SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30!

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 30! It has been a crazy couple of years for the theme park world, but as good as it was having “HHN Lite” last year, this year we get the full Halloween Horror Nights experience. Over the years HHN has transformed itself from a fun, after-dark hard ticket event into the premier spooky event in Orlando (if not the world.)

Universal Studios Florida during Halloween Horror Nights (aerial by @bioreconstruct)

Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of this year’s HHN, and let’s kick off the countdown with…

# 6 – The Food and Drink

The SATURDAY SIX has long considered HHN to be the “International Food & Wine Festival for the workin’ man.” While EPCOT may offer fancy schmancy small plates along with wine pairings where you need to hold your pinkie out when drinking, Universal offers items such as pizza fries, deep fried Twinkies, and a cherry pie designed t0 mimic the face of Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I don’t care who you are, that’s cool.

Leatherface cherry pie. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

Many years ago, HHN offered a treat called the fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich. It was one of the greatest food items I have ever had in my life. Like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, for years I have been writing Universal Orlando letters asking – in fact outright begging – for this snack to be brought back. For HHN 30 I can considered my prayers answered, as a deep fried uncrustable made its way to the event’s menu and it is ::chef’s kiss:: You might think that this means my days of letter writing are over. NAY NAY. Now I need to write TWO letters a week asking for the deep fried uncrustable to be sold year round, like warm Butterbeer.

No “Chance” in Hell PB&J, drizzled with honey. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

We can all agree that donuts need to be used as slider buns more often, right?

Jack’d Donut Slider. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Fried Twinkee. (photo by @baztastic77)
Bride of Frankenstein Swirl. (photo by Scott Sanders)

 

Even if you threw out the sweet treats, the actual food options themselves are terrific too!

Severed Ribs. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Stuffed Brisket. Shaved smoked brisket, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, pickled onions, tomato, and garlic aioli. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Cross section of Brisket. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Jalapeño Popper. Jalapeño bacon, cheddar cheese, and jalapeño cream cheese (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Pumpkin Guts. Butternut Squash and zucchini noodles sauteed with hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and brown butter served over roasted delicata squash. (photo by Michael Carelli)
PIZZA FRIES!!!!!! (photo by @BazTastic77)
Maultaschen. German dumpling filled with vegan meat. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Flammkuchen. Flatbread topped with crème fraîche, onions, smoked bacon. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Field of Screams Gyoza. Spicy ground turkey and butternut squash filled dumplings served with ponzu. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)

 

We covered many of the sweet treats available during HHN during our coverage of the Tribute Store, but it is truly amazing to see how many options there are this year.

Jake Layer Cake. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Jake Layer Cake. (photo by Scott Sanders)
The Blinky Cup, an unofficial HHN Icon. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Blinky Cup! (photo by Scott Sanders)
Blood Orange Cider Beer Float (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)

 

Much like Food & Wine over at EPCOT, the food booths at HHN are becoming more elaborate every year. We’ll be back next month with a look just at our favorite items from HHN 30.

Twisted Tater Food booth. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

As everyone reading this should know, garbage cans are the official Theme Park Photographer’s Best Friend, but Universal did everyone a solid this year by putting out a whole bunch of actual tables throughout the park.

HHN Table. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Themed tables to boot! (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Local Florida Coffee Maker. (photo by Scott Sanders)
An annual tradition like no other. (photo by Scott Sanders)

# 5 – The Merchandise

Each year there is a TON of great merchandise for guests to purchase. We covered many items during our look at the Tribute Store, and it seems like new items appear on the shelves every single week.

HHN shirts. (photo by Michael Carelli)
HHN keychains and pins. (photo by Michael Carelli)
How awesome is this Minions shirt? (photo by @bioreconstruct)
HHN smart phone cases. (photo by Scott Sanders)
HHN plush. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
“Wax” figurine. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Indescribably beautiful. (photo by Scott Sanders)
The Caretaker. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Chance, Jack, and Caretaker. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Recently we did an article where one of the Theme Park Hills We’d Die On are the skill games in Springfield USA. Each year for HHN there are several pop up skill games, and the prizes range from bonkers to next level bonkers.

