For years I have wanted to visit a fright night at a theme park. Scary fun in a nice, safe environment…awesome! The king of the after-hours scares is undoubtedly Universal Studios and so for Halloween 2019, we spent all day (and night) at Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights.
We were gifted our day time tickets by Universal Studios but we covered all in-park expenses and our Halloween Horror Nights tickets
- 1 FIRST HALF – FAMILY FUN
- 2 Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
- 3 The Entrance
- 4 Universal Express Pass
- 5 The Simpsons Ride and Krustyland
- 6 Universal Studios Hollywood Refillable Cups
- 7 The World-Famous Studio Tour
- 8 Lunch at Cletus’ Chicken Shack
- 9 Jurassic World – The Ride
- 10 Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
- 11 TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
- 12 Hogsmeade, Flight of The Hippogriff and Harry and Potter and Forbidden Journey
- 13 Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- 14 DreamWorks Theatre
- 15 SECOND HALF – HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS
- 16 Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
- 17 The Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Mazes
- 18 Scare Zones
- 19 The Walking Dead Attraction
- 20 Jabbawockeez
- 21 So What About Stranger Things?
- 22 80s Throwback Thursdays
- 23 Ride Time
- 24 Getting Home from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
- 25 Information about Universal Hollywood Studios
- 26 Final Thoughts on Our Day at Universal Studios Hollywood
FIRST HALF – FAMILY FUN
Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
We had picked an AirBnB in West Hollywood, allowing us to be close to the park and Hollywood’s famous Walk of Fame.
I was worried that we would get caught up in LA’s notorious traffic, but it was nicely free flowing so we were at the drop off point in no time. It was a five minute walk (at a fast London pace) through Universal City Walk to the first point of entry.
We passed through an airport style security, with our bags x-rayed and passing through a metal detector arch. Then, right in front of us was the iconic entrance.
The sun gleamed on the spray of water emanating from the Universal logo fountain. The spray, welcome on a hot summer’s day, sent a little shiver through me as it chilled my arms. There was no way we could skip a photo here though! This was our first moment of fandom, one of many during the day.
After a quick snap, we head for the tall white arches to have our tickets scanned.
I am SUCH a kid when I first get into a theme park. There is a manic urge to run around, giggling like an idiot, but now I am a “grownup”, this is a little more frowned upon. Instead, we walked down the first strip of shops (I WON’T call it Main Street) until we reached a map and screen showing the ride times. It was still early so none of the rides had more than a 15 minute wait. We decided to make straight for The Simpsons Ride, Krustyland. I like The Simpsons Ride but I do object to queuing for forever for a simulator ride.
Universal Express Pass
Speaking of queuing; Universal Studios Hollywood very kindly gifted us tickets with an Express Pass attached so that we could try all the rides. On Halloween Horror Nights, the park closes early for general admission guests. This pass allowed us to use the Express Pass queue once on each ride in the park. It saved us so much time.
In fact, on a previous visit to Universal Studios Orlando, we invested in the Unlimited Express Pass. We only had one day to see both parks and this was only possible if we skipped every queue. Oh, how I love an Express Pass!
The Simpsons Ride and Krustyland
There is something wonderful about bringing a cartoon to life in a theme park. The bright colours and bold lines of The Simpsons’ world translates so well into this environment. Plus, it is loved by multiple generations of the same family, so everyone gets excited in this area! Whether it is sipping a beer in the Duff Beer Garden with the Seven Duffs, and buying a vastly oversized pink donut from a real-life Lard Lad, everyone will see things they recognise and love.
The Simpsons Ride itself is actually my favourite simulator ride. The computer animation projected in front of you is super smooth, and I prefer that it is in 2D. Along the way, there are a few 4D elements thrown in. The spray of baby powder scent is my favourite addition! Sadly, Mr Fluskey had a cold and missed it.
Universal Studios Hollywood Refillable Cups
It was now time for our first beverage stop. We opted to get a refillable cup. It cost £16.00 (plus tax…sigh). It doesn’t sound super cheap but we consumed an awful lot of caffeinated beverages during our day. With individual drinks costing $4 (plus tax….sigh), and with two of us sharing, it was a great value option.
The World-Famous Studio Tour
We decided to do The World-Famous Studio Tour early as there was no queue and it is quite a long experience. We walked straight into the waiting tram, opting to sit in the front row of the second car, on the left-hand side. This turned out to be a mistake, as we spent the whole time with the exhaust fumes pumping out into our faces, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.
The tram started to enter the Studio area and we found out that the lots make up their own city complete with a fire station and zip code. Pretty cool!
We drove through the set for The Good Place but sadly there was no sight of the cast members. It was then onto a series of scenes. We found out how they make it rain in film, and why Jaws was so tricky to film. We saw pieces of the set from The Grinch‘s Whoville and Desperate Housewives‘ Wisteria Lane, as well as an amazing plane crash from War of the Worlds. There were more exciting bits but I don’t want to give it ll away. I enjoyed it but found it a little cheesy.
It was very cool to drive into the King Kong 360 3-D experience (its own ride at Universal in Orlando) but the Fast & Furious – Supercharged! section didn’t have the same wow factor.
I think it was worth doing once but if I returned, I don’t think I would do it a second time, focusing on other rides instead.
Universal’s Animal Actors
We dashed across the Upper Lot to catch Universal’s Animal Actors. This fifteen-minute performance kept us totally captivated. It was so cleverly choreographed and actually surprisingly informative. At one point, they had a parrot flying against a green screen and superimposed him live into an aerial shot. I don’t want to give too much away, but you will be surprised and delighted but the menagerie of animals that take part.
After all that excitement, it was time for lunch.
Lunch at Cletus’ Chicken Shack
There is something about fried chicken and biscuit that speaks to me on a level I can’t explain. I didn’t grow up with it, I didn’t even know what a biscuit was until four years ago, but I must have it whenever I see it on a menu.
Cletus’ Chicken Shack is, unsurprisingly, located in The Simpsons area. Many guides recommend eating at The Hog’s Head in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we really didn’t fancy being halfway around the world, eating “British Classics”.
I ordered a Double Batter Chicken Platter (three pieces of chicken served with mash, gravy, corn on the cob and a biscuit) whilst Mr Fluskey plumped for a Chicken and Waffle Sandwich complete with maple syrup. The dishes weren’t cheap, but then it is a theme park.
However, we definitely got what we paid for. The portions were gargantuan! We both ate as much as humanly possible and left about 40% on our plates. It was heartbreaking as it was all much better than expected. I wish we had got one dish to share instead.
We watched Simpsons clips on the screen as we hugged our swollen Homer-esque tummies and bemoaned our inability to finish the lot.
With trepidation, we left and proceeded down to the lower lot, praying that we wouldn’t feel sick on any rides for the remainder of the afternoon.
Jurassic World – The Ride
One of my favourite ride at Universal in Orlando was Jurassic Park. We were so desperate to ride it that, despite the fact it was just 2°C we boarded the boat with excited giggles. The place was empty and the staff looked at us like we were utterly bonkers. We went around the whole ride screaming and laughing hysterically at any tiny spray of water….ridiculous.
I was excited to see how the ride had been re-themed for Jurassic World and after a short battle with Mr Fluskey (he hates getting wet at theme parks) we slid into our seats. Again, there was no queuing for this ride. It seems like Halloween was a GREAT day to visit!
The boat set off and entered the new aquarium addition to the ride. I LOVED it! The graphics were great and it was full of little surprises that had me (once again) streaking with laughter.
The rest of the ride was very similar to the original, but I didn’t mind that too much as it is a genuinely fantastic ride, the perfect mix of visual intrigue and physical thrills.
Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t remember what the Revenge of the Mummy ride was like until it pulled away from the station.
“Oh yes”, I shouted, “This is a good one!”
Revenge of the Mummy is an indoor rollercoaster that is in the dark. There are flashing lights and the whole thing fires riders off at the start with quite a whoosh! I was confused as I was sure there was a flame effect at one point but it was missing in this version. Even without that, it was super cool!
TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
This is a simulator ride but the car is tossed and turned around. To be honest, I like the idea of it a lot more than the ride itself. I find the 3D a little intense and the story is massively confusing. I can, however, appreciate the huge skill that has created such a ride.
Having been on all the rides in the Lower Lot, we took the long escalators back up and meandered to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Hogsmeade, Flight of The Hippogriff and Harry and Potter and Forbidden Journey
I don’t care who you are, and how much you may like these films or not, but I challenge anyone not to be impressed with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This recreation of Hogsmeade is so fully formed and tangible that even the stoniest heart will soon melt at the sight of small children waving their wands at shop windows and beaming with delight when they get their “spells” right. (The wands you can buy interact with certain attractions if you move the infrared tip in the right way).
