Universal’s HHN Lite is underway! No, this isn’t the real name of the event. Officially called Halloween Seasonal Experience Testing, Universal has opened two haunted houses, a Skeleton Bar, and other spooky activities to celebrate this awesome season.
Updated to add: This event will now run Sept 26-27 as well as daily from October 3-Nov 1.
Will you be attending this event on Sunday (the last currently-announced date)? Here are some important things you need to know:
Get To The Parks EARLY!
Updated to Add: This article was written when the houses were only announced for one weekend. Since the houses will no be operating daily for almost one month, you probably won’t have to arrive so early to secure a spot – especially on weekdays.
If you want to maximize your chances of seeing the haunted houses, you need to arrive at the park EARLY. We were waiting at the parking toll booths before 7am Saturday morning (and we weren’t the only ones). Once you get through security, head directly to the gate and claim your spot in line. It could mean the difference in getting a spot in the virtual queue or not.
Virtual Queues Are Required for the Haunted Houses… Usually
In order to access any of the HHN Lite haunted houses, you must have a virtual queue pass. To obtain one of these passes, you must download the Universal Orlando Resort App. If you’ve never secured one of these passes before, the app might look a little confusing. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Open the app, and click on the three lines in the upper left hand corner.
- Click on the Virtual Line Experience section of the sidebar menu. Do not go to the Halloween Horror Nights section! This is informational only.
- Click on the Virtual Line Venues tab.
- You’ll then see a list of available venues. Once the houses become available, you’ll be able to select them from the list.
- Once you’ve selected a house, use the slider to choose the size of your party.
- Pick the time you want to see the house.
- Set a reminder or alarm so that you don’t forget your ticket time.
- Arrive at the venue at your specified time and show your assigned QR code to a team member. If you’d like to read more about this system, see my guide for Universal’s virtual queue, written when the parks first re-opened.
HHN Lite Pro Tips:
- Each member of your party can secure multiple virtual line passes at an individual attraction. Divide and conquer! Assign one person to grab passes for Revenge of the Toothfairy while another is working on passes for The Bride of Frankenstein Lives.
- Once time slots fill up (and they will very quickly), it is possible that additional times could show up throughout the day. Keep checking and refreshing the app.
- Again, arrive early! Not only do the virtual queues reach capacity very quickly, but the first people inside the park might have an opportunity to jump into a standby line before Universal actually opens. It’s not guaranteed, but on Saturday morning they began letting guests into the park with enough time to jump into a standby queue before the virtual lines officially opened. Just to reiterate, it’s not guaranteed that they will open standby queues on another morning, but it’s worth arriving early to take advantage of the potential opportunity.
Don’t Be Afraid… Of Crowds
Even though the event reached capacity, there was plenty of room to practice social distancing. Contrary to popular belief, Universal Studios Florida was very manageable in regards to crowds on Saturday… and this was OPENING DAY (besides select previews, of course). We always felt safe enough to take a stroll around to park without having to be too paranoid. However….
Smaller lines (for food carts, merchandise, etc) do build up around the park, sometimes overflowing into walking paths. Make sure to be careful in these areas.
While You Wait For Your Virtual Queue Time, Stalk Some Scarecrows!
Even if you have to wait a few hours before your virtual queue reservation, you can still participate in some Halloween fun. Universal has created a “Scarecrow Stalk” scavenger hunt stretching throughout the entire park. To play, you’ll first need to find one of the Scarecrow Stalk maps. You can find these in several locations, but the easiest place to find it is in the Universal Studios Store near the entrance.
Using your HHN Lite map to find the 13 scarecrow skeletons “hidden” around the park, you’ll need to get a stamp from each specified location. Honestly, I’m not normally one for scavenger hunts, but this was really fun. The scarecrows were super detailed, and it gave an excuse to explore some retail stores I hadn’t been inside in a very long time.
Once you’ve gathered your stamps, you can head to either San Francisco Candy Factory or Studio Sweets to redeem your prize- CANDY! You can pick from a variety of treats like candy corn or gummy worms.
Celebrate The Season With Special Foods
There are a couple locations to purchase Halloween Horror Nights themed snacks. You can visit a special food truck near the Tribute Store – featuring Twisted Taters and Twisted Hot Dogs.
OR visit Cafe La Bamba for a special Skeleton Bar! Here you’ll find snacks like tandoori chicken and vegan mac and cheese. You can also buy speciality drinks inside a Halloween themed “set.” That’s right. A whole section of La Bamba has been transformed into a haunted house-like atmosphere with spooky set pieces, ominous lighting, and a special appearance from this guy…
HHN Lite Haunted Houses
There are two haunted houses open this weekend: Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Bride of Frankenstein Lives. Both have modified their operations to ensure guest and team member safety during the event:
- Each of the queues have easily noticeable social distance markers 6 ft. apart from each other. These markers lead into the house until you enter the first scene.
- Before you enter the house, each of the members of your party will be given hand sanitizer.
- All scaractors are wearing masks that cover their nose and mouth. Either they’re wearing a full-coverage character mask or a regular (but not distracting) face covering.
- Guests are separated from scaractors with plexiglass. Sometimes the plexiglass reaches all the way to the floor and other times it only covers the actor’s face. Either way, it was enough to feel safe.
- Parties will be “pulsed” through the house. Team members are placed at regular intervals to ensure that guests are staying six feet apart and to assist with guest pacing.
If these are the only two houses we get to see this year, Universal chose a nice variety. The houses have completely different feels, atmospheres and storylines. Without giving any spoilers, see my (very abbreviated) thoughts below:
I was incredibly impressed with this house! The story is immediately recognizable and easy to follow from the beginning to the end. The sets are amazing, and they used a combination of effects to immerse you in the experience. The scares in this house worked very well with the plexiglass, so I did not find it distracting at all. You can almost forget it’s there, and when you do notice it – the scaractors are actually using it to their advantage!
I had to go through this house multiple times in order to really appreciate it. Much of the story is told through narration and physical written words on the walls, so it was hard to catch everything the first time. Additionally, the plexiglass in this house was very noticeable and distracting. While I ultimately ended up getting super creeped out (which is the goal right?), I didn’t enjoy this house nearly as much Brides.
Freaky Thoughts: HHN Lite
Wow! What an amazing treat! After all the heartbreak of this year’s cancellation, it was awesome to have a taste of Halloween (both literally and figuratively)! I hope Universal extends this event through the end of October so more people have the opportunity to enjoy two well-done houses and a host of other Halloween activities!
Thank you, Jonathan Berrier from Hung Up On Theme Parks, for your help and collaboration writing this article! You can watch/listen to his podcast about opening weekend in the video below!