Disneyland is magical in every season. There are a lot of pros to going to Disneyland in the fall. The weather has cooled down a bit, but it’s still warm. Kids have gone back to school, so it isn’t as busy. The Haunted Mansion transforms into Haunted Mansion Holiday (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed). In my opinion, this is much more fun and family friendly!
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
As soon as the summer season ends at the end of August, fall decorations descend upon Main Street, U.S.A. The Halloween festivities begin after the first week of September (approximately September 7) until October 31. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party begins after the initial kickoff; about six weeks before Halloween. You must purchase tickets for this special event in advance (day of tickets may be available, but are at a higher rate than pre-sale), and they are on top of your regular ticket. So, if you have a three day pass and you go to Disneyland on a Party day, and you would like to stay in the park past 7 pm, you must purchase the $95-130 ticket upgrade to stay in the park. Everyone that purchased a Halloween Party pass will get a special wrist band and everyone else will be asked to leave. Festivities include trick or treating stations (at which your child receives a handful of candy, not a single candy), a special parade, shorter line ups (due to the upgraded ticket), rare character meetings, and the opportunity to wear a costume in the park. And don’t forget, the Halloween fireworks spectacular! They are only during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and I’ve heard they are unbelievable.
We chose to not upgrade our tickets, due to the extra $300 USD ($400 Canadian) it would have cost our family. We were already going to be there for five days, so we didn’t feel that it was worth it this time. I know that Halloween is a much anticipated holiday for some, in which case you may decide it’s worth it. Even though we did not attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, there were plenty of Halloween experiences in the parks to explore.
What’s Different about this Season
Several rides convert to Halloween themes:
- Space Mountain converts to Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! converts to Guardians of the Galaxy: – Monsters After Dark
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters converts to Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree converts to Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree
- Haunted Mansion converts to Haunted Mansion Holiday
I was at Disneyland this year for the very beginning of the Halloween roll out, and Guardians of the Galaxy (at least for the 2 weeks when we were there) was normal in the morning, and then closed from 4-5 pm to change over to Monsters After Dark. FastPasses are not distributed for this time, and if you want to do a Rider Switch close to the changeover time, they will not allow you to.
Main Street, U.S.A. features hand carved pumpkins, as well as a large Mickey Mouse pumpkin head photo op.
Characters are costumed, and fall decor abounds. Special fall treats are also available (Pumpkin Spice Beignets anyone?) This is what really gets me. It wasn’t even on my radar to go at this time, but now that I’ve seen the many Instagram photos of sour apple churros, fun caramel apples, and other fall themed snacks, it’s at the top of my bucket list.
Something that I really wish I’d known before hand was that on Halloween Party days, anyone can dress in costume! Typically, Disney has a strict no costume policy for adults. If you’ve seen any professional cosplayer, you can understand why. There are some seriously talented people out there, and it could be confusing (or earth shattering) for a child to see two Tinkerbells at the same time. However, on Party days, costumes are everywhere! Just make sure you check out the costume rules for the parks when you’re putting together or buying a costume.
Weather wise, it was lovely. It was comfortable to wear shorts and a tank top, as long as you had a sweater for the mornings/evenings. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts, but my husband and toddler were in tanks and shorts the whole time. Now that I’m thinking about it, we did spend more time in the hot tub than the pool, since our pool days were cooler and overcast. For some reason, the days often start quite overcast at this time of year, and then the clouds “burn off.” So if you’re getting ready for the day at 7 am, it’s something to consider. Also, as I’m the self proclaimed “Queen of the UV Rays,” the UV ray index is much much lower at this time of year, so you don’t have to be as concerned about sunscreen applications. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon should be plenty.
If you’re planning on going during this time, make sure to check the Parks Calendar to see what the hours are like. It was really fun seeing the parks decked out differently. The DCA decorations were a little more spooky, especially at nighttime, as they were purple and had Oogie Boogie’s voice coming over the speaker system. If you have sensitive children I would try and prep them beforehand. The Disneyland decor was not scary.
All of the characters are dressed up for Halloween; such as a witch, a skeleton, Dracula, etc. We did notice that in Mickey’s Toontown they were still dressed as normal.
While we seriously enjoyed being there at this time of year (come on, it’s California… we live in Raincouver, what’s not to love) there were some things that would make me pause before booking at this time of year again. Firstly, we were there the very first week of the official Halloween season. I think the parks were busier because people specifically planned trips to be at the park for the occasion. We had to go when our vacation time permitted. Haunted Mansion Holiday had just converted and it made that section of the park almost impassable. The only way we got on the ride was to FastPass it. We were barely in that area due to the crazy congestion that was there. (Think minimum 50 minute wait times at ALL times of the day and lineups being extended out into New Orleans Square). It was also a Saturday, so naturally passholders were also checking out the newly decked out parks.
Now, I know we broke the cardinal “Thou shalt not go to Disneyland on a weekend” rule, but there was a reason! Fall time is weird in the sense that yes, it is a holiday time; and yes, it’s busy… but it isn’t “peak” season. This meant that park hours were shorter (usually 10-10, or 9-10 for Disneyland, and then 10-6 for DCA) on weekdays. Nightly entertainment is also reserved for weekends only, unlike the summer and winter when it runs almost every night, if not every night. SO, if you want to see the Fireworks Spectacular or Fantasmic!, you have to go on Friday or the weekend. (A quick note about Fireworks: they can and do cancel them for “high winds.” This was disappointing for us because during the off-season fireworks are only on weekends… so we got to Main Street on the only weekend evening of our trip, and 5 minutes before the scheduled start time they were cancelled.)
Of course, this means that anybody else visiting the resort at that time who wants to see the fireworks must also attend on the weekend. Thus, it was CRAZY insane busy. But again, weekends have extended hours as well. Still, gird your loins if you plan on being in the park on a Saturday. A friend of mine is there right now, and she mentioned that Sunday was less busy than the Monday. I think another reason for this is many weekends are “black out” days for passholders, so you’re getting more tourist crowds on weekends, and annual passholder crowds on weekdays.
As I mentioned, Disneyland closes early (at 7 pm) on Party nights. Disney California Adventure also closes early during the off-season (they usually have signage if it will be earlier than 7 pm… it closed at 5 pm our last day). DCA has not yet matched Disneyland’s hours entirely, often opening an hour or two after Disneyland and then closing an hour or two earlier. Also, any day that DCA closes significantly earlier than Disneyland means that all of those people then go over to the Disneyland side, making Disneyland extra crowded. During our trip, since we had the five day pass, we started in Disneyland, then did DCA, and alternated back and forth. Due to just how our dates fell (we only did a maximum of two consecutive days in the park to give the littles a chance to recharge) we were in DCA on Party days. Even though we had a Park Hopper, we never once used it, because we found that when we were ready to leave DCA, it was 6 pm (closing time for that side) but then Disneyland closed at 7 pm due to the Party. And when we were in Disneyland, we didn’t find we had time to switch over to DCA.
Whether or not you’re a big fan of the holiday, Halloween time is definitely worth checking out if you’ve got time off in the fall!
What’s your favorite holiday to visit the Disney Parks? Let us know in the comments 🙂
Have a magical day!
Elisia, Erica, Heidi and Danielle