12 Things to know before you attend Disneyland’s Halloween celebration
Let’s be honest, Disneyland Resort is magical any time of year, but my family’s favorite time to visit happens to be at Halloween. Halloween Time takes place in September and October at both parks - Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Each park is transformed with Halloween-themed decor, specialty souvenirs, and treats - plus encounters with Disney villains.
Because this event has been my family’s tradition for a decade, I know a thing or two about Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort. Here are 12 things to consider before going with your family.
Both the Disneyland and California Adventure parks are decorated for the holiday. One of my favorite areas of the parks is Cars Land. Who knew that cartoony traffic cones could make for such fun Halloween decor? (Think candy corn!)
You’ll also encounter characters in costume. Mickey and Minnie have special Halloween outfits. Some of the other characters may be dressed up, too, like Winnie the Poo as a bumblebee. You can line up for a meet-and-greet with the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from TheNightmare Before Christmas. You also may encounter some villains roaming around the parks like Cruella de Vil and the Shadow Man.
KidTripster Tip: Maximize your time by using the Disneyland mobile app to find out where the characters will appear next. Because some of these characters only come out at Halloween, the lines can get long.
2/Worth the extra cost
If you’re visiting at Halloween, you definitely need to plan your visit around attending one of the Halloween parties. I’m serious about this!
New in 2019, the party is now called the Oogie Boogie Bash, and it’s located at Disney’s California Adventure. In previous years, it was called Mickey’s Halloween Party and was located at Disneyland.
The Oogie Boogie Bash is held on select nights in September and October, and it’s a separate ticketed event. Your party ticket gives you access to the park as early as four hours prior to the start of the party, depending on the day. Meaning if the party starts at 7 p.m., you can enter the park using your party ticket at 3 p.m. Upon entry, you’ll be given a special bracelet and treat bag that identifies you as an attendee. Starting at 7 p.m., you have to wear the bracelet to get on the attractions. You’ll begin to see Disney employees (nicely) ushering other guests out of the park.
Once the party is underway, you’ll see special characters out and about. Treat trails will open up around the park where you’ll follow a line and get a handful of candy or your choice of a healthy treat option like sliced apples. My kids usually end up with more treats at this event than Halloween night!
Oogie Boogie Bash highlights include a new World of Color show called Villainous!, a transformed Redwood Creek Challenge Trail experience called Villains Grove, immersive treat trails, the Frightfully FunParade, Mickey’s Trick and Treat show, the DescenDANCE party, character encounters, and more.
Even a sold-out event is not maximum park capacity which means that attraction lines are much shorter.
KidTripster Tip: Many guests - both adults and kids - wear costumes, but there are some rules about what you can wear. Keep reading for more information about that.
3/Buy your tickets early
This is important: if you plan to attend the Oogie Boogie Bash, buy your tickets early. I set a reminder on my calendar for the day tickets go on sale. Yes, I’m that person. I bought tickets in late April for a party in early October. Was this necessary? No, not entirely, but I’m a planner, and I wanted to visit on a particular date when my kids had a three-day weekend. By mid-summer, most party nights were sold out, and by early September, all 20 nights were sold out.
The cost for tickets to the Oogie Boogie Bash ranges from $100 to $145 per person, depending on the date; parking is not included.
4/Celebrate Día de los Muertos, too
In addition to Halloween, both parks feature experiences inspired by the spirit of Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, with Plaza de la Familia and A Musical Celebration of Coco at Disney California Adventure and a colorful Day of the Dead tribute in Frontierland at Disneyland.
Each park has different activities, music, and photo opportunities. You’ll also find Día de los Muertos souvenirs around the parks.
5/Visit Haunted Mansion & other themed rides
Are you into the Haunted Mansion? Even if it’s not your favorite attraction, it’s well worth visiting during Halloween Time. The mansion is intricately transformed into Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. You’ll see characters from the movie like Jack Skellington, Sally, and Oogie Boogie. As part of the transformation, a gingerbread house sits on the dining table in the grand hall. The smell of gingerbread fills the air. My kids love this part. Fun fact: this year, the gingerbread house is nearly 10-feet tall!
KidTripster Tip: Haunted Mansion Holiday is popular this time of year which means the lines can get really long. Use a FASTPASS to minimize the wait time.
Some other attractions are decked out for the holiday, too. At California Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy takes on a Monsters After Dark theme. And be sure to stop in Cars Land. A couple attractions there go all-out, like Luigi’s Honkin-Haul-O-Ween and Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree.
