Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood (HHN) delivered quite a powerful horror punch this year! HHN has always strutted its talents and continues to be one of the top Halloween Haunts in Southern California, and this year was no exception. With the absence of the event in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it felt fantastic to walk the park once again and experience the Halloween Haunt season.
After the park’s 2020 hiatus, I had no idea what to expect, and I was pretty nervous. Would it be a dud? Or would the park come in hot and offer something slightly new? For the 2021 season, Halloween Horror Nights offered six mazes along with an intense Terror Tram Ride. Some mazes were repeated from past years but still delivered. The Curse of Pandora’s Box, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and finally, my favorite, Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives. The park offered three scare zones on the upper lot to companion the mazes, Chainsaw Rangers, Demon City, and Universal Monsters: Silver Screen Queenz, where female monsters were promoted. The park’s Grand Pavilion Plaza was decked out to the theme of De Los Muertos and gave a space where guests could chill and grab an adult beverage.
Usually, with unbearable crowds and wait times of 2-3 hours for some mazes (I always recommend front of the line), I didn’t witness wait times hit past the sixty-minute mark this year. The crowd seemed relatively controlled, and there was not an overwhelming amount of people stuffed into the park, and it was sold out; this may have been the result of Covid-19 protocols. In regards to the theme park’s approach to protocol, the park seemed to be very cautious. The theme park required that all guests and employees wear their masks in mazes and indoor spaces; however, I witnessed all employees following mask protocols outside of these spaces. About ninety percent of the guests I noticed were wearing masks outside of these spaces well. Everyone appeared to be well behaved along with the scareactors; they were masked up as well. I was delighted, and in The Bride of Frankenstein Lives maze, the Bride wore a surgical mask, and it presented a fitting aesthetic as her new role as the MAD doctor! I was very appreciative of the park’s sensitivity and approach to the following protocol. As of October 7, if you attend amusement parks in Los Angeles County (including Universal), you’ll have to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours before entering the park.
Favorite & Least Favorite Attraction
My favorite part of the experience this year, hands down, was the Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge. I had always felt that the park had oversaturated itself with The Walking Dead and Purge theming in the years past. Still, this year’s Terror Tram experience inspired by The Purge franchise, with the most recent release The Forever Purge, was the perfect dose of fright for the evening. The Terror Tram utilizes the studio’s iconic backlot and the massive setpiece from War of the Worlds. This experience will make you feel like you’re amid a real-life purge from the set decorations, the atmosphere, and the costumes. The Terror Tram also features a photo with Norman Bates right in front of the Psycho house, and if you listen closely, you may hear mother calling for him.
If you are cramped for time and had to choose one maze to skip this year, I would say it would be The Exorcist. When the maze initially debuted a few years back, I remember it not giving me that wow factor; it was just dull. This time around, the feeling was the same. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed looking at the set pieces, and it does capture some of the most haunting and famous scenes from the classic film, and it does an excellent job of depicting the battle between good and evil, I just was not “feeling it,” and it felt recycled as you traveled from room to room.
Themed Foods & Goodies
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood has plenty of food and beverages to choose from. Fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze can dine on Leatherface’s infamous Texas Family BBQ and savor a variety of unique, horror-inspired food offerings. The Roadhouse BBQ-style restaurant run by cannibals features grilled favorites such as:
- BBQ Pork Ribs
- BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich served with crinkle-cut fries
- Texas Chili & Cheese Nachos: Texas Chili with smoked brisket and chuck roast topped with cheese, pickled jalapeños, and sour cream drizzle
- 22″ Monster Hot Dog
- Sweet Dessert “Bloody” Funnel Fingers with Powdered Sugar & Strawberry Sauce
- Specialty Cocktails
In Plaza de Los Muertos, guests are invited to toast the living and celebrate the dead at a themed bar with a choice of draft and canned beers as well as handcrafted cocktails – Marigold Floral Crown, Smoked Margarita, and The Chamoy Fireball – served in a festive light-up skull mug. Inspired by Los Angeles’ diverse culture, the menu at Little Cocina includes:
- Beef Birria Tacos with Red Sauce
- Green Chili & Cheese Tamale, served with salsa Roja
- Grilled Elote Corn brushed with lime butter and topped with spices
- Horchata Churro Bites
- Chamoy Pineapple Spears
In the shadow of “Jurassic World—The Ride,” guests can eat and drink at the Terror Lab, which is modeled after an experimental test lab gone wrong, complete with an eerie neon glow. The Lab’s menu features:
- French Bread Pizzas: house-made hoagie roll topped with either cheese or pepperoni
- Mixed Drinks on ice (Vodka Mule, Rum Mai Tai, Paloma, Margarita)
- Specialty Cocktail, including one with an insect lollipop
- Seasonal “Halloween Horror Nights” Beers
Overall, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2021 was a memorable experience, and the park did a phenomenal job just considering that they came off of hiatus. The lack of scare zones was the only downfall that I can point out; in the past, Univeral has had ramped up their scare zones, usually having around five. I get it in the grand scheme of things; I am sure there were quite a few uncertainties, the biggest one, would there be an HHN this year? I am sure glad that park decided to move further and give us Horror Nights this year. I often wonder what we would have got last year, in 2020? I was also pleasantly surprised that the Harry Potter area, including the ride, was opened; in the past, this event was closed during the horror nights. Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights is a definite recommendation. From my observations, a front-of-the-line pass was not as crucial as it had been in past years.
Halloween Horror Nights will run on selected nights now through October 31 at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.
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