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Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – complete insider’s guide

Combining some of the biggest names in horror with some truly terrifying original creations from the movie studio that birthed the genre in the first place, Halloween Horror Nights is not only Southern California’s premier Halloween event, it’s now a tradition and ritual unto itself.

In this complete insider’s guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to have the time of your life – er, gruesome death. From saving time and money to providing an expert, handcrafted touring plan, everything you need to know to make your family’s descent into HHN a night you’ll never want to forget is here.

Are you ready to face your worst fears?

Last update
May 22, 2018

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – overview and explanation

With the studio being the birthplace of the horror genre, Universal Studios prides itself on creating the most authentic and immersive Halloween experiences anywhere in Southern California. There is no safe space inside the theme park, forcing you to come face-to-face with terrorizing monsters, roaming maniacs, and the jaw-dropping War of the Worlds set on the historic backlot. But all that’s during the night – throughout the day, you’ll still have access to all the fun and thrills of the park’s world-class attractions.

Entering its 13th year as Southern California’s premier Halloween event, 2018’s Halloween Horror Nights will feature a number of mazes, scare zones, a new Terror Tram experience, and a high-energy live show. (How many? We don’t know just yet, as Universal has yet to divulge everything, but seeing as how the past few years have seen seven haunted houses and three zones, that’s what we’re expecting for this year, too.) What more do you need to be scared out of your wits?

NOTE: while we may not have very much information on 2018’s event just yet, we still have all of last year’s details present, which we’re providing to you now in order to both whet your appetite and to give you an idea of what to expect this fall.

Halloween Horror Nights 2017 will run for 29 select nights, from September 15 through November 4:

September: 15, 16, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30
October: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31
November: 2, 3, 4

Busiest Dates

The busiest HHN nights, often referred to as peak nights, will be October 7, 8, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29.

Don’t forget that you can always check out daytime crowd predictions on our FREE 12-month Universal crowd calendar.

Keep in mind that most nights in October do sell out quickly, so we highly recommend purchasing your tickets at least one week in advance.

Event Times

Horror Nights is usually scheduled to start at 7:00 pm for general admission, and its closing time is 2:00 am on most nights. Please note that the Terror Tram does close earlier than the event hours, so check the park schedule given to you at the turnstiles.

Early Entry

Early entry is available every single night HHN is running and is a great way to jump-start your touring – and jump past the crowds. The gates open at 5:00 pm, with select mazes opening at 5:15, 5:30, and 5:45.

With any purchase of a Halloween Horror Nights ticket, early access to select houses is provided at no additional charge. A colored wristband will be distributed each night of the event at the turnstiles. We’ll have a list of the mazes available for early entry here shortly.

(Keep in mind that these times – or the attractions themselves – are subject to change.)

So, how busy will Halloween Horror Nights 2018 be on any given night?

Since this is the most common question we’re asked, we want to address it straight away. Generally speaking, Saturdays are always busy; on the flip side, though, the first two weeks, Thursdays, October 30 and 31, and November 3 and 4 are always some of the least-crowded nights.

Will The Wizarding World of Harry Potter be open during Halloween Horror Nights 2018 event nights?

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will not be open for Halloween Horror Nights this year. But if you purchase the after-2:00 pm day/night combo ticket, you will be able to access Hogsmeade up until 5:30 pm.

Are the daytime attractions open during Halloween Horror Nights?

Jurassic Park: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Transformers: The Ride – 3D, and The Simpsons Ride are open all throughout Halloween Horror Nights.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Super Silly Fun Land, the Studio Tour (which includes King Kong: 360 3D and Fast & Furious: Supercharged), The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, WaterWorld, Special Effects Show, and Universal’s Animal Actors are not open during Halloween Horror Nights.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – mazes

The mazes that Universal conjures with a surprising amount of detail and, in the case of intellectual properties, authenticity are the main draw of Horror Nights each and every year. And for 2018, we fully expect the company to keep up the record-setting number of seven haunted houses that it established for last year’s event.

These haunts are situated in any open space that is currently available, such as unused queue areas or the Universal Studio backlot. Unlike at the event’s older and bigger brother, Halloween Horror Nights Orlando, where guests are admitted into the mazes in a constant “conga” line, the West Coast version has the luxury of being able to “pulse” attendees in small groups, heightening the experience’s immersion factor – and its scares. Each house takes about three to five minutes to walk through.

