If you love Halloween and Disney, then you must add a trip to the parks during Halloween season to your bucket list! The season is long, starting as early as August and going all the way thru Halloween.
Living on the east coast of the US, I’ve traveled to Walt Disney World in Florida during the Halloween season many times. The parks are decked out with pumpkins, closer to Halloween, the resorts have cast member pumpkin decorating contests in the lobby. There is the popular Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party taking place on select nights.
On a recent trip to Disneyland in California I realized that Disneyland puts Walt Disney World to shame when it comes to celebrating Halloween! I will admit as a huge Walt Disney World fan, it hurts me a little to say that.
Halloween at Disneyland Park
Just walking thru the gates of Disneyland Park, you are greeted with large pumpkin Disney characters. At Walt Disney World they have two big pumpkins at the gates, which are fun, but these Disney characters on top of the gates were so fun to see!
Once in the park, you will be greeted with a large Mickey Mouse Pumpkin at the head of Main Street USA. Along Main Street USA, there are carved pumpkins on top of the buildings and small Mickey Mouse pumpkins on the lampposts. Main Street USA pretty much screams Halloween as you walk down it.
One of the things about Walt Disney World that I don’t enjoy is that if you want to see the Disney characters decked out for Halloween, you have to pay the extra money for a ticket to one of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties (which also sell out each year). Well at Disneyland Park, you can see the characters right as you walk in the park near Main Street USA. I was so excited to see them in their Halloween costumes, especially my favorite, Donald Duck, who was dressed as a candy corn, he was soooo cute!! Word of note, while most of the characters are out thru the evening, Donald Ducks tends to only be out until about 3:30pm (per the cast member I spoke with).
The lines do get long but are so worth it as these are once a year opportunity for the great seasonal photo, so pack your patience. It’s definitely worth it to get these adorable photos though!
For those of you who love Donald Duck in his candy corn costume, make sure to also grab the special Halloween sipper on sale at multiple quick serve restaurants throughout the park in 2022.
As you make your way up Main Street towards the castle, there are carved pumpkins located around the Partners Statue (Walt and Mickey Statue). These pumpkins are carved with Disney characters that represent the different lands in Disneyland.
While seeing the pumpkins at the Partners Statue, make sure to get a photo there. There is a great magic shot available which will show you holding a pumpkin, such a cute photo op!
Probably the best part of Halloween at Disneyland Park is Haunted Mansion Holiday! In late August each year, they shut down the ride for a couple of weeks to transform it into Haunted Mansion Holiday, which is based on the Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas. The ride stays this way from September thru the beginning of January. It’s the perfect combination of Halloween and Christmas all rolled into one amazing ride. My most recent trip was my first time to experience it and it exceeded all of my expectations.
Haunted Mansion Holiday has been taking place at Disneyland each year since 2001. It can also be found at Tokyo Disneyland. I really wish they would bring this to Walt Disney World at some point.
The holiday theming of the ride starts on the outside, there is so much to look at while you are in line for the ride. I almost feel like I missed out on some of it since I had a lightning lane for the ride. It’s definitely worth seeing during both the day and night.
Inside of the ride itself there are both Halloween and Christmas touches. The storyline of Haunted Mansion Holiday is based on Nightmare Before Christmas character Jack Skellington spreading holiday joy to the grim mansion.
The holiday fun begins in the stretching room before the ride, when you see Jack Skellington above you as the room is stretching. You then move onto the ride after passing portraits of Jack Skellington, Sally and other holiday pictures. At the entrance to the ride, there is a very elaborate Scary Christmas display.
You can definitely tell why they need to shut the ride down for such an extended time in late August to transform it, the additions are very elaborate and really bring the ride to life. My favorite part of the ride was definitely the graveyard scene. There were little details everywhere.
I loved seeing Sally sitting on top of a gravestone. And hearing the combination of Haunted Mansion and Christmas music.
At the end of the ride is where you will see Oogie Boogie spinning a roulette wheel to pick which present you take home. In Haunted Mansion Holiday, a present follows you home instead of a hitchhiking ghost.
