Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), Universal Studio Orlando’s biggest seasonal event of the year, is most well-known for its movie-quality haunted houses, scare zones and after-dark thrills.
Held on select nights every year from September-October, it gives Universal fans a rare opportunity to see the park in an entirely different light. Or lack thereof as it were.
On event nights, the Universal Studios side of the resort closes early to general admission guests and takes on a spooky transformation. The park re-opens about an hour later as one of the most elaborate Halloween parties you’ll find anywhere in the United States.
Fans of horror movies love it because they get to explore the elaborate haunted houses. Scardedy-pants HHN goers (like myself) love it because it’s a chance to explore the park late into the night, ride the rides and of course, have a few drinks.
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But one of the most overlooked, yet beloved features of Halloween Horror Nights is all of the horror-movie-inspired snacks.
Truly, if you’ve never been, just imagine what would happen if the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and McKamey Manor had a baby. That’s Halloween Horror Nights.
And it’s important, especially if you are new to Halloween Horror Nights, that you plan your snacks just as well as you plan your Haunted House tours.
But the question remains – what are some of the best not to miss snacks at Halloween Horror Nights? With so many options to choose from – how does one triage?
Well no worries friends, I am here to help. But first, I’d like to offer a few general Halloween Horror Nights tips.
Tip 1: Camp out in a Stay & Scream Area
Why am I offering general Halloween Horror Nights tips in a snack article?
Well, dear reader, improper planning leads to long line queues and slim pickins’.
This is why, to maximize your time at Halloween Horror Nights, you’ll want to be inside the park before the changeover.
This trick only works if you also have regular daily park admission in addition to HHN event tickets. And yes, that includes daily admission ticket holders and season pass holders.
To camp out in a Stay & Scream zone, you’ll want to be inside Universal Studios before 5 pm. There are usually 2-3 holdover zones located in various places throughout the park. These zones are clearly marked.
To access a zone, simply allow a Universal team member to scan your HHN ticket (or season pass if you’re using the Premier perk).
The roped-off areas usually include some seating space, a couple of restaurants or snack stations and a bathroom.
But be warned, once you enter a holdover area you will not be allowed back into the main part of the park until the changeover is complete.
But here’s the big tip – guests in the holdover areas are usually allowed slightly early access to Halloween Horror Nights.
This year, for instance, we were allowed in a solid 30 minutes before the actual event formally started.
In fact, by the time those plebs at the front gates were finally making their way through the first scare zone, we already had one haunted house under our belts (The Weeknd) and our first round of HHN snacks in hand. Pretty impressive.
Tip 2: Be good to your bladder
The biggest problem with Halloween Horror Nights are, without question, the crowds.
Trust me, you’ve never seen Universal Studios as busy as it gets during a Halloween Horror Night event.
Line queues can be up to four hours long, and bathrooms are a problem.
In fact, I personally find the bathroom situation to be the most horrifying thing about Halloween Horror Nights.
So if you’re planning a long night, be sure to pace yourself, and be kind to your bladder. Also, if you need to go, don’t wait. There will be a line to get into the bathroom. Especially the women’s bathrooms.
I repeat. Do. Not. Wait. If. You. Need. To. Go.
If all else fails, your best bet is probably going to be one of the bathrooms towards the back of the park near (and in) Diagon Alley and Men in Black, but even those can be precarious as the night goes on.
Now, without further ado, let’s get back to my personal list of must-have snacks at Halloween Horror Nights.
9. Pepperoni Pizza Skulls
Located Gramercy Park (the New York area), this quick and easy snack is basically a savory skull-shaped pepperoni and cheese stuffed Hot Pocket served up in a bowl of marinara sauce.
Is it the best thing on the menu at Halloween Horror Nights? No.
But it is hella filling for under $8, easy to eat and guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest eaters in your party. Yes, yes and yes.
8. Petrified Rat Tails
While you’re in the Gramercy Park area nibbling on your Pizza Skull, you may want to consider picking up a side of Petrified Rat Tails.
Petrified Rat Tails are essentially Florida Bay funnel fries seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices and covered in creamy crab dip with sliced scallions.
7. Fried Zombie Brains
Vegans never fear – Halloween Horror Nights can’t just let all the meat eaters have all the fun. They’ve got a little something extra special in store for you as well.
Fried Zombie Brains, found at Meetz Meat in Sting Alley behind Starbucks, feature fried cauliflower florets tossed in spicy gochujang sauce garnished with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
My non-vegan husband said the flavors reminded him a bit of spicy (but not too spicy) popcorn chicken.
6. Fiery Twisted Tater with Queso
Speaking of vegetarian dishes – we found this tasty treat located in several snack stations throughout the park.
Fiery Twisted Taters with Queso are spiralized ribbon potatoes – fried on-site – with white cheese sauce, sprinkled with Flaming Hot Cheetos and ghost pepper seasoning.
As the resident lover of peppers and spice in my household, I can attest these little potato spirals pack a light punch, but not so much so that it’s overpowering. My slightly more spice-resistant husband also found them to be quite enjoyable.
There’s also a version for the meat eaters called Twisted Tater Blood N’ Guts which contains a hot dog weenie smothered with chili surrounded by a Twisted Tater.
