Sorry Disney World: Universalā€™s Halloween Horror Nights Is the King of Spooky Season

Sorry Disney World: Universalā€™s Halloween Horror Nights Is the King of Spooky Season
Credit: Disney/ Universal/ Canva

The season is changing, but the rivalry between Disney and Universal is as intense as ever. As Universal Orlando preps to open a brand-new Park, something Disney World hasn’t done since 1998, the pressure is on Walt Disney World to keep up instead of staying ahead. And the battle for I-4 has seen a shift in power; the popularity of Universal Orlando is soaring, while Disney struggles to keep its E-ticket attractions running. At Disney, rising costs equal less magic, while at Universal, it seems they’re just now coming into their prime. As Halloween approaches, a massive selling point for both Theme Park brands, the spooky season is further tilting the scales in favor of that “other Park up the road,” while Disney once again finds itself in the unfamiliar position of playing second fiddle.

Both Disney World and Universal Orlando have no issue when it comes to cashing in on Halloween. In fact, the fall has become a focal point for travel for those looking to celebrate the spookiest time of year. However, as Disney just kicked off its Halloween festivities and Universal prepares to, some Guests are less than happy with what they’re paying for at Magic Kingdom while others are anxiously awaiting to willingly spends thousands in the fog at Universal Studios. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a huge draw. Still, its top competitor, Halloween Horror Nights, is putting the squeeze on the Mouse, and more people are leaving Main Street, U.S.A., in favor of the intense thrills and chills of Universal’s exclusive event.

Halloween Horror Nights

Credit: Universal

Although much more limited in its appeal to Guests, despite its own restraints in limiting age groups, Halloween Horror Nights has become a phenomenon in its own right. Beginning in 1991 at Universal Orlando, Halloween’s ultimate scare fest has been fearfully delighting Guests for over three decades. With that much time under its belt, Universal has learned how to keep its frightfully faithful Guests happy while bringing new experiences to life each and every year. Their efforts have created a booming demand from Guests who want a more mature Halloween experience compared to the one offered at Walt Disney World. While Disney continues to roll out the same old trick-or-treats with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, loyal Guests are starting to feel as if they aren’t getting their money’s worth. For this reason, many have now shifted their focus to Halloween Horror Nights, even going as far as to claim Universal the “King of Halloween” in Orlando, and there are plenty of reasons why.

Halloween Is Scary, Universal Understands That

Universal’s approach to Halloween can be considered limiting. The experiences are recommended for Guests under the age of 13, and there are several personal preferences in which Halloween Horror Nights might not be suitable for grown adults. However, while Disney is changing words like “hell” to “heck” in popular songs during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween, Universal is providing intense screams with its ten movie-quality Haunted House experiences and several scare zones featuring terrifying actors ready to feast on your fear! We get it; it’s right there in the name; Disney’s Halloween celebration isn’t supposed to be scary, but is that really Halloween?

Halloween Horror Nights

Credit: Universal

While Disney is marketing to the tiniest tykes, Universal is keeping the true essence of the holiday alive. Celebrate those things that scare us and face them head-on, all while enjoying unique snacks and theatre-like experiences. Although Disney does a fine job of creating an immersive experience with their Boo to You Parade and other entertainment, Universal’s live Halloween performances remain unmatched and are everything we love about the holiday. It’s dark, and it’s dingy; it’s Halloween. If you pee your pants, oh well, welcome to Halloween Horror Nights!

Disney Is Charging More for Less of an Experience

Even if you hate this article and are still reading it for some reason, there’s one thing you can probably agree with. The price gauging at Disney World is getting out of hand. While Disney World is busy pricing out an entire demographic, Universal remains much more affordable for the average American family. The same can be said of their Halloween-themed ticketed events. Although both event tickets run on a scale, becoming more expensive as Halloween approaches, a basic ticket to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will run anywhere between $109 to $199 at Disney World. Guests to Halloween Horror Nights may be surprised to discover that is the price of their Express Pass, with lower-end tickets coming in at just over $70.

mickey's not so scary halloween party 2023 sold out minnie goofy pluto costumes magic kingdom Disney world

Credit: Disney

When considering Express Passes, it may initially seem like Disney World is the better buy when looking for Halloween events. However, in my experience, you can enjoy much more of what Halloween Horror Nights has to offer compared to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the lowest price. While Disney’s party runs from 7 p.m. to midnight, Universal starts their event around 6:30 p.m., ending at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. depending on crowds. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that more time equals more fun, and as there’s more to see and do, including rides at Universal, it just feels worth the money.

Halloween Horror Nights Has a Strong IP Game

You know what to expect each year at Magic Kingdom when the sun goes down. There’s trick or treating, the Boo to You Parade, the Villain’s Spectacular, and fireworks. You know you’ll see the Sanderson Sisters, the Cadaver Dans, and Jack Skellington. Disney hasn’t “beefed up” its Halloween Party schedule for a long time. Although the certainty of having the same experience each year when the pumpkin spice rolls around is nice for some, others want variety, and Halloween Horror Nights has that. The main reason? They aren’t confined to a catalog of films and cartoons geared towards children to rely on for their attractions.

Breaking: Universal Studios Announces ā€˜Stranger Thingsā€™: Season 4 for Halloween Horror Nights 32

Credit: Universal

Instead, Universe owns a wide variety of intellectual property that lends itself to Halloween perfectly. Guests are treated to entirely new experiences that they don’t have access to on a typical Park day. Universal Monsters,Ā Stranger Things, Michael Myers,Ā Chucky,Ā Insidious, and Freddy Krueger have all been or are going to be part of the terror that Guests can expect at Halloween Horror Nights. Attendees are also privy to new takes on lands that fit so well with what Halloween should be! For instance, Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World section of Universal Studios takes on new life as those in the wizard and witches community celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, but beware-Death Eaters may wait for you! The inspiration to draw upon is almost unlimited for Universal, while Disney has to rely on the same old tropes.

Halloween Isnā€™t as Exclusive at Walt Disney World

As we mentioned, Halloween has already kicked off at Walt Disney World. August 11 marked the start of the spooky season at Magic Kingdom, offering almost 80 days of pumpkins, Mickey Mouse dressed as a vampire, and Halloween spirit jerseys in 100-degree weather. On the other hand, Halloween Horror Nights officially starts on labor day weekend. Running until November 4 this year, the event’s exclusivity is part of the allure to be there and experience Halloween as it was meant to be.

boo to you not so scary halloween disney

Credit: Disney

In addition to starting later in the year, closer to the actual holiday, Halloween Horror Nights isn’t an event that everyone should enjoy. While Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party could be considered relatively mild, Universal’s take on Halloween is much more extreme. It doesn’t matter where you are in the Park; it’s going to be loud, lights will flash all over, creating eerie shapes and motion in the fog, and someone is waiting to scare your pants off. This limits the ability of some Guests who may be sensitive to certain stimuli to attend, but it also raises the value of Halloween Horror Nights. The event is exclusive to those who would dare to enter, but as warned by Universal, they should never go alone.

None of this is to say that Halloween at Walt Disney World isn’t fun. It most certainly is, and it definitely appeals to a different type of crowd. However, considering the large majority of generalized complaints coming out of Disney, it is a safe assumption that Universal and Halloween Horror Nights are putting pressure on Disney. That isn’t a bad thing; it’s a preemptive way to ensure that Disney World still tries its best to remain the premier vacation destination in Orlando all year long, not just during Halloween. However, when it comes to scares and terror, Halloween Horror Nights does it best, and some of you are missing out on a scary good time due to brand loyalty.


About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!