As yet another year of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights event wraps up and draws to a close, let us take some time to reflect on the changes the event has undergone throughout the years. As Halloween Horror Nights continues onward into a post-pandemic world, let’s take a look on how the event has adapted to the new environment and made changes to how large events are handled during a worldwide health crisis.
In 2023, the COVID-19 pandemic feels like old news, but in the aftermath of such a world-altering circumstance, one can’t help but wonder if the world would be adequately prepared for another pandemic. Though mask mandates have expired and social distancing is no longer required, are any of these nervous habits truly kicked? Do you still find yourself standing a little further away from people than you did before the pandemic? Or shifting further away when people cough in your direction? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone.
Image: U+1F360, via Wikimedia CommonsDuring the strictest portions of the COVID-19 lockdowns, theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios had to adapt quickly to avoid going bankrupt. This included implementing social distancing and mask requirements, temperature checks before entry, and other safety precautions to keep guests feeling safe during their vacations. 
Those of you who visited the parks during this time may recall placement stickers on the floors of queues, separating parties with several feet of space between. This often resulted in long queues that seemed to overflow, making the attractions appear far beyond capacity, but helped to ensure guests made it safely through their trip. 
For Halloween Horror Nights specifically, crowd handling was a bit tricky. Since this event was easily one of, if not THE, most popular event hosted by Universal Studios, it was imperative that park officials figure out a way to encourage social distancing but still manage to operate at an appropriate capacity. They followed through on this by maintaining more of a distance between scare actors and guests. According to some guests who visited during COVID protocols in 2021, this distance prevented the usual amount of scares from occurring within the scare zones and haunted houses. Clear vinyl was also utilized on the inside of haunted houses to maintain a safe barrier between visitors and actors. 
Image: Mr Bullitt, via Wikimedia CommonsNow as we enter a post-COVID era, many of these precautions have been removed and most of the event has returned to normal. Scare actors will happily invade your personal space once again to give you that good scare you’re seeking without a layer of protective vinyl between you. 
Despite this, many believe that the impacts of the pandemic scare will continue to linger into the future. As you’re navigating Halloween Horror Nights in the next few years, keep an eye out for the continued use of hand sanitizing stations and mobile dining, additions made to the parks following the initial COVID-19 outbreak to encourage guests to remain safe and healthy while visiting. To this day, an updated safety guidelines page is in place on Universal Studios Hollywood’s website, advising guests to wear a face covering in indoor places and stay at home if one is experiencing COVID-like symptoms.
Have you visited Halloween Horror Nights in the last couple of years, do you notice a difference between now and pre-COVID-19 events? Is the experience better or worse? Let us know your thoughts by voting in our poll or by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.
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