Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 2023 kicked off its annual celebration of ghastly fun. Marking the official beginning of the Haunt Season, the event invites guests to their fog-shrouded nightmare to explore dazzling entertainment, freaky food, 5 Chilling Scare Zones, and a whopping 10 haunted houses. Taking place exclusively in the 125-acre Studios park Halloween Horror Nights is a wonderland of world-class Halloween fun.
This year Universal Orlando viciously maintains its spot as one of the best haunts in the world with the usual collection of expertly crafted haunted houses and scare zones. Yet, something is different this year. The production level in all of the houses has leveled up.
Let’s jump in and explore each of the 5 scare zones, the 10 mazes, the entertainment, and the food. We will give you our picks on what things are good, and which we consider a DO NOT MISS. We will then give you our thoughts on the best way to experience the fun based on budget and time.
Editor’s Note: This article will be updated with new photos and video over the next few days.
We kick things off with the 5 blood-curdling scare zones located throughout the park. This year they are all linked by a common thread. Throughout the event we experience different chapters in the nefarious adventures of Dr. Oddfellow.
Dr. Oddfellow’s Collection of Horror
Under the iconic Halloween Horror Nights arch, Dr. Oddfellow holds court with his collection of monsters to welcome guests. Strolling leisurely in the fog, we are offered the chance to join Oddfellow’s ranks.
Jungle of Doom: Expedition Horror
Follow Dr. Oddfellow into the jungle and witness his collection of heinous experiments. It is here that the good Doctor begins his evil journey with a discovery that leads him to the beginning of a career in evil. Think Island of Dr. Moreau with less Brando and more blood.
Dark Zodiac – DO NOT MISS
Venturing through the Hollywood section of the park, we come upon an expansive corridor thick with fog, lights, and all of the zodiac signs brought to life. The creature design and costumes in this are are something that you have to see. Majestic, and ingenious, this space is a beautiful example of an original idea given the attention that it deserves. Let’s hope this gets the haunted house treatment next year.
Vamp ’69: Summer of Blood – DO NOT MISS
While not the most frightening zone, Vamp ’69 must be experienced for its spectacle. Dr. Oddfellow has infected a group of love-and-peace concertgoers with a taste for blood. Thanks to a vampire infestation, Tie-DIE-clad hippies run around in various states of vampiric transformation. Some of them are asking for help, while others are out for blood. The scope of the scene, mixed with the classic rock soundtrack and the crisp sound design surrounds guests in festive chaos.
Shipyard 32: Horrors Unhinged
Oddfellow’s oversized shipments have been left on the dock to find escape. A collection of creatures swarms the area with nothing but carnage on their mind.
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is celebrated for its fine mix of original-concept haunted houses and well-known, intellectual property-based houses. This year we are treated to an even mix of 5 IP Based houses that range from popular video games to iconic characters. Meanwhile, the 5 original concepts take us from carnivals to camps to cults to the backstory of a former attraction.
We mentioned before that production has been improved. To explain, nearly every house has several, multi-story “WOW!” moments that stop you dead in your tracks. The sheer scale of some of the scenes coupled with directional sound cues, lighting effects, and actors immerses horror fans in fear.
Stranger Things 4 – DO NOT MISS
We venture back to Hawkins to face Vicna himself in hopes of escaping his curse. From moment one we are INSIDE Stranger Things Season 4. Starting the first scene in the trailer, poor Jenny, through to the epic battle between Vecna and 11, we were in awe.
Every single square inch of the walkthrough pulsated with the sights and sounds of the popular Netflix series. This is easily one of the most impressive things we have ever seen at a haunt.
The Exorcist: Believer
Based on the upcoming film that arrives in theaters on October 6th, The Exorcist: Believer plays as a sort of trailer. Beginning in an obscure village, we then jump to the forest where two young girls are missing. After they are found, they are hospitalized for mysterious behavoirs and symptoms. We all know where this is going, of course, and then hell breaks loose.
Yet another house with glorious sets, sound cues, actors, and meticulous lighting. If religious horror or demons gets to you, make sure to see this one.
The Last of Us – DO NOT MISS
As one who has NEVER played the video game, I was entirely impressed with The Last of Us. Based on the popular Sony Playstation video game from Naughty Dog, we explore a world overtaken by a fungal virus that turns humans into a new threat, the Infected. The opening scene features a full-sized truck, crashed, with survivors fending off lurking dangers. We venture further and encounter gloriously frightening creatures crawling with fungal disease. Visceral and suspenseful, this was a fantastic house that is worth the stop.
Universal Monsters: Unmasked – DO NOT MISS
Returning to the cinematic horror roots of the film studio, we arrive at Universal Monsters: Unmasked. Spectacular is one word to describe this homage to Universal’s classic monsters. Here the likes of The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dr. Jack Griffin, aka The Invisible Man are denizens of an underground network under the streets of Paris.
As we enter the attraction we encounter a policeman above us on a bridge. As cold rain sprinkles down on us, he warns us all to get back home and stay inside. There are maniacs on the loose.
