I recently had the chance to attend Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, and thought I’d share some of my photos, observations, and thoughts about the California version of the popular fall, hard-ticket event (not to be confused with its ‘Not So Scary’ cousin in Florida).
In both our Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland and our Ultimate Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland posts, we have expressed apprehension about the value proposition of this hard ticket event. It seems we are virtually alone in this sentiment, as tickets to this event sell out quicker each year, with dates for the remainder of 2016 totally sold out.
Given the significant price increase this year coupled with the removal of parking being included with Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets (meaning an effective price increase of ~$30 for some dates if you have to pay for parking), I assumed the parties wouldn’t sell out. As such, we didn’t buy tickets when they first went on sale (our first mistake). Since we didn’t know when we wanted to attend prior to heading to Europe, we decided to wait. Well, upon returning, every single date was sold out. Whoops.
“Needing” to go in order to cover and photograph the new Frightfully Fun Parade, I weighed my options. Basically, that meant either trying to score day-of tickets by calling Disneyland first thing in the morning or paying scalper prices on Craigslist or eBay.
Calling proved unsuccessful. It is a strategy that I know has worked in prior years, but I was told explicitly by the Cast Member that no day-of tickets will be released for the remainder of the parties this year; info like this is always subject to change, so you might still try. Fortunately, I was able to find someone selling one ticket for face value due to a last minute cancellation. $300 for both of us to go or $90 for just me? Yeah…I went alone. (On a side note, Disney could–and should–easily shut down this large scalping market.)
I arrived early to the party (entrance begins 3 hours before the parties officially start) and headed to Toontown for the pre-party a little over an hour beforehand. There were already lines to get in, and it was pretty clear this area would be packed leading up to Mickey’s Halloween Party.
I wandered off for a bit and returned to Toontown right as the pre-party started, and it was easily the most crowded I’ve ever seen the area. Moreso than even the 24-hour parties when this area is where the “pajama party” characters met. Fortunately (I guess?) I didn’t want character photos of just me, so I didn’t feel the need to wait in a 45 minute line for character photos.
Throughout the entire party, I observed long lines for character meets, contrasted with relatively short lines for attractions. I thought the Mickey’s Halloween Party I attended was on the crowded side, but even still, waits for popular attractions rarely eclipsed 30 minutes (posted). Most people focus on the party-specific entertainment during the event, making lines for rides shorter.
If Sarah were with me, I think we would have waited in the lines for characters, particularly the ones in Toontown. The Halloween costumes Mickey & Minnie wear during the Toontown pre-party are unique to Mickey’s Halloween Party, whereas many of the other costumes found during the party are the same as what you’ll find during the event. Plus, better to use non-party time standing in line than actual party time.
The Frightfully Fun Parade was my main priority for Mickey’s Halloween Party, so I wanted to make sure I got a good spot for it. In talking to friends who had gone earlier in the season, it sounded like the curb could fill up as early as 6 p.m. I wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of waiting 2+ hours, so I figured I’d keep an eye on curb spots and grab a spot as necessary.
The curbs did not fill up nearly as early as I expected, so I wandered around the rest of the park to check in on other waits (for a future post on Mickey’s Halloween Party strategy), periodically heading back to Main Street to check in on the curb. Finally, at around 7:30 p.m. I noticed some spots were starting to fill in, and I grabbed a seat.
Frightfully Fun Parade starts with the Headless Horseman galloping gingerly sauntering down Main Street. A few years ago, the Florida Headless Horseman was slowed down after a near-incident, and I’m not sure whether this Headless Horseman has slowed even further, or if there was just an issue the night I visited.
Towards the end of the parade route, the horse actually turned around and took a couple of steps in the other direction back towards Sleeping Beauty Castle!
A bit after the Headless Horseman, the rest of the parade approached. The Frightfully Fun Parade is such an improvement from the previous cavalcade that used to run during Mickey’s Halloween Party that there’s really no comparison. It’s actually embarrassing that Disney ran such a weak cavalcade for so long during an expensive hard ticket event.
Actually, I’m a bit surprised that so many Disneyland regulars–who are no strangers to good parades–tolerated that cavalcade. (I used to criticize the cavalcade in our Ultimate Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland, and commenters would actually defend it!)
Relative to that, Frightfully Fun Parade is incredible; a night and day improvement. It has already drawn a lot of praise from Disneyland fans, and much of this is deserved. There are some really cool floats and performers in the parade, and overall, it’s a solid effort.
When comparing it to Boo to You Parade at Walt Disney World (which I think is a fair standard since both are hard ticket parades for Halloween), Frightfully Fun Parade still falls short. Literally–it’s shorter by about 50%. My hope (and thought) is that maybe Disneyland will add a float or two for each of the next couple of years to build it out, as this is a solid foundation.
However, even as-is, the Frightfully Fun Parade is the flagship draw of Mickey’s Halloween Party. The music is catchy, there are a couple of really cool floats, and sections with great performers in between the floats. I especially like the Dr. Facilier and Haunted Mansion floats, and the Shadow Men performers push the envelope on spookiness in a Disney parade. (By contrast, the ballroom dancers could have been a little more ‘undead’ for my tastes…)
Immediately after the Frightfully Fun Parade ended, I rushed to the Hub to get a spot for the fireworks. The best spots were all completely gone by this point, which is what I expected. Many savvy guests (and since so many attendees are locals/regulars, there are a lot of savvy guests) are going to grab a spot that doubles as a good location for the first parade and fireworks. Were I not so particular about my parade spot, I would have done this, too.
