Why Disneyland is the BEST at Halloween
Updated: Aug 25
Disneyland at Halloween time, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.
The decorations, the parties, the costumes, the music, the special rides and food….the list goes on and on.
I LOVE Disneyland at Halloween.
It is truly one of the best times of year to go. The weather is typically great, most of the rides should be up and running, and there are a ton of extras you can expect to see and experience.
If you are thinking about planning a trip to Disneyland during September or October and wondering what you can expect, you are in the right place my friend. I am about to break it down for you.
Here are some the things you can expect on a Fall trip to Disneyland and why it may be my all-time favorite time of year to visit the park.
Pumpkin and Fall Decorations Galore
Disney is so good at paying attention to detail in general, it should come as no surprise that the details in the Halloween and fall décor are plentiful and impressive.
When you get to the Disneyland Park gates you are greeted with the fab 5 as pumpkins decorating the tops of the roofs over the turnstiles. They get super creative using gourds. leaves and vines to make up the decorations. I think Pluto’s pumpkin might be my favorite.
As you enter Main Street you will see your typical fall leaf decorations everywhere. There are also carved pumpkins galore. Make sure to look up to catch all the pumpkins lining the top of the stores on Main Street on either side. So many fun faces and different carvings. Many of them are themed to the store they are near.
However, it could be hard to notice all those little pumpkins when there is the world famous, giant Mickey Jack O’Lantern at the top of Main Street. He greets you with a smile as you enter the park and sends you home with a glowing wink.
He weighs 3,400 pounds, is 12 feet tall and 14 feet wide and is completely unique to Disneyland (sorry Disney World, you can’t have him). Cast members transport him via forklift to install him, which they do overnight. (Thanks Freeform for all these fun facts.)
According to Disney the Mickey Jack O’Lantern is one of the most Instagrammed places during Halloween season. It’s not hard to see why. I mean, check out that grin. Who wouldn’t want to take their picture with him?
When you are in Frontierland be sure to look for the specially decorated Halloween Tree near the Golden Horseshoe Saloon. It has glowing orange lights and jack o’lanterns hanging from its branches. It was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” and has been a staple at Disneyland during Halloween since 2007.
Don’t Forget about California Adventure
This park gets the Halloween love too. There are bats swarming Carthay Circle Theater’s bell tower, the Headless Horseman gets his own statue on Buena Vista Street and the music on the street is incredibly eerie as well.
One night I was walking along Buena Vista Street by myself. It was uncharacteristically quiet so I could really hear the music that was playing loud and clear. I was surprised by how spooky the music really was, especially for Disney! Nothing inappropriate of course, but it was enough to give me the creeps and crawls as I walked by the shops.
Oogie Boogie Looms Over California Adventure
One of my favorite details about Disneyland at Halloween time is how Oogie Boogie looms over the entrance to California Adventure, laughing and goading you as you walk by. And I mean that literally, he talks to you over a loudspeaker, greeting people as they pass by. So spooky, yet so much fun.
Cars Land Decorations
Cars Land is already my all-time favorite movie themed land at any of the Disney parks. (Sorry Toy Story Land, you are cute and all, but Cars Land will always have my heart.) But Cars Land at Halloween is THE BEST.
They really step it up a notch and decorate the entire street for the occasion, turning it into Radiator “Screams.” And they don’t just do it in a typical way, they of course take automotive parts and accessories to make the decorations.
There are spiders made from oil cans, witches hats made from traffic cones, eyes glowing down at you from the Fire Station at the end of the road at night, menacing faces with tires for eyes and traffic cones for teeth. So many amazing details that must be seen in person to truly appreciate it.
Pro tip: Be sure to stay at one of the Disney properties when you go, so you can get early admission into California Adventure on select days and view all the amazing details without all the crowds.
2022 Update: While early park entry went away for a bit due to COVID, it's coming back in time for this year's Halloween season!! Can. Not. Wait.
Most of the characters wear different Halloween costumes during this time of year of course. And they have some fun ones. Minnie is a witch or a princess depending on where you see her, Mickey is Count Mickula, Goofy is a skeleton or a ghost, and Daisy is a purple witch, just to name a few.
What is also fun is more of the villains come out to play this time of year. We saw the Evil Queen a bunch of times, Cruella Deville and Dr. Facilier from the Princess and the Frog.
And of course, Jack Skellington and Sally make their yearly visit to the park.
But probably my favorite, FAVORITE characters all done up for Halloween are Lightning McQueen, Mater, Cruz Ramirez and Red. Yep, your favorite cars dress up for Halloween and it is impressive.
I already think its amazing that a life-size McQueen and Mater cruise down the road in Radiator Springs on the daily. Throw a full-size costume on them and I’m even more impressed. McQueen is a superhero, Mater is a vampire, Cruz is a pirate and Red is adorable as a clown with a giant rainbow-colored wig.
Pro tip: If this is you or your kid’s first time to Disneyland and you are disappointed Minnie and Mickey won’t be in their traditional attire, never fear. When you visit Minnie at her house in Toon Town, she will be in her traditional red dress with white polka dots. Mickey will also be wearing one of his traditional outfits, however, he does change regularly anyway. He was dressed as Steamboat Willy when we were there.
2022 Update: Toon Town is undergoing a massive renovation and currently closed. Reopening date TBD.
Not only do the streets, characters, and buildings get a Halloween makeover, but some of the rides do as well.
