Boo … Did I Scare You? – J. A. Bove

Halloween is back, well almost. I know this might seem a bit premature, but let’s face it – Halloween is right around the corner. It’s time to buy the costumes for the kids, decorate your home, and line-up those costume parties. Spooky season is back.

I had an interesting weekend as I went to Universal Studio’s, Halloween Horror Nights, in Orlando, Florida. I have to admit, this was the first time I’ve been back in well over ten years. During that time they did make a significant amount of changes (all for the better). I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to return, but I suppose living in Tampa and having Busch Gardens, Howl-O-Scream in my back yard, it’s just easier to stay at home. If you do end up going to Orlando, I would highly recommend doing these two things. One, stay at one of the hotels located on the premises. Two, (and I can’t emphasize this enough) get the express pass.

The event doesn’t open until 6:30, so if you do decide to stay in Universal, you’ll have three hotels located directly on the premises to chose from – no choice is bad. The Hard Rock Hotel is the hotel located closest to the event – only 5 minutes walking distance. Another choice for families would be either The Royal Pacific, located near the Islands of Adventures, or my personal favorite, The Portofino. Granted the Portofino Bay is the furthest hotel from the actual parks, but I think they provide the best service and I really like the atmosphere. You don’t feel like you’re at a theme park.

Where to begin. Well, the first thing you should do is get some food. They serve a lot of alcohol at this event, so you might want to coat the stomach. You’re going to be in for a long night. We grabbed a meal at Pat O’Brien’s, located on the City Walk, and of course we had to have some of their world famous Hurricanes. I’m not exactly sure what’s in the drink, but I would highly recommend it. Not that I personally needed some, but let’s just say some of whom I was with wanted to get some liquid courage into their system before they entered the park.

You arrive at the park and are immediately immersed into their world of horror. What I really enjoy is that they don’t just make the haunted attractions the only event to experience; they really go all out. The have numerous characters ranging from Hell Raisers, Chainsaw murderers, and zombies walking throughout the park trying to scare the bejesus out of you. The lights are dim and the smoke effect is on full blast. The scary music and sound effects are turned up high, and of course they have the haunted attractions located throughout the entire park. This year, if I’m correct, I believe there were a total of eight houses you could walk through.

Before we had an opportunity to walk through the attractions and start our experience the women in the group had other plans. They were immediately drawn to the psychics that were located on the premises ($25 a reading). Being in a good mood, I encouraged them to go get a reading. Half an hour later … they were pleased with their readings and we continued on our adventure.  We decided to go on a ride before we did the tour of houses, so we went on The Mummy. This is one of the better attractions at the park and is worth doing. Plus it was still a little light outside and there was zero wait to go on the ride.

Okay, psychics done, scary ride out of the way, and stomachs lined with nachos and rum. Ah, it’s finally dark outside, let’s go into some houses. This is where part two of my recommendations comes in very handy. Did you ever hear the saying – time is money? This couldn’t have been truer in this instance. Now as I mentioned, they have a total of eight attractions you could enter this season. I only made it into five, but I could have made all eight if I really wanted to. Truth be told, I got tired. Maybe it was the alcohol. Who am I kidding, it was definitely the alcohol. The point I’m trying to make here is that if I didn’t get the express pass, I only would have made it into three attractions at most.  The line to get into each house had to have been over an hour wait. Express pass, no more than ten minutes.

My favorite attraction was The Thing. I’m a big fan of snow, which is why I live in Florida. You feel as though you were thrust into the middle of an artic expedition gone bad. Snow blew throughout the attraction with destruction, chaos, and psychos all around.  The next, which was very creative, was The In- Between, a 3D experience. At one point you walk through a narrow hall on a bridge where the walls are spinning. Did I mention that I had a few drinks? It wasn’t a great feeling, but the effects were very cool.

The only complaint I had, if any were to be made, was that there were so many people waiting to enter these attractions you felt like cattle being led into the slaughter house. Get out the prods and push us through. You could see the entertainers jump out from the corners as you approached, so you knew exactly where everyone was hiding. This takes away from the fear factor, just a little. It got so common that I pointed to a few of them to let them know to not bother. At one point a girl of roughly four feet tried to jump out and scare me. I felt so bad for her that I yelled. I wanted to make her feel as if she did her job. Most others I pointed out just lowered their heads and crawled back into their corners.

We ended the night with a quick wait to get on the Simpson ride with some  – wait for it – teenagers. Ahh! This was probably the scariest part of the night. If you’ve never been, it’s the best ride at Universal. I would highly recommend trying, unless you’re with said teenagers.  All in all, it was an entertaining experience. Next time around I’m going to have to bring the kids. This time though was for me and it was worth the wait.

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