Aliens fighting predators. A lost colony in Virginia turned into flesh-eating cannibals. Dracula and his minion of vampires. A demented dollhouse. And let’s not leave out the chilling, blank stare of Michael Myers from the classic horror flick, “Halloween,” as well as the “walkers,” the humans-turned-zombies from the hit AMC TV show, “The Walking Dead.”
Once again, it’s that time of year when Universal Studios Orlando transforms its park into the popular nighttime event, Halloween Horror Nights 24 (HHN), where fog machines obscure vision, screams can be heard from dark corners in the haunted houses, and scare zones transform guests to places where only nightmares exist.
I have attended a few HHN events in the past, with a purchased general admission ticket, when the wait time was at least an hour or more for each haunted house; and an Express Pass ticket that made the experience a bit more bearable while waiting in line for only 20 minutes. But this year, we decided to experience the park VIP-style, and it was well worth it. Long lines? Not a problem. With the VIP tour, we bypassed all the lines for access into the eight haunted houses, and the rides, too. It’s definitely the best way to experience the park in one night.
Our RIP VIP Tour
The best part about our RIP VIP tour was our guide throughout the night, Aaron B. Not only was she patient with us as we tried to decide if our next stop was the Transformers: The Ride-3D or the AVP: Alien vs. Predator haunted house, but she also had the credentials to lead us up to the front entrance of each haunted house without having to wait in line. (At one point, the line for the Halloween haunted house was 175 minutes long. For us? It felt like two seconds!) This is how it works: With the non-private RIP VIP Tour—there is a private option as well—guests take a guided tour of the park (because we were media, it was only us and Aaron, but normally guests are paired in a group of 12 with other guests for the night); experience all of the haunted houses one time each; ride two park attractions with front-of-the-line access; and have reserved seating for the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure Show. The tour departs at 8 p.m. and lasts up to four hours. Starting price for the tour is $109.99 pp. The private VIP tour, for a group of 10, starts at $1,299, and includes unlimited access to all haunted houses and rides, and a 30-minute break. The private tours depart at 7 p.m. and last until the park closes.
A Night of Fear
To give a full description of each haunted house would take too much time—and it’s really hard to remember what happened when your eyes are closed shut—but there were a few haunted houses that had us squealing in fear. One of my favorites was The Walking Dead: End of the Line. The largest haunted house out of the eight, it seemed to pull us right into the TV show. The makeup of the “walkers” looked unbelievably real and watching actors pretend to be eaten alive was a bit daunting. I felt I was there in the prison running for my life.
My second favorite house was Halloween. Michael Myers has always scared me, and watching him cut and slash people as they try to run away from him left me a bit queasy, so queasy, in fact, that it was the only haunted house that I visited twice. (Yes, I enjoy the pain!) The other plus about our VIP tour was the front-of-the-line access we had to not only the haunted houses, but also the rides. For example, when we wanted to ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster, Aaron lead us into an elevator, we climbed a flight of stairs, and there we were, at the very front of the line. Doesn’t get much better than that.
The Street Experiences, sections of the park that are considered scare zones with characters dressed in top-notch Halloween costumes wandering around the area scaring guests and posing for pictures, were very, very impressive. Our favorite was the Face Off—In the Flesh section, which is based on the reality TV show about makeup artists creating impressive creatures and out-of-this-world characters. Other scare zones were The Purge—Anarchy, Bayou of Blood, and MASKerade: Unstitched.
Finding refuge at Cabana Bay
The great part about staying at a Universal Studios Orlando Resort property is the transportation to and from the parks, which was the case when we hopped on a bus that took us to Universal Studios Orlando in about five minutes. After experiencing the terrors of Halloween Horror Nights 24, we were able to find refuge at the newly opened Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a retro-designed hotel with 1,800 guestrooms, including 900 family suites.
Our family suite included two queen beds, a living room with sleeper sofa, and a kitchenette with microwave and a small fridge. Although we did not have a chance to experience much of the resort’s amenities during our 1-night stay, the hotel does feature a lazy river, two swimming pools, a waterpark for kids, onsite dining and a bowling alley. Rates start at $119 for a standard guestroom and $174 for family suites; hotel guests also pay $10 a day for overnight parking.
For Halloween Horror Nights VIP tickets and information, call (866) 346-9350; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit Halloween Horror Nights. Check out New Happenings at Universal Orlando for more info on Cabana Bay Beach Resort.