Our guide to Halloween Time 2023 at Disneyland, California Adventure & Downtown Disney features tips & tricks for the event, throughout September and October. Info includes Oogie Boogie Bash, decorations, food, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and more! (Updated September 13, 2023.)
Halloween Time at Disneyland is now underway! The seasonal event runs now through October 31, 2023 (with Plaza de la Familia and A Musical Celebration of Coco continuing until November 2, 2023 for Día de los Muertos). We’ve already spent several days at Disneyland and DCA during this year’s spook season, and have a ton to share–from new character costumes to fresh food finds!
Let’s start with what’s new for Halloween 2023 at Disneyland Resort. Honestly, not much! There’s new Halloween merchandise including apparel, home décor, and collectibles with in-trend designs.
Additionally, dining locations across Disneyland Resort are serving up dozens of new and returning Halloween dishes featuring fall flavors, like pumpkin fritters and a Halloween cake. All of that is to be expected, though. Merchandise is always changing–and much of it is dated–so it’s not like Disneyland would bring back last year’s product lines. Same goes for the seasonal foods; they’re always a mix of returning favorites and new additions.
Above is a photo Disneyland released of the new-for-2023 Halloween character costumes. Keep in mind that this is a publicity shot, and you cannot meet all of the characters together like this. Nor can you meet them in front of the awesome Mickey Mouse pumpkin head on Main Street, for that matter.
For each of the last few Halloween and Christmas seasons, Mickey & Friends have been getting new costumes each year for their meet & greet appearances around Town Square. These are a huge hit with fans, and the costumes are usually really good for Mickey, Minnie, Daisy & Donald Duck, and especially Goofy. (Pluto is present, too, but typically just gets a new collar.)
This year, Minnie and Mickey don luminescent sheer fabrics that will give a ghostly glow to their festive new ensembles at Disneyland. Be on the lookout for lots of cobwebs and details like bat bowties and spider-shaped bells.
These costumes are really well done, and some of them are arguably even better than last year. While we liked last year’s whimsical looks, the more stately and sophisticated styles of Minnie and Mickey Mouse are nice. In particular, the more formal suit suits Mickey Mouse, who is reminiscent of a phantom mayor.
The luminescent fabric is also great for Chip ‘n’ Dale, allowing them to be spooky spirits and lift up their ghostly layer to reveal the pumpkin shirts underneath. They’re playful meet & greet characters, and these costumes give them something to work with. We had a hoot meeting them, as they imitated Sarah’s baby bump and showed off what’s on their stomaches, too.
Speaking of which, we’ve now had the chance to meet all of the characters for Halloween 2023, and it can be a tad tricky. All of these meet & greets are in Town Square, but the locations aren’t clearly marked, the characters rotate, and most do not have PhotoPass. If you want to meet them, your best bet is being in Town Square between 9:45 am and 2 pm, which is when most of them appear.
Failing that, some of them are back out in the evenings between 5 pm and 10 pm. Those appearances are more sporadic, and characters are not out during the afternoon parade or fireworks. Another option is seeing them at the very beginning of the day, shortly after Disneyland opens and they appear at the Train Station; they also do the same thing at the end of the night. This is not a meet & greet, but you can get selfies and see them much more easily.
The bottom line is that we’d caution against planning to meet specific characters unless you’re willing to dedicate a lot of time to it. The far better approach is going with the flow, and meeting whoever has the shortest line, PhotoPass photographer, etc. Disneyland purposefully makes these meet & greet unpredictable so the lines don’t get unmanageable. (In case you’re frustrated by the vagueness and wonder why it’s done this way–that’s it.)
Another big update is that the Halloween Screams nighttime spectacular has returned for 2023 with supernatural projections, special effects and music on Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Rivers of America, and “it’s a small world.” Halloween Screams also integrates with MagicBand+ to add other effects. Note that Halloween Screams is only presented with fireworks on select nights, which typically means weekends or busy holiday weeks.
To make way for Halloween Screams, the new Disney100 nighttime spectacular Wondrous Journeys has now made its last performance of the year. Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate that Disneyland does the seasonal fireworks for Halloween and Christmas, but it’s kind of unfortunate that the new Disney100 show is going on hiatus for the rest of the year. Wondrous Journeys is a new classic–one of the best fireworks shows that Disneyland has ever produced.
