The year is sprinkled with special events tied to the holiday calendar. The events listed here, with the notable exception of Rock The Universe and Halloween Horror Nights, are usually included in regular admission, but separate admission is sometimes charged for evening events.
Among the holiday-themed events Universal Studios puts on are:
Mardi Gras. New Orleans’ pre-Lenten bacchanalia comes to Florida in the form of a nighttime parade, complete with garish and gaudy floats, plenty of baubles and beads that are flung into the outstretched hands of the crowd, and concerts by classic and current musical artists.
Fourth of July. Universal Studios used to celebrate America’s birthday with a fireworks display you could feel in the core of your being as well as see and hear from CityWalk. In recent years, they’ve scaled back to simply presenting their Universal 360 Cinesphere Spectacular (described later in this chapter). Most often, these shows continue nightly through the entire month of July, although this is not guaranteed.
Christmas. Ho, ho, ho! It’s a Hollywood version of a heartwarming family holiday, complete with a scaled-down version of New York’s famous Macy’s Holiday Parade, giant balloons included.
Rock The Universe. For one weekend in early September, Universal Studios shoos out the normal paying guests and turns the park over to Christian teens getting down with God. Top religious rockers like Switchfoot and Casting Crowns have appeared at what is billed as "Florida's Biggest Christmas Music Festival." Admission to this "hard ticket" after-hours event is not included in any pass, and runs $52 for one night, $85 for the weekend.
Halloween Horror Nights. Universal's wildly popular after-hours frightfest is held on selected nights in late September through Halloween weekend. After the daytime guests depart, the park is turned into an elaborately themed bacchanalia of the bizarre, featuring famous Hollywood monsters alongside original horrors from the fiendish minds of Universal's fearmasters. The heart of the event is the half-dozen-plus haunted mazes in which visitors scream and shuffle past movie-quality tableaus of terror. Rock musicals, gory magic acts, and bawdy comedy shows (like the long-running "Bill & Ted" pop-culture satire) are staged, and most of the major rides are open. The park's thoroughfares are filled with fog and lurching "scareactors," but relax: they observe a strict "no-touching" policy.
Event details are usually announced in the summer, so keep an eye on HalloweenHorrorNights.com for official info; in the meantime, check HHNRumors.com and BehindTheThrills.com for juicy rumors. A separate admission of roughly $82 is required, with various discounts and "frequent fear" season passes available. The event is intense in every sense: loud, claustrophobic, suggestive, scatological, and alcohol-saturated. It is not for children, nor for many adults. If you intend to attend, do so on a "non-peak" night (Sunday to Thursday) or brace yourself for overwhelming crowds.
Purchase tickets in advance, and arrive well before the event start time. Lines for the mazes build within an hour of opening, so see as many as you can early; then see shows and explore the open-air "scare zones" until the crowds thin out in the final hour of the night. Express Passes are sold (for $40 to $90) though on peak nights you may face long waits even with them. An "RIP" guided tour ($150 and up, plus admission) is your only prayer for seeing everything on busy nights.
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