Skill Game Prizes. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Cute witch, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s Monster plush. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Not only can you win regular Frankenstein’s Monster plush, but even a Mr. Potato Head as Frankenstein”s Monster! (photo by @Jodicab22)
FRAGGLE ROCK?!! (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Not only does new merchandise seem to be coming out weekly, this past Sunday a brand new skill game prize came into the park with this Jack the Clown plush!

Exclusive themed skill game prizes. We are truly in the greatest timeline. (photo by @win_every_time)

 

# 4 – Nightmare Fuel

Unfortunately HHN has a “no photos allowed” policy for the Nightmare Fuel (which is held in the Fear Factor Live stage) but let’s check out what TouringPlans’ own Joe Matt says about this incredible show:

Halloween Nightmare Fuel is the new variety show and features a loose story based on waking nightmares that send our main character into madness. Expect to see aerialists, fire handlers, dancers, and a few “how did they do that?” magic tricks. While we believe this show is one of the best shows the event has ever done it is also the most provocative – we are amazed some of the choreography made it past Standards & Practices. If you can stand the heat, figuratively and literally, we give the show ★★★★★ and believe it is Not to Miss. Shows start at 8:00 pm, with a show length of 25 minutes, and operate every hour and 30 minutes.”

That’s right, come to be amazed, awed, and maybe even a little shocked.

Nightmare Fuel. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)
Nightmare Fuel. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

 

# 3 – Marathon of Mayhem

Speaking of being awed… the huge surprise of HHN 29 back in 2019 was the debut of the Marathon of Mayhem show located on the lagoon. Many said it was their favorite part of the event. Using the water mist screens, fountains, and projection technology that are regularly seen in Universal’s awesome Cinematic Celebration show, Marathon of Mayhem uses classis Universal Monsters, HHN Icons, and IPs such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Haunting of Hill House to deliver a must see show.

Frankenstein’s Monster. (photo by Michael Carelli)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Jack the Clown. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Jack! (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Caretaker. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fountains. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Fountains! (photo by Michael Carelli)
EVEN MORE FOUNTAINS. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
“Friggin’ laser beams” – Dr. Evil (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Marathon of Mayhem. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 2 – The Scarezones and SCAREACTORS

Over just the last several years, the Scare Zones located throughout HHN have become a bigger part of my personal experience. Previously, my TouringPlan consisted of “gotta get to a house, then another house, then another house,” etc, but now I enjoy taking my time and just walking around. Taking it all in. People watching. During one of our Unmasking the Horror tours, we walked backstage and saw the area where scareactors were getting ready. It was amazing just to see the process, along with how many moving parts there are to HHN. It made me truly appreciate the scareactors and the people behind the scenes who help them get ready every night. It’s also fun just to see people get the daylights scared out of them, and that can – and will – happen right into front of your eyes in a scare zone.

HHN 30 has five scarezones: 30 Years 30 Fears, Crypt TV, Gorewood Forest, Lights, Camera Hacktion Eddie’s Revenge, and Seek & Destroy. The scarezones are a key element of HHN because of their most important element: the scareactors. The sheer amount of scareactors HHN has roaming around is jaw dropping.

Lights, Camera, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Eddie and Jack. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Lights, Cameras, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Crypt TV.  (photo by Michael Carelli)
Crypt TV. (photo by Michael Carelli)
30 Years, 30 Fears. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
30 Years, 30 Fears.  (photo by Michael Carelli)
30 Years, 30 Fears. .(photo by Michael Carelli)
Seek and Destroy. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Seek and Destroy. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Seek and Destroy. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Gorewood Forest. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Gorewood forest. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Gorewood Forest. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Gorewood Forest. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

There are even scareactors directing guests to the RIP tours!

“This way to your RIP tour…” (photo by Michael Carelli)

# 1 – The Haunted Houses

The signature part of any HHN are the haunted house experiences. Like many, I always avoided HHN because I wouldn’t consider myself a “horror fan.” I finally decided to get my feet wet when Universal first got the license for AMC’s The Walking Dead, because I was such a huge fan of the TV show and Walking Dead comic book. I immediately realized how much different HHN actually was from what I imagined it to be in my mind. While I wasn’t a fan of some of the movies used for the haunted houses, I could appreciate the design of each house from an artistic standpoint. It was also just fun being “scared” by the scareactors inside,  and even more fun watching other people get scared. Where I thought Universal really shined was in their original houses that weren’t tied to an IP, but even I had to admit it was an IP that got me personally into the door.

