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Lifestyle: Halloween Horror Nights At Universal Studios, Florida

Technically, we attended Halloween Horror Nights on ‘El Día De Los Muertos’ (‘The Day Of The Dead’, a Mexican festival commemorating lost loved ones) and not Halloween, but that was okay because it’s still a super spooky day. Our visit to Disney on Halloween itself was pretty vanilla – as implied in the name of the party, it was ‘Not-So-Scary’. Our venture to Universal for the holiday was a whole other story, and I at least was terrified!

Unlike our Disney day, we were in Universal Studios all day long, and not just for the Halloween Horror Nights event. We knew that being there so early might mean we’d get some line-skipping privileges, so we decided to research. I’m pretty glad we (and by we, I mean Dougie…) did, because it meant we knew exactly where to be to get to the front of the queues immediately after we were allowed.

Thanks to this Orlando Informer blog, we knew to wait in one of four holding areas prior to admittance to any of the eight haunted houses that had been set up for the night. This guaranteed us ‘Early Admission’ in effect, because we were able to stay between general admission and the new night being set up.  They recommended we wait in and around Finnegan’s, an Irish Bar & Grill, and I’m glad they did, because it meant I could have a cheeky vodka to calm my nerves! We saw plenty of HHN veterans in there, and our excitement grew and grew! As soon as 5.45pm hit (15 minutes before people who had not been there all day could enter!), we were set loose, providing we had this trusty wristband.

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The houses available on the night for this year (it changes annually) were:

They were all excellent, although the ‘Dollhouse of the Damned’, ‘Halloween‘ and the ‘Giggles and Gore’ ones were probably my faves – they were perpetually frightening! I must admit, ‘The Walking Dead‘ house (which was majorly promoted) was slightly overrated, and even Dougie, who actually watches the show, agreed. I wouldn’t say I was in any way disappointed, though! The only one we sadly missed was the ‘Dracula‘ one (boo), because the line unexpectedly closed when we reached the front and we didn’t have time to return later.

The points to note are that the lines are pretty long, so be prepared to wait. You can buy Express passes, but honestly, I’d say they would only be worth it on the really peak nights like Halloween itself. The longest we probably waited was around 25 minutes – not bad at all!

It’s also important to remember that they (the zombies, witches, murderers, and so on!) won’t touch you – but you can’t touch them, either (duh!). No matter how convincing they are, they’re actors, aka people like you and me! Another fun thing to do (if you’re feeling brave…) is to try and mess with them. Stare them out! Sometimes, that comes back to bite you, other times, THEY genuinely look like the ones who are weirded out. Score! Also, please, please, don’t dress up in costume for this event. They won’t let you in, because they need to be sure they can differentiate between you and the performers. By all means apply for next year though… imagine how cool that would be!

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Once twilight had passed and the whole thing was plunged into darkness, it was even more thrilling. Loads of rides were open, too, but we spent our time focused on the Halloween Horrors which were at hand. There was still plenty to do in the park even when not exploring a house – the Scare Zones, especially the one based on The Purge, were absolutely fantastic. For those who don’t know the concept of ‘The Purge’ film, it’s basically about a fictional, annual 12 hour window in the USA where all crime is legal, law enforcement ceases, and emergency services do not operate. This leads to carnage and chaos, understandably, but there’s creepy propaganda going on to tell American citizens that it’s to ‘protect’ them – but of course, only the rich are protected. The movie may have highly political connotations, but when the concept is brought into ‘reality’ in the middle of the streets of Universal Studios, it’s delightfully terrifying. Being chased with knives, watching people being auctioned off to be slaughtered, and being accosted by chainsaws may not SOUND like fun, but when it’s all fun and games, it may well become the highlight of the night.

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All in all, I’d recommend this night to anyone, even the faint hearted, like me. Okay, I’d definitely say “don’t go alone!”, and I’d say “have a drink to steady your nerves!”, too, but realistically you’re not going to go alone anyway, and having a drink actually probably makes you more hysterical. It’s all an experience, and one that I’d do again in a heartbeat.