Announcements started well before the fireworks notifying guests of the possibility that Halloween Screams could be cancelled due to winds at higher elevations. In my experience, 80%+ of the time that such an announcement is made, the fireworks are cancelled. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even bother waiting for the normal fireworks if this announcement is made; playing the odds, it just isn’t worth it. However, this being a special show, I held out hope and stayed put.
They say with the right breeze, you can hear Disneyland’s fireworks in Long Beach. I’m pretty sure this night you could hear the collective groan of the crowd in Malibu when the announcement was made that Halloween Screams was cancelled. It sort of boggles my mind that Disneyland does not have a “B Show” for Halloween Screams. Seeing Zero fly around Sleeping Beauty Castle is the highlight of this; why not run that plus some projections and lasers?
I was pretty disappointed by the cancellation of the fireworks, but at least I got to see the parade twice. In past years, these fireworks are the main entertainment for Mickey’s Halloween Party, so when they got cancelled, that basically meant paying for some trick or treating, meet & greets, and ambiance. (Had that been the case this year, I probably would have gone to Guest Relations to complain.)
Given how long it took for the first parade spots to fill, I assumed I could wait longer for the second parade. This was a mistake, and in hindsight, I’m guessing people grabbed parade spots as soon as the announcement was made that the Halloween Screams Fireworks had been cancelled.
After this, I mostly went around and soaked up the special ambiance around Disneyland for the Halloween Party, which was all really well done. I especially liked the projections on the Rivers of America, and all down Main Street and on Sleeping Beauty Castle. One thing to note, if you’re into photography, is that on the night I attended the party, all of these special projections were turned off shortly after the party ended. (So don’t plan on lingering about to get photos–take them earlier!)
At some point, I’ll update my main Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland post with strategy, but basically, my recommended plan would look something like this:
- 1.5 hours before Mickey’s Halloween Party starts: line up for Toontown Pre-Party
- Immediately head for Mickey & Minnie line once Toowntown Pre-Party starts
- Do whatever character meet & greets you can in Toontown following that prior to official party time
- Piratepalooza (Rancho del Zocalo) or Disney Villains (Main Street) – finish at least 1 hour before parade
- Grab parade spot in Hub facing Sleeping Beauty Castle, ideally 1+ hour before first parade
- Watch Frightfully Fun Parade and Halloween Screams Fireworks from this location
- Wander around, enjoying ambiance; trick or treat
- 1 hour before second parade, get spot on corner of Main Street in front of Photo Supply shop
- Meet & greets and photos until party ends
I should stress that my experience with Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland is really limited as compared to my WDW Halloween Party experience (which we’ve attended over a dozen times in the last decade), so this strategy is not quite as refined.
One additional thing I would recommend that I think goes against the grain of conventional wisdom would be to wait (if you can make it this long) until the very end of the night for a photo with Mickey & Minnie in front of the giant pumpkin on Main Street.
This line no doubt gets longer towards the end of the night as people leave, but I also noticed that the line was not cut until right when the party ended, so as long as you jump in line before the party closes, you can effectively extend the party.
Overall, I had a fun time at Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. The ambiance was spectacular and the Frightfully Fun Parade certainly elevated the event to something for which Disney should not be embarrassed to charge such high prices. However, “not embarrassing” is a pretty low bar to clear for pricing. I still have a really difficult time with the prices for this event. Disneyland made a great stride by adding the parade, but that parade now needs to be fleshed out, and a stage show should also be added (there’s the perfect venue where Mickey and the Magical Map is held).
One thing to note since a lot of times popularity with events like this begets itself, as people assume the event must be great if tickets are such a hot commodity. I don’t think the tickets selling out so quickly should be viewed as indicative of quality. The sheer number of people in Los Angeles and Orange Counties with high levels of disposable income plus die-hard Disneyland fans willing to splurge on the event, coupled with relatively low supply, virtually guarantees sell outs. I suspect that will hold true even when the prices eclipse $100/night. (Which, I assume, will happen for numerous dates in 2017.)
Whether we do Mickey’s Halloween Party in 2017 depends largely on what, if anything, is added. While I consider MNSSHP in Florida a must-do event every year, I’m still not entirely sold on Disneyland’s Halloween Party. Thanks to the Frightfully Fun Parade, I didn’t feel ripped off by the event, but there’s still room for improvement. Obviously, most people (who aren’t insane Disney fans like us) don’t have the luxury of choosing between these two Halloween parties. However, anyone who lives in Southern California does have a wealth of options when it comes to Halloween entertainment. Doing Disneyland during the day–when entertainment like Halloween meet & greets, Ghost Galaxy, and Haunted Mansion Holiday are included in standard admission–and a non-Disney event at night is certainly a viable, satisfying option.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
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Have you attended Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland this year? Did you think it was worth the money? What did you think of the parade? Any tips of your own to add? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!