Of course, we don’t listen and head straight into the tunnels below Paris. This actor-centric house showcases wonderful make-up and solid performances that bring us face-to-face with refined terror. The Phantom of the Opera gets particular attention here with extended time in his catacombs and the theatre that he haunts. With the strike of a shrill chord on the pipe organ, he bursts from the shadows with a knife to attack.
Then there is Dr. Jeckyll who, after taking his special concoction, becomes an unstoppable force of brutality. One of our favorite effects depicted Hyde as he ripped the spine from a squirming victim’s back. It was so stomach-turning and epic.
Invisible Man does get short-changed again, but the problem here is, how do you do something visible with something that you can’t see? Thankfully The Hunchback is given some glorious moments.
Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count
Everyone’s favorite killer doll is back with a superlative kill machine. We enter a living slaughterhouse inspired by the hit USA & SYFY series and cult classic films where it is Chucky’s goal to kill every last visitor. We venture forth through various scenes recalling Chucky’s best kills as he taunts and berates us either in person or via monitor. His goal is to kill us and he gets awfully close.
Situated in the overflow areas of the celebrated Fast and Furious attraction, this house came up short for us. To be fair the experience isn’t bad. In fact, there are a number of fun gags here. The problem is that there is never that WOW moment that we have come to expect from HHN Orlando. The space doesn’t offer a chance to open things up, all scenes are relatively small. Still, the handful of Chucky figures that are on display are impressive.
Dr. Oddfellow: Twisted Origins – DO NOT MISS
Ah, the Circus. This year’s icon, Dr. Oddfellow gets his own house and we are invited to join his circus. The price of admission is our soul, no biggie. We arrive at Oddfellow’s forboding network of tents and strewn lights. The siren call of carnival music lures us into a red and white striped tent and we are doomed.
Twisted Origins is a showcase for what makes the character of Dr. Oddfellow so appealing. Here the once put-upon performer becomes the master showman leading a band of captive misfits. We wander the nest of show spaces and dressing rooms, becoming witness to violent acts of atrocity and a playful menace.
What really makes this house shine is the production design. Highly textured and resourcefully varied, we are plunged into the world of a dustbowl circus. The color palette here is one of sepia and regret. It recalled the Oscar-winning work in Nightmare Alley with its weathered wood and faded dreams that are punctuated by the neon glow of the supernatural.
Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate – DO NOT MISS
We return to the neverending battle between fire and ice in Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate. Building on the lore of the much-loved dueling coaster that once thrilled visitors at Islands of Adventure, this original house gives us backstory, fantasy, and an astounding level of effects.
We enter The Enchanted Oak and are then plunged into the midst of a battle between two very powerful wizards. This house contains an unprecedented level of synchronized effects. Lighting, sound, and performers all merge to create the illusion of a fantasy world of magical dangers.
There are plenty of wow moments here, including an ending that commands you to “Choose Thy Fate.” The final scene requires guests to choose either Fire or Ice. From there, we are subject to one of two endings. In total, this house has four possible endings.
The blackouts will hate you, but slow down. Take the time to soak in the details and watch the effects of this brilliant house.
YETI: Campground Kills
So we are camping. What could possibly go wrong? PLENTY in the new house YETI: Campground Kills. We are in a national park in the 1950’s when two Yeti parents are seeking revenge for their child’s misfortune. Campers, rangers, and residents are left in a gelatinous trail of carnage with the mom and dad on a rampage.
Once again, production here is impeccable. Here we get to see the very kitschy aesthetic of national park optimism and 50’s suburbia, with the rustic design and naturalistic design of the titular Yeti’s with their graphic violence. It’s hilarious and wonderful.
The Darkest Deal – DO NOT MISS
“Read the fine print.” is the moral of the story in The Darkest Deal. Here bargains are made with unexpected results. Here we follow the journey of a young musician as he sells his soul for success. We all know how this will go and we follow the poor music man’s journey from success to ultimate payment.
While not terrifying, this one is a DO NOT MISS for a few reasons. Production, again, is jaw-dropping although it seems to match Twisted Origin’s as a Dustbowl bookend. What really struck us here was the depth of the story that this house succeeded in telling. It does help that this is a rather universal tale, with a hapless troubadour willing to give anything for success. What really makes the story work is seeing the event play out over and over in different ways until it’s time to pay.
The Darkest Deal is a high-concept house that pulls it off. For that alone, it is a DO NOT MISS.
While we were given plenty of time to take in the houses and scare zones, the shows and experiences were not given the time to review. That said, we were informed that the live show, Nightmare Fuel Revenge Dream, was similar to the previous year by our guide. Based on that bit of information, we can say that last year the show was spectacular and we would advise popping in to see this show if time permits.
Tribute Store – DO NOT MISS
When you decide that you want to pick up a few keepsakes from your Halloween Horror Nights visit, you MUST go to the HHN Tribute Store. Located in the Vamp ’69 scare zone, this store commands a wait and is worth it. Rich theming and a wandering path of merchandise are the hallmarks of this retail destination.
