Which is Better, Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream? YOU Decide…

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.


What to Know Before You Go

Before we get into this ultimate SMACKDOWN, lets go through a few things you should know before make your way out to each event.

Things to Do in Orlando for October. Halloween haunted house in Orlando with creepy man in green fog.

What are the Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Dates 2022?

The 2022 Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream dates are select dates from September 9th to October 31st (final dates still pending).

What are the Halloween Horror Nights Dates 2021?

The 2022 Halloween Horror Nights dates are also select nights from September 2nd through October 31st.

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.

Halloween Horror Nights 2009
Halloween Horror Nights 2009

What should I pack for Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream?

  • Comfy Shoes
  • Small Bag
  • Breathable Clothing
  • Sun Protection
  • Small Umbrella
  • Water
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Phone
  • Park Ticket

Get the full Theme Park packing checklist here!

When is the best time to visit Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights?

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida
2012 Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida

The best time to attend Howl-O-Scream is during the first few opening weeks of the event.

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 7:30 p.m. each night.

Halloween Horror Nights vs. Howl-O-Scream

Now that we have some of the basics covered, let’s go through the difference between Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream.

Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream
Halloween Horror Nights 2009

Hopefully, at the end of this article you’ll be able to figure out which one is best for you.

Crowd Level

It’s no secret that Halloween Horror Nights lines can get ridiculously long. It is the most popular Halloween event in Central Florida.

Halloween Horror Nights 2009
Halloween Horror Nights 2009

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream can also have busy nights. Especially the nights leading up to Halloween, but they hardly ever surpass a busy night in compared to Halloween Horror Nights.

For this, a lower crowd level makes for a more intimate and scary setting at Howl-O-Scream.

Winner: 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.

Halloween Horror Nights 24 old shack.
Halloween Horror Nights 24

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

Horror Quality

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 Tips with the Purge Characters
The Purge Photo: Universal Orlando

2021 Halloween Horror Nights Houses

  1. Beetlejuice
  2. The Haunting of Hill House
  3. Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives
  4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  5. Halloween Horror Nights Icons: Captured
  6. Welcome to SCarey: Horror in the Heartland
  7. Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth
  8. The Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin
  9. Puppet Theatre: Captive Audience
  10. Revenge of the Tooth Fairy

2021 Halloween Horror Nights Scarezones

  • Crypt TV
  • 30 Years, 30 Fears
  • Seek and Destroy
  • Gorewood Forest
  • Lights, Camera, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge
2021 Howl O Scream Map Busch Gardens Tampa
2021 Howl O Scream Map | Photo Credit: SeaWorld Entertainment

2021 Howl-O-Scream Houses

  1. Witch of the Woods – NEW
  2. The Forgotten – NEW
  3. Cell Block Zombies – NEW
  4. Death Water Bayou: Blood Moon
  5. The Residence

Read Next: SMACKDOWN: 7 Best Halloween Horror Nights Icons EVER!!!

2021 Howl-O-Scream Scarezones

  1. VooDoo – NEW
  2. Skeleton Crew – NEW
  3. In the Shadows – NEW
  4. The Shortcut
  5. Little Nightmares
  6. The Junkyard
  7. Deadly Toys
  8. Hidden Scare Zones and Roaming Hordes
Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O Scream Tickets and Tips with haunted houses.

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.

Howl-O-Scream Tampa Zombie 2012
Howl-O-Scream 2012

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.

Winner: Howl-O-Scream

Affordability – What does it cost to go to Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream?

As you can probably tell, in order for Universal to pull off such an epic creation and to have the many Intellectual Property partnerships, their budget is much higher than Busch Gardens.

This can be a reason as to why the ticket prices are much higher at Halloween Horror Nights.

Halloween Horror Nights Survival Guide
Halloween Horror Nights 2013

We also can’t forget that it is dubbed as the “World’s Premier Halloween Event,” which can add a few more dollar signs to your night.

Watch: New to Halloween Horror Nights? Don’t Go Without Knowing These 15 Tips!

Halloween Horror Nights Tickets Single-Night Price

Tickets for Halloween Horror Nights start at $69.99.

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Tickets 2019

  • Howl-O-Scream Tickets for a Single-Night starts at $41.99
  • The Howl-O-Scream Unlimited Admission Tickets start at $119 with admission to all nights – this is the best value for you

Winner: Howl-O-Scream


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 in this category is the new Halloween Marathon of Mayhem show.

An All New Show Halloween_Marathon_of_Mayhem_is_Coming_to_Halloween Horror Nights 2019
2019 Halloween Marathon of Mayhem Photo Credit: Universal Orlando

The fantastic lagoon show features 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!

Busch Gardens does not offer much in the way of entertainment besides the show, “Fiends.”

Fiends does similar pop culture bashing like Bill and Ted with Dr. Frankenstein and his assistant Igor as the main characters.

This show is definitely a Howl-O-Scream classic or should I say the naughty nurses are a classic for this Tampa experience.

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.

Halloween Horror Nights 2009
Halloween Horror Nights 2009

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.

Howl O Scream 2012 Vampire Casino

Halloween Horror Nights changes its haunted houses every year, so the creative team at Universal always keep a cohesive them to the event that carries over through its mazes, its scarezones, 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.

Halloween Horror Nights 2009 or Howl-O-Scream
Halloween Horror Nights 2009

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.

Winner: Howl-O-Scream

Final Thoughts on 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.

let’s go through the difference between Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream. Hopefully, at the end of this article you’ll be able to figure out which one is best for you.
Halloween Horror Nights 2013 The Walking Dead Series

Both Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream have scarezones, fun entertainment, lots of haunts, and intense mazes for you to enjoy.

Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream
Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream? Pin for Later!

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!

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Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!


(Original date October 10, 2014 /Updated September 11, 2021)

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