Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 2016

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

I’m a little late to the table with this haunted attraction review, but I have a really good excuse. This was a last minute, spur-of-the-moment trip to Orlando. The tween had a ½ day of school on Friday, and then no school on Monday or Tuesday (thank you Election Day, end of the semester, and parent/teacher conferences). To add to that, we realized that Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) had been extended to exactly that weekend. I call that one big ‘ol sign right there.

We are huge fans of Halloween attractions and haunted mazes as well as theme parks in general. We visit our local theme parks (Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion) multiple times throughout the Halloween season. Universal’s HHN has always been on our must-do list, but we’ve never been able to make it work. Plus, it’s a 12-hour drive, so there’s that. Let me just say, though, it was totally worth that 12-hour drive.

The three of us have become somewhat “desensitized” to things meant to scare the stuffing out of us. That was a blessing in regards to HHN. If HHN had been my first experience at haunted mazes, I would probably still be passed out on the floor of American Horror Story. That’s a positive thing, by the way.

The houses at HHN are based on movies, TV shows, and original ideas. I’m going to attempt to give a bit of details and thoughts about each house based on what I remember most from that one visit. It would have been great to go multiple times, but that will have to be another year. Don’t worry, I don’t do spoilers.

We were able to do all nine houses in one night. Being that it was after Halloween and an added-on date, the park wasn’t as crowded as during the regular operating season.

Not just scary, these houses are truly horrifying in their intensity and minute attention to details like smell, sound, and complete immersion. There are two that I will never enter again (that’s a positive thing when talking about haunted houses), but I’ll save that for later.

Haunted Mazes at Universal’s HHN 2016

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

American Horror Story

This house is the highest rated in HHN’s 26-year history. It features scenes from the Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel seasons of the FX series. The blinking lights (not strobes) in this house were done to great effect. One second it’s dark and the next it’s light. What wasn’t there before is now right in front of you. This was my tween’s favorite house.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

The Walking Dead

From the first campsite scene all the way through a sewer pipe and other grisly scenes, this was another one of our favorites. Seasons 1-6 are depicted throughout this maze. I am not a Walking Dead watcher, but this house kinda makes me want to check out the show. This was our second favorite.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

The Exorcist

Enter the house and mind of a tormented girl possessed by evil. This house did a great job of recreating the head-spinning and vomit-spewing moments from the movie.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Chainsaws, chainsaws and more chainsaws … need we say more? This is one of the houses I don’t care to relive. It was very well done, and I was startled (okay, freaked the heck out) multiple times.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

Krampus

Krampus is the dark shadow of Saint Nicholas, complete with a band of dark creatures out to claim souls. Just like in the movie, this takes place amidst a raging blizzard. Yes, the cookies make an appearance.

I like a good storyline, and I really enjoyed the décor in this house. As you walk in the front door, you’ll see the dining room setting where Martha Stewart threw up (if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get that – if you haven’t, you’ll probably still get it). But from there on out, it moves to the dark side.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

Halloween: Hell comes to Haddonfield

The masked Michael Myers is alive and out for blood. I’m not familiar enough with the movie to comment on the house’s adherence to detail, but given the authenticity and movie-set quality of the rest of the houses, I’d be willing to bet it’s true to the script and scenery of the movie.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

Tomb of the Ancients

Ancient and immortal beings from the past have been unearthed and are ready to rule. This house had a sort of Egyptian theme running through it. This original storyline (i.e. not based on a movie or TV show) was very well done, but I would need another go-through to do a better description of it.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

Lunatics Playground 3D: You Won’t Stand A Chance

“Stand a chance” is the key phrase in this title. Not to give things away, but I was very nearly on my knees trying to get through one room. Let’s just say optical illusions and “spinning” tunnels are not friends of mine. Other words to describe this one: psychedelic, twisted and delusional.

Lunatics Playground is all about the twisted antics of Chance, the right-hand woman of Jack the Clown (that’s her pictured above). As the story goes, Jack has left the house and Chance has taken over with parties and other wildness. This house quite literally blurs the lines between reality and delusion. Oh, and you wear 3D glasses. Good luck.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch

Take a walk through this Wild West nightmare of doomed souls who went searching for gold but found death and destruction instead. As the thunder cracks and the lightning strikes, you just might be joining them. This was my first experience with a western-themed haunted maze (so many of them are themed around demons, clowns, mental asylums and vampires), and I enjoyed the whole concept of this original storyline.

HHN Rides

There are some rides open during HHN, and the lines are much shorter than during regular park operating hours. I’m guessing that’s to be expected since everybody is there for HHN. We waited about 10 minutes for Escape from Gringotts (it’s normally at least 60 minutes). It was also quite lovely to be able to walk around in a nearly empty Diagon Alley.

Rides open during HHN 2016

  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Men in Black Alien Attack
  • The Simpsons Ride

There are also several scare zones located throughout the park. A scare zone is a section of the park that has been decorated with a specific theme, and it contains scare actors who will make your walk all the more interesting. It’s often fun to just sit back and watch the actors do their thing with unsuspecting guests. I didn’t get the chance to visit all of the scare zones.

The Vamps scare zone Photo: Universal Orlando

Vamp ’55 scare zone
Photo: Universal Orlando

HHN Scare zones

  • A Chance in Hell
  • Survive or Die Apocalypse
  • Dead Man’s Wharf
  • Lair of the Banshee
  • Vamp ‘55

Final Thoughts

The creative team at Universal Orlando, under the direction of Michael Aiello, put together a top notch and world-class attraction. I can see why it’s often at the top of “best haunted attraction” lists. HHN has won an Amusement Today Golden Ticket award (the Oscars of the theme park industry) for Best Halloween Event for nine years running. 2016 was the 26th season of the event.

I thought the whole event was very well done. Yes, the lines are long, but they move incredibly well. You really don’t end up standing in one spot for indefinite amounts of time. Due to the vast number of visitors Universal sees throughout the HHN event, they are more than prepared for the crowds with winding queues and perfectly executed attractions.

Do I recommend HHN to other haunted attraction fans? Yes indeed. Will I be back again? Any chance I get.

Photo: Universal Orlando

Photo: Universal Orlando

HHN is a hard ticket event, which means that it requires a separate ticket from regular park admission. It takes place at the Universal Studios park, and you can attend just HHN. Learn more about HHN and be the first to find out what’s in store for HHN 2017 at HalloweenHorrorNights.com.

Note to parents: Halloween Horror Nights may be too intense for young children. It is not recommended for children under age 13. My nearly 13-year-old loves Halloween attractions (and has since she was about nine-years-old). But I’ve seen grown adults freaking out in haunted mazes, so please take into consideration your child’s scare level when deciding to attend HHN.

Here’s a shot of my tween in front of her favorite house. This child does not willingly take/allow photos of herself for any reason, so this is a pretty big testament to her enjoyment of HHN 2016. Thank you Universal Orlando, Michael Aiello and the whole team for a superb season.

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