As mentioned above, there’s also new merchandise and food for Halloween 2023 at Disneyland Resort. At the intersection of these two things, there are several new collectible popcorn buckets, the most popular of which is witch Minnie Mouse as a Sanderson Sister from Hocus Pocus. There’s also a new glow-in-the-dark Skeleton Mickey Mouse popcorn bucket that seems highly coveted.
Here are our quick-hit recommendations for Halloween 2023 food based on what we’ve tried so far:
Pumpkin Chai Cream Puff, Poison Apple Macaron & Halloween Macaroon (note the different spellings) – Jolly Holiday Bakery
Finally, there’s a seasonal version of the Goofy’s Kitchen buffet for the first-time, but we haven’t had a chance to try that yet. It’s unclear whether this is just decorations, or if it’s also Halloween-themed cuisine, too.
That covers everything new or changing for Halloween 2023 at Disneyland Resort. What follows is everything else you need to know before you go, based on our decade-plus of experience doing spook season at Disneyland Resort…
As a quick overview of what to expect at DCA, Buena Vista Street is decked out in Nightmare Before Christmas decor and Cars Land has an amusingly clever Halloween overhaul once again. Back in Paradise Garden’s Plaza de la Familia, there’s an underrated celebration inspired by Pixar’s Coco that features live entertainment, meet & greets, craft making, unique foods, and merchandise.
Inside Disneyland, you’ll find the giant Mickey Mouse pumpkin and other decor on Main Street, Ray Bradbury’s Halloween Tree, and Dia de Los Muertos decorations in Frontierland. At the front of both parks, you’ll also find Mickey and other classic Disney characters meeting for photos in their Halloween costumes. There’s so much more to Halloween Time than just these basics, so let’s cover everything you need to know!
Halloween Crowds at Disneyland
Anyone who has visited Disney California Adventure and Disneyland at Halloween knows it can get pretty busy. In fact, the last several years have featured really heavy crowds, which is a big reason why so much of the event has shifted over to Disney California Adventure.
In large part, the goal of these Halloween attraction overlays and decorations is to draw crowds to Disney California Adventure during the busy Halloween Time season. Additional rumors have suggested that the goal is to phase-in the idea of DCA as the “Halloween Park” and draw crowds away from Disneyland.
Generally speaking, crowds start out slow in early September, which is one of the least busy times of the entire year at Disneyland. Towards the end of the month, attendance starts to pick up, and crowd levels become moderate by early October.
By late October 2023, expect pure chaos. This is especially true on weekends. In fact, it can be so busy during the Halloween season, that all of the parking at Disneyland can close to capacity. (Due to changes to Magic Keys and how they charge for parking, we highly doubt this will be an issue in October 2023…but it has in the past.)
Beyond that, the hard ticket Halloween party has led to a veritable roller coaster of crowd patterns. On dates when Oogie Boogie Bash is held, Disney California Adventure is less busy during the daytime hours and Disneyland is busier. The opposite is true on non-party dates–DCA is busier and Disneyland is less busy.
The reason for this crowd dynamic is pretty simple and straightforward. Since DCA closes early to day guests on dates when Oogie Boogie Bash is held, tourists avoid DCA and do Disneyland instead. After all, who wants to pay full price for a ticket only to get kicked out several hours early?
Accordingly, the best strategy is to purchase Park Hopper tickets and visit DCA during the daytime hours on Oogie Boogie Bash dates before Park Hopping over to Disneyland at around 3 pm. Do the opposite on dates when Oogie Boogie Bash is not scheduled. If you do not purchase Park Hopper tickets, we don’t recommend this strategy–the time you’re losing due to DCA’s earlier closing is not offset by lower crowd levels.
We’ve updated this post with new photos and thoughts about the festivities, so let’s take a look at Halloween Time at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure, sharing some of our tips and reviews for the various offerings. And speaking of that hard ticket event at DCA that disrupts crowd dynamics, here’s what you need to know about it…
Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party
Oogie Boogie Bash seems like a good place to start the substantive portion of this guide as it is the major Halloween offering, which is in its fourth year in 2023. We won’t fixate on this party too much as we have the aforementioned Guide to Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party that covers it in excruciating detail.
It’s a really well done (if uneven) event with a lot of selling points and more than enough to fill an evening, which is where our strategy guide so you know what to prioritize comes into play. We’ve attended the party every single year, and always have a blast. Read our Photos & Review: Oogie Boogie Bash Party Report for more on what we did, photos, etc. last year.
