In recent years, spooky shows and horror films have surged in popularity. Movies like Hereditary starring Toni Collette and Jordan Peele’s instant classics, Get Out and Us; not to mention the resurrection of ’80s nostalgia with Netflix’s smash hit Stranger Things. If you’re a fan of this entertainment genre and you live in or visit Orlando, then you’re probably counting down to the scare season (a.k.a. September and October). Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort each offer thrilling experiences in celebration of All Hallow’s Eve. And fear not, because we’ve got insider tips on how to bravely navigate Orlando’s best Halloween happenings.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort
September 6 ─ November 2, 2019 | select nights
The most notorious Halloween attraction in Orlando (recommended for ages 13+), Halloween Horror Nights dares with 10 haunted houses, 5 scare zones and live entertainment all staged within Universal Studios. Scares are set to sneak up earlier than ever as this anticipated annual affair begins the first Friday in September, with the theme ‘Watch Party.’ Halloween Horror Nights requires a separate ticket from standard theme park admission, with single night and multi-night pricing fluctuating on select nights ($67.99-$93.99).
All-new this year, catch the lagoon show ‘Halloween Marathon of Mayhem.’ The daunting display will be a “spectacle of neon and synth, featuring iconic scenes from top horror films, cult classics and TV shows.”
On an edible note, this year’s food and beverage line-up has not been announced yet, but if they’re anything like the waffles from Stranger Things featured last year, you’re in for a startling surprise.
Standing in boredom-stricken lines is for zombies! In order to avoid long wait times and remain lively, the best nights to get your money’s worth are within the first three weeks of opening. More specifically, maximize your frights on weeknights (versus the weekend) when crowd size averages less. Peak days for this popular spook are September 28, October 5-6, 11-13, 18-20, 25-27, 29-31 and November 1-2.
If you plan to attend on a weekend, be sure to line up at the front gates at least one hour before opening. Wait times do begin to fall later in the evening and, on many dates, Halloween Horror Nights operates until the witching hour of 2am.
You can also purchase an express pass that enables you to skip the standby queue and access a shorter line. This pass is good once per haunt, so be sure to use it wisely. Annual passholder discounts apply. Parking for CityWalk and Universal Studios is usually free after 6pm; however, during Halloween Horror Nights parking costs $26 per car.
In order to make the most of your Halloween Horror Nights experience, re-watch some fearsome flicks to get in the spirit and put many of the scares into context. We recommend Ghostbusters, Us, Killer Klowns from Outer Space and the latest season of Stranger Things. Note: Costumes and marks are not permitted.
If you plan on visiting all three Universal parks ─ Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay ─ you’ll freak over The Ultimate Universal Orlando™ Getaway. Through Hilton Orlando, this vacation package offers exclusive Universal Partner Hotel benefits including price savings and early park admittance.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World Resort
August 16─November 1, 2019 | select nights
Are you a fan of pumpkin-inspired pleasure but not a fan of being petrified? There’s no shame in admitting you prefer a terror-free Halloween. Held in Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party magically presents family-friendly festivities like no other.
You don’t need to worry about getting a rock in your bag this year, as Disney’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will allow you to accumulate more than enough treats, including some allergy-free yummies. This candy-coated celebration includes trick-or-treating, Mickey’s Boo to You parade and Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular fireworks show. Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” will host this illuminating display with state-of-the-art projection effects, lasers, lighting and dazzling pops of color. Hint: We expect lots of orange! As with Halloween Horror Nights, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a specialty ticketed event with prices starting between $79-$135.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary is bountiful for all ages, running select nights from 7pm to midnight. You’ll save $10 per ticket if you purchase at least one day in advance (available for all dates except October 31). Children are invited to dress the part as well… brownie points to those donning Disney character costumes.
Sweets and Halloween go hand-in-hand, of course, so it’s no surprise that the Not-So-Spooky Spectacular Dessert Party takes treats to the next level. Feast on a sugary buffet featuring cupcakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, seasonal fruits, ice cream and other confections at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant. The price to indulge is $84 for guests 10 and older and $50 for guests ages 3-9.
Haunted by the thought of waiting in lines all evening with your little pumpkins? Gina Carlise from Mom Explores Orlando is a Disney proficient and says Not-So-Scary is a fun time to break away from traditional park rules. To help keep amusement high during lulls, she says, “Wear a costume… even if you’re an adult. Disney doesn’t allow adults to wear costumes in the parks at any other time, so this is your chance to have fun with it and go all out with a Disney theme. Family and/or group costumes are a lot of fun too!”
Carlise also recommends taking a few gallon Ziploc bags to dump collected candy into as you roam the park. “You can definitely fill it up,” she attests. After all, you want to keep every morsel secure on rides, right? Finally, focus on the limited-time attractions. “There are some amazing shows. The characters are dressed in their Halloween costumes, and there are just so many fun things to see that you won’t want to miss,” Carlise declares.
Some of your favorite attractions will integrate seasonal experiences too, such as with the Mad Tea Party, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, plus more tricks as you follow the treat trail into Monster World at Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld Orlando
September 21 ─ October 27 | weekends
SeaWorld Orlando also offers a non-eerie event featuring familiar faces. Every weekend, see Bert, Ernie, Elmo and the whole Sesame Street gang stomping along in an all-new Sesame Street Halloween Parade. Happy howls are welcome; spine-chilling screams are not! Definitely snag seats in the Seaport Theater to watch The Count prepare for the Halloween holiday with his neighborhood monsters.
The Halloween Spooktacular includes a Halloween Dance Party, trick-or-treating and the chance to meet whimsical characters inspired by the sea.
In contrast to competing events, Spooktacular is not a separately ticketed event. Yup, no tricks here… just treats as all the fun is included with regular park admission! Carlise considers Spooktacular to be the most spectatular Halloween happening in town for families with small children. “It’s an event that runs all day, so no tired and cranky kids at midnight.” Because we all know over-tired kiddos are the scariest!
SeaWorld is committed to reducing waste during the Halloween Spooktacular and throughout the year. Thus, according to Carlise, you’ll need to bring your own treat bag or container for trick-or-treating. “Don’t worry about bringing snacks to the park on the day you go ─ many of the treats provided are not candy. There are also allergy-friendly stations for families with dietary restrictions,” she says.
For parents with children on the autism spectrum, you’ll be glad to know that SeaWorld is now a certified autism center complete with quiet spaces and other disability-accommodating amenities.
More Halloween Happenings
- Brick or Treat at LEGOLAND Florida Resort | October 5–27, weekends
- Screamin’ Green Hauntoween at Crayola Experience | September 21 – October 31
- Gators, Ghosts and Goblins at Gatorland | October 19–31, select dates
- Halloween at Disney Springs | October 18–31
- A Petrified Forest | October. 4 – November 2