Throughout my theme park adventures, I have been known to love the Halloween season here in central Florida. When my friends come for a brief fall stay they want to know what is better, Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream?
Since I’ve visited both events on multiple occasions, I thought it’ll be great to give you a breakdown on what to expect from event spirited theme park journey.
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What to Know Before You Start Your Halloween Adventure
Before we get into this ultimate SMACKDOWN, let’s go through a few things you should know before make your way out to each event.
What are the Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Dates 2023?
The 2023 Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream dates are select dates from September 8th to October 31st.
What are the Halloween Horror Nights Dates 2023?
The 2023 Halloween Horror Nights dates are also select nights from September 1st through November 4th.
As you can see, both Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) are not taking place every evening with HHN taking place Wednesdays through Sunday and Howl-O-Scream taking place Thursdays through Sundays.
What’s Busch Gardens Tampa Address?
The address for Busch Gardens is 10165 N McKinley Drive Tampa, FL 33612.
What’s Halloween Horror Nights Address?
The address for Universal Studios Florida is 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819.
What should I pack for Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream?
- Comfy Shoes
- Small Bag
- Breathable Clothing
- Sun Protection
- Small Umbrella or Poncho
- Hand Sanitizer
- Park Ticket
When is the best time to visit Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights?
The best time to attend Howl-O-Scream is during the first few opening weeks of the event.
For Halloween Horror Nights, I recommend going after opening weekend and before October.
Read the full Howl-O-Scream guide here!
What time is Halloween Horror Nights?
The Halloween Horror Nights hours start at 6:30 p.m. with closing times varying each night.
What are Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Tampa hours?
Busch Gardens usually opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. while Howl-O-Scream starts at 7 p.m. each night.
Get YOUR Halloween Horror Nights Tickets with The Park Prodigy TODAY!
Halloween Horror Nights vs. Howl-O-Scream
Now that we have some of the basics covered, let’s go through the difference between Howl-O-Scream vs Halloween Horror Nights.
Hopefully, at the end of this article you’ll be able to figure out which one is best for you.
Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream can also have busy nights.
For this, a lower crowd level makes for a more intimate and scary setting at Howl-O-Scream.
Originality of Storylines
When Halloween Horror Nights first started, the houses were original concepts with very little outside brands to interfere. That has changed within the past decade of the event.
For this reason, Halloween Horror Nights has lost a bit of its originality since it has to please the partnerships it deals with each year.
Even with all of this limited creativity, when you combine the Universal Creative Team unique storylines for their original houses and the unnerving concepts of the intellectual properties, they still dominate the Halloween event game.
Howl-O-Scream has gotten better every year with their storytelling in the mazes, but they still can’t compete with Halloween Horror Nights in this category.
After all, Universal Studios was originally created as a working studio with legit writers, producers, directors and other creatives.
Winner: Halloween Horror Nights
Quality of Horror
The production quality of the overall event at Halloween Horror Nights is phenomenal.
Of course, they have a much bigger budget to work with, but Busch Garden is not too far off.
Halloween Horror Nights Houses 2023
- Chucky: This haunted house will be inspired by the USA & SYFY hit series, “Chucky” that will release the iconic killer doll at Universal Orlando Resort to terrify you!
- The Last of Us: You’ll experience the intense struggle as you navigate through a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a crazy fungal virus.
- Stranger Things: Not only will you go through the iconic scenes in Hawkins, you’ll also come face-to-face with your darkest fears such as the demobats and even Vecna himself.
- The Exorcist – Believer: This house is inspired by Universal Pictures’ terrifying new horror film from Blumhouse and Morgan Creek Entertainment (in theaters Friday, October 13).
- Universal Monsters – Unmasked: Sixty feet below the bustling streets, a sinister secret awaits in the form of Universal Monsters: Unmasked, a brand new haunted house that will send shivers down your spine.
- Dr. Oddfellow – Twisted Origins: Step right up, folks! Welcome to Dr. Oddfellow’s twisted menagerie, an eerie collection of bizarre oddities that will send chills down your spine.
- Dueling Dragons: Choose Thy Fate: With Merlyn out of the picture, there’s now a struggle for power between two warlocks who decide to invade Merlyn’s castle with one goal in mind: steal his spell book.
- YETI – Campground Kills: Imagine being in a 1950s campground, where a pack of monstrous yetis is on a rampage, terrorizing campers, rangers, and anyone unlucky enough to cross their path.
- The Darkest Deal: The Collector has a proposition for Pinestraw – he’s willing to grant him musical glory, but at a huge cost.
- Bloodmoon – Dark Offerings: As you step into this chilling world, your challenge lies in not becoming a sacrificial victim.
2023 Halloween Horror Nights Scare Zones
- Dr. Oddfellow’s Collection of Horror: Dr. Oddfellow will lift the veil on all the horrors where you all will soon realize you may not survive the evening.
- Dark Zodiac: Dr. Oddfellow, who has taken a dive into a creepy dark dimension. His goal? To tap into the power of the Zodiac and become immortal.
- Jungle of Doom: Expedition Horror: Dr. Oddfellow is taking his demented ways into the deep jungle to perform terrible experiments on nature. See what terrifying creatures await in the 1920s.
- Vamp ’69: Summer of Blood: The 1960s music fest has landed in a small New York town and while you’re partying it up with popular bands, Dr. Oddfellow is quietly waiting to release ravenous vampires upon you.
- Shipyard 32: Horrors Unhinged: A 1940s San Francisco mysterious shipping yard is filled with unearthly crates and cages that have Dr. Oddfellow’s symbol on them. Just when you think you’re safe, you’re attacked from all sides with the chaos brought on by the petrifying oddities.
2023 Howl-O-Scream Houses
- Stranglewood Estate: Evil darkness now fills this once lively home sitting eerily in town…
- The Residence: Home for the Holidays: Don’t let the suburban façade deceive you…
- D.H. Baggum’s Circus of Fear: Join D.H. Baggum as he exposes you to all of his monstrosities that leave you terrified from the nightmarish spectacles in the Circus of Fear!
- Witch of the Woods: Don’t get caught up in this deep, dark forest…
- The Forgotten – Uprising: The underground realm of vampires are waiting on you…
2023 Howl-O-Scream Scare Zones
- RAVENS MILL: Your worst nightmare is hidden within the foliage of the corn field of Raven’s Mill.
- BEYOND THE VEIL: Tucked deeply in the path of Nairobi is an evil presence taking form in the dark forest. Be sure to look out for fairies and orcs on your nighttime stroll.
- THE SHORTCUT: Don’t take the shortcut through the cemetery…
- BIG ED’S DEMOLITION DERBY (NEW): Prepare yourself to enter a twisted world where Big Ed has gathered the roughest, toughest, and meanest baddies from all corners of the event.
- THE JUNKYARD: You don’t want to become one of the scrap parts of the junkyard…do you?
- SIN CITY ZOMBIES (NEW): Located on the outskirts of the bustling Vegas strip, you will find a dilapidated motel that houses exceptional performers and is infested with relentless zombies.
- HIDDEN SCARE ZONE & ROAMING HORDES: Keep a look out for unexpected popups of demented creatures through hidden scares zones as you make your way through Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream. (Final details pending for 2023)
Since Busch Gardens budget may be smaller to work with for the props, they are able to have scareactors compensate for that lack of budget.
This creates some of the most intense houses in regards to the unleashing of the scareactors’ abilities.
But still, in regards to overall horror quality, Universal wins this one.
Winner: Halloween Horror Nights
Ability to Scare…more screams please!
Both Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights approaches their scare factors differently.
At Halloween Horror Nights you get a full out Hollywood type of production with a foreboding atmosphere of fear.
Over at Howl-O-Scream, there’s a constant need for the scareactors to frighten you with no end in sight.
These frights are usually more jump scare related than the legendary eerie type of feel known at Universal Studios.
Many theme park visitors like the jump scares as a way of having that constant adrenaline flow throughout the night.
Howl-O-Scream definitely comes through for this type of fear, but based on your own preference of scare tactics, HHN may be more down your ally.
Affordability: What does it cost to go to Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream?
This can be a reason as to why the ticket prices are much higher at Halloween Horror Nights.
Halloween Horror Nights Tickets Single-Night Price
Tickets for Halloween Horror Nights start at $79.99.
Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Tickets 2023
- Howl-O-Scream Tickets for a Single-Night starts at $37.99
- The Howl-O-Scream Unlimited Admission Tickets start at $104.99 with admission to all nights – this is the best value for you
With Bill and Ted no longer at Halloween Horror Nights, that infamous pop culture show absence is definitely noticeable.
Even with the addition of the incredible nighttime shows, the entertainment has suffered.
What has saved Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) in this category was the new Halloween Marathon of Mayhem show.
The fantastic lagoon show featured legendary moments inspired by some of the Halloween classic images.
Complete with giant water screens highlighting iconic horror scenes, accented with more than 100 fountains, awesome special effects, pounding electro music, lasers and more!
The HHN lagoon show is currently postponed for 2023.
Halloween Nightmare Fuel
The HHN show is a sequel to last year’s fan-favorite “Halloween Nightmare Fuel Wildfire” show features the world-famous performance group, The Fuel Girls.
Halloween Nightmare Fuel Wildfire highlights a new Dreamer in the depths of a new nightmare set to an intense metal, rock and electronica score..
Busch Gardens has improved their entertainment options in a major way!
Discover the captivating Festival Fields stage at Busch Gardens Tampa, where you will be enthralled by the exhilarating Rock the Grave show.
The fan-favorite, Fiends Show, is not returning this year.
This show was definitely a Howl-O-Scream classic or should I say the naughty nurses were a classic for this Tampa experience.
Busch Gardens has also added the following Halloween inspired shows below:
- Scare-E-Oke (NEW): It’s an opportunity for you to step into the spotlight and take your turn behind the microphone, adding an extra level of excitement to the event.
- The Rolling Bones: Be sure to catch a “live” performance of this boney band performing classic rock songs in the Dragon Fire Grill!
- Cirque X-Scream: Get captivated by aerial performances and incredible stunts during the Cirque X-Scream this year at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream in Tampa.
Even with these additional shows at Busch Gardens, HHN night shows are world class and for this, I have to give this category to Universal Orlando.
Winner: Halloween Horror Nights
Since the early years of Halloween Horror Nights, theming has become a very serious asset to the event.
So much so, that many Halloween experiences around the country have to have this in order to compete with Universal.
Howl-O-Scream has a general theme each year, but unfortunately it is lost once you enter the park.
Since Howl-O-Scream keeps many of the same houses each year, it’s hard for the mazes to reflect the theme of the new year.
Halloween Horror Nights changes its haunted houses every year, so the creative team at Universal always keep a cohesive theme to the event.
This carries over through its mazes, its scare zones, it entertainment, and little things like dining.
Winner: Halloween Horror Nights
Fun Level with Crowd Atmosphere
As I write this section, I don’t want you to think that you won’t have fun at both parks, but the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights crowd is much more “tamed.”
Perhaps the presence of the Orlando Police Department plays role or perhaps the content is made for a more mature audience.
Many of the visitors to HHN are coming from all over the world just for this event.
At Howl-O-Scream it’s a more relax environment, with the expectation of just pure, unadulterated fun.
You’ll find more locals attending this event. Plus, you’ll get way more jump scares that keeps you on your toes throughout the night.
My Final Thoughts on Choosing Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream
As you can see, there is something for you at either event. I recommend visiting both during the Halloween season so that you can make you own decision on which event is better.
Both Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream have scare zones, fun entertainment, lots of haunts, and intense mazes for you to enjoy.
Now, I want to hear from you. Which do you think is better, Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream? Let me know in the comments section below!
If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love these:
- Ultimate Guide to Halloween Horror Nights
- First Timer Solo Tips for Universal Orlando Resort
- Halloween Horror Nights History – 1991
- My Halloween Horror Nights Solo Trip Report
- Halloween Horror Nights History – 1992
- Halloween Horror Nights Passholder Perks and Tips
- Complete Guide to Howl-O-Scream
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
- How to Save Money at Universal Orlando
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
Traveling alone to the parks has changed my life and I want to show how you can create your own solo theme park memories.
Connect with me on Instagram!
(Original date October 10, 2014 /Updated September 5, 2023)