Halloween Horror Nights might not start for another week, but the official event Tribute Store opens today! As you’re probably already aware, the HHN Tribute Store is an annual tradition – featuring a highly themed retail location with detailed rooms, spooky sound design, and the creepy atmosphere horror fans crave. The popularity of this unique practice has even led Universal to begin creating Tribute Stores for other holidays and events, such as the Christmas season and Mardi Gras!
But for now, let the scary season begin with a walk through the first full piece of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights!
Warning: Spoilers ahead for the HHN30 Tribute Store:
HHN30 Tribute Store Facade
While most years feature a different story and environment within each room, the 2021 Tribute Store has a cohesive theme throughout. We are exploring a spooky haunted house – complete with library, parlor, and outdoor stable. But, of course, before we can begin searching the rooms of this house we have to enter the front door.
When you first enter the building, you’ll come into a small parlor. It sets the tone for the rest of the store as an old, creepy house – perhaps with an interesting story to tell.
Coming into the next area of this haunted house, you’ll find yourself in what I can only call the “Music Room.” The centerpiece of this room is a huge statue of the infamous HHN Bear.
While I’m not sure if this was intentional, I noticed a distinct “Phantom of the Opera” vibe throughout the room. For one thing, there’s a huge organ on one wall – playing spooky music for shopping accompaniment.
The other reference is subtle, but it meant something to me. I noticed a curled up rope on top of one of the display cases. Could this be the Punjab Lasso, or am I just seeing what I want to see?
Besides my Phantom-obsessed brain freaking out over the organ music, this room has an enjoyably creepy vibe. It was way too crowded to look at all the details, but I look forward to more exploring throughout the event’s run!
In this room and multiple others, you’ll find glass display cases with various props, memorabilia, and other pieces of HHN history.
You never know what these cases will hold, so don’t skip them! You might find a piece of your favorite past house or HHN experience.
The Library/Icon Room
In my favorite room, we find ourselves in a grand library – surrounded by portraits and busts of past HHN Icons. The centerpiece of this room is a grand desk with notes and drawings already in progress.
The icon busts and portraits are scattered around the perimeter of the room. If you watch the portraits long enough, you might see them move! It’s a very slight motion, but I definitely saw the Caretaker open his shears a few times.
Apart from the display cases, you can also find pictures and other props depicting Horror Nights past and present.
Between the library and conservatory, you’ll find a long hallway adorned with Jack-themed wallpaper and portraits depicting real guests, Horror Nights fans, and even some well-known local personalities. Universal recently ran a promotion where individuals could purchase a portrait in the Tribute Store, submit their headshot, and become immortalized as part of HHN history!
It’s an inventive use of the hallway, and an extra income source for Universal. Honestly, I didn’t love the look – but it’s a relatively small portion of the store.
The last retail-focused room, (as opposed to snack-focused), the conservatory definitely has an evil plant/garden vibe. There are still lots of display cases around the room with other pieces of nostalgia to explore as well.
The Carriage House
Moving outside the home, we find ourselves next to the Carriage House. Before entering the stable and looking through the available snacks, take a gander at the runaway cart next door!
Inside the food hall area, you’ll find the traditional offerings of spooky snacks, including a gummy beating heart and light up brains.
Light up Brain Gummy available, in addition to Beating Heart Gummy, at the HHN Tribute Store, $7 each. pic.twitter.com/ZylzjuYNaW— Alicia Stella (@AliciaStella) August 26, 2021
But my favorite part of the whole Tribute Store experience is this final tag as you exit:
Freaky Thoughts: HHN30 Tribute Store
I enjoyed the nostalgia. Looking through old props, browsing the icon busts and portraits, discovering the Shadybrook cart, and, of course, that final tag were all super satisfying as a longtime fan of the event. But…. honestly… the overall store fell a bit flat for me. Usually I like cohesive theming, but this one felt a little boring after the first two rooms. If you enjoy learning about or reliving the event’s history, then you’ll appreciate much of the decor – just remember to manage your expectations.