The argument against Stay and Scream

I think it is fair to say Halloween Horror Nights 28 in 2019 was a different event than in the past. Giving full credit to Stranger Things to turn a popular event into THE event. Sell outs were commonplace this year and an additional house was no match for the increased attendance. As a tourist I found my experience change for the first time in my eleven years attending. (Eleven? #conspiracy)

For the past decade, I had excitedly participated in Stay and Scream. This is the term coined from years past for day guests with event tickets staying the park in designated areas to be the first into the event when it is ready. As perfect as it sounds, this year just didn’t work out great for us given our circumstances. I would still highly recommend it to most guests, especially tourists, but for the first time I found conditions to argue against it.

Stay and Scream pros:

  • If you are attending a single night, this is the best chance you will have to do everything that HHN has to offer. This can also be the best way to guarantee you see the most popular houses with little wait compared to the multi hour waits they are sure to have when the event officially kicks off.
  • If you happened to be in the park during the day, more convenient to just stay.
  • It is not uncommon to get two houses done before the masses have entered the park.
  • You can enjoy dinner during the ‘in-between’ time and take advantage of that down time and eliminate a break during the event. This is best done in Springfield, much more difficult at Finnegan’s.
  • In the event you wanted some pictures in the scare zones, you can knock two or three houses down and still have some day light to do so without a substantial hit to your house time.
  • If you are not onsite and are arriving after normal park close you are going to find the parking garage and the security screening difficult and time consuming.
  • The line to get into the event will be very time consuming.

As you can see, there are a lot of positives and I don’t feel it is list worthy for the cons. Instead there is one ‘major’ con and that is the daylight. Several houses, particularly the back side of the park are going to be adversely affected by the day light. While they take precautions to limit the light creep, it cannot be eliminated completely. The daylight also has impact to you and your eyesight. Your eyes will not be adjusted to darkness and you may miss some details. In some cases, you may even have trouble figuring out where to go as you can’t clearly see the path ahead.

The game changer for my family, however, was a result of the popularity of two houses; Stranger Things and Poltergeist. As tourists with express passes, we tend to gravitate toward the Springfield area as its less crowded, food options and finally, Dufftoberfest. The express pass ensures we can visit the ‘popular’ houses as the night goes on and in the mean time we can enjoy about two hours of low crowds working the back of the event. This has been a great strategy for us in the past but this time things seemed different. The light crowd at this S&S area was even lighter, in fact, more like a group than a crowd at all. Stranger Things and Poltergeist were so high in popularity, for the first time we weren’t seeing a significant crowd for the back houses. I can only speculate of course, but we found the back houses to be not very well staffed. Seemed like our crowd was not giving them enough incentive to put their best effort when we were let into the park. We had the worst combination possible, the light affecting our vision to see house details and a lack of scare actors confronting us.

For the first time ever, we were disappointed; not in the event itself, but in the start of the event. We decided, going forward, we wanted to try without S&S to see how well that would work for us. Fortunately, our gamble paid off and we found a new system that worked fantastic for us.

We would enjoy a great meal at either Citywalk or a hotel and aim to arrive around 8pm. Upon approaching the event, the right side has an onsite hotel guest entrance. We waited little time to enter, and we entered over by the guest services location, so we could easily avoid that initial barrage of guests. We arrived one day at 9:30pm and had no issue seeing all of the houses using our express pass. Another interesting thing we learned while arriving that late was the side entrance was still open but no sign indicating it for onsite guests. Anyone could enter on that side and there was no wait while we walked by what was obviously a significant wait at the normal entrance. Hot tip!

Will the properties next year prove to be as popular? We will have to wait and see. As I said at the start, 9 times out of 10, I would probably recommend to tourists to participate in Stay & Scream. However, under the right circumstances, it may not be worth it. I thought this flow chart visual might help people make that decision for themselves as it shows the challenges.