Fall might just be my favorite time of year to visit Disneyland. Crowds are reasonable, the weather is often quite nice, and the Halloween decorations and treats are out in full force. Halloween Time, as the season is known at Disneyland Resort, has lots for everyone in the family. There is a special ticketed event called Mickey’s Halloween Party every few nights, but the resort has numerous Halloween offerings outside of party times too.
My family has visited Disneyland during the Halloween season many times through the years. Although the fall weather doesn’t always cooperate (I remember Anaheim hit 95 degrees the last time we were there!), the rides and decor always gets us in the spooky spirit.
Disneyland has really expanded its Halloween Time offerings over the past few years. Last year, more of Disney California Adventure was decorated for the holiday. The 2018 season will to bring those new offerings back with a few new surprises.
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If you are planning a visit to Disneyland this fall to celebrate Halloween Time, here’s what you need to know, do, and see.
(And remember: if you are headed to Disneyland, take advantage of the savings on tickets or vacation packages through Trips With Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Use promo code TYKES10 for an extra $10 off all package stays of 2 nights or more.)
Disneyland Halloween Time Basics
When: Halloween Time at Disneyland is longer than ever this year, running from September 7-October 31, 2018. Usually the holiday doesn’t get underway until mid-September. So you have a few more days to experience the holiday this year!
Where: The Halloween Time celebrations happen all over the Disneyland Resort. The bulk of the decorations and fun are in the two parks, but Downtown Disney and the three hotels of the Disneyland resort don’t disappoint either.
Halloween Time in Disneyland Park
Disneyland park has been the home of most of the Halloween Time celebrations for many years. An iconic Mickey jack-o-lantern greets visitors as they enter Main Street USA. Orange decor and pumpkins set the mood.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Ever since 2001, Disneyland has offered a special holiday “overlay” to the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square in Disneyland park. Jack Skellington and his friends from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” overrun the mansion, decorating it with their rare brand of Halloween and Christmas mixed together. The theming makes it perfect for a run from September through the New Year, so there is plenty of time for Disneyland visitors to schedule a visit.
What I love about Haunted Mansion Holiday is that the festive cartoonish overlay actually makes the ride less scary for little ones. Both of my children have ridden it many times through their toddler and preschool years and neither have been frightened (except for the opening scene in the elevator that may be scary just due to its loudness). It’s family-friendly at its best with an extraordinarily popular theme that adults love too.
The ride is very popular during the Halloween Time season, so make use of Fastpass (or better yet MaxPass!) to experience it. Look out for the Hatbox Ghost as you enter the graveyard section of the ride. Disney trivia fans might know that this ghost was in the original version of the ride when it opened in 1969 but was soon removed because the special effects couldn’t be gotten quite right. He lived on in Disney lore, until Disney brought him back in 2015 to celebrate Disneyland’s 60th Diamond Anniversary.
There is always a new gingerbread house in the banquet room each year, so stay tuned for what 2018 has in store.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
Another ride overlay for the Halloween Time season is Space Mountain’s Ghost Galaxy. Since 2009, the ride has featured special spooky music and ghostly projections on the Space Mountain dome. I first experienced Ghost Galaxy only a few years ago and it truly makes it a different ride and increases the thrill level.
Like Haunted Mansion Holiday, the ride is super-popular during Halloween Time but Fastpass/MaxPass is available as well. Don’t forget that parents can do a “Rider Switch” on this ride so there’s no need to miss it even if you have a baby or young child too small to ride.
Dia de los Muertos in Frontierland
Adding to the festive decor around Halloween Time are traditional decorations for the Mexican Day of the Dead. Appropriately located in Frontierland around Rancho del Zocalo restaurant, the decorations include skeletons and bright colored flowers. Face painting is usually available for the little ones in this area as well. The decorations are exquisite and a great place for some amazing photo opportunities.
Mickey’s Halloween Party
During Halloween Time, Disneyland park also offers a special event 17 nights in September in October called Mickey’s Halloween Party. Attending requires a special additional ticket, and the park closes early to other guests on nights when it is celebrated. Plan accordingly!
Park guests get access 3 hours before party start time to both parks – Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. So that means you can enter the parks at 3 pm for party nights with a 6 pm start time or 4 pm on evenings the party starts at 7 pm.
What makes Mickey’s Halloween Party worth a visit? There are quite a few attractions exclusive to the event. It’s a chance to trick-or-treat in the park and for everyone (adults included) to wear costumes.
