Photos & Recap: 2017 Disneyland Halloween Party
Last night, we headed to Disneyland to attend the first Mickey’s Halloween Party of the year. In this post, we’ll share our photos, observations, and thoughts about the California version of the popular fall, hard-ticket event. Plus, another super-rad Halloween costume that I made with zero adult supervision. Let’s get started!
First of all, I want to underscore that Mickey’s Halloween Party is the event at Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim, California. I know, I’ve already made that abundantly clear, but the very similar names between the two parties–and the fact that I just shared a recap from this party’s Florida cousin–leads to some confusion. They could call this Goofy’s Slightly-Spooky Halloween Party to distinguish them, but I guess the Great Goofini isn’t quite as bankable as Mickey?
In reality, I think they could call the Disneyland event, “Oogie Boogie’s Poopy Party” and locals would still throw their money at Disneyland, selling out the event in record time, at record high prices. That’s what happened this year, as Mickey’s Halloween Party sold out for the entire season before the first party even took place. In that sense, I’m not totally sure why I’m even writing this. Even if you were on the fence about attending, this post won’t do you any good now…
Now, I realize many people like to read recaps like this as a fun way to vicariously experience something they could not attend, for reasons ranging from living across the country to being anxious they’d never have a costume as dope as mine. I’m sort of the opposite. I hate read. If I couldn’t go to something, I only want to read about it if it was a disappointing event. That’s why I’ve spent 27 hours (to date) reading about Fyre Festival.
You might be here for either of these reasons…or because you already purchased tickets and want a preview of the event. I haven’t been shy about my criticism of this party on the blog in the past, so the “hate reading” option wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. In both our Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland and our Ultimate Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland posts, we have expressed apprehension about the value proposition of this hard ticket event. (By the way, if you’re looking for planning info or party strategy, definitely check out that ‘MHP Tips’ post. This is more of an anecdotal report for the evening.)
Before we get too far into this, I should probably disclose to the haters that we had a good time this year. While there were a handful of one-off issues, it was by and large a really fun evening. Between incremental improvements, better crowd management, and perhaps just the event growing on me, I’m slowly warming to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland.
With that said, let’s get started with a recap of the event…
Our original plan was to get to Disneyland early in the day, eat a bunch of the Halloween foods, and then line up for Toontown at around 4:15 p.m. for the pre-party, which starts at 5 p.m. However, when I got up, I discovered that my new Nikon D850 was “out for delivery” a day earlier than I anticipated, with a deliver-by time before 3 p.m. So, we waited at home.
When 3 p.m. rolled around with no brown truck in sight, we decided to wait until 4 p.m. Unsurprisingly, no UPS truck came during that time, and with traffic getting worse by the minute (sadly, that’s no exaggeration), we had to leave just to get to the party before 6 p.m.
After a commute that took triple its normal time, we arrived at our hotel, and raced to the park. We got into Toontown at 5:45 p.m., at which point all of the character lines were already really long. They had not yet been cut, but we were looking at waits that would last until 6:30 p.m. at that point.
We were not interested in those lengthy waits, but if character photos were our top priority, we would’ve waited. The Halloween costumes Mickey & Minnie wear during the Toontown pre-party are unique to Mickey’s Halloween Party, whereas many of the other costumes found during the party are the same as what you’ll find during the event.
If character photos don’t matter to you, the alternative to this would be starting over at Disney California Adventure–guests with Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets are allowed to enter both Disneyland and DCA 3 hours before the party starts this year. Perfect for seeing Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land. Free MaxPass access is also included prior to the party starting!
Our friends Jenn and Guy Selga of TouringPlans were already there, and had arrived as planned, knocking out all of the characters in short order. While it might appear that Guy is throwing his usual temper tantrum that we won’t take him on the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, this time he’s actually mourning the loss of Country Bear Playhouse, proverbially pouring one out for his homie, Henry.
