OK, so it’s not really Halloween Horror Nights. It’s more like “Halloween Horror Days Lite,” but it’s what we’re getting this year at Universal Orlando. We had a chance to go through the two haunted houses they’re offering this weekend. Here’s what it’s like to socially distance in a haunted house.
No photos, videos or audio were allowed, so we can’t show you what we experienced, but hopefully you’ll get a chance to see it yourself. We’re hoping the test this weekend goes well so Universal will add more weekends through Halloween, and maybe even add more haunted houses.
Both Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives houses are great. These aren’t “thrown-together-at-the-last-minute” haunted houses. You can tell these were built for the full event that isn’t happening. Before we get into the safety differences, here’s our description of each house. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Revenge of the Tooth Fairy features a story you’re walking through about a child who doesn’t want to give his teeth to the tooth fairy, so evil fairies take revenge on him and his family… and you! The maze starts out as a literal black and white pop-up storybook and turns to color as you walk through it. Evil fairies are around every corner and even inside the walls. Our reporter Seth Kubersky said it reminds him of “Scary Tales” meets “Bone Collectors.”
Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives starts with the bride visibly and audibly upset that her monster is dead. How will she bring him back to life? By harvesting the blood of the brides of Dracula – and you’re caught in the battle. You’ll also see some other famous monsters being used to help bring Frankie back to life.
So about those safety measures; there’s both good and bad to them. Both houses’ queues were spaced out with markers on the ground, just like other attractions. This worked well, except when the line extended out past where the markers were. Perhaps they’ll add more.
As you go in each house (both are in soundstages), a team member will give you hand sanitizer, just as they do before you get on any ride at Universal (although there’s nothing you should be touching inside either house). They may also hand you a glow stick. They seemed to be handing the glow sticks out at Bride of Frankenstein, but not Tooth Fairy for some reason. These are so team members inside the houses know which parties are together and when another one starts.
As you’re walking through the houses, you’ll frequently get stopped by the house operations team (dressed in black with glowing flashlights) to keep you from getting too close to the guests in front of you. This can be good and bad – bad because it’s not a fluid walk-through, but good if you’re like me and you always hate how they sometimes hurry you through the houses. Whenever I was stopped, I took the time to look around and enjoy the artistic scenery.
Almost every scareactor is both behind plexiglass and wearing a mask. Sometimes this is barely noticeable and sometimes it’s obvious. Most of the scare actors in Tooth Fairy are wearing full masks anyway as part of their character’s look. But in Bride, it’s weird to see the Bride of Frankenstein wearing a face mask.
Some of the plastic is only across where the scareactor’s head is and other were full sheets. If you see some plexiglass and you don’t get a scare there, you can assume you missed it. But that brings me to another good and bad part of the safety measures. It’s good that guests are sent in one group at a time, because most of the scares are timed to scare just your group as you go by. When I was stopped in an area where a scare was, it didn’t keep happening over and over as I waited about 30-60 seconds to move on. It’s also good if you like the idea of going through a haunted house by yourself, as now you pretty much can. But it’s bad if you’re alone and you don’t like the idea of going through a haunted house by yourself.
In addition to the haunted houses, there’s also some other Halloween-related offerings.
Café La Bamba has been converted to a Skeleton Bar, complete with a short, spooky walk-through:
The bar offers drinks as well as a few food options. The main options are an Incantation Shrimp Cocktail, Vegan Jack’dup Mac, Bloody Charred Tandori Skewer, and Screaming for S’mores Fries. S’mores Fries may sound weird, but they’re made from sweet potato fries and are very tasty. I had the vegan mac and cheese and it was great.
There are also two food trucks to choose from. The one near the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store features the HHN favorite, Twisted Taters, as well as Twisted Taters with a hot dog in the middle called Twisted Frank-N-Coils.
There’s also a new scavenger hunt game that’s free to play called Scarecrow Stalk. Similar to the Christmas tree hunt they’ve had before, you follow the map around the park finding skeletons or scarecrows. Find them all for a candy reward.
Over in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, kids ages 12 and under can trick-or-treat at various stores for candy. I didn’t see anyone dressed up today, but maybe there will be more on the weekend.
I’m so glad at least a couple of Halloween Horror Nights haunted houses were able to open. I hope all the guests behave themselves this weekend as they get their virtual passes to go through, so Universal Orlando can continue the spooky fun.