Dead Coconut Club – DO NOT MISS
Easily one of our favorite places to grab a pre-haunt drink, the Dead Coconut Club delivers kitch and creep with swanky libations. Think 50’s Googie, atomic-age, tiki lounge with a hint of horror and you have the Dead Coconut.
Here you can vibe to the chill lounge music of the 50’s and partake of various themed tiki cocktails from three bars in a chic, yet colorful, setting.
During our preview of the event, we were allowed to sample a number of the specialty food offerings for Halloween Horror Nights. Everyone, remain calm, the Pizza Fries are back. This year the Left Behind Raviolli and the El Pastor Torta were savory standouts. Meanwhile the next “dare” food item from HHN’s culinary masterminds is cradled in a fun-fetti hot dog bun.
Peacock’s Halloween Horror Bar
A creepy spot to grab another serving of liquid courage.
Below we have listed most of the ticket options for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando. What visitors need to do, essentially, is balance the time that they have with the money they are willing to spend.
Single-night tickets – Starting from $79.99
The one thing that we will say is do NOT just buy this one. The rule of thumb is that, unless you are totally fine with just taking in the scare zones and rides, you should avoid this ticket entirely. This only gets you in the gate and has no advantage to ward off the average 90-minute wait times for houses.
Scream Early Ticket – $40.00 (DOES NOT INCLUDE ADMISSION)
If you have ONE day to see Universal Studios Florida AND Halloween Horror Nights, you should consider getting this ticket. It allows you into Universal to catch a few rides as the park empties, then you can remain in the park as things get scary.
Express Pass – Starting from $119.99 (DOES NOT INCLUDE ADMISSION)
This is a MUST if your plan is to see all of the houses, not to mention the available attractions. This will allow you a one-time front-of-line access to all Express Pass lines both during normal park operation and during Halloween Horror Nights.
Rush of Fear Passes – Starting from $179.99
September 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.
The Rush of Fear Pass with Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass entitles one (1) guest admission to ALL 2023 Halloween Horror Nights event nights from September 1st to September 24th, plus one (1) time express ride access at ALL haunted houses and participating rides and attractions per valid event night. Express ride access is a separate line with a shorter wait time. Subject to availability. Present pass to the attendant upon entering the queue for a haunted house or participating attraction. The Halloween Horror Nights event begins at 6:30 pm and closing times vary.
Frequent Fear Pass Starting from $229.99
Admission and one-time Express Pass use per attraction Pervisit on the dates below.
September 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Get to the fear faster. Skip the regular lines one (1) time at all haunted houses, plus at participating rides and attractions.
Event admission required and not included. (Pricing varies by date, subject to availability. Restrictions apply.)
Frequent Fear PLUS Pass – Starting from $269.99
Admission and one-time Express Pass use per attraction Pervisit on the dates below.
September 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 October 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31 November 1, 2, 3, 4.
Halloween Horror Nights Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass – Starting from $374.99
Admission all nights, with one-time use Express pass for houses and rides per visit. This pass includes free self-parking after 5pm at the Universal Orlando garage on eligible Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass nights only; excludes
In short, if you have one day to see Universal Orlando Resort and Halloween Horror Nights, the answer is simple. Grab a two-park, one day ticket with express pass, then grab your Halloween Horror Nights ticket.
If, however, you have a bit more flexibility, you might want to pick up one of the available passes that allow you to show up to the event and entitles you to one-time-per-visit front-of-line access to available attractions and houses.
EXCLUSIVE PEACOCK OFFER FOR HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS GUESTS
Guests can also unlock six months of Peacock Premium with the online purchase of single-night event tickets or the popular Frequent Fear and Rush of Fear Passes. Limited time offer. Eligibility restrictions and Terms Apply.
EXCLUSIVE HALLOWEEN EXPERIENCES FOR UNIVERSAL ORLANDO HOTEL GUESTS
Guests can have the fall getaway of their screams by staying near the fear at one of Universal Orlando’s eight hotels and enjoy exclusive benefits, including Early Park Admission to the theme parks during the day and access to priority event entrance to Halloween Horror Nights at night as well as complimentary transportation to the theme parks and Universal CityWalk.
This year the fog has spread to all eight Universal Resort hotels with exclusive activations and experiences for hotel guests inspired by this year’s event, including Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s exclusive “Chucky’s Twisted Playground” photo illusion experience based on the USA and SYFY series, plus, the Universal Monsters Gallery of Legends lobby photo opportunities in all other hotel lobbies. Guests can even enjoy Halloween-themed bars like the Spooky Swizzle Lounge at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort or the Spooky Sunset Lounge at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, plus themed food and beverage offerings across the destination.
Guests can take advantage on a variety of vacation packages and discounts on hotel stays to plan the ultimate fall getaway. Guests can also purchase single-night tickets or the popular Frequent Fear and Rush of Fear Passes, plus event upgrades like Express Pass, R.I.P. Tour and the daytime Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour. Click here for more information and to book a fall getaway.
For more information about Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 2023, visit www.universalorlando.com/
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort is world-class Halloween fun. The 2023 edition continues the legacy of elevating the large-scale horror event to new heights with improved production levels. Plan for budget and efficiency and you will have the fright of your life.