Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), the world’s premier Halloween event, is back for 2021.
Starting on Friday, Sept. 3, Universal will once again welcome guests to the event in Orlando, with Hollywood’s version debuting the following week on Thursday, Sept. 9.
The event was supposed to celebrate its 30th year in 2020, but a COVID-19 forced closure has delayed the celebration to 2021. And, after an absence in 2020, this year’s event, which is titled “Never Go Alone,” is expected to sell out quickly.
“We love Halloween Horror Nights as much as our guests do, and are so excited to host the event this fall to celebrate 30 years of fear. We have been continuously working to make this year’s event one of the best and scariest yet,” Robyn Ryan, senior director of travel industry sales at Universal Orlando Resort told TMR.
Why is it the “premier” Halloween event?
The event has been named “the world’s premier Halloween event” by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards for more than a decade.
Ryan describes it as a period when “the most terrifying names in horror take over our Universal Studios Florida theme park for the event, unleashing the biggest names in horror and pop culture, plus haunting original stories, to prey upon guests.”
The event has spawned several dedicated online communities and a passionate fan base that returns year after year to both Orlando and Hollywood.
“Fans of this event can’t get enough of Halloween Horror Nights and definitely come back year after year to face the all-new horrifying experiences we bring to life in our haunted houses, scare zones, and live entertainment,” Ryan said.
Marketing for this year's event. Photo: Universal Parks.
What are the plans for 2021?
For right now, a lot of what HHN is going to entail is under wraps by Universal, with teases and announcements expected over the next few months leading up to the September debut. However, some of the houses have been revealed.
Beetlejuice, which was set to be one of the headliners of last year’s event, will make its HHN return this year. The theme was the first “ghost host” of HHN 1 in 1991 and returns for the 30th anniversary. Universal is inviting guests to enter the “twisted, terrifying world of the original film, as the infamous Bio-Exorcist haunts you, taunts you, and sends you screaming out of the haunted house.”
Earlier this month, Universal revealed plans for its second house, this one based on Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House. That house will invite guests into the Hill House, “a structure more alive than its ghostly inhabitants.”
And, just this week, Universal debuted plans for another couple of houses—The Bride of Frankenstein Lives and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That first house will have the Bride of Frankenstein “stepping out of the shadows and taking her fate into her own bloody hands" while the Texas Chainsaw house promises "the return of the legendary Leatherface."
Universal has also revealed a big comeback for 2021—Jack the Clown, the event’s first original icon, will return to HHN. Jack first appeared during HHN 2000 in Orlando and has since made repeated appearances because of his popularity. Guest can expect Jack in more than one place during HHN 30.
Outside of those two houses, guests can expect another seven, with details to be revealed later, along with two live shows, themed food and drink, HHN-themed merchandise, and scare zones spaced around the theme park.
The food has always been a major standout for the event and guests can expect touches not just in the theme parks but also in the resort’s hotels during the season.
One of the iconic HHN dishes has always been the Twister Tater, a fried potato cut around a stick. That dish is coming back for 2021 with versions that include Blood and Guts, Frank-n-Coils, and a combo of both.
How is COVID-19 impacting plans?
COVID-19 obviously had a major impact on the 30th-anniversary celebrations—last year’s HHN had to be canceled because of the pandemic, though Universal did add some touches to the regular theme park experience during last year’s Halloween season.
This year, Universal is advising all guests that it will continue to follow CDC guidelines, the same way it does during regular park hours.
The CDC guidelines now include face coverings being completely optional for fully vaccinated guests, either indoors or outdoors. Guests who are not fully vaccinated are still asked to wear face coverings while indoors, though Universal is not requiring proof of vaccination.
How can I get tickets for my clients?
Select tickets are already on sale for the event, and Universal expects those tickets to move fast. Tickets can be booked specifically for HHN but other options are also available.
Universal offers R.I.P. Tours, a tour experience that gives guests access to all the haunted houses, without waits, guided by their own tour guide. There’s also the Behind the Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tours daytime excursion where guests can get a taste of what goes into putting on an event like HHN.
Theme park and/or Halloween Horror Nights event admission is not included and not required to participate in the Behind-the-Screams: Unmasking the Horror Tour.
With heavy crowds expected this year, Universal is once again offering Halloween Horror Nights Express Passes to skip the regular lines one time at all haunted houses, plus at participating rides and attractions.
All those tickets are available through Universal’s travel advisor portal, UniversalTravelAdvisors.com. There’s also a dedicated trade Facebook Page, Universal Orlando Travel Professionals Facebook Page, where advisors can stay up to date on news, updates, and more.