Fall might just be my favorite time of year to visit Disneyland. Crowds are reasonable, the weather is usually mild and pleasant, 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 are special ride overlays, plenty of not-so-spooky decorations, and tons of seasonal treats. There is also a special after-hours ticketed party event every few nights – Oogie Boogie Bash – but the resort has numerous Halloween offerings outside of party times too.
If you haven’t been in a several years, Disneyland has really expanded its Halloween Time offerings over the past few years (particularly in Disney California Adventure). Even with the modifications that are necessary in 2021, this year’s offerings are still quite robust.
My family has visited Disneyland during the Halloween season many times through the years. I just returned from the opening day of Halloween Time at Disneyland this year, September 3, 2021, to report on all that’s new and changed. And I’ll be returning again in October with my family to do even more, including Oogie Boogie Bash. So keep checking back here for even more updates as the season begins.
If you are planning a visit to Disneyland this fall to celebrate Halloween Time, here’s what you need to know, do, and see.
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Disneyland Halloween Time Basics
When: Halloween Time at Disneyland is longer than ever this year, running from September 3-October 31, 2021. A few years ago, the holiday didn’t get underway until mid-September but it now fully launches right around Labor Day. So you have a few more days to experience the season this year! Note as well that some of the Dia de los Muertos offerings that are part of Halloween Time run a little longer – until November 2, 2021.
Where: The Halloween Time celebrations happen all over the Disneyland Resort. The bulk of the decorations, food, and fun are in the two parks, but Downtown Disney and the three hotels of the Disneyland Resort usually have some special touches as well.
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. Characters in costume and villains do distanced meet and greets from the train station platform overlooking the square.
Orange decor and pumpkins set the mood everywhere. Farther down Main Street, the Walt and Mickey partners statue is surrounded by jack-o-lanterns. Look carefully to see how each is carved with a character face from each land in the park.
There are a few changes in 2021 within Disneyland park itself. The special ride overlay Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy was discontinued a few years ago. Also gone is the specially ticketed Mickey’s Halloween Party, as it was re-themed and moved across the esplanade to Disney California Adventure as Oogie Boogie Bash in 2019 (more on that below).
But never fear, because the Halloween offerings in Disneyland park that remain are still extensive!
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. There is always a new gingerbread house in the banquet room each year, and the house in 2021 is bigger than ever in celebration of Haunted Mansion Holiday’s 20th year.
The ride is very popular during the Halloween Time season, so be prepared to wait unless you plan to rope drop the attraction. When Disney Genie+ debuts at Disneyland some time this fall TBD, the attraction will offer Lightning Lane which will help with some of the waits for those paying for the upcharge. (See my guide to Disney Genie+ at Disneyland to preview this brand new cut-the-line successor to FASTPASS and MaxPass.)
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. The decorations are exquisite and a great place for some amazing photo opportunities. Look for characters like Miguel to make a special appearance in this area too.
Halloween Screams Fireworks
Halloween Screams is a nighttime show hosted by Jack Skellington that was traditionally only shown during the special ticketed Mickey’s Halloween Party. With the party now in DCA for the second year running, the Halloween Screams show now happens nightly in Disneyland and is watchable by everyone with a regular park ticket.
The show includes fireworks on select nights – specifically Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this fall. The fireworks can always be cancelled due to weather, but the rest of the show can run regardless. Even when the fireworks aren’t running, the show is still worth a watch for the music and projections.
While the fireworks happen over Sleeping Beauty Castle, the show is watchable from several vantage points. You can see special projections on the storefronts of Main Street USA, on the facade of it’s a small world, and on the Rivers of America. These secondary locations often have lower crowds and won’t require you to camp out as long before show time.
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. Disney California Adventure’s decorations and entertainment offerings now rival (and maybe even exceed) those in Disneyland park. Look for decor like Oogie Boogie adorning the entrance to DCA and the Headless Horsemen standing outside Carthay Circle.
Returning in 2021 (after its 2019 debut) is the event formerly known as Mickey’s Halloween Party – now called “Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party” that moved over to California Adventure.
Here’s what to look for in DCA in 2021 during the Halloween season.
Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land
One of the most immersive transformations within DCA can be found 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 – Lightning McQueen as a super hero and Mater as a vampire. They pose for photo opportunities in front of the Cozy Cone Motel. Also look for Cruz and Red who get in on the “trunk or treating.”
Returning for another year, there are 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 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 heavy metal-inspired song for the ride.
This is the first year the attraction assumes its rightful place as part of Avengers Campus, so be sure to check out the new offerings there if you haven’t been to Disneyland in 2021 since the new land opened!