Additionally, there are a few things you need to know about Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party…
With that said, you may be able to purchase tickets to Oogie Boogie Bash on the day-of at ticket booths or the on-site hotels if there are cancellations or Disneyland releases more tickets. This is highly unlikely, so we don’t want you to get your hopes up, but it has happened in the past. (We haven’t seen it occur thus far in 2023, though.)
Second, on nights when Oogie Boogie Bash is occurring, DCA closes at 6 pm. This is significant because it results in Disneyland being more crowded on party days and DCA being less crowded until around 4 pm, as tourists don’t want to use their tickets for what amounts to a little over a half day at DCA.
As such, we highly recommend Park Hoppers during the Halloween season. If you’re not attending Oogie Boogie Bash, start in DCA on the mornings of the event, and then head over to Disneyland in the evenings. The latter will absolutely be busier than on a normal night, but it’s still your best option from a crowds perspective.
DCA Halloween Decorations
On Buena Vista Street, there’s Halloween decor inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oogie Boogie has risen from the shadows to take over Disney California Adventure, and his oversized silhouette rises above the main entrance turnstiles, and a bat motif is present throughout the area.
At night, Buena Vista Street looks even better, as the special lighting and audio take prominence. This lighting is pretty well done, and even the simple touches like purple lights in the trees really enhance the area. The whole area has a wonderfully spooky vibe and is really enjoyable.
However, it doesn’t hold a candle to the best area of Disney California Adventure at Halloween…
The “Haul-O-Ween” decor in Cars Land takes the crown there, and is an absolute hoot. Cars Land has received an extensive Halloween overlay, as the citizens of Radiator Springs don their Halloween costumes and decorate their homes to celebrate “Haul-O-Ween.”
From Fillmore’s Jack-Oil Lanterns and Flo’s Spider-Car to Witchy Miss Lizzie’s shop, Radiator Springs has become Radiator Screams. This overlay nails the vibe of Cars Land, which always has had a ton of cool ‘wink and nod’ type details that are meant to elicit a chuckle out of astute guests.
I’m surprised at the level of detail in the Haul-O-Ween overlay, and there’s really a ton to see, especially if you take the time to really explore the land. Some of it is totally cheesy, but in way that really works for Cars Land, and that’ll put a grin on your face.
We highly recommend visiting Cars Land for Haul-O-Ween just before sunset, and sticking around for the unique lighting moment (it’s different from the normal one).
Although they are not “decorations” per se, the Super Hero Lightning McQueen and Vampire Mater meet & greets are incredibly popular (and the costumes are HILARIOUS!). There’s also the glorious Clown Red costume, which I can only assume is synergy for the upcoming cross-over film, Pennywise the Car.
We’d recommend asking a Cast Member when the sets for each character start, and jumping into line 5 minutes before one of their sets. Once the vehicle actually appears, the lines tend to balloon.
Monsters After Dark has a different plot, starting immediately after the conclusion of Mission: BREAKOUT when (spoiler alert!), the Guardians have successfully escaped the Collector’s Fortress. Unfortunately, Groot was accidentally left behind. So now you’re helping Rocket distract the creatures while he saves Groot. There’s also an oddball song, “Monsters After Dark,” created especially for this attraction.
Whether you love it or loathe it will likely depend upon your opinion of Mission: BREAKOUT. I do appreciate that there’s an entirely unique storyline, and enough to differentiate this attraction from the regular Mission: BREAKOUT, but I can’t say it does a ton for me. There are a few clever, tongue-in-cheek moments, and it’s fun enough.
My only quibble with Monsters After Dark is that it replaces the iconic classic rock songs that play a huge role in the regular attraction with an incredibly grating “song” that attempts to sound like death metal and, as best I can tell, has lyrics consisting of only three words: MONSTERS AFTER DARK!
Nevertheless, Monsters After Dark is incredibly popular. We’d recommend doing it as early as you can. Failing that, save it until the end of the night, and jump in line at the last minute.
For the Haul-O-Ween overlay in Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters transforms into Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween.
We did both of these attractions, and found them to be quite cute and fun. Ultimately, nothing has changed aside from the soundtracks, but those are well-done. This is particularly the case with Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree, which is every bit as goofy as you’d expect for this attraction. As with the normal version of the attraction, Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree is a hoot that we highly recommend.
Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land is a smash hit with guests, and for good reason. It’s clear a lot of work and effort was put into the decorations and attraction overlays, and the results bear that out with something that’s detailed and just plain fun. I’m optimistic this is just the start of what will become a huge Halloween draw at DCA, and hope it expands even further.
Music of Coco at Plaza de la Familia
As with Viva Navidad during the holiday season in November and December, the entertainment at Plaza de la Familia is the sleeper hit of the September and October entertainment at Disney California Adventure. This celebration of Latino holiday culture takes place in the Paradise Garden area at the back of the park, and is easy to miss as a result.
Plaza de la Familia’s daily festivities include dancing and live music, crafts and face-painting for children, special Mexican foods at Paradise Garden Grill and BoardWalk Pizza & Pasta (and nearby carts), Mariachi music, a special photo opportunity with Miguel from Coco, and an iconic Tree of Life experience.
The highlight of this all is the Musical Celebration of Coco street party. This brings to life songs from Pixar’s Coco via enchanting performances by the Storytellers of Plaza de la Familia, singer/storyteller Mateo, a folklÃ³rico dance ensemble, and the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas. Miguel even makes a cameo in an appearance inspired by Mexican folk art!
This is the sleeper hit of Halloween at Disneyland Resort, and is something every guest should see. Find time to fit it into your schedule, because it’s full of fun cultural offerings. It’s a rich cultural experience with touches of Disney whimsy–the kind of thing you’d expect the old EPCOT Center to deliver!
Disneyland Halloween Decorations
The bulk of the Halloween decorations at Disneyland Resort are in Disneyland. This is apparent as soon as you approach Disneyland from the Esplanade, as the Fab Five are all above the turnstiles in pumpkin form. These just might be our favorite decorations, as they are clever and really set the tone from the beginning.
The decorations continue in front of the Main Street Train Station, and then throughout Main Street once you’re into the park. While other areas of Disneyland are decorated, Main Street definitely has the most decorations. Our favorite of these decorations is the large Mickey Mouse pumpkin photo op at the near end of the street.
This is a popular photo op early in the day, but is less popular during the middle of the day (grab your first photo of it in mid-afternoon when the Southern California skies are most likely to be blue–after the coastal haze has burned off). It’s again popular on the way out of the park at the end of the night, unless you wait until the very end, which is when we recommend grabbing a second photo of it.
Much like Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland normally has pumpkins adorning the ledges and windows on the second story of Main Street buildings. Many of these are decorated to reflect the adjacent shops, and there are a ton of clever hidden gags and references in these, so keep your eyes peeled.
Main Street normally has a lot of decorations, but Frontierland is the show-stealer when it comes to Halloween. Perhaps the coolest “decoration” of all is one that’s frequently overlooked, and that’s the Ray Bradbury Halloween Tree in Frontierland. This tree is modeled after Bradbury’s 1972 novel, titled The Halloween Tree.
As a Disney history fan, I really appreciate this tree. Ray Bradbury was a huge proponent of EPCOT Center. There’s a good chance EPCOT Center wouldn’t have been the theme park it was at opening without Ray Bradbury so strongly advocating for it among other scholarly minds.
His writings on the significance of Disney theme parks have given them an air of legitimacy to otherwise dismissive critics, too. Ray Bradbury is definitely deserving of this tribute, and I hope it continues on for decades to come. If you want to read and see more, read our The Halloween Tree at Disneyland post.
Also in Frontierland, there is plenty of Dia de los Muertos decor near Rancho del Zocalo. These vibrant and authentic decorations are really well done, and a great change of pace from the normal pumpkins elsewhere.
Some traditionalist Disneyland fans don’t care for it, and if you’ve never seen regular Haunted Mansion, you might be disappointed by seeing the overlay instead of that, but for everyone else, this is great fun. In the last few years, an Audio Animatronics Sally figure was added to Haunted Mansion Holiday’s graveyard scene. Also, there’s a new cake in the ballroom every year.
In terms of when we recommend doing Haunted Mansion Holiday, early morning is your best bet. Normally, Haunted Mansion is a low-wait attraction, but since the overlay is a big draw for locals, the line for Haunted Mansion Holiday gets longer and longer as the day goes on.
By nighttime, it’s often one of the longer lines in the park. Although it’s not specific to Halloween Time, read our Ideal 1-Day Disneyland Park Itinerary to get an idea of more strategy for the park, but move Haunted Mansion Holiday up to an earlier time due to its increased Halloween popularity.
