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 Go
Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Dates
The 2019 Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream dates are select dates from September 20th to November 2nd. *The 2020 dates are still pending.
Halloween Horror Nights Dates 2019
- September: 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
- October: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30,31
- November: 1, 2
As you can see, Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) is not every night. So, be aware of the dates when choosing the day you’d like to go.
The 2020 HHN event has been cancelled due to the pandemic. Below are the events listed from the previous year to give you an idea of what happens each year at this event. You can also go through the tips to prepare for next year’s event.
Busch Gardens Tampa Address
The address for Busch Gardens is 10165 N McKinley Drive Tampa, FL 33612.
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 or Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream?
- Comfy Shoes
- Small Bag
- Breathable Clothing
- Sun Protection
- Small Umbrella
- Hand Sanitizer
- Park Ticket
You can get the full Theme Park packing checklist here!
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.
You can 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.
Hopefully, at the end of this article you’ll be able to figure out which one is best for you.
It’s no secret that Halloween Horror Nights lines can get ridiculously long. It is the most popular Halloween event in Central Florida.
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.
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
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.
2019 Halloween Horror Nights Houses
- Stranger Things
- Nightingales: Blood Pit
- Universal Monsters
- Depths of Fear
- Yeti: Terror of the Yukon
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space
- Graveyard Games
- House of 1000 Corpses
2019 Halloween Horror Nights Scarezones
- Zombieland Double Tap
- Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe
- Vanity Ball
- Vikings Undead
2019 Howl-O-Scream Houses
- NEW – The Residence
- The Black Spot
- Simon’s Slaughterhouse
- Motel Hell: Infestation
- Death Water Bayou: Wrath of the Queen
2019 Howl-O-Scream Scarezones
- First Fear
- Dia De Los Muertos
- Deadly Toys
- Carpe Noctem
- Camp D.O.A
- Little Nightmares
- Meat Market
- Hell on Wheels
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?
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.
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.
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 $39.99
- The Howl-O-Scream Unlimited Admission Tickets start at $84.99 with admission to all 22 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 incredible dancing troupe of Academy of Villains, the entertainment has suffered.
What has saved Halloween Horror Nights in this category is the new Halloween Marathon of Mayhem show.
The incredible new 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Both Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream have scarezones, 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!
(Original date October 10, 2014 /Updated August 7, 2020)