Plaza de la Familia
Returning for another year are the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos in Paradise Gardens in DCA. The area is transformed into the Plaza de la Familia. Crafts, photo opportunities, and seasonal decor highlight the holiday with plenty of touches inspired by the Pixar hit movie Coco.
Kids will especially love decorating their own paper alebrije (spirit guide) mask featuring either Pepita or Dante from Coco. And families can add their notes of remembrance to a memory wall in front of the Mexican Tree of Life.
“A Musical Celebration of Coco,” featuring the Mariachi Divas, has been a wildly successful entertainment offering in the area. A troupe of singers and authentic dancers are joined by a life-size puppet Miguel inspired by Mexican folk art.
Plaza de la Familia is a fantastic place to take a break or eat a meal. There is plenty of spacious covered outdoor seating with shade. And performance groups take over the bandstand regularly for live entertainment!
Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party
Last but certainly not least is Oogie Boogie Bash which is returning or its second year in DCA! During Halloween Time, Disneyland has always offered a special and separately ticketed event on select nights in September in October called Mickey’s Halloween Party. In 2019, that party got a new name (Oogie Boogie Bash), a new location, and a ton of new offerings.
Related: See my complete guide to Oogie Boogie Bash at Disneyland, with lots of tips and even more detail.
Attending Oogie Boogie Bash requires a special additional ticket, priced between $114-169 per person for guests ages 3+.
The parties all start at 6pm and take place this year on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and a couple of Saturdays. Park guests get access to California Adventure three hours before the party start time. That means you can enter the parks at 3 pm with a party ticket. DCA park closes to all other guests at 6pm on nights when the party is celebrated. Plan accordingly!
What makes Oogie Boogie Bash worth a visit? There are quite a few attractions and entertainment offerings exclusive to the event. It’s a chance to trick-or-treat in the park and for everyone (adults included) to wear costumes. We’ve gone with family costumes whenever possible – one year we went as Alice in Wonderland characters with my daughter as Alice, my husband as the King of Hearts, my son (reluctantly) as Tweedle Dee and me as the Cheshire Cat. In 2019, we went with a Toy Story theme.
So what is there to do at Oogie Boogie Bash? Entertainment offerings of note at the party include:
- Mickey’s Trick and Treat Show: For guests with younger kids, the best entertainment offering is the new Mickey’s Trick and Treat Show. Set in the familiar environs of the Disney Junior Dance Party theater, the show has plenty of Fab 5 and even a couple of candy treats.
- Frightfully Fun Parade: Led by The Headless Horseman, this parade has moved from Disneyland park to DCA for Oogie Boogie Bash.
- Character Meet and Greets: The Halloween party always features plenty of unique Disney characters, both good and evil, and Oogie Boogie Bash is no exception. Familiar standbys like Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale all make appearances but you can also snag some rarer character photos. In 2019, the likes of Baloo and and Don Karnage from Talespin made an appearance and Disneyland has already teased 3 new villains for 2021.
- Villains Grove: Set in Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, the area features multiple dream-like scenes inspired by villains with lights and special effects.
- Immersive Treat Trails: Probably the highlight of Oogie Boogie Bash for kids is the immersive treat trails. Candy + live action villains like the Mad Hatter, Oogie Boogie, or Maleficent are the perfect combination!
Note that the Halloween party always sells out, and indeed already sold out as of late August 2021. If you are already thinking about 2022, be sure to plan early as tickets seem to go on sale even earlier every year. (For planning purposes for next year, be aware Halloween night and the latest scheduled least expensive party days were some of the ones to sell out first!)
Halloween Time Food & Merchandise
Holidays never 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.
In 2021, all of the Halloween Time food offerings are available all of the time – none appear to be limited to Oogie Boogie Bash. So that’s great news if you weren’t able to snag a party ticket this year.
Disneyland’s 2021 complete Halloween Time foodie guide is a great way to plan out your meals and treats. And be sure to check out the recommendations on Play Party Plan for the 11 best Disneyland Halloween treats. I always find the seasonal food is far too much for me to sample in a single trip, but Britni at Play Party Plan commits to trying an impressive number of food options on her Disney trips, so I trust her guidance.
The merchandise gets better with each passing year too. The merch in 2021 includes seasonal spirit jerseys, multiple ear headbandds (including a special Nightmare before Christmas Loungefly design), and much more.
Still Looking for More Disney & Halloween Information?
- 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 has hosted my family on some of our trips to HalloweenTime and Mickey’s Halloween Party/Oogie Boogie Bash. On my most recent trip on September 3, 2021, Disney graciously provided me with complimentary admission and accommodations. My family regularly visits Disneyland other times at our own expense (and will be paying our own way on our next trip in October 2021). All opinions are my own.