While in Cars Land, stop for a photo with one of the Cars characters in costume like Mater dressed up as Dracula. Trust me, it’s cute, and I generally find Mater pretty annoying.
6/Pack a costume
It’s fun to dress up for Halloween at Disneyland. I recommend bringing along an easy-to-pack costume. Your kids may want to dress up once they see others doing it. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but costumes at Disneyland can be pretty expensive.
Some practical advice: don’t underestimate how much walking you’ll be doing. Be sure that your kids have costumes that aren’t too hot or uncomfortable and that they’re wearing comfortable shoes. I often see little girls walking around in those “glass” (aka plastic) slippers that match their princess costumes. While they look cute, these shoes are not comfortable. You’ll end up hearing a lot of whining and carrying your children around the park. Don’t be that parent!
Disneyland has several rules for guests regarding costumes. For instance, they must be family-friendly. Costumes should not be offensive or depict violence and can’t include a weapon. For guests (14 and older), no masks are allowed. Long capes and dresses that drag on the ground also aren’t allowed. You can find a full list of rules on the Disneyland website.
KidTripster Tip: You also should pack some glow sticks. You’ll find these for sale throughout the park during the Oogie Boogie Bash, but buying glow sticks at the dollar store means that you’ll have more money for one-of-a-kind Disney Halloween treats at the park!
7/Get the MaxPass
Disneyland can be busy at any time of year. Consider getting the MaxPass. It costs an additional $15 per day, per ticket. Yes, I know that park admission is already pricey, but hear me out on this.
The good news is that this purchase can be a day-of decision. You don’t activate the pass until you’ve entered the park for the day. So if you find that the lines are long, you can download the pass on the spot. If you’re spending multiple days at the parks, perhaps you only use it on one day of your visit. You have options. However, to make the best use of the pass, I do recommend that sign up early in the day.
Here are the benefits on a MaxPass:
• You can make FASTPASS selections on the app instead of having to go to a physical location. No more running around the parks trying to grab a paper FASTPASS.
• You can use your phone as your FASTPASS ticket. Again, no more paper tickets to keep track of.
• As one FASTPASS expires, you can get another one on your phone.
• Your family can spilt up. For example, two of you can do one ride, and two of you can do another.
• If you have Park Hopper tickets, you can make selections in either theme park. For example, if you’re at Disneyland in the morning, but plan to visit California Adventure in the afternoon, you can make afternoon FASTPASS selections at the other park.
• Free photos! I love this part of the MaxPass. This is your chance to get lots of photos of you with your family. The photos sync up on the app, so you can easily save and share them. If you see a Disney cast member with a camera, just ask them to take your photo. Be sure to ask about “Magic Shots.” This is when a special effect is added after the photo is taken. They’re usually pretty cute. Also, you know those photos that you see when you get off a ride? Like the moment you’re getting doused with water on Splash Mountain? Those are included, too. My advice: take a ton of photos because you can download all of them for free!
KidTripster Tip: Once you make a FASTPASS reservation using MaxPass, you’ll get a notification letting you know what time you can make your next selection. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to book that next FASTPASS. This is my tried-and-tested trick for getting on as many rides as possible.
KidTripster Tip: Do you know about rider switch? For instance, perhaps one of your kids isn’t tall enough or doesn’t want to go on a ride that he’s deemed to be too scary. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out. With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with a non-rider(s) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. Then, they switch roles to allow the supervising adult to experience the attraction without waiting in the regular line again. Ask a cast member at the line entry.
8/Download the app
While we’re talking tech, download the Disney mobile app before you go. If it’s already on your phone, make sure you remember your log-in! It was inconvenient when I forgot my password and couldn’t sign in. The app is what powers the MaxPass.
Even if you don’t purchase the MaxPass, the app allows you to do many other things while you’re in the park. Most importantly, it saves you time! You can check wait times at attractions, allowing you to jump in a short line and skip the long ones. You can make dining reservations or even order and pay for food ahead of time. The app also allows you to download and share your PhotoPass photos.
KidTripster Tip: There’s also a Play Disney Parks app. It’s Disney’s mobile gaming app. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is the first land within a Disney park that integrates with the Play Disney Parks app.