For HHN 30, there are 10 Haunted Houses.  Revenge of the Tooth Fairy, Beetlejuice, and Bride of Frankenstein Lives were available to guests during the mini-HHN last year. Joining them this year are HHN Icons: Captured, Puppet Theater: Captive Audience, The Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin, Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth, Welcome to Scarey: Horror in the Heartland, The Haunting of Hill House, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Let’s reach out again to Joe Matt for his thoughts on the houses this year: “There are no “bad” houses this year, they are all worth visiting. If a certain house piques your interests we suggest checking it out, especially if it is based on a favorite IP. Additionally, if you feel hesitant attempting a house (or houses) we suggest watching a video online from our friends at Inside Universal to give you an idea of what to expect.”

Next month we’ll give a deeper look into some of our favorite parts of each house, but here is a quick look taken during the event and through Unmasking the Horror tours.

HHN Icons: Captured. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
HHN Icons: Captured. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
HHN Icons: Captured. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The Haunting of Hill House. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre house used props from the old Jaws attraction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Beetlejuice. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Welcome to Scarey. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Welcome to Scarey. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Scarey travel poster in USF. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Puppet Theater. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Wicked Growth. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Wicked Growth. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
L’il Boo, the unofficial icon of HHN 30.

 

HONORABLE MENTION – Cabana Bay Beach Resort

I could probably give a thousand reasons why you should stay onsite at Universal Orlando, but HHN 30 gave us one more with the Jack’d Up Experience and Icons Bar at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Available to all onsite resort guests (not just Cabana Bay,) the Jack’d Up experience takes place on the second floor of Cabana Bay’s main building.

Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)

There are a couple rooms just filled with photo-ops for HHN fans.

Jack’d Up Experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)

There is also a giant blender in which  you can take a fun photo of yourself being “blended.”

Jack’d Up experience. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

Meanwhile the Swizzle Lounge is transformed into the Icons Bar, complete with it’s own themed menu. Talk about going above and beyond for a seasonal event!

HHN Icons bar. (photo by Michael Carelli)
HHN Icons bar. (photo by Michael Carelli)
The Director. (photo by Michael Carelli)
The Skeleton Key in a souvenir glass. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Double Secret Honorable Mention – Scarecrow Stalk

One thing that my family has enjoyed over the years at EPCOT are the scavenger hunts during the festivals such as Figment’s Brush with the Masters during Festival of the Arts or Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration during Flower & Garden. Universal has started to have their own versions of these scavenger hunts, and the first Scarecrow Stalk for HHN started last year. The Scarecrow Stalk sends guests across the park to discover unique and highly themed scarecrows and skeletons. At each stop there is a stamp for your map, along with candy for your treat bag.

Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)

 

The scarecrows are all found at gift shops in Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and CityWalk. You have to love some of the inventive ones, such as this scarecrow doing it’s best Jeff Goldblum impression.

Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
The details!  (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)

 

In a gift shop in Marvel Superhero Island you’ll find this scarecrow reading a comic book. A closer look reveals the cover of the comic book is one drawn by Shelby Denham, featured in these very pages last week.

Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk.(photo by Michael Carelli)
Scarecrow Stalk. (photo by Michael Carelli)

So there you have it: Six Reasons we Love Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

6 Events That Won’t Be On ANY Theme Park Calendar

The SATURDAY SIX Takes a Spooky Stroll through the 2021 HHN Tribute Store

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

REMINDER: This Thursday is the last day of the month which means it is time for the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX!

We’ll cover all the latest news and notes from the world of Disney and Universal, including the opening of Space 220 in EPCOT (along with its signature cocktails), Rise of the Resistance going to Standby Only, and we finally answer the question long asked by Disney Annual Passholders: Is There Anything in World Showcase Besides Beer Kiosks Along the Water?

Space 220’s Beaver Blastoff. (art by Scott Walker)

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One thought on “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30!

  • September 25, 2021 at 10:34 am
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    The brisket grilled cheese and the jalapeño popper grilled cheese were delicious! You are so right- it’s the working man’s food festival!

    Reply

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