Halloween is the longest “season” of the year at Walt Disney World, beginning in mid-August and running until October 31, 2023. This guide to spook season will cover everything you need to know about how Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and the resorts celebrate fall–from food to special events, merchandise, and more.
In terms of basics, we should start by acknowledging the reality that Halloween pales in comparison to Christmas at Walt Disney World. While the Halloween season is technically longer (3 v. 2 months), the holiday season is the biggest in scale and scope of the year. See our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney Worldfor everything you need to know about that.
Every park and resort gets into the holiday spirit for Christmas. By contrast, Halloween is largely confined to Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, and a handful of other locations–and even then, it’s not as ubiquitous as Christmas. Nevertheless, if you’re planning on visiting Florida during the spook season months, we’ve got you covered with everything to make the trip as ghoulish (in a good way!) as possible…
For starters, one of the most common question we receive is When Does Walt Disney World Decorate for Halloween? If you’re planning a 2023 vacation, that’s worth checking out. Here’s everything else you need to know about the Fall 2023 at Walt Disney World…
Halloween Season Crowds
The crowd levels you’ll encounter at Walt Disney World during Halloween vary widely, which should be unsurprising since it’s a 3-month holiday. Generally speaking, weekends and school breaks are the busiest times to visit Walt Disney World from August through October.
This includes the first half of August, which is still summer vacation for most of the United States. See our August 2023 Crowd Calendar for further insights on good and bad times to visit in that month.
Historically, September is the least busy month of the year at Walt Disney World, making pretty much any day during that month a good time to visit Walt Disney World. However, there are a couple of exceptions towards the beginning and end of the month. See our September 2023 Crowd Calendar.
All bets are off in October, which marks the kickoff to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration. While we’re expecting the entirety of the month to have crazy crowds, a recent wave of cancellations might ease attendance levels from crazy to “only” bonkers. See our October 2023 Crowd Calendar for further details.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a hard-ticketed event at Magic Kingdom that allows guests to celebrate the spook season at Walt Disney World. MNSSHP features special entertainment, like Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade, Hocus Pocus Villains Spelltacular stage show, trick-or-treating throughout Magic Kingdom, and the Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular fireworks show. Lots of characters are out in the park wearing their favorite costumes – and you’re encouraged to wear yours, too!
Aside from 2020-2021 (when it didn’t happen), we’ve attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at least once every year since 2008–including over a dozen times in 2019! You can read about last year’s event in our most recent Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Photo Report.
From all of those party nights–and ticket purchases–we’ve learned a lot about how it works, much of which is also covered in our Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which also covers whether it’s worth the money, strategy for the event, and much more.
Here are other resources you might consider consulting for MNSSHP:
Tickets for most dates of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will sell out again in 2023, so we’d encourage you to make a decision to attend or not and buy tickets shortly after they go on sale. (They never sell out immediately, but it’s wise to buy before the start of August 2023.)
Minnie’s Halloween Dine
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s Halloween fun at Hollywood & Vine where Minnie’s Seasonal Dining is back for Halloween. You can get in the spooky spirit during Minnie’s Halloween Dine.
As noted above, Halloween decorations are already up in Magic Kingdom. The iconic Mickey Head Pumpkin Wreaths are on lampposts up and down Main Street and the Central Plaza in front of Cinderella Castle.
There are also pumpkins lining the second story of Main Street’s shops, with the carvings on each drawing inspiration from the businesses inside. In addition to that, there are some fall wreaths and other light touches to give the front of the park Halloween atmosphere. However, this is not everything.
The Town Square “Pumpkin People” or Scarecrow Citizens of Main Street are back!
Throughout September and October, you’ll find “Fall at Disney Springs,” which features seasonal decorations, photo backdrops, entertainment, and treats all around Disney Springs.
There’s not a ton to it, but Disney Springs definitely feels more like Halloween than anywhere at Walt Disney World outside of Main Street at Magic Kingdom. The decorations are nice, there’s plenty of Halloween merchandise, and some fun photo ops. We wouldn’t recommend making a trip to Disney Springs specifically for the fall/Halloween decor, but it’s neat to see on an already-planned visit there.
