Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland

Our guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland, California Adventure & Downtown Disney features tips & tricks for the event, which runs early September through October 31, 2020. Info includes Oogie Boogie Bash, decorations, food, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and more! (Updated April 5, 2020.)

While official dates for Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort have not yet been released, we anticipate the season beginning on September 4, 2020. This would follow the trend of the festivities beginning the first Friday of September, with a soft opening the Thursday beforehand. However, there’s also the possibility that September 11, 2020 will be the start date, due to the late Labor Day weekend.

Additionally, Disneyland Resort has yet to release dates for Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party. We anticipate that beginning in mid to late September 2020, but there’s an outside chance it doesn’t happen at all. This event requires advance planning, and with the parks closed and state of the economy uncertain, it’s possible Oogie Boogie Bash goes on hiatus for the year. We expect it to happen, though. Here’s what else you can expect during Halloween Time at Disneyland…

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!

To start with, crowds are not typically light during Halloween Time at Disneyland. Things start out slow in early September, and get progressively worse until October, which tends to be pure chaos. In fact, it can be so busy during the Halloween season, that all of the parking at Disneyland can close to capacity. (Hopefully that’s remedied with the new Pixar Pals Parking Structure!)

With all of that said, we think Halloween Time at Disneyland is an incredible time to visit Disneyland. In fact, after Christmas at Disneyland, Halloween Time at Disneyland is our absolute favorite time of the year to visit, particularly when it starts in mid-September. The only reason Christmas gets the edge is because all of its entertainment is included with the normal cost of admission.

We’ve updated this post with some new photos and thoughts about this year’s 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. Let’s get started with the hard ticket event at DCA…

Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party

Oogie Boogie Bash seems like a good place to start this guide as it is the major Halloween offering, now in its second year. Once again, the majority of Disneyland Resort’s Halloween offerings move over to DCA, including the hard ticket Halloween Party, which actually used to occur in Disney California Adventure up construction began on the DCA 2.0 overhaul about a decade ago.

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 attended the party last Halloween season for its debut year, and had a blast. Read our Photos & Review: Oogie Boogie Bash Party Report for more on what we did, photos, etc. if you’re on the fence about whether you should attend (and if it’s worth the money.

Additionally, there are a few things you need to know about Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party…

First, Oogie Boogie Bash sells out quickly. Halloween party tickets have not gone on sale yet, but once they do, you should determine whether you want to attend by and purchase your tickets by late summer.

By the time September rolls around, most dates will likely already be sold out. (If you need regular park tickets, check out our Guide to Buying Discount Disneyland Tickets to save money.)

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.

The good news is that the crowd situation is not nearly as bad this year as it has been in the past. (Granted, it’s still September!) Originally, this move was motivated by the expectation that large Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds would descend upon Disneyland this year (which has not really happened). Irrespective of Star Wars Land attendance (or the lack thereof), we view moving the party and other Halloween offerings over to Disney California Adventure as the right decision.

Annual attendees of Mickey’s Halloween Party might very well disagree with that assessment, but it’s definitely better for tourists and locals who are not attending the special event. During this popular time of year, it’s not really practical for Disneyland to close early to day guests. For the last several years, this has led to a veritable roller coaster of crowd patterns. This move normalizes attendance and helps avoid crushing congestion on non-party nights.

DCA Halloween Decorations

Anyone who has visited Disney California Adventure and Disneyland at Halloween in the last several years knows it can get pretty busy. In fact, last year was the third consecutive year of 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” at Disneyland Resort to draw crowds away from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

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.

DCA Halloween Attractions  

Every night once the sun goes down, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! transforms into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark. This means you can experience two versions of this attraction in the same day.

Monsters After Dark has a new 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 a new 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 new 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.

Ultimately, my biggest issue 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 getting a FastPass or MaxPass for this if you can, as waits have been long, and we’d recommend getting 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 folklórico 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!

DCA Halloween Food

Oh, and the final thing you need to know about Halloween Time at Disney California Adventure is that the seasonal menus are very, very good. We cover these in depth in our Disney California Adventure Halloween Foods post.

Suffice to say, save some room for both the special entrees and desserts. This is particularly true in Cars Land, where both Flo’s V8 Cafe and the Cozy Cone Motel have special snacks and entrees.

As you can see, Disney California Adventure has more than ever for Halloween! The big addition, as covered at the top of the post, is Oogie Boogie Bash, which includes World of Color: Villainous and more. The end goal is to have Halloween be the ‘big draw’ at Disney California Adventure to draw crowds away from Disneyland and, by extension, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. On Page 2, we’ll cover what you need to know for planning a  Halloween Time visit to Disneyland (Park). Click here to continue reading!

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