5. Major Sweets Ice Cream Sandwich
After all of that spice, you’ll want to cool off with something sweet and nice. On Ice. Don’t think twice.
Okay, I’m done.
Inspired by the Sweet Revenge scare zone, these little ice cream sandwiches feature candy corn sugar cookies filled with sweet corn ice cream.
Although, a word of warning on this one, you probably need to actually like candy corn to enjoy this particular treat. I realize it’s a divisive topic. If candy corn isn’t your thing, just move on to the next snack station.
4. Ghoul Juice
How in the world have we made it so far down on the list and I have yet to mention a single Halloween Horror Nights signature cocktail?
Look, if I am being honest my husband and I mostly stick to well drinks when at Halloween Horror Nights. They’re cheaper, easier to obtain and will probably get ya buzzed a bit quicker than some of these pre-made sugary concoctions.
However, if you want to try at least one HHN cocktail, make it a Ghoul Juice. You won’t be disappointed.
It features dark rum, cherry brandy, simple syrup, mango nectar, lime juice and bitters.
It’s sweet, without being too sweet.
3. Roasted Sweet Potato & Mushroom Street Tacos
Here’s yet another popular vegan – and gluten-free – option: Roasted Sweet Potato Mushroom Street Tacos located at Cafe La Bamba.
As the name implies, these tacos feature roasted sweet potato and mushrooms topped with onions, vegan crumbled cheese and cilantro with a vegan birria consommé.
2. Maggot-Covered Cheese Dog
Am I really about to rank two corn dogs as the best foods at Halloween Horror Nights? Why, yes I am.
After all, this is still a theme park. And while in a theme park, the heart wants what the heart wants. And this heart likes theme park corn dogs.
Located at the Springfield Bridge, The Maggot Covered Cheese Dog is a Korean-style corn dog rolled in puffed rice (made to look like bugs) topped with gochujang drizzle and black sesame seeds.
My husband described it as a corn dog inside of a Rice Krispy Treat.
1. Churro Dog on a Stick
And finally, I can’t help it, this Churro Dog on a Stick ended up being one of my favorite HHN treats this year. You can find it at the same Springfield Bridge food stand alongside Ghoul Juice and The Maggot Covered Cheese Dog.
The Churro Dog is a Korean-style fried corn dog tossed in cinnamon sugar.
I can probably blame my love affair with cinnamon rolls for this one, but I was partial to this odd pairing.
Imagine turning a Cinnabon into a hot dog roll. Yeah, it’s like that. You’re welcome in advance.
And of course, I thought I would round out our list with a few honorable mentions that I must admit, I wasn’t able to try this year but seem to be getting rave reviews from other parkgoers.
Hey, I tried guys, my stomach can only hold so much on a single night.
Loaded Nachos with Chicken
Not excited about taste testing some of the more creative HHN dishes and craving something a bit more tried and true? Head to the Minion Cafe for Loaded Chicken Tinga Nachos in a tortilla bowl. It’s always a crowd-pleaser.
More fries? Yes, please.
The fan-favorite pizza fries made their return again this year in your choice of meat lovers (with sausage, pepperoni, marinara and cheese) or Vegan (topped with marinara, vegan cheese, vegan pepperoni and vegan sausage crumbles).
The Burning Skull
Speaking of fan favorites, if you’re looking for a second signature cocktail to add to the must-try list, consider making it a Burning Skull.
Located at Dia de Los Muertos and Cafe La Bamba, Burning Skull features a combination of tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, mango nectar, pineapple juice, spicy bitters jalapeno and basil concentrate.
To top it off, it even comes with an Instagram-worthy Tahin-coated ice pop.
Other fun cocktails at this location include Calavera Juice, Sugar Skull Punch and even a Smoked Margarita. Each is served in a special light-up cup.
The Haunted Horseshoe is an open-face burger served on Texas toast with jalapeno bacon, spiced candied pork belly, crinkle-cut fries and cheddar cheese sauce. It too can be found in the Gramercy Park area.
Witches Spell Cauldron Stew
New to Halloween Horror Nights this year, and seemingly quite popular amongst HHN goers, we have the Witches Spell Cauldron Stew.
The stew features green chili and chicken stew served with skeleton-shaped cornbread.
Beef Birria Tacos with Red Sauce
Located at Little Cocina, these Beef Birria Tacos are served with onions and cilantro on a fried corn tortilla with red sauce and a lime wedge.
Pick up a side of Churro Bites, Chamoy Pineapple Spears or even a Cheese Tamale at this location for extra credit and you’ll have yourself a satisfying Mexican-style meal.
Lil’ Boo’s Spicy Pumpkin Bun
Lil’ Boo’s Spicy Pumpkin Bun is located at the San Francisco Food Cart and features an orange steamed bao bun with vegetarian spicy butternut squash.
Tombstone Red Velvet Cake Pop
A quick and easy grab-and-go treat – a classic red velvet cake pop is shaped like a tombstone with white chocolate bones. This little goodie is also located at Gramercy Park.
What do you think of these Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights treats? Do you agree with my ranking? I anxiously await your thoughts (and protests) in the comments below.