October 5, 2014 – Since questions have arisen concerning the difference between First Stab and Early Entry, we thought we’d clear some confusion by delineating their differences here.
To start, First Stab only applies to annual pass members and their invited guests who have access to both daytime admission and to the nighttime event. Day/Night ticket holders who have access to both Halloween Horror Nights and Universal Studios Hollywood may not enter unless they are accompanied by an annual pass holder. As expected, the annual pass member must be present within the party to take advantage of First Stab admission.
With these qualifications in mind, First Stab attendees meet in the Transformers: The Ride 3D extended queue, located to the left of the main Transformers attraction. The queue opens between 4:30 PM and 5:45 PM as a holding area before letting guests enter the backlot at 6:45 PM. You and your guests must arrive in the park before 5 PM in order to take advantage of the First Stab privilege.
In contrast to Early Entry, First Stab patrons are among the first guests that are granted access to the backlot, which includes Walking Dead: End of Line, From Dusk till Dawn and Alien vs. Predator. As we’ve mentioned in our Survival Guide, the backlot mazes are amongst the busiest of the night, so hitting all three within the first hour or so during First Stab is not uncommon for those that plan their day. That – coupled with the shorter walk to the backlot compared to Early Entry – affords First Stab attendees a better chance of hitting all three mazes before the onrush of general admission crowds.
Whenever possible, we recommend First Stab in lieu of Early Entry.
So to reiterate:
» First Stab only applies to annual pass members and their guests who have access to both Universal Studios Hollywood and Halloween Horror Nights. In other words, normal daytime guests must have a combination ticket to participate, and annual pass holders must also have admission to the Halloween Horror Nights event.
» The First Stab queue opens promptly at 4:30 PM and closes at 5:45 PM in the Transformers extended queue located to the left of the main Transformers attraction.
» Annual pass members and their invited guests must arrive in the park by 5 PM to participate.
» First maze entry typically occurs at 6:45 PM.
» The queue will fill up, and you must have (or be accompanied by) an annual pass member to participate. The annual pass holder must be present to take advantage of the First Stab privilege.
» First Stab is not a maze or an event. It is simply the opportunity to head onto the backlot mazes before the general public, and – in many cases – before Early Entry.
In contrast, Early Entry allows all Halloween Horror Nights patrons to head onto the Terror Tram or backlot before general admission – bypassing the opening ceremonies.
On paper, instead of the concentrated nature of First Stab and its restricted access to the backlot, Early Entry gives you more choice to select from the Terror Tram alongside the backlot mazes (Walking Dead, From Dusk till Dawn, and AVP). In practice, however, most Early Entry guests evidently proceed to the backlot first followed by the Lower Lot mazes.
With that in mind, Early Entry meets in front of the park between Will Call and the entrance plaza restrooms, eventually entering through the side gate. Guests may begin queuing up around 4:30 PM in front of the park and are released between 6:30 PM – 6:45 PM near the Terror Tram entrance on the Upper Lot. From there, guests are given free reign to proceed to the Terror Tram or backlot at their will.
So to reiterate Early Entry:
» Early Entry allows general admission Halloween Horror Nights ticket holders to bypass the opening ceremonies, heading directly to the Terror Tram or the backlot before the general public.
» Early Entry takes place in front of the park between Will Call and the entrance plaza restrooms. Queues usually begin around 4:30 PM, and access to the Terror Tram and backlot begins around 6:30 – 6:45 PM.
» You do not need an annual pass to participate in Early Entry.
» In contrast to First Stab and its restricted access to the backlot mazes, Early Entry gives you early entry to the Terror Tram and backlot (though we certainly recommend hitting the backlot mazes first).
» General admission to Halloween Horror Nights is required.
» Early Entry is not a separate maze or event.
Whenever possible, we recommend taking advantage of First Stab instead of Early Entry due to its close proximity to the backlot and the nature of the backlot mazes in general. If you do not have an annual pass, Early Entry remains a fine alternative, though you will need to walk from the Terror Tram entrance to the backlot in order to get a head start on the event.
As always, feel free to ask questions below and be sure to read our Halloween Horror Nights Survival Guide to get the best out of your night.
Jon Fu is the editor-in-chief of Inside Universal.
Jon originally founded InsideUniversal.net in 2006 as a summer hobby aimed at providing families and fans a resource for all things “Universal Studios Hollywood.” Since then, the website has taken him throughout the United States and around the world – including to places like Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.
Jon currently resides in Santa Cruz, California. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.