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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?

True Fear Comes from Within

Last update
August 13, 2018

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – overview and explanation

Stranger Things key art Halloween Horror Nights 2018
Halloween Horror Nights welcomes you to the Upside Down this year

With the studio being the birthplace of the horror genre, Universal 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 record-breaking eight mazes, several scare zones, a new Terror Tram experience, and a high-energy live show. What more do you need to be scared out of your wits?

2018 Dates

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 will run for 29 select nights, from September 14 through November 3. Here is the full breakdown of the dates:

September: 14, 15, 20-22, 27-30
October: 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, 31
November: 1-3

Busiest Dates

The busiest HHN nights, often referred to as peak nights, will be October 5, 6, 11, 12, 19, 20, 26, and 27. (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 generally scheduled to start at 7:00 pm for general admission and close at 2:00 am. Please note that the Terror Tram does close earlier than the event itself, so check the park schedule given to you at the turnstiles for an exact time.

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. Eligible attendees can enter the park at 5:00 pm, with select mazes opening at 5:15, 5:30, and 5:45. Once you arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood, you’ll be given a colored wristband at the turnstiles, denoting your early access. (We’ll have a list of all the participating haunts here shortly.)

How do you obtain early entry? Easy – by purchasing your ticket online, at no additional charge.

(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 31, November 1 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?

Yes! Some of them, at least. 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, DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest, WaterWorld, Special Effects Show, and Universal’s Animal Actors are not open during Halloween Horror Nights.

Unfortunately, Jurassic Park: The Ride closes on September 3 to make way for a newly re-imagined Jurassic World ride, which will bow sometime in 2019; therefore, Jurassic Park in the Dark will not be offered at this year’s event.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – tickets

Tickets for Halloween Horror Nights 2018 went on sale on August 7. Since there are several different options or permutations, we’re going to go step by step through each of them and explore what they are.

Before we do that, however, we wanted to point out one key factor that you should keep in mind when sitting down to purchase your admission: the prices fluctuate throughout the event, usually depending upon the expected crowd levels for that night – generally, the busier the date, the more expensive the ticket becomes.

Single-night tickets

General admission ($67-$95)

A general pass includes access to all HHN attractions (such as the mazes and scare zones) as well as the select rides that are operational during the event. Just be aware that daytime admission to Universal Studios Hollywood isn’t included with your pass.

Day/night combo admission ($99-$139)

If you wanted to have (limited) admittance to the theme park during the day, to get a few rides in before the madness starts at nighttime, this is the option for you. The combo pass grants you entry to Universal Studios Hollywood starting at 2:00 pm, and then lets you stay for the HHN action afterwards.

HHN Express ($149-$229)

An Express Pass grants you one-time front-of-the-line access to the mazes, shows, and rides. (Note: this ticket option also includes admission to the event itself, meaning that you don’t have to buy anything else to enter Horror Nights.)

HHN Express day/night combo ($179-$269)

Combining two of the above ticket options: you get to play in the theme park starting at 2:00 pm, and then, during HHN, you get one-time front-of-the-line access to the event’s mazes, shows, and rides.

RIP Tour ($279-$399)

The ultimate Halloween Horror Nights experience. Guests will be able to engage in several different activities when they embark on an RIP Tour (which lasts for approximately four hours):

  • Admission to the event
  • Special VIP entrance into the park with collectible RIP lanyard
  • Guided VIP walking tour
  • Private VIP trolley transportation to the backlot mazes and Terror Tram
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences, including photo ops, props, and scareactor make-up demonstrations
  • Unlimited Express access for all mazes, shows, and rides
  • Gourmet dinner buffet with two alcoholic drinks at a VIP dining room and two lounges (one of which, in the Lower Lot, also features desserts)
  • Complimentary valet parking

Multi-night tickets

Two Nights of Fear Pass ($109)

You get to select two different event nights from a specially prepared list:

September: 20, 27
October: 4, 11, 18, 25, 31
November: 1-3

Frequent Fear Pass ($169)

This version allows you to visit HHN up to 21 times, but your access is still somewhat constrained.  This is how it works: for your very first visit of the season, you can come on any night you’d like; for all of your subsequent trips, however, you’re limited to sticking to the following dates only:

September: 20-22, 27-30
October: 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28, 31
November: 1-3

Ultimate Fear Pass ($350)

All 29 HHN nights are yours for the taking, no matter whether it’s your first visit or your, well, 29th.