Guests visiting Walt Disney World during the Halloween season will find a variety of themed merchandise throughout the theme parks, hotels, and at various shops in Disney Springs.
“Return to Sleepy Hollow” is a fun fall event held at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The evening includes a group viewing of the 1949 animated classic film the Legend of Sleepy Hollow inside the resort’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch stables.
During event nights, you’ll be able to see galloping ghosts and experience an up close and personal encounter with the Headless Horseman. After the movie, there’s a dessert party where guests can enjoy Halloween-themed snacks and desserts.
In the last year it was held, the “Return to Sleepy Hollow” occurred at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground on select weekends in late September and October, plus the last full week leading up to Halloween. Here were those dates: September 28-30, October 3-7, October 10-14, 17-21, 24-31.
With that said, the Return to Sleepy Hollow has not been held for the last few years, and no announcement has been made (yet) for Halloween 2023. For the last couple of years, it has not occurred along with a number of other upcharge offerings due to staffing shortages and other operational cutbacks.
The reason it was cancelled previously was due to construction of the now-shelved Reflections — A Disney Lakeside Lodge, which also entailed building a new Tri-Circle-D Ranch. That project is now finished, and the reimagined results are pretty impressive.
This is where things start to become a stretch. Unlike Disneyland, there are no Halloween attraction overlays at Walt Disney World. That means no Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired Haunted Mansion Holiday, no Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, and no “Monsters After Dark” for Tower of Terror.
Instead, Walt Disney World has two iconic haunted house/hotel attractions: Haunted Mansion and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Both are open year-round and are not expressly “Halloween” attractions, but both share bloodlines with–and have served as inspiration for–iconic Halloween stories, movies, and more.
Epcot Food & Wine Festival
This one is another stretch. It’s not even remotely themed to Halloween, but if you squint hard enough, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival might vaguely resemble a fall-themed offering. Depending on the year, you might find a handful of pumpkin-flavored snacks and other fall(ish) treats in Epcot (if you search hard enough). Plus, the event has something of an Oktoberfest vibe (again, a stretch).
Now in its 32nd terrifying year, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida is Orlando’s most famous Halloween event for adults, and our favorite current haunt season event. We typically buy Frequent Fear Passes that allow us to visit multiple times during September and October. It’s a great event if you want to be scared–but it’s not suitable for children.
The primary draw of HHN is the walk-through haunted house mazes. Around half are usually based on horror franchises like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Beetlejuice, with the other half being original IP. There’s other entertainment including stage shows, the Halloween: Marathon of Mayhem lagoon show, and outdoor scare zones filled with hordes of scare-actors who try to startle guests. See our Ultimate Guide to Halloween Horror Nights for everything you need to know.
Howl-O-Scream has washed ashore at SeaWorld Orlando, and the fear is everywhere. At SeaWorld’s Howl-O-Scream, you’ll evade angry haunts as they rampage through scare zones. Seek shelter indoors, only to find you’ve entered a house of horrors. Deepen the thrill with a nighttime coaster ride. Quench your thirst for fear at a fiendishly interactive bar. Feel the monstrous electricity of a live show.
Above all, try to resist the haunting song of the one who has emerged from the lake. Evil is calling–with a howl and a scream. Experience 27 nights of fully immersive fear this fall from September 10 through October 31, only at SeaWorld Orlando. (Those are SeaWorld’s cheesy words, not mine. Since this event is brand new, we haven’t yet experienced it and are just rolling with the PR copy.)
That’s a wrap for our Guide to Halloween 2023 at Walt Disney World. With the date still over a full month away, it’s possible additional surprises and announcements will be made, so hopefully we’ll have more news to share as Halloween draws nearer.
So stay tuned. We’ll be sure to keep you posted and this guide updated accordingly!
How do you celebrate Halloween at Walt Disney World? Any other ways to get in the spook season spirit? Wish the other three parks did more to celebrate fall? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!