Stranger Things

Location: N/A

This just might be the biggest name Universal has ever landed for HHN. Stranger Things, the original Netflix series that premiered back in July 2016, is bringing its first season to Universal Studios Hollywood – along with most of its characters, detailed recreations of its various heart-pounding locations, and, of course, the Demogorgon itself, who will hunt guests through the entire experience.

Highlights of the maze will include the Byers’ home (replete with flashing Christmas lights), the Hawkins National Laboratory, and repeated visits to the parallel dimension known as the Upside Down, sections which will ooze “a shower of floating orb-like spores.”

Trick ‘r Treat

Location: N/A

Trick ‘r Treat is the horror film that just won’t die. Originally shelved by the studio, it was eventually released in 2009 as a straight-to-video affair – but then amassed special-engagement screenings, 24-hour cable TV marathons, and, even, a comic-book sequel (called Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead). Now, this cult status is propelling it to Halloween Horror Nights.

All four storylines from the anthology movie will be represented in the maze, from Mr. Kreeg’s “infamous” house to transforming werewolves. And running through it all, watching the proceedings for rule-breakers, is the diminutive Sam, who has been adopted as the very symbol of Halloween for many horror aficionados.

BONUS: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead at Universal Studios Hollywood
The Walking Dead at Universal Studios Hollywood

Location: Upper Lot, next to Starbucks

Okay, okay – no, technically, The Walking Dead isn’t a part of this year’s Horror Nights, but this year-round haunted house was directly inspired by the show’s long presence during the event, and it’s given extra resources to coincide with HHN. Think of it as a (permanent) bonus maze.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – Terror Tram

Here is 2017’s information on the Terror Tram:

What is the Studio Tour during the day becomes the Terror Tram at night, exchanging production stops for a special haunted experience.

The tram will take guests to a special scare zone located on the famed Universal backlot, which, this year, will be home to the Titans of Terror themselves: Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface. Even better, Chucky from Child’s Play will join in the tag-team scares, serving as the host of the Terror Tram.

It’s been estimated that the whole experience takes about a half hour to complete, minus all the waiting for the individual elements (such as that famed Pyscho house photo op) that steadily accrues as the night wears on.

Please note that, during Halloween Horror Nights, the normal Studio Tour (including all of its various mini-attractions, such as King Kong: 360 3D and Fast & Furious: Supercharged) is suspended and entirely replaced by Terror Tram.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – scare zones

Here is 2017’s information on the scare zones:

Stopping you mid-breath as you walk between attractions, scare zones are essentially outdoor haunted houses set up in open areas around Universal Studios Hollywood (for example, in the backlot area of New York). The decorations and effects are usually not quite as elaborate as the haunted houses, but there are still many effects employed to get screams out of guests – and the “oversized” aspects of some scare zones, allowed by their position outdoors, often make them as thrilling as the average haunted house. This is particularly true for the ghastly part of you that likes to watch other people scream their heads off!

Hell-O-Ween

A scare zone with a demented twist on classic Halloween themed characters. Located at the front of the park.

Urban Inferno

A journey through Hell with demonic creatures. Located on the Universal backlot.

Toxic Tunnel

Best described as a rave with strobe lights, music, and monsters. Located as you approach the backlot.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 live stage show

Here is 2017’s information on HHN’s live stage show:

Halloween Horror Nights features a unique, live show inside the Castle Theater, which is home to the Special Effects Show during the day time. For this year, it’s the Jabbawockeez once again, returning from 2016.

Here’s how Universal describes them:

Billed as one of the country’s best hip-hop dance groups, the Jabbawockeez is best known for their signature white masks, synchronized dancing, which all comes together with their unique brand of humor.

This show is entirely a hip-hop dance show, with a loosely told story inside the Special Effects Show venue. The first show time is typically at 8:00pm with additional shows scheduled about every hour and fifteen minutes. Exact show times can be found on HHNWaitTimes.com or ask any team member. Arrive at least 25 minutes prior to show time to guarantee a seat.

What Halloween Horror Nights is not

Halloween Horror Nights is not family-friendly, as the entire event features gory content as well as scary monsters – it is, as such, strongly recommended for guests over 13 years of age. During the daytime, there are no props staged around the park, so there should be no worries about children getting scared while touring.

If you’re interested in pursuing a family-centered activity during the day before arriving at HHN for the night, you and your children can always make a quick stop at SoCal’s other themed destinations: SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, Knott’s Spooky Farm (which is different from the HHN-esque Knott’s Scary Farm), and, of course, Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland Resort.

I wanna learn more about Halloween Horror Nights!

We have an entire community of Universal and Horror Nights fans discussing the event right now! When you’re done here, join us for vacation planning and more in our Facebook community.