Annual passholder discounts

General admission

Save up to $36 on a general-admission ticket, depending – of course – on the night selected.

Nine-Night September Pass ($99)

Get admittance to the first nine nights of the event (from September 14 through the 30th).

Platinum annual passholder free night

If you’re a Platinum passholder, you’re entitled to one free HHN night, though there are two stipulations to this offer. Firstly, if you had already redeemed your free admission in 2017, you won’t be eligible to do it again this year. And, secondly, you’re forced to choose from a list of dates:

September: 20-22, 27-30
October: 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28, 31
November: 1-3

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 – mazes

Poltergeist at Halloween Horror Nights
They’re heeeeere!

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’ll be getting a record-breaking eight haunted houses!

These haunts are situated in any open space that is currently available, such as unused queue areas or the Universal Studios 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: Stage 29, behind Transformers: The Ride – 3D

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: Lower Lot, Revenge of the Mummy extended queue

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.

The First Purge

Location: Backlot

Making its sixth(!) appearance in just as many years, The Purge will now be its own full-fledged maze for the very first time. Guests will go back to the past in order to be subjected to the inaugural 12-hour crime-free period that will, in future decades, become the country’s biggest national holiday, presumably having to confront some of The First Purge‘s most memorable scenes in the process: the booby-trapped dolls, military-like sieges of housing complexes, the Purge block-party-gone-wrong, and, of course, scores of glowing-eyed attackers that will stalk them in the darkness.

Read our full analysis here.

Poltergeist

Location: N/A

Steven Spielberg’s 1982 horror classic lands at Halloween Horror Nights, along with many of its most memorable scenes: the flickering TV filled with static, the pool filled with corpses, and the surreal landscape beyond the light, where walls disappear and furniture floats. Through it all, the Beast – the titular poltergeist – will stalk guests, directing his cadre of lost souls to never allow the innocent to leave the Freelings’ now-possessed house.

(We also have our fingers crossed for one or two Easter-egg references to Gil Kenan’s 2015 remake. Hey – you never know with these horror tricksters…)

BONUS: The Walking Dead

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

Terror Tram: Hollywood Harry’s Dreadtime Stories

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 area located on the famed Universal backlot, which, this year, will celebrate the return of Hollywood Harry.

This time, guests will experience five “spine-tingling bedtime stories” inspired by demented renditions of Hollywood Harry’s TV show.

It’s been estimated that the whole experience takes about 15 minutes 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

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!

Holidayz in Hell

Location: Backlot

Holidayz in Hell takes a twisted trip with some of the most iconic holiday icons, such as an evil Easter Bunny and the Krampus lurking around the backlot.

Toxxic Tunnel

Location: Tunnel leading to Backlot

Toxxic Tunnel features underground workers who have succumbed to dangerous chemicals that have transformed them into radioactive monsters ready for destruction.

Hell’s Harvest

Location: Unknown

Set during a pagan harvest festival to celebrate the dark spirit of Halloween, the streets are filled with voodoo dolls that are brought to life looking for human sacrifices.

Monster Masquerade

Location: French Street

Guests will enter French Street and witness “The Danse of the Dead” masquerade ball inspired from the Universal Classic Monster movies The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Trick ‘r Treat

Location: Upper Lot

The characters of Trick ‘r Treat invades the Upper Lot as Sam and his friends do anything to ensure that the tradition of the holiday is upheld!

Fun Fact: This will be home to the opening ceremony for 2018’s event.

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 live stage show

Jabbawockeez live show at Halloween Horror Nights 2018

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!

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