by Megan Skaggs
Travel Advisor with Magic Bound Travel
I would like to start this off by having you ask yourself two questions…
1. Do you love to travel? (I assume the answer is yes, if you are reading this blog)
2. Do you love Halloween?
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you are in the right place.
I have always liked Halloween, but I would say that as I have grown older I have grown to LOVE Halloween and I have had the chance to attend several Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party’s (Or MNSSHP - as you will see any Disney Lover refer to it as). Last year, I had the chance to go to Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) at Universal Studios for the first time and to my surprise… because I have never loved Haunted Houses… I had a blast. And even came home from that trip and went to a local Haunted House!
The differences between MNSSHP and HHN are distinct. First off, MNSSHP is rated G and anyone can and should attend this event. HHN is self-proclaimed as “intense,” and recommended for ages 13 or over (parental discretion is advised).
If I am visiting Walt Disney World during the months of September or October I am going to MNSSHP. And here are the reasons why ….
HHN on the other hand is also unique, but in a different way. Instead of the bright orange pumpkins, trick-or-treating and bright lighting on Main Street at Magic Kingdom, you will enter Universal Studios to encounter 10 Haunted Houses and 5 Scare zones. It is dark throughout the park with strobe lights, terrifying monsters, and live entertainment. This event is known for its intense and immersive horror experiences….. but it is a lot of fun!
If you had to ask me which event I like better, I wouldn’t be able to choose. They are just so different. MNSSHP is family-friendly Halloween event with pumpkins, parades, fireworks and a whimsical atmosphere. The scariest thing you will see at MNSSHP is the Headless Horseman leading the parade! This event is one I feel any Halloween and Disney lover should experience.
On the other hand, HHN is an intense Halloween experience with ghosts, goblins and frightful experiences, not to be mistaken for MNSSHP. However, at both events, you are completely immersed in the Halloween experience. It is up to you which type of experience you want for your Halloween themed event! Or maybe you would like to experience both? That is what I was able to do last year and enjoyed seeing the differences between them.
As for my family, we are Halloween people and, like Megan, LOVE all things Hallween at Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort. Yet, as Megan has highlighted, the two distinct offerings of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (“MNSSHP”) and Halloween Horror Nights (“HHN”) have very little in common beyond their shared connection to the holiday.
Before sharing all that I celebrate about HHN, I need to say that MNSSHP has a very special place in my heart. I’ve attended numerous times over the years and my highlights can be summed up to two words:
Candy & Shows
Nothing beats coming back to your Disney resort hotel room with an overflowing bag of candy collected from the trick-or-treat stations all across the Magic Kingdom (typically lots of M&Ms, Snickers, and Skittles, but allergy friendly stations are available too). And the castle stage show, which the last few years has been the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular,” along with the fireworks and castle projection show, “Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular,” just gives me all the feel good Halloween vibes that are anchored in classic Disney movies and Halloween specials.
HHN is a different vibe – a VERY different vibe (and it’s so awesome).
First, let me be clear. HHN is not for young children or young families. This is for adults and teenagers, and, honestly, teenagers that are OK with horror movie level sights, sounds, and theatrics. In particular, the stage show, “Nightmare Fuel: Revenge Dream,” though theatrically amazing with fantastically gifted performers, I would only recommend it for those 16 years of age or older. Parents need to use discretion for younger teens.
With that clear advisory, you also need to know that there’s no greater Halloween experience in the country than HHN. Here’s three reasons why.
Movie set quality houses. These aren’t your local haunted houses that just throw random scare elements at you. These are Hollywood level immersive sets that demonstrate superior design, craftsmanship, lighting, and sound that carry unified theming throughout – whether those themes come from intellectual property (Stranger Things: Season 4, The Last of Us, Chucky, Universal Monsters, The Exorcist: Believer) or original concept houses (Dr. Oddfellow’s Twisted Origins, Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate, Yeti: Camp Ground Kills, The Darkest Deal, Bloodmoon: Dark Offerings).
Scare Zones. These are five different areas located on the main streets and walkways of Universal Studios that contain their own storyline, theming, “scareactors,” and on street open air sets (this year’s themes being Dr Oddfellow’s Collection of Horror, Dark Zodiac, Jungle of Doom: Expedition Horror, Vamp ‘69: Summer of Blood, Shipyear 32: Horrors Unhinged). While you can walk around most of the scare zones and just watch from afar, except for Jungle of Doom, the real fun is walking through these zones as they are like open air houses, but with much more engagement with scareactors.
Death Eaters. This is the first year of HHN that they’ve introduced “Death Eaters,” dark wizards from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, who roam around the Diagon Alley area of Universal Studios… and I geeked out! In my opinion, Diagon Alley is the best themed “land” of ANY theme park, and adding in Death Eaters who perform magic and interact with attendees takes the land, and HHN overall, to the next level, especially for Harry Potter fans.
My family just attended HHN’s opening weekend and my two teenagers, ages 14 and 16, consider HHN a must do during the Fall – and I agree! Thinking about attending? Here’s some quick tips: