Universal Orlando recently held its Halloween Seasonal Event Testing event this past weekend. With Halloween Horror Nights not taking place this year, Universal is adjusting and trying to feature ways to bring the Halloween season to guests. The event features Trick or Treating, seasonal food, and daytime operations of a couple of haunted houses.
One thing that should be noted is that this event is not Halloween Horror Nights; nor is it pretending to be. It also needs to be stressed that this past weekend was a test, hence “Testing” in the title – so it’s also really hard to call it a review. However, we did it experience everything that the event had to offer, so a “review” is what you will get.
The Haunted Houses
The meat of the event was the opening of 2 haunted houses that were originally set to open for Halloween Horror Nights – Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives! and Revenge of the Tooth Fairy.
Both houses have been altered to adhere to the new pandemic safety guidelines, which makes the experience a lot different than your traditional Horror Nights house run. The “SiF” (Stuff in Face) is gone, plexiglass has been installed to separate actors from guests, and guests are now pulsed to help keep social distancing enforced.
There are pros and cons to this, but it’s the life and times we live in. The big pro is that the pulsing allows you to take in the scenes and stories, allowing you to take in the house and understand what was happening. On the flip side, the con is the plexiglass. It’s a necessity, but it does telegraph where actors are, and therefore telegraph the scare. Despite the changes, most of what you love about Horror Nights’ houses remain; with impressive sets and perfect attention to detail.
We found both houses to be excellent, but are leaning towards The Bride of Frankenstein Lives as our favorite. The house is a quasi-sequel of both HHN 29’s Universal Monsters house and the film The Bride of Frankenstein. The story goes that Frankenstein’s monster dies after being crushed by falling rubble. The Bride vows to bring him back to life and decides to use the blood of Dracula’s Brides to do so. Guests make their way through the castle and laboratory as the Bride tries several experiments to bring her mate back to life. The house delivers in scares considering the limitations and features some damn impressive sets. There are instances where you can see had this been a normal run, certain scenes would be very intense – especially as you reach the back-half of the house.
In Revenge of the Tooth Fairy, we follow the story of James Westhorne, a young boy who recently lost a tooth and who, despite warnings, does not want to follow the tradition of giving his tooth to the Tooth Fairy. Turns out the “Faerie Folk” aren’t keen on that idea and wreak havoc on James and his family. The facade is the highlight, and while it may not grand in scope like the Dead Waters ferryboat, it is one of the most creative and visually stunning facades in recent memory. The house itself has some good scares and exceptional storytelling. The downfall of this house is the plexiglass, which is a bit more obvious compared to The Bride of Frankenstein Lives; but again, we understand the need for it.
Overall, we’ve had several runs at each house and felt operations were run well and very safely. There were some hiccups with the Virtual Line, but on a testing weekend, hiccups are to be expected.
Food & Drink
In recent years, Universal has gone all-in on unique food and drink offerings, and this year is no different. The Tribute Store already featured an assortment of sweet goodies. With the event, Universal added 2 food trucks and converted Cafe La Bamba into the Skeleton Bar.
The Skeleton Bar is one of the cooler things they’ve done, with the bar located right in the middle of a little haunted walk-through. The bar also features some food; including the returning S’Mores Fries.
The bar features 3 drinks; Circus Peanut, Mango Inferno, and Loup-Garou. If you followed along on Twitter, you probably saw a fair amount of unfavorable reviews on the Circus Peanut – which we also did not enjoy at all. The drink features Skrewball Peanut Butter whiskey, Creme de Banana, Campari, and Orange Juice. The Loup-Garou was great, though; very easy to drink and was more reminiscent of a traditional Horror Nights drink. It features Pussers British Navy Rum, Cruzan Dark, Pineapple Juice, honey, chamomile tea, lemon juice, and pimento bitters.
Universal also added 2 food trucks that featured some crazy twists on food, including Twisted Tater Hot Dogs, Pork Rind Nachos, and Fried Chicken and Funnel Cake. Of the three, we really enjoyed the sweet and salty combo of the Fried Chicken and Funnel Cake, officially called Franken Fried Chicken and Funnel Brains. The strawberry sauce surprisingly pairs well with the chicken, which is something I would have never expected to say. The Twisted Tater Hot Dog comes as a basic tater wrapped around the dog, with the option to add “Blood and Guts” aka cheese and chili. The Pork Rind Nachos, aka the Electrofied Skin and Guts, had good flavor but was a tough chew.
In an effort to cater to younger guests, Universal has set up the Scarecrow Stalk around Universal Studios Florida. Like the Christmas Tree Hunt last year, the Stalk features 13 different scarecrows and skeletons at various locations around the park that guests must locate. After collecting all 13 stamps, guests receive a free trick or treat candy sampler bag and also can get a 30% on bulk candy at San Francisco Candy Factory or Studio Sweets. The figures themselves are pretty impressive, with our favorites being the Leprechaun in the Irish Shop and The Pumpkin Alien in the MIB Gear Shop.
Trick or Treating
Over at Islands of Adventure, guests under 12 can go Trick or Treating around the park. Since we are not under 12, we did not partake; but here’s a list of the participating locations:
- Islands of Adventure Trading Company
- Christmas Store
- Mulberry Street Store
- Cat in the Hat Store
- Treasures of Poseidon
- Dino Store
- Gasoline Alley
- Toon Extra
- Comic Shop
- Alterniverse Marvel Store
Each location is marked by a pumpkin decal and has different candies to offer, including Nerds, Tootsie Pops, Starburst, and Jolly Rancher.
Overall, we’d say the test was a success and went as smoothly as a testing weekend can go, with the Team Members and actors all did a tremendous job. As of now, the event was only confirmed for this past weekend. Hopefully, Universal decides soon to expand the event into the Halloween season so we can get our spooky on.