Most people dash straight here in the morning so we decided to enjoy it later in the day and avoid the clamour. You’ll never find it empty so why push for it?
We made for the Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a reasonably short children’s rollercoaster. It was amusing enough, and actually a little better than the version in Orlando, but I definitely wouldn’t queue for it. I don’t love a mine train (which this is very similar to) at the best of times but the length of the ride and lack of real surprises (no caves for example) means it was pretty dull.
Next, it was the highlight of the Harry Potter area, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride is amazing for three reasons:
- Hogwarts looks very cool outside but inside is on a whole other level! Every room is entertaining, intricately decorated and wholly immersive. It is actually worth bypassing the Express Line on one go around (unless it is crazily busy) so that can really enjoy it all.
- The ride itself is lots of fun. Riders board a “couch” which takes to the skies. The story isn’t super simple but when rides are this much fun, who cares!
- The mechanics and blend of techniques used in this ride are mind-boggling. The bits you see as a rider (physical props, lights and projections) are only half the story. We were incredibly lucky to see the ride control room on our visit to Orlando Universal Resort and we were all struck slightly dumb. Every couch goes between rails and arms, spun and whizzed around with insane accuracy. If one car is out by centimetres, the ride is reset. Honestly, this is the cutting edge in ride technology.
For the next hour or so we wandered in and out of the shops of Hogsmeade. There was a lot of debating how to squeeze a giant Pygmy Puff into hand luggage. Then we stood drooling over the cauldron cakes and other confections in Honeyduke’s I think I was expecting more Halloween food and drink options around the park but I guess these treats are always spooky.
Now, I have a terrible confession. On our last trip to Universal Orlando Resort, I was picked to take part in the Ollivander’s wand pairing show. It was awesome, so awesome that my friends kindly bought me the interactive infrared wand that I “paired with”. The big confession? I FORGOT THE WAND! I spent the whole time looking enviously at other happy guests waving their wands around, some so ineffectually that I was tempted to confiscate them and show them how it was done/ What a fail!
Ah well, no matter, it was still a highlight of the visit.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
I was really excited to become a Minion at the next ride. Let’s face it, everyone has a secret soft spot for Minions. I loved the pre-ride videos and line entertainment. However, I wasn’t a fan of the large, open ride room. I found it distracted from the experience. There wasn’t a great deal of story once the ride actually started but I think I would have LOVED it if I were a child still. On the way out of the ride, we passed Super Silly Fun Land. This area is part funfair, part water park and is for children. The name was just perfect, it really did look like super silly fun. Despite the temperature plummeting as the day drew to a close, there were screaming kids that were still having a whale of a time.
This was our last ride of the day before switching into Halloween mode. I didn’t really know what to expect but we were herded in and I realised it was going to be a big cinema room. I asked the staff where to go as a visually impaired guest but she was a bit busy directing the crowd.
We finally found out that we were in the right queue for the front row, but when the doors opened, children from other queues ran ahead of us and took all of those seats….I wasn’t impressed.
What can you do, eh!?
The ride/show itself was a cool mix of simulator and movie all based around Kung Fu Panda. The seats moved along with the action and unexpected projections bouncing around the room wowed the crowd.
A quick note on this blog post. I know I said it was in two halves, but I am not going into detail on each maze individually so you are actually 3/4 of the way through!
SECOND HALF – HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS
Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
On selected nights between mid-September and early November Universal Studios Hollywood plays host to a crazy, spooky, very cool event!
The Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Mazes
The biggest features of the Horror Nights are the mazes. These are walk through scare attractions all themed around TV shows, films or events. I am not a huge scardey cat but I was jumping (and using the odd expletive) all the way around these labyrinthine attractions. We managed to visit these mazes during our evening:
- Creep Show
- Killer Klowns from Outer Spac
- Frankenstein and The Wolfman
- Pandora’s box
- Holidayz in Hell
When the evening started, the queues were minimal, but they built up steadily as the time passed. We managed to get around three mazes in the first hour but after that, the pace slowed considerably.
Most of these temporary attractions were the same kind of thing, you wind through a series of rooms and corridors filled with scary scenes and live actors in various states of horrible make up try their best to make you pee yourself a little. Lights flash, sound effects add to the sense of unease and the performers find delight in the screaming attendees.
I found myself clutching onto Karl with one hand and holding up our refillable cup as a talisman of sorts in the other. My heart was in a constant flutter but I sort of loved it.
