This being my first article, I wanted to address a common topic when it comes to HHN; first timers. They always have so many questions and are commonly very hesitant to go at all. I’m here to tell you everything will be okay! Take a deep breath, and take the following advice, you might find yourself becoming as huge of fans of the event as us here at HHN Unofficial (okay probably not)
So you have finally decided to attend the nation’s premiere Halloween event, Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights. What took you so long?!? There’s a few things you should know from the get go. Halloween Horror Nights, or as we call it HHN, isn’t like your local haunt in your hometown. The design and build teams both respectively set ridiculously high standards for their event, ending with a finished product that never fails to be as detailed and elaborate as an actual movie set. It’s always a sight to behold.
A Behind The scenes look at the construction of HHN25’s biggest house, “Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem”
On your way to HHN for the first time, you will feel the incredible buildup of nerves and anxiety. This is the fear of the unknown, of what’s next. You will be feeling this for the rest of the night. You will feel this when you’re approaching the entrances to each house. Fear is a unique adrenaline rush that can’t come from most any other source. Revel it, live in it, and love it, but DON’T resist it. You came to Halloween Horror Nights to survive it and come out the other side. It’s a great thrill, and I know I can speak for myself when I say it’s what us writer’s here at HHN Unofficial live for. You can’t get the scares you get at HHN much anywhere else, and it’s what keeps bringing us back year after year.
The anxiety always peaks when you can see the entrance to the house and you’re about to step inside for the first time! (HHN25’s “Body Collectors: Recollections)
Enough with the ramblings, onto the advice!
Arrive early, or at least on time.
Halloween Horror Nights draws huge crowds. People travel from all over to see what kind of scares Universal has in store for them. All of these people gather at the gates before the park even closes for regular day guests, there for the rides and happiness the Studios have to offer. Most event nights begin at 6 or 6:30, but people start waiting at the entrance as early as 3. People arriving this early are most likely from far away states, and can unfortunately only attend the event once. They are making the smart choice, though, as they will be able to see everything there is to offer. You don’t have to show up to the park for the event this early, necessarily, but be wary: Traffic gets bad quick. By 5 o’clock there’s traffic on the way to as well as on universal property on the way to the parking plazas. Parking is $20 unless you have a universal preferred annual pass. Parking prices drop to $5 after 8 o’clock, but being as you’re a first timer, going after 8 o’clock would be quite disadvantageous.
Alternatively, you can buy tickets to the Universal Studios theme park during the day, and wait around in the holding pens that they build for those waiting for Horror Nights to start. This method is advantageous as you get into the event and houses an hour or so before the huge mass of humans waiting to enter through the main gates. The only downside of this method, other than having to buy another ticket, is if there is any type of show to see at the front gates, you will miss it. These holding areas are located in the New York Area surrounding Finnegans Bar and Grill, and nearby the Animal Actor’s Stage.
Lines for the haunted houses can get long, up to three hours on peak nights (Friday, Saturday, and Halloween Night) Arriving early would also help to combat this. Similarly, you may also decide to shell out the extra cash to buy yourself an express pass, which allows you entrance to the haunted houses through the express line once each. Buying an Express Pass is the only way guarantee that you see everything in only one night (Houses + Shows + Scare Zones) Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend the extra money to expedite your waits, consider downloading a multiplayer game on your smartphone to play with your pals while queued to help pass the time. The most popular of the bunch that we see people playing in the lines constantly is called “Heads Up”
Bring a Backpack
Backpacks are useful for a multitude of reasons. For example, say that you happen to be going to HHN alone, or your friends don’t like being touched, but you like to hold onto someone when you get scared. Wearing a backpack is super useful because you can clench onto the straps while walking through the houses when you’re scared. It has essentially the same effect as holding onto another person. Or, if you are the type that doesn’t like to be touched, you can have the grabby member of the party walk through the haunted houses behind you and have them grab the backpack, rather than your own body parts.
Backpacks are also great to have simply so that you don’t have anything in your pockets. Continuing with the theme of being constantly grabbed by your friends because they keep getting scared, having nothing in your pockets just makes this a more comfortable experience. You won’t have to keep worrying if everything is in your pockets, or if maybe that random lady walking behind you through that last house stole your wallet when she grabbed your bum.
Assuming you took my advice and arrived early, you’re going to be waiting in lines for the haunted houses outdoors in the hot September or October sun. The houses are very dark, and walking from bright sunlight to complete darkness is hard on the eyes and makes it very difficult to see. This is bad for you because you’ll become basically blind and trip on something, possibly damaging Universal property (and yourself!). Universal’s Creative team is very aware of this sudden change in lighting and loves to use it to their advantage, placing frightening scares very close to the entrance to take advantage of your compromised vision. Bring those sunglasses and keep them on until after you’ve entered the haunted house.
Bring an Umbrella
Here’s a fun fact: Historically, every single Halloween Horror Nights opening weekend (except last year’s HHN25, miraculously) sees heavy rains. It’s practically classic Halloween Horror Nights opening day to return home with soggy socks, having walked in them all night long. Obviously, bringing an umbrella would combat this. HHN is a rain or shine event. The show will go on no matter what. Scare zones do indeed become less active, but the houses never stop terrifying guests.
It’s not common for an HHN veteran like myself to eat at all during a visit. There’s always so much else to do, there’s never time to eat. I’ve been to HHN thousands of times, and not once have I eaten food while on park property. It is tradition for the wife and I to eat large amounts of Taco Bell afterwards.
Then again, I can’t recommend my readers to eat food that’s terrible for you right before going to bed. No sir, I will go the higher route and advise that you eat food beforehand. Either at home or grab something along the way. You may find yourself with no time to eat anything while you’re there, just as I do.
Drink, drink, drink, drink
The infamous blinky cup, shown as a still image, therefore not actually blinking.
Everybody knows liquor makes everything easier. It’s only natural then that you drink up to help ease the nerves of being at the most terrifying event you’ve ever attended. There’s pop up bars EVERYWHERE in the park and they are ready to serve you previously prepared specialty drinks, or they can mix a beverage for you with the half bar set up they have (for example a rum and coke or long island iced tea). The drinks also come in an awesome light up cup that you can take home with you. Refills in these special cups are also cheaper than the initial cup and beverage purchase, and you can even bring the cups back with you if you visit the event multiple times during the same year. Keep in mind, though, this cup has to be empty and the light turned off while walking through the houses. This is where the backpack comes in handy because you can just throw all of your cups in there while they’re empty.
JUST HAVE FUN (cliché alert)
The most common question asked by first timers is “Is it scary?” which you would think is the most obvious question. Absolutely it’s scary. In fact, it’s often terrifying. I can still remember my first time going to HHN and I don’t believe I will ever forget it. I had a sore throat by the end of the night, but a huge smile on my face. But people would also ask “why would you subject yourself to that?” and the answer is simply: because it’s fun.
See how much fun they are having?!?!
There is a certain catharsis that comes from someone catching you unawares and making you scream that makes you laugh shortly after the scare. Try your best not to chicken out of anything, because honestly, it is very likely that you will regret having missed some houses or shows. You will always come out the other side smiling. Okay fine some people exit the houses in tears, but we’re very sure they still don’t end up regretting it when all is said and done. You went to Universal Studio’s from wherever you came from to experience this, so do it! Don’t back out after going all this way and spending all this money! The event will do everything for you. Just keep walking and let it happen!
From HHN Unofficial this is Scott Rifkin, see you on Sept 16!