Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party are back in full swing

Jodie Wagner
Palm Beach Post

For those not satisfied with the standard, neighborhood trick-or-treat experience, for whom one night of costume and spookiness doesn't hit the spot or looms too many weeks in the distance, another fix is just a road-trip away. 

After two years of COVID-related disruptions, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort have brought back their long-running and popular Halloween-themed special events in 2022. 

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has returned to Disney's Magic Kingdom Park for its 26th year. The event, which kicked off last month, has a family friendly bent and features special parades, fireworks shows, trick-or-treating and character meet-and-greets. It runs on select nights through Oct. 31.

Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, is a more fright-centered affair that features themed haunted houses, scare zones and live shows. It debuted at the beginning of this month and also runs through Halloween on select nights.

Both events are separately ticketed, reservations are required. While there are still plenty of opportunities to book Universal, tickets are going fast at Disney. 

Thrills and chills at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Orlando Resort's Halloween Horror Nights, a fright-centered event that features themed haunted houses, scare zones and live shows, debuted Sept. 2 and will continue through Oct. 31. “The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare,” pictured here, is one of the 10 featured haunted houses.

As a mom of three, I'm no stranger to scary — Halloween costume-making deadlines are enough to keep you up at night.  

But was I ready for what they are serving up at Universal? I wasn't so sure. With the exception of "Stranger Things," scary TV shows, movies and I rarely hang out in the same room. I was prepared to spend my Universal Horror Nights with hands covering eyes. 

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“Halloween,” featuring a scare actor dressed as a masked Michael Myers, is one of the 10 themed haunted houses at Universal Orlando Resort's Halloween Horror Nights event.

This isn't kid stuff. 

With so many of the park's staff decked out in their scariest attire, guests are directed to leave their costumes and masks at home. 

Geared to an audience ages 13 and older, Halloween Horror Nights features 10 haunted houses, five "scare zones" and two live shows.

Don't fret —  theme park standards of food, shopping, rides and attractions still abound.

Four returning favorites and six new haunted houses — each with their own theme, from a 1920s speakeasy hosted by a coven of witches to a creepy and ravenous bug infestation — await visitors. 

Guests walk through the Fiesta de Chupacabras haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights. The house is one of 10 featured at the annual event hosted by Universal Studios Florida.

Guests in these dark, eerie mazes navigate through the likes of "petrifying" winter storms, undead fishermen, and seek exit to scenarios including a post-apocalyptic subway system. 

The spaces are filled with inanimate creatures as well as scare actors who jump out at you from infinite hiding spots wielding (yes, fake) axes, knives or chainsaws. These "gotchas" got me, keeping the adrenaline flowing. 

The Pumpkin Lord roams the streets as part of the  “Horrors of Halloween” scare zone at Universal Orlando Resort's Halloween Horror Nights.

Universal Studios' scare zones were more my speed, slightly less anxiety inducing.

Scattered throughout the park, these five zones pack hordes of frightening characters roaming the streets alongside guests. Rub elbows with the Pumpkin Lord or stroll a 1950s Halloween parade-gone-wrong alongside bloodthirsty trick-or-treaters. 

For those wanting to take a break from the immersive frights, Halloween Horror Nights offers two new live shows.

"Halloween Nightmare Fuel Wildfire" features performance group The Fuel Girls, while "Ghoulish! A Halloween Tale" follows the Grim Reaper on the undertaking of what happens beyond the grave — all set to eerily-remixed music.

Even the menu delivers on theme: Halloween Horror Nights serves  Lil’ Boo Spicy Pumpkin Buns, Fried Zombie Brains (fried cauliflower), Petrified Rat Tails (funnel fries), Maggot Covered Cheese Dogs and more.

Universal Studios Florida closes the park to general admission guests at 5 p.m. on each Halloween Horror Nights date to welcome those seeking an evening of scare.

Admission starts at $73.99 for single night tickets, $119.99 for express passes. For information or to purchase tickets, visit www.universalorlando.com/hhn/en/us/tickets. No costumes or costume masks are allowed.

Ghosts and ghouls of all ages line a festively fall-decorated Main Street, U.S.A for “Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade,” during the first night of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, August 12, 2022, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Exclusive to the limited-capacity event, the parade features floats filled with Disney Characters dressed in their Halloween best, Disney villains and the Haunted Mansion hitchhiking ghosts and graveyard diggers.(Courtney Keifer, photographer)

Trick-or-treating with Mickey at Disney's Halloween

For the younger set and those not in it for the scare factor, Disney is your ticket. 

First held as a one-night event in 1995, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party now covers 37 nights over three months. All dates in September are sold out, and a limited number of dates remain in October.

Admission starts at $129.99 for children ages 3-9 and $139.99 for adults, though prices fluctuate based on dates. For information or to purchase tickets, visit disneyworld.disney.go.com.

The fun starts as the sun sets, running from 7 p.m. to midnight, though   guests can arrive to Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m. The park closes to non-ticketed guests at 6 p.m.

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The last time my family headed to Disney for Halloween was 2005, and the main draw was to trick-or-treat in costume from Frontier Land to Space Mountain.

That's still in the mix, but Disney has upped its game, adding spooky flair at four of its popular rides. 

Costumed actors now roam The Pirates of the Caribbean. The lighting and music have taken a spookier turn at  "Deep Space" Mountain and the Mad Tea Party. A comedic monster is doing a stand-up show at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.  

Kids can hit one or all of three dance parties or check out the witchy performance at the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. 

The chefs at Disney are also down with the holiday, offering a Not-So-Poison Apple Pie Milk Shake at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies, a Jack-O-Lantern Float at Sunshine Tree Terrace, Sweet Almond Corn Cake at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café, and Spellbinding Fried Pie at Golden Oak Outpost.

Even the Disney signature parade and fireworks get a Halloween twist.

And you thought Halloween didn't arrive until Oct. 31!  

Jodie Wagner is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at jwagner@pbdailynews.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.