Definitely don’t wait until night to experience it. The ambiance at night in the queue is better, but that can be seen without getting in line for the attraction. Since the entire ride is indoors, there’s no benefit to actually waiting in line and doing Haunted Mansion Holiday at night.
Halloween Entertainment at Disneyland
Each night through October 31, you can see “Halloween Screams” presented high in the sky over Disneyland.
Halloween Screams is hosted Jack Skellington and his ghost dog Zero, with the nighttime spectacular featuring soaring flames, projections of rising ghosts and classic Disney villains like Maleficent and Ursula the Sea Witch, lasers, spotlights, and other effects set to a medley of Halloween-inspired songs.
Note that there are two versions of Halloween Screams. On weeknights, it’s presented as a not-so-frightful projection and special effects show in Disneyland…without pyro. On weekend nights, Halloween Screams is enhanced with fireworks. You can view Halloween Screams from several different locations throughout the park, including Main Street, U.S.A., Sleeping Beauty Castle and the façade of “it’s a small world.”
We’re big fans of Halloween Screams, and highly recommend viewing it no matter what–but especially on a weekend, when there’s actually pyro (well, if the Santa Ana winds cooperate!).
If you’re looking to meet unique characters or familiar Disney friends in their Halloween costumes, you’re in luck. The two most popular characters are Jack Skellington and Sally, who “materialize” near Haunted Mansion. Aside from them, our favorites are Mickey Mouse and friends, who meet in Town Square throughout the day wearing their Halloween costumes.
In addition to the above, free-roaming characters are common at Disneyland, and those are great for spontaneous interactions and random moments. As for the others, we highly recommend consulting the “characters” drop-down in the Disneyland app, which gives set times for each character.
For Town Square in particular, arrive slightly before the time of the character you want to meet, and inquire with a character attendant where the character you’d like to see will be meeting. This is our approach, and it saves us a good deal of time waiting in line!
Halloween Food at Disneyland
Disneyland’s Halloween snack game is strong. This is because these seasonal snacks can be marketed to Disneyland locals, many of whom actually might make a special trip to the parks to try some of them. This is great for guests, especially pumpkin fanatics like us.
Seriously, we love pumpkin foods. Our fridge is currently stocked with pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin macaroons, and pumpkin cheesecake. We have pumpkin coffee and pumpkin candles. Disneyland Resort Halloween snacks are heavily skewed toward pumpkin lovers like us. If you don’t love pumpkin foods, you’re far less inclined to be as smitten over Disneyland’s Halloween snacks as we are, but there’s still plenty for you.
To us, this is one of the biggest draws of visiting during the Halloween season, and we enjoy these snacks so much that we usually spend multiple days following the “Food Guide” pamphlet and grazing around the parks. You can see some of our favorites in our Best Halloween Foods & Desserts at Disneyland post.
Disney’s Happiest Haunts Tour
We have not done the Happiest Haunts Tour at Disneyland. Consensus on it seems to be that it’s less informative than the Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour, and more about adventure and the charisma of the tour guide. Everyone seems to gush over the Christmas tour and we really didn’t think it was all that great, so we opted not to do this tour (which still generally gets positive reviews, but slightly less positive reviews than the Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour).
This tour is generally a scavenger hunt/adventure through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure that takes guests on a number of “spooky” attractions (roughly 6) with front of the line access. The scavenger hunt is tied together as a story that the tour guide tells along the way and supposedly has a surprise ending. You’ll probably know based upon the description whether this tour will appeal to you. It doesn’t really appeal to us, but your mileage may vary.
Overall, Halloween Time at Disneyland is a ton of fun, and a great time to visit both in terms of offerings and park atmosphere. September and October are great times of year to visit Disneyland, generally, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed with a fall trip to Disneyland, even if you aren’t a Halloween fan.
While Halloween doesn’t top Christmas in terms of best times of year to visit, it does have a lot to offer that’s different from the “normal” Disneyland entertainment, and the Halloween offerings are far more than some light decorations, even if you opt not to attend the Halloween Party.
Do you enjoy Halloween Time at Disneyland? Which seasonal event at Disneyland is your favorite? Have you attended Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party? Have a favorite attraction overlay and entertainment during the Halloween season at Disneyland and DCA? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have additional Halloween tips or questions, please share them in the comments!