On our last visit, my family dressed as Alice in Wonderland characters. My daughter was Alice, I was the Cheshire Cat, my husband was the King of Hearts, and my son was (reluctantly) Tweedle Dee, minus the propeller beanie.
The highlight of Mickey’s Halloween Party is Halloween Screams Fireworks, offered exclusively on party nights. Other nights during Halloween Time feature the regular show (Remember…Dreams Come True for 2018).
Mickey’s Halloween Party also features the Frightfully Fun Parade led by The Headless Horseman. New to the parade this year is Vampirina from the hit Disney Junior show.
My family’s other favorite party offerings include the “Cadaver Dans” (zombified versions of the Dapper Dans a cappella quartet) and the very humorous scarecrows who make fun of guests over in Frontierland. Also plan a few minutes to stop to see the impressive projections on it’s a small world, Sleeping Beauty Castle, and Main Street USA. Finally, don’t miss Villains Square on Main Street USA for a chance to be insulted by (and get a photo with) the likes of Cruella de Vil or Maleficent.
If you are planning a visit to the party, don’t miss my complete guide to Mickey’s Halloween Party with special tips and tricks to make the most of your time there. Note that Mickey’s Halloween Party always sells out, so get those tickets ASAP if you have not yet. And be sure to plan early for next year too.
Halloween Time in Disney California Adventure
For many years, Disneyland park was the only place to have most of the Halloween fun. But the celebration of the holiday has really expanded. There is now lots of be found in Disney California Adventure as well. Look for decor like Oogie Boogie adorning the entrance to DCA and the Headless Horsemen standing outside Carthay Circle.
New in 2018 will be Vampirina doing meet and greets in DCA in a location to be announced. But there is more in DCA…
Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land
The biggest DCA transformation happens over in Cars Land. During September and October, Cars Land gets a major overhaul for “Haul-O-Ween” (pun intended) and Radiator Springs becomes Radiator Screams. The Cars characters are in costume – Lightening McQueen as a super hero and Mater as a vampire. They pose for photo opportunities in front of the Cozy Cone Motel. New in 2018 in costume are also Cruz, Red, and DJ who get in on the “trunk or treating.”
As of last year, there are now two Halloween ride overlays in Cars Land. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween with spooky Italian-inspired music. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is similarly transformed into Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree, where riders spin around the graveyard to haunted tunes.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
Another popular Halloween Time attraction in Disney California Adventure is a special (new in 2017) ride overlay of the highly popular Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride. Every evening during the Halloween Time season, the ride changes into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark. Riders are tasked to #SaveGroot who has been left behind after the Guardians escape the Collector’s Fortress. There is a special intro from everyone’s favorite raccoon, Rocket, as well as a metal-inspired song for the ride.
Dia de los Muertos & Coco Celebrations
Last but certainly not least is the new celebrations of Dia de los Muertos in Paradise Gardens in DCA. The area will be transformed into the Plaza de la Familia. Crafts, photo opportunities, and seasonal decor are sure to be a hit with fans of the Pixar hit movie Coco.
In the area, “A Musical Celebration of Coco” will feature the Mariachi Divas. New in 2018 will be a troupe of singers and authentic dancers who will be by joined by Miguel brought to life in an unique folklore-inspired way.
Halloween Time Food & Merchandise
Holidays don’t go unnoticed by the Disney restaurants and stores, and Halloween is definitely a time when the Disney gets creative. Be on the lookout for lots of Halloween-themed treats and merchandise during Halloween Time. Our favorites in previous years were the rice crispy treats and candy apples themed in Halloween and Dia de los Muertos colors.
You can actually see these and other confections being made if you visit the candy store in the back corner of Critter Country near the Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greet. Good luck prying your hungry children away though!
The merchandise gets better with each passing year too. Be on the look out in 2018 for Oogie Boogie popcorn buckets, poison apple glow cubes, special holidays ears, and much more (check out the Halloween merchandise preview from the Disney Parks Blog for more).
Still Looking for More Disney & Halloween Information?
- See the Fall & Winter at Disneyland 2018 Guide for everything happening from September to December all over Disneyland Resort.
- For tips for a very Disney Halloween on the other coast, check out tips for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World.
Disclosure: Disneyland hosted my family on our most recent visit to preview HalloweenTime and Mickey’s Halloween Party. My family regularly visits Disneyland other times at our own expense. All opinions are my own.