I am not a fan of the film, Nightmare Before Christmas, although I’m definitely going to give it another watch soon. Regardless this ride was amazing even without being a fan of the film. Definitely a must see if you are visiting Disneyland between September and early January!
Here’s a little sneak peak at part of the ride:
Just like the characters in their halloween costumes, the Halloween fireworks are shown for all park guests, unlike at Walt Disney World where they are only shown during the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Halloween at Disney’s California Adventure
The Halloween festivities aren’t just limited to Disneyland Park, across the way at Disney’s California Adventure, there is more Halloween fun to discover.
I hopped over to California Adventure after spending the afternoon at Disneyland Park. Seeing the park with the Halloween decorations at night was just beautiful. One of my favorite things about attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World is the parade, which starts with the headless horseman coming down Main Street USA. Well at Disney’s California Adventure, you can see the headless horseman and it makes the great Halloween photo spot.
As amazing as the headless horseman is, it’s the Halloween decorations in Cars Land that I really love. It might be because I just really love Cars Land to begin with, it looks like you have stepped right into Radiator Springs in the Cars movies. And going with the cars theme, they celebrate Haul-O-Ween there.
The cars are dressed in their best car-stumes and there are spooky decorations everywhere. I loved seeing the Cozy Cone Motel decorated as quite the spooky motel.
Two of the rides in Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, even get a Halloween overlay.
Like Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort also has a separately ticketed nighttime Halloween Party, and it occurs on select nights at Disney’s California Adventure in September and October. The party is called Oogie Boogie Bash and while I was not able to attend, it looks like so much fun, I’ve even heard many say it’s more fun than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This is very evident by the fact that it sells out very quickly., even quicker than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This year the tickets went on sale at the end of June and when I went to buy tickets just after the 4th of July, every date had already been sold out for some time. One of these years I definitely must attend.
Like the party at Walt Disney World, guests are encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costume for the event that normally starts at 6pm. With your ticket you are allowed into the park up to 3 hours early.
This family friendly event includes trick or treating throughout the park, photos with characters in their Halloween costumes and Halloween shows with your favorite Disney characters.
There is also the Frightfully Fun Parade which makes its way thru the park with not only Mickey and Minnie Mouse but also your favorite villains. And speaking of villains, you can visit them in the Villains Grove, which takes over the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail each evening during the party.
Halloween Outside the Parks
The Halloween fun isn’t just limited to the parks. There is more to see and do outside the parks as well.
At Downtown Disney, you can complete Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. Purchase a game board at any of the stores in Downtown Disney and then search for the character themed pumpkins hidden throughout Downtown Disney. When you have found all of the hidden pumpkins, you will receive a prize when you return your completed game board to Disney’s Pin Traders or World of Disney.
Downtown Disney is also the great spot to purchase your Halloween merchandise or even delicious Halloween treat.
And of course, the Disneyland Resort hotels are all decorated for the Halloween season. At the Disneyland Hotel, Haunted Mansion is the theme! As you enter the hotel there is a huge Haunted Mansion mural.
The hitchhiking ghosts take over the elevators making for a spooky ride back to your room.
Over at the Grand Californian Hotel, Oogie Boogie takes over for Halloween. If you like the Gingerbread Houses at Walt Disney World, then you must see the Oogie Boogie Cauldton Candy Display at the Grand Californian Hotel!
This 4-foot-tall display is made from the following:
- 260 pounds of powdered sugar
- 380 eggs
- 220 pounds of rice cereal
- 95 pounds of marshmallow
- 80 pounds of butter
- 120 pounds of dark chocolate
- 80 pounds of white chocolate
- 480 pounds of fondant
Pretty impressive to think of the amount of ingredients it takes to make this display! There are also 13 hidden Mickey’s in the display, can you see any of them?
If you love Halloween, I highly recommend visiting the Disneyland Resort in California for some Halloween fun. It was definitely interesting to see the differences in how Disneyland and Walt Disney World celebrate this fun and spooky holiday season.
Beyond the Miles Travel can help you plan your Halloween trip for next year.
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