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Insider Tips to Navigate Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

The spooky season is upon us with Halloween Horror Nights open in both Hollywood and Orlando. 

By Tara Bennett
A large size logo of Halloween Horror Nights.

Pumpkin lattes are back? Check.

Leaves are turning? Check.

Halloween Horror Nights is operational at Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando? Double check!

For those who love all things monsters, gore, and horror, Halloween Horror Nights is the annual event that takes place at both theme parks now through October 31. Featuring unique Scare Zones and bespoke haunted houses celebrating horror franchises like The Exorcist: Believer, Universal Monsters: Unmasked, Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count, Stranger Things 4, and The Last of Us, the Halloween Horror Nights (or HHN) festivities take over both parks once the sun sets. And because of that, trying to experience everything you want in one night of fun can feel a bit overwhelming to navigate. 

Luckily, NBC Insider was at the opening night for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, so we've got lots of tips and tricks on how to best tackle your priorities for your night of screams, so you don't waste time literally getting lost in the dark!

Pick Your Priorities

Halloween Horror Nights Directory.

A general rule of thumb for planning your Halloween Horror Nights trip is that visiting on weekends — or the closer the calendar gets to October 31 — equates to bigger crowds. With that in mind, if your ambition is to visit all of the haunted houses, Scare Zones, and, in Hollywood, watch the live “The Purge: Dangerous Waters” show and take a trip on the “Terror Tram…The Exterminatorz,” planning is essential so there isn't any disappointment.

Buy your tickets online, and then get to CityWalk early so you can park and get through security and turnstiles without eating up valuable scare time from 7 p.m. to 1a.m. For those who don't plan well or get serious FOMO, consider getting a Universal Express pass, which allows the purchaser express access to every participating haunted house and attraction on the night you attend.

Be aware that you will do a lot of walking because the haunted houses at Hollywood are scattered all around the Upper Lot, the Lower Lot, and the far reaches of the Universal Studios backlot. Wearing comfortable shoes is essential so you can go the distance.

If you have priority events that you must see, once you enter Universal Studios Hollywood, hot-foot it to your number one priority and then get in line so you don't miss it. And be sure to check your Universal App and the Studio Directory boards all night for up-to-the-minute wait times so you can make decisions on the fly as the night flies by.

Halloween Horror Nights Directory.

If you are far more casual about what you see or don't see, then let the masses race by you and work the Upper Lot first, which includes the haunted houses Evil Dead Rise and Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America, “The Purge: Dangerous Waters” show, and the Death Eaters Encounter inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ area. In the DreamWorks Theater, you'll mingle with several Blumhouse horror icons, including M3GAN and The Grabber in the Blumhouse: Behind the Screams area, along with props and costumes from their recent horror franchises. 

Haunted Houses 101

An overlook of Halloween Horror Nights with directions to the houses.

Universal Studios Hollywood is offering eight different haunted houses this year, and like all prior years, some houses will have longer lines than others. Based on the free Universal Studios app (note: there is a unique app for each resort), the longest waits this year are for The Last of Us and Stranger Things 4, which are both located on the Lower Lot. To access them first, right after you enter the park, follow the main path straight to Springfield. Once you see The Simpsons Ride, hang an immediate left and go down the escalators. 

At the bottom, head toward the Transformers ride and make the choice to go left for Stranger Things 4, or make a right to enter the path that will take you to the house entrances for The Last of UsHolidayz In Hell, and The Exorcist: Believer. You can stay in this area and knock out half of the haunted houses for the night. But before you get in line, consider buying a snack in the Lower Lot so you can burn some of that line time with something sweet or savory. 

A billboard of Chucky that leads guests to the direction of the haunted house.

For the Chucky fans, it's easy to miss how to find the little killer's house of mayhem. While in the Upper Lot, enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ area and make your way through Hogsmeade Village, past Hogwarts Castle, and then take the path into the Backlot. Guides will direct you along a hefty walk deep into the production area of the lot (which is cool to see) and eventually you'll spill out into an area with the entrance to Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count to the left and Universal Monsters: Unmasked to the right. 

All Shows, No Houses

A large sign that says Studio Tour.

If getting your heart rate up inside a haunted house isn't your idea of fun, there are many alternative outside events that feature unique scares to enjoy too. On the Upper Lot, the Waterworld Stunt Show has been repurposed for a new, shorter nighttime show, “The Purge: Dangerous Waters." It's about 15 minutes long and takes place in the outside area, so if you want to sit and enjoy some thrills, this is a good option.

Next door in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, the Death Eaters Encounter features the imposing, roaming minions of He Who Must Not Be Named. Plus, the Hogwarts castle is skinned with all things the Dark Arts which makes for a dramatic viewing too. Right next to the Potter area is DreamWorks Theater where the aforementioned Blumhouse: Behind the Screams area is more of a lazy stroll. 

Guests walking down a dark pathway that's lit up in a green light.

In the Paris section of the Upper Lot, the Scare Zone "El Terror De Las Momias" features many freaky humanoids milling about that will jump out and grab at you until you run in the other direction.

Also on the Upper Lot, if you make your way to The Simpsons Ride, make a right and head to the Studio Tram Tour, which has been fumigated for the holiday into a bug-filled experience called, “Terror Tram…The Exterminatorz." Riders enter the famous tram train and get shuttled by Tour Guide Larry Larva to a special area on the Backlot near the infamous Psycho House. There, you'll disembark and have to walk through a gauntlet of human-sized bugs with chainsaws, a Norman Bates lookalike, and an outdoor maze that will eventually lead to Jupiter's Claim from Jordan Peele's Nope. Good luck making it through town as "the Tethered" from Peele's Us await you. If you do, then you'll get back on the tram for a peaceful exit. 

Eat Your Stress Away

An oversized red cassette tape that has Halloween Horror Nights Mix written on it.

If you have a hearty constitution and can ignore all the fake blood everywhere, HHN is an event you can happily eat your way through with special food destinations themed to the houses all over the park. Along with the normal park restaurants, which remain open, make sure you hit at least one of the special food stands.

On the Upper Lot, on the main path into the park, you'll find Chucky's Killer BBQ. The center square has been transformed into the Dia De Los Muertos Bar and Little Cocina. There's alcohol and places to sit and eat with ambiance without the any maniac interference. Near The Purge show is Peacock's Halloween Horror Bar for special cocktails and beers. 

In the Lower Lot, above the Jurassic World gift shop, the Stellar Bar is a 80's-styled pop up bar with Stella Artois libations. On the way to the haunted houses, you can also pick up some Stranger Things-inspired food from Surfer Boy Pizza or ice cream sundaes from Scoops Ahoy. 

And if you do make it out to the Chucky haunted house, look for the Chucky-centric "Killer Treats" pop-up cart where you can get the much-coveted Chucky popcorn bucket (which sells out!) or a knife cookie to get you into a killer mood. 

Check our coverage about Halloween Horror Nights 2023 ticket options at Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando.