Choosing the Right Haunted House: Halloween Horror Nights vs Howl-O-Scream

By Victoria Weaver

With fall finally here and Halloween just around the corner, many University of Tampa students find themselves preparing for a good scare. UT is near two major theme parks that have live action horror with their well known haunted houses.

When deciding between Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream (HOS) and Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), there are a lot of factors to consider. Price and distance can make or break a trip to either of the parks before even getting into personal opinions and biases.

A one day pass purchased in person at HHN can start at $122.99, $23 more than HOS’ $99.99. Visiting the website may be cheaper, with HHN’s digital discount bringing it down to $70.99, but it is still almost $30 more expensive than HOS’ online option. 

Transportation costs are also something to consider when planning a park visit. Mobility can be especially hard for students without cars who might rely on ride-share apps. Traveling with these apps becomes increasingly more expensive the longer and later the ride gets. 

Busch Gardens is approximately seven miles away from UT’s campus, while Universal Studios in Orlando is about 79 miles, making the distance about ten times further. The haunted house events take place during the night which means a one time visit might have to contain overnight accommodations as well, turning a one day trip into a weekend visit. 

The short distance to Busch Gardens could make it easier for larger groups of people to organize a trip. Peyton Whalen, a senior marine science major, said her sorority, Sigma Kappa, was able to arrange a visit to HOS, which was something she wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“I’ve been there twice now and never had a bad experience,” said Whalen.

The odds may seem stacked against HHN’s favor, but some would say price and distance are worth it. With fan-favorite franchises like Beetlejuice and The Haunting of Hill House as themes, nation-wide popularity, and a bigger budget, HHN might have the leg up when it comes to the full Halloween experience. 

Having almost seven years experience working in haunted houses, senior history and theatre major Scarlett Garee recommends HHN if students are willing to commit to the money and the journey. 

“Halloween Horror nights is definitely better quality wise,” said Garee. “Especially if you can afford the fast pass I would absolutely go to Halloween Horror Nights instead.”

According to Garee, the only major drawback is the longer lines at HHN due to the fact that it is also popular outside of the state of Florida, while HOS is advertised more to locals. 

Both attractions have their merits, HOS is the more affordable and accessible of the two while HHN may have higher quality houses with more elaborate themes. The decision really comes down to what makes the most sense for you. Willing to spend the big bucks on big scares? Or are you looking for a simple night out at a lower cost? Skipping the big attractions and supporting the smaller, pop-up haunted houses where creativity runs free could also be an option this October. 

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