Space Mountain turns into Ghost Galaxy, where a spooky looking ghost is trying to get you while you careen through the dark roller coaster. When you are standing near Space Mountain, especially at night, pay close attention to the lights on the building and listen for the sounds of the ghost banging on the side.
The two rides other than Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land get a spooky makeover, becoming Mater’s Jam Boo-Ree and Luigis’ Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween. Basically, they just get some fun decorations and the music is Halloween themed.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout becomes Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark once it hits 5pm. Instead of helping Rocket breakout all the characters from the Collector, you are trying to save Groot from the Collector’s crazed creatures that have somehow come loose.
Pro tip: Be sure to watch the Lightning Lane availability for this ride as they go especially FAST once the return window hits 5pm.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Those ride overlays are cool and everything, but hands down the most impressive and fun ride overlay they do is Haunted Mansion Holiday. For both Halloween and Christmas, they change the Haunted Mansion ride from its traditional hauntings to a Nightmare Before Christmas and it is AMAZING.
They change every single detail to be Nightmare Before Christmas. The song that’s played throughout the ride is from Nightmare Before Christmas, there are Nightmare Before Christmas decorations in every corner of the mansion, Jack Skellington is there instead of the graveyard caretaker, and so much more.
They even change the elevator scene at the start of the ride. The stretching paintings are Nightmare Before Christmas themed, and Jack Skellington “welcomes you” at the top instead of the hanging person. They thought of everything!
Every year they put in a real gingerbread house they make from scratch into the ballroom/dancing ghosts scene. That scene is now a big Christmas party and the gingerbread house is the table’s centerpiece. They make a different one every year, each its own unique design. It’s truly impressive.
Make sure you take a deep breath when you get to that scene, because the whole room smells like gingerbread.
This is something unique only to Disneyland, they do not do this at any of the other parks. And while Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party is cool and gets most of the attention, Haunted Mansion Holiday is why I think Disneyland wins as being the best Disney park to visit at Halloween.
Pro tip: Getting Genie+ at Halloween Time is a must. The line for Haunted Mansion Holiday is consistently long and the Genie+ selections go quick.
Coco is Heavily Featured
Coco is one of my top favorite Pixar movies. I just love the visual imagery and colors, the family focused storyline, and of course the wonderful music.
Coco gets lots of love at Disneyland during the fall, particularly over at California Adventure Park. There you can visit the Plaza de la Familia over at Paradise Gardens Park, an interactive attraction with live mariachi music, a Tree of Life photo opp, “The World of Coco” exhibit and even an ofrenda. Guests are encouraged to write thoughts or draw pictures of passed loved ones and leave them on the “wall of memories.”
Probably my favorite part was the special musical performances that were held periodically throughout the day. Professional musicians and dancers perform to the songs from Coco, and Miguel even makes an appearance to play his guitar and sing a few verses.
Miguel is a puppet and “performs” strapped to one of the other musicians. There are also life size puppets of people from the Land of the Dead that are attached to real life dancers and made to dance around with them.
It’s all beautiful and amazingly well done. Be sure to put it on your list of “must-dos” when you are at California Adventure during this time.
Bonus Tip: They post what times the dancers and Miguel will perform. People stake out a spot to watch them early on, and it is hard to see when you aren’t up front. Make sure you stake out your spot too!
2022 Update: TBD on if Coco will be as heavily featured, but he does have his own character greeting now in Disneyland Park!
No post about Disneyland at Halloween time would be complete without mention of the fabulous Halloween party. It is a separate ticketed event with special events, a parade, fireworks, food, activities, and trick-or-treating for all ages and typically sells out every year.
Adults and children alike dress up and hit the park. (The costume creativity bar is set high by the way.) They only sell a limited amount of tickets, so the crowd level is generally low and the lines to get on most of the rides are practically non-existent.
There are lots of trick-or-treat trails to go through and you can get A LOT of candy. They will give you a bag to put your candy in, however I highly recommend bringing in your own, bigger bag to get all that you can. We got so much candy, we had leftovers to hand out back home to trick or treaters on Halloween!
They also add more Halloween decorations that are just for the party, so you get even more of a spooky ambiance than you do at the parks on a regular Halloween time day.
This year they moved it from Disneyland Park over to California Adventure Park, naming it Oogie Boogie’s Bash. It looks amazing and they have a lot of fun new things planned, such as a special Villainous themed World of Color, a dance party with the characters of Descendants, and more. But the traditional trick-or-treat trails and Halloween parade are there as well.
2022 Update: The Halloween party is till over in California Adventure Park. Exact details for this year's party have yet to be released, but I'm sure it will be amazing!
Pro Tip: Buy one less park ticket the week you are going and get a Halloween Party ticket instead. Spend that morning relaxing by the pool, then get dressed up and head over to the park 3 – 4 hours before the party starts, depending on the day.
The Food and Merchandise
What special Disney event would be complete without special holiday food and merchandise.
Special flavored churros, caramel apples, ice cream sundaes, drinks, savory food and other sweet treats are plentiful and vary by location throughout both parks. Each year they release a special food guide that you can request from City Hall or perhaps your hotel’s front desk and literally mark off each item as you indulge.
The Halloween merchandise is also adorable and spread out at the various shops. My favorite are the things you can buy that not only remind you of your fabulous trip, but you can also use to decorate your own house for the holiday. Last year we bought Mickey Jack o’Lantern battery powered string lights. Not only were they adorable and useful for decorating our stroller with at the parks, but we can string them together to decorate the kids’ rooms for Halloween at home.
If you are debating whether to visit Disneyland during Halloween time, stop debating and just do it! It’s a haunting good time.
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