When Will Halloween Decorations Go Up at Disney World?

One common question being asked by those with fall visits to Walt Disney World is “when will Halloween decorations go up in Magic Kingdom?” In this post, we’ll try to answer that. However, we’ll warn you up front that this post is mostly long-winded speculation that totally overthinks this because we don’t have a definitive answer. That’s right, reading this will be a complete and utter waste of your time–but do you have anything better to do for the next ~5 minutes?

Although Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been cancelled for 2020, Walt Disney World has already confirmed that Magic Kingdom will be decorated for spook season. For good measure, we inquired with multiple Cast Members–over the phone, via chat, and in the park itself. All indicated that the park would put up its Halloween decorations.

As with anything that Walt Disney World has not confirmed via press release or Disney Parks Blog announcement, it’s possible that this is inaccurate (unlikely) or subject to change (more likely). Even though Cast Members sometimes make assumptions or regurgitate rumors, it’s incredibly uncommon for this many Cast Members to be “confidently wrong.” Our guess is that there’s an internal memo or FAQ upon which they’re relying for this info…

In any case, Halloween is still happening at Magic Kingdom at least in terms of decorations and merchandise (plus hopefully snacks) despite Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party being cancelled. At least, that’s the plan for now. With Walt Disney World fall park hours already being cut, it’s conceivable that the company will look for other ways to trim budgets.

We doubt that’ll happen here. The Main Street Pumpkin Festival, Town Square “Pumpkin People” (or whatever they’re called), and Mickey Head Pumpkin Wreaths all already exist and are sitting in Disney’s Holiday Services Warehouse behind Magic Kingdom. These decorations can be installed in a matter of hours overnight, which is even easier to accomplish this year since the park is closing far earlier than normal.

All of this means that the cost-savings in not installing the Halloween decorations would be minimal. To the contrary, Halloween decorations are something that draws locals to Magic Kingdom.

They might also improve guest satisfaction–especially this year when people are looking forward to Halloween and Christmas. That’s entirely speculative, but the Halloween decorations incentivizing Floridians to make a seasonal visit to Magic Kingdom is all that’s necessary to justify their installation.

Disney also just released details about this year’s Halloween merchandise line, and there’s a lot of it. Another speculative theory of mine–and I have no way of proving this–is that decorations influence merchandise and snack purchases.

Some guests are more likely to purchase that high-margin spirit jersey because there’s a Pumpkin Mickey on Main Street with which they can take a cute Instagram photo. (No judgment–see below.) Other guests are more subtly influenced, with the decor simply getting them into the Halloween spirit. Either way, I strong suspect that decorations have a psychological effect on guest behavior, sentiment, and spending.

Despite Walt Disney World not normally doing much to celebrate beyond Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, this is actually the longest “season” of the year at Magic Kingdom. Whereas the duration of Christmas is constrained by October 31, there’s no holiday before the start of Halloween that acts as a similar buffer.

This means that in a normal year, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party begins in mid-August and runs until the end of November. In fact, the first MNSSHP of this year would’ve already happened had it not been cancelled. We’ve attended the debut party several years, and it’s a bit surreal. School has just gone back into session, feels like temperatures are often above 100 degrees, and yet it’s Halloween.

To accommodate for these early Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party start dates, decorations typically go up in mid-August. Last year, everything was up on Main Street by August 15 with the first MNSSHP being held the following day. It would be weird if the decor wasn’t up for the Halloween party, so that’s a tail wags the dog scenario.

Combing through photo reports from the last several years, this is pretty much par for the course. Magic Kingdom installed decorations at most a few days before the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Of course, that event is not happening this year, so there’s no “need” to start decking the halls with jack-o’-lanterns quite so early.

Without Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party to dictate when decorations go up this year, it becomes a question of when these items should go up? For an answer to that, let’s look at what’s socially acceptable, what’s done with other Disney parks, and what’s most advantageous from a business perspective.

As far as what’s customary among American households, this highly scientific poll conducted by HalloweenCostumes.com found that 71% of households decorated in the first or second half of October. Only 7% decorated in the first half of September, 10% in the second half of the month, and 12% not at all. August wasn’t even a poll option. Of course, Magic Kingdom isn’t a personal residence, except for Cinderella or Elsa–whoever occupies that castle these days.

What’s advantageous varies from business to business. Target and Wal-Mart stock decorations months in advance, but those are for sale, so that’s different. Starbucks starts selling its pumpkin spice beverages on August 28, 2020. In some circles, PSL release day is basically a high holiday.

When it comes to other Disney theme parks around the world, almost all begin decorating at the end of the first week in September. Most notable here is Disneyland, which typically kicks off its Halloween Time season the Friday in September after Labor Day.

Now we’re starting to hone in on a date range that makes more sense for Walt Disney World.

Basically, I’m of two minds about this. If my theory is correct about decorations influencing merchandise sales, it’s possible or likely that Magic Kingdom’s fall decor will go up the same day that the 2020 Halloween Collection ends up on the shelves in the Emporium. Since Disney’s post about the product line says it’s “coming this month” to Walt Disney World, that could be…literally any day now.

On the other hand, waiting to put decorations up until September 8, 2020 would give all of the locals who visited Labor Day weekend (when Disney Park Pass reservations are already filling up) a reason or excuse to go back again in the following weeks.

That could be especially savvy as the post-Labor Day period is likely to be the least busy stretch of the year at Walt Disney World (in our “Temporary Abnormal” 2020 Walt Disney World Planning Guide, we’re predicting the lowest crowds since September 2001, when people feared traveling in the aftermath of 9/11). Halloween decorations going up then would also placate tourists who might otherwise be upset about park hours being cut.

Ultimately, those twin predictions probably seem like a total cop-out. Either “any day now” or September 8, 2020 is basically any date between now and then. However, I suspect the Disney Parks 2020 Halloween Collection will be released either this weekend or early next week, so the prediction is basically either August 15-18, 2020 or September 8, 2020–nothing in between. Those are more concise options.

If forced to choose, the reasoning behind the latter is more compelling, so I’ll place our bets on September 8, 2020 as the first day Halloween decorations are visible in Magic Kingdom. Of course, just because that date makes sense doesn’t mean that’s what Disney will choose. They could go up then, a week from now, the beginning of October, or not at all. We won’t know until it happens…but we’re putting our money (figurative, not literal) on that date being correct and making a Magic Kingdom Disney Parks Pass reservation for September 8, 2020! (Now that we’ve committed, it’s virtually certain I’ll be wrong and they’ll go up this weekend knowing our luck.)

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When do you think Halloween decorations will go up in Magic Kingdom? Think September 8 is a reasonable prediction or do you think it’ll happen when merchandise is released in August? How do you feel about that date–still too early for Halloween? Do decorations help ‘get you in the spook season spirit’ and make you more likely to make a souvenir or snack purchase? (Be honest!) Are you excited to a break from reality and some Halloween fun at Walt Disney World or will you be sitting out spook season this year? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

18 Responses to “When Will Halloween Decorations Go Up at Disney World?”
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