9/Make dining reservations
People often overlook dining reservations when planning a Disney trip. I get it. It can be hard to plan ahead and figure out when and where you want to eat. But do you know what’s even harder? Walking into a Disney restaurant at dinner time without reservations. Seriously, if you want to sit down for a meal or have a character dining experience, consider making a reservation. Reservations open 60 days in advance. Make them early, because reservations go quickly. You can cancel or change them later, if needed.
You also can make reservations at the first bar in Disneyland - Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy Edge. Reservations here open up 14 days in advance. They go quickly. Drinks have fun names like the Fuzzy Tauntaun and Jedi Mind Trick; they’re available with and without alcohol. Kids are allowed inside.
KidTripster Tip: Disneyland now has mobile food and beverage ordering at its quick-service restaurants. You can use your phone app to order and pay, allowing you to skip the lines.
10/Start a souvenir collection
It wouldn’t be Disney without a whole lot of holiday-themed merchandise. Get yourself some spooky souvenirs. Because the party has been renamed and relocated, there’s a whole lot of new Oogie Boogie Bash clothing and ears. We like the new The Nightmare Before Christmas snow globes. And we’re excited about the variety of Haunted Mansion souvenirs that celebrate its 50th anniversary.
In my opinion, the Halloween merchandise is some of the best stuff that you’ll find all year. We always have friends begging us to bring back various Halloween merchandise.
11/Try the treats
Disney is all about the details … and they do not skimp on dessert! Let’s start with the churros. You’ll find all kinds of special flavors like pumpkin spice and caramel apple. Speaking of apples, Disney apples are dipped in caramel and served up as things like poison skulls and evil witches. If you’re into pumpkin-flavored things, there are pumpkin cookies, pumpkin brittle, pumpkin fudge and pumpkin cupcakes. Do we need to go on?
One of the more unusual offerings is the Oogie Boogie-inspired funnel cake fries dusted in crushed chocolate cream cookies, topped with cream cheese sauce, chocolate cream cookie pieces, gummy candies, chocolate-coated candies, and whipped cream.
Um, who thinks of all this stuff anyway?
12/Understanding the logistics
Have we convinced you to visit Disneyland Resort at Halloween? Great, now let’s talk about where to stay.
The on-property, Disney hotels can be pretty expensive. If you want to splurge, Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa is right in the middle of the action. Hotel guests have a special entrance right into California Adventure Park, perfect for crawling home after a wild night at the Oogie Boogie Bash. Another benefit of staying at a Disney hotel is the extra magic hour which allows Disneyland Resort hotel guests to enter one of the parks an hour before it opens to the general public.
You’ll always find better hotel rates outside of the resort. Just remember that even hotels that describe themselves as close to the parks are all a considerable walking distance from the entrance gates. One of my favorite off-site hotels is the Hyatt House in Anaheim. The website says that it’s one block away from the parks. That’s not entirely accurate; however, I can assure you that it’s one of the closest hotels. It’s about a 5 to 10-minute walk, though it feels much longer at the end of the night than at the beginning of the day. The hotel also offers a generous, free breakfast.
I also recommend the Anaheim Marriott. This modern hotel usually has some of the best rates, perhaps because it’s just a little farther away from Disneyland. There’s a bus that picks you up right outside the hotel and drops you off at the Disneyland transportation center. It runs frequently and only costs a few bucks to ride.
Lastly, consider which airport you fly into. As West Coasters, my family and I have direct flight options into several Los Angeles-area airports. When visiting Disneyland, we prefer to fly into Long Beach (LGB) or Orange County/Santa Ana (SNA). Flights are generally cheaper into LAX, but LGB and SNA are much closer to Disneyland Resort. That means more time at the theme parks and less time stuck in L.A. traffic.
If the logistics feel overwhelming, let Magic Family Getaways help you figure out the details. Its team of experts (parents like you) know Disney and know how to make the most of your time at the parks. The cost is the same as if you booked through Disney directly. The difference is that you have a person dedicated to helping you. A travel advisor can tailor the trip to your family's needs, interests, and budget. Magic Family Getaways is a partner of KidTripster, and we do a receive a small commission if you book through this link. Thanks for the support!
As they say at Disneyland, “Boo to you and you and you and you … Happy Halloween!”
Journalist KyAnn Lewis became a Disney fanatic by happy accident after living in Orlando for several years. She’s attended the Halloween party for ten years in a row. She’s also visited every Disney park in the world with her family. Her favorite overseas park is Shanghai Disneyland.