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, a brand new Audio Animatronics Sally figure was added to Haunted Mansion Holiday’s graveyard scene. The ballroom has a new cake (as always), featuring the Haunted Mansion itself decked out for its 50th Anniversary. This is one of the largest and most elaborate cakes the ballroom scene has had in recent memory. You’ll definitely want to check it out this 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 Annual Passholders, 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, and it’s often out of FastPass/MaxPass availability by then. 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.
Normally, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is the other Halloween attraction. Last year it did not run due to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the desire to keep Hyperspace Mountain, the Star Wars-inspired overlay of Space Mountain operational during that land’s first few months.
It’s highly likely that Ghost Galaxy will return for Halloween 2020, so the following is what to expect if/when it does. The overlay for Ghost Galaxy basically consists of some projections, music, and different lighting at night. It’s more of a change in tone to Space Mountain than a change in substance like Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is a little cheesy with its projections, but we love it. It’s corny in the way many Halloween movies are cheesy, and is very fun as a result. Plus, the soundtrack is excellent, and turning your head to “follow” the ghosts around the ride actually creates the illusion that the ride is more intense. Note that while it’s corny for adults, some younger riders might actually be scared by it (there are signs up informing guests of the scare-factor).
Space Mountain always has some of the longest lines at Disneyland, and the same is true of Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. We recommend making this the first attraction you experience when you first arrive at the park in the morning, and we also recommend grabbing a FastPass or MaxPass for it later that will be valid after sundown. There is cool lighting and projections on the exterior of Space Mountain at night, and this is best seen when in line for Space Mountain due to the elevated queue.
Actually, in terms of the quality of the experience, both Ghost Galaxy and Haunted Mansion Holiday are best during the daylight hours. This is because your eyes will have adjusted to darkness better at night, and will allow you to see some things in both attractions that spoil the illusion a bit. Not a huge deal, but something to consider.
Halloween Entertainment at Disneyland
The good news about the Halloween party moving over to Disney California Adventure is that the Halloween Screams fireworks have stayed behind, and are now available for all guests to enjoy! We’re big fans of Halloween Screams, and highly recommend catching it on a weekend, when there’s actually pyro (well, if the Santa Ana winds cooperate!).
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. (Plus, fireworks on select nights.)
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 Annual Passholders, 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.
With that said, it’s unclear whether Mickey’s Halloween Party will return in 2020 or 2021 (we highly doubt it), so we’re leaving this section here…for now. We also have a dedicated Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland Tips post if you want more detailed info and analysis.
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!