The biggest jump was when someone jumped straight out of some thing that I thought was a poster! I nearly died!
We didn’t know most of the TV shows or films but the Ghostbusters maze was lots of fun, and even though we hadn’t seen it, the Us maze totally creeped us out.
The most random maze, and one of my favourites was Holidayz in Hell. You stumble from room to room, going chronologically through important days in the USA calendar. It was both a cool set up and interesting to see as UK visitors.
There were four dedicated scare zones in the park. As you walk through these areas, like the Toxic Tunnel below, scary creatures and beings lunge towards you giving even the hardiest Halloween fan the heebie-jeebies.
I actually found this seriously disconcerting (and super fun).
The Walking Dead Attraction
This walk through attraction is a permanent feature of the park, but it was closed during the day. Presumably it gives the actors time off so that they can perform all night.
This is set up in a proper block meaning the queuing system was part of the entertainment. Lights flickered, zombies rattled doors and a pre-ride video played.
Having been through so many mazes, it wasn’t as shocking as it would have been on a regular park day, but it was brilliantly put together.!
In the main theatre, a streetdance group called the Jabbawockeez performed four or five times throughout the night. The show was about 30 minutes long, and such fun.
The performers all wear plain white masks meaning all their expression comes from movement. The dancing was clean and pretty flawless. Where they really excelled was in their interactions with audience. They were clearly very funny guys and girls, as they had the audience is fits.
Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle
Most of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter shuts during the Halloween Horror Nights, but there is a special light show. Hogwarts is transformed into the background for an amazing projected show. This fifteen minute show is all based around the dark arts.
We hurried into Hogsmeade and found a spot opposite the castle about fifteen minutes before it started. It got really busy so turning up early was a good plan.
If I bring totally honest, I couldn’t see lost if what was going on and my usual trick of zooming in with my phone didn’t work too well in the dark so I just listened to the words and enjoyed the vague swirling colours and shapes. However, I have in on good report from Mr Fluskey that it was very cool….and the pictures look pretty cool too.
So What About Stranger Things?
The Stranger Things maze was undoubtedly the star attraction of 2019 but we never actually went round it for two reasons.
- I’ve only seen three episodes…I know…I know!
- The queue started at 45 minutes and stupidly, we thought it would go down. By the time we finally threw in the towel, it was two hours.
80s Throwback Thursdays
At Halloween Horror Nights, every Thursday is 80s themed. There is a rather wonderful Beetlejuice who wanders around and interacts with the public. It is advertised a dance party, so I thought that meant cheesy 80s pop but it turned out to be a stage playing 80s rock that we had mostly never heard of. There wasn’t really anyone dancing so maybe a bit of Duran Duran would have been a good call?
Once the doors of the park shut for general admission, only a few rides remain open. These are:
- Jurassic World – The Ride
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
- Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
- The Simpsons Ride
Having hit all of these earlier in the day, we decided to focus on the mazes instead. (Just before we left at the end of the night, I fancied one more spin on Revenge of the Mummy but I just couldn’t face another trek down through the StarWay escalators).
Getting Home from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
We flaked out pretty early. The early start and standing in the sun had knocked it out of us a little. I think we ordered our ride sharing service at about 22:30 (that park open way past midnight). It was easy enough to find the pick up point but it took our car a little longer.
Information about Universal Hollywood Studios
If you are considering your own trip to Universal Hollywood Studios, here is some information you might like to know:
- To book day tickets, or Halloween Horror Nights tickets visit the Universal Studios Hollywood website. They often have really good offers like buy one day, get one free. Plus, the Horror Nights can sell out.
- Only fruit and water are allowed in so don’t try and bring a full on picnic.
- Halloween Horror Nights are only recommended for those over 13 but younger guests are welcome when accompanied.
- City Walk is packed full of restaurants, bars and entertainment. Guests are free to come and go throughout the day but not during the Halloween Horror Nights. If you are out, you are out.
Final Thoughts on Our Day at Universal Studios Hollywood
Is it crazy to fly halfway across the USA JUST to visit Universal Studios Hollywood for Halloween? Probably…but we did it anyway! I had an amazing day, it was so great to get around all of the rides, but a shame we flaked slightly too early to hit all the mazes.
Would we return? Absolutely! However, I think we would do a day time trip on a separate day from our Halloween horror Night to ensure we made it to the end! Plus, I love celebrating big days at theme parks (NYE at Disney EPCOT anyone?)