would wait for us, again, what a BAD decision. We were outside our hotel door at 3:02pm (were Magical Express drops people off) and we waited and waited until 3:45pm, by that time I knew something was wrong. Thankfully Disney service is beyond a 5 star hotel (and it doesn’t matter if you are on the cheapest hotel) and a bell service boy offered to call and ask what happened. When he returned he didn’t have good news, the driver was there before 3:00pm and there was only a family with us on that shuttle so when 3:00pm arrived and we didn’t showed up he left. Luckily this amazing cast member from Pop Century told us he scheduled for us a 5:00pm shuttle (there was no surcharge, thankfully), unfortunately by that time we were loosing money on our day ticket to Universal Studios, but that’s how life goes, unexpected sometimes.
By 5:30pm we were at Universal Studios (we were dropped on the parking site). We had E-tickets so we went to a Will Call Kiosk and picked up our “paper” tickets in less than 5 minutes. You go through bag check and a metal detector, which is a relieve as this can be such a dangerous event if the wrong people get in. I thought the line was going to be awful but fortunately it wasn’t.
At 6:15pm they opened the gates and I felt like dying. By that time it was still day so the fog wasn’t that scary but as the gates opened I could see all sorts of evil creatures coming for us! I decided I already needed a break and told Alessandro to go to the Despicable Me attraction which was opened. We had a good laugh and the attraction had no line, with this event lines are almost non existent for any open attraction, but the time came to face my fear. We walked and we were scared by the costumed cast members but I just kept going and my reaction was this “nervous laugh” and they left me alone after a bit of teasing.
When I thought everything was ok Alessandro decided to go to a haunted house, we opted for Universal’s House of Horrors because I thought it was the least scary than the other ones, boy was I WRONG. We used our Express pass (as we were experiencing the houses only once for my mind’s sake), when we were in line the cast member organizing the line suggested me to go on the front as they usually scare the ones on the back. “Ok, one step and you are in” – I thought, and I made that step, this house was just insane it had the room with the most cast members scaring you, it was dark and at one point you had to crawl a little bit. The first half of the house I was insulting everything in Italian and just repeating I wanted to go home (which home meant Pop Century with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), I wanted to cry and started shaking (Disclaimer, I had an awful experience when I was 10 years old and went through a haunted house) but miraculously the second half of the house I started enjoying it!
When I was out I was so excited and full of adrenaline that Alessandro was impressed. I decided though I needed a beer and we chilled a bit until some “death warriors” came in the area, surprisingly I reacted good, I still got scared but it was more of a funny thing, I laughed a lot! We mixed attractions with haunted houses as we had the express passes, which was great because by 9:00pm some houses got insane lines to get in (The Walking Dead, Silent Hill).
By that time though I was more scared by all the drunk young people around than the actual cast members. The thing is they are very strict at Universal with alcohol but with the wrong people, we are not Americans so we had our passports with us I was 23 years old and Alessandro was 24, even though we were way over the age limit the girl selling the beers couldn’t do the math for our birth date, I felt a little bit awkward as I clearly saw lots of TEENAGERS drunk around the park and couldn’t figure why she treated us like outlaws (we weren’t drunk, we were perfectly sober). One thing though the security was great, if you don’t touch any cast member (they can’t touch you either) or make any sort of mess because you are drunk you’ll fell relieved there’s the Orlando police keeping and eye on the event.
2012 was a year were there was no specific theme which I thought gave a much fuller experience as there was fun for everyone. There was a lot of fog which increased the scary setting and I saw lots of cast members enter to the restaurants to scare people, we didn’t eat that night as we enjoy food and thinking someone would scare us at anytime wasn’t enjoyable, I definitely encourage you to eat at Citywalk if you are hungry rather than the actual theme park. By 10:30pm we decided to head out to catch our shuttle/bus that was at 11:00pm (you can get later ones on the nights of the event) we went way ahead of time because we thought it was going to happen the same thing that happened that afternoon, boy was I WRONG again. At 10:45pm we entered our bus and our driver (which was great and super entertaining) decided to wait for the people that were late. We arrived to our Resort by 1:00 am as they drop guests from other resorts and ours was one of the last ones.
Alessandro is such a horror movie geek and I’m not, but we BOTH had a great experience and we’ll definitely do it again next time we are in Orlando. This was one of our highlights of our trip, my mom was amazed when I told her I really had a good time at Halloween Horror Nights. I’m actually sad we’re not attending this year! For other “chicken people” like me, my advice is to keep in mind that they can’t touch or harm you in any way, they are doing their job the more you scream and get scared the more the will “haunt” you to make a show for the other guests. So keep calm and enjoy your experience at Halloween Horror Nights this is a FUN event. I saw some kids (11 and 13 years old) attend to the event but I definitely do not recommend this for kids, cast members don’t care if they are cute and small they will still scare them and I think they can get a traumatized experience, so keep that in mind. Also with all the drunk people I don’t think it’s a safe environment for your kids. By the time we went away (11:00pm) people was getting drunker and drunker and we were glad we were leaving by that time as that could have ruined a bit our experience.