Make the fear last with purchases that petrify
'Tis the season for scares in Orlando, and leading the charge as always is Universal Orlando Resort, where the annual Halloween Horror Nights event has hacked headlong into the fray like Jack Nicholson with his axe in The Shining – a movie which, incidentally, inspired one of the most anticipated houses to check out this year!
HHN was born here in Orlando (Universal's sister park in Hollywood now runs its own version, as well), growing over 27 years from a smallish affair meant to draw in locals to a blockbuster festival of horror-spun entertainment.
Original content has been a big part of the event since its beginnings, but over time they've also partnered with household names in horror – from AMC's The Walking Dead to film franchises such as Halloween, Alien, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street – to create houses, walk-through Scare Zones and other features to delight with fright.
Merchandise runs the gamut, from the expected to more unique items the event's fans will find collectible as time rolls on. This year's theme is Festival of the Deadliest and there's loads of items emblazoned with its signature artwork, which centers on a decorative skull design that's far more sinister than the Dia de los Muertos-style sugar skulls we all see this time of year.
Many fans of the event are saddened to note that 2017 will mark the end of an era, as "Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure," a staple show for the past 26 years, makes its last appearance! Its scantily clad dancers and bawdy, pop culture-sourced humor was often a controversial, love-it-or-hate-it topic of conversation – but it was always talked about. "Farewell Dudes" merch abounds with mugs, tees and shot glasses bidding the "Wyld Stallyns" adieu.
Guests will find merchandise available throughout the park, but the carnival-style carts are where those looking for fun, illuminated items – skulls, glasses, masks, devil horns and the like – are best purchased. These make for colorful, less-scary take-home items for the kids left behind while parents head out for gory, grown-up fun.
The Tribute Shop, set in a "dangerous" part of The Purge Scare Zone, is ground zero for Halloween Horror Nights merch.
Once safely inside, goodies abound. Loads of house-themed tees (Ash Vs. Evil Dead, The Shining, Saw) and other items grace the shelves of this crypt-like shop. Adorable Pop vinyls, too! But there are unique items to be had as well.
It's not all t-shirts. Ski beanies, of course, never go out of style....
And while costumes are not permitted for guests at Halloween Horror Nights, that doesn't mean you can't take home one of their creepy masks for future use.
Choose wisely and Halloween home furnishings can be something you'll want to display all year long. These artistic skulls come in a range of styles and colors.
For those who are more apt to make skulls a fashion statement, this year's logo comes on other items including wallets, phone cases and even jewelry.
And since, these days, Halloween marketing begins before the kids are back at school, why not let your favorite holiday bleed (pun intended) into the December season with a tree ornament commemorating your HHN visit?
Universal's food and beverage team gets in on the seasonal creativity, too. And while you'll have to consume this year's signature mixed drinks in the park, the light-up cups are festive and fun to take home. On tap this year are three selections.
Liquid Courage: Bacardi tangerine rum, Malibu coconut rum, orange juice and a splash of Sprite
Liquid Fear: St. Augustine vodka, Blue Curacao, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lemonade
Midnight Madness: Half Liquid Courage, half Liquid Fear
This year's glass is divided in half, which makes for a showy drink where Midnight Madness is concerned, but use the special plastic "straw," which resembles an upside-down tuning fork. This is not a glass for tipping unless you're carefully monitoring drink levels on both sides! You'll find these 20-oz. cocktails at bars around the park. The first one will run you $12.99, but refills are $8.99 thereafter.