I give Guy a lot of well-deserved grief, but I have to admit that he made the greatest Halloween costume of all time. This was a brilliant idea, hilariously executed. (Don’t worry, he was back to the regular Selga form by the end of the night, claiming Frightfully Fun Parade is better than Boo to You.)
For those who are unfamiliar with Guy’s costume, it’s Henry from Country Bear Vacation Jamboree/Hoedown (pictured above). Sadly, in a world where Country Bear awareness is at an all-time low, adoring Country Bear Jamboree enthusiasts didn’t flock to Guy at a nonstop pace throughout the evening.
Throughout the entire party, we observed long lines for character meets, contrasted with really short lines for attractions. We never saw Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy or Haunted Mansion Holiday with wait times above 30 minutes. Towards the end of the evening, both were near walk-ons.
Without a doubt, characters are a priority for many guests. The character meet & greets (and AP backdrop) in New Orleans Square and Frontierland had huge lines. At one point early in the party, a Cast Member quoted a wait time of “at least an hour” to meet Sally & Jack Skellington. Judging by the visible line, it could’ve been more like 90 minutes.
Right before the party started, we lined up for the Pirate Pals, which has two separate meets: the Mark Twain dock and Petrified Tree. At the tree, Pirate Minnie and Mickey Mouse meet. At the dock, Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook meet.
We opted for the mouses, as we’ve never gotten photos with them in their pirate attire. This meet & greet was chaotic early on, with a large team of entertainment managers trying to figure things out on the fly. Our line was not clearly marked, and was relocated three times in the opening minutes of Mickey’s Halloween Party.
Nonetheless, we only waited about 10 minutes, which was no doubt because we lined up before Mickey’s Halloween Party started, and before the characters were out. Once Pirate Mickey & Minnie appeared, a veritable horde of people raced to the line. I’m guessing it was 45 minutes long by the time we were done.
After this, we made a first-timer party blunder: we ate dinner. In pretty much every post we’ve written about these hard ticket events, we stress the importance of eating early and maximizing party time.
Due to our late arrival and our absurd shortage of bison burgers at home, we were “forced” to head to Hungry Bear Restaurant to have their new “Halloween” bison burger. On the plus side, it was really good.
Following this, we wandered around for a bit, checking out the entertainment and atmospheric elements before going to the Aladdin and Friends meet & greet in Adventureland. The only character was Jasmine, but her line was short, so we met her.
As with the East Coast party, the Frightfully Fun Parade was our main priority for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. Knowing people camp out way early for parades at Disneyland, we wanted to make sure we got good spots for it.
Last year, the curb filled up as early as 6 p.m. on some nights. We had zero interest in waiting that long, so we wandered over to Main Street at around 7:45 p.m. At that point, spots halfway up Main Street were starting to fill in, but towards Town Square was relatively empty.
Jenn, Guy, and Sarah were all content just getting a spot then, but I wanted photos (and I also didn’t want the spot they were in), so I wandered around with my camera and tripod while they sat.
I returned at around 8:15 p.m., and to my surprise, the spot I wanted was still totally open. I asked a Cast Member when they’d put the rope up for this seating area, and a couple of them indicated they’d wait until the very last minute, right as the Headless Horseman was approaching.
My guess is that this delay was due to people wanting photos with the giant Pumpkin Mickey. I waited for a bit over by the rest of our crew, but went to my spot when the PhotoPass photographer left the area. No one else joined me (sad trombone), which was probably because they had curb seating, whereas I’d be standing against a rope.
On the “plus” side, I got to awkwardly sit by myself off to the side while group after group came up to take photos with Pumpkin Mickey. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in any of their photos, but it was still uncomfortable.
Sure enough, as the Headless Horseman approached, this rope went up, and people filled in along it. It was interesting just how last-minute this was. Someone could’ve strolled up 5 minutes before parade time and had (literally) the best parade spot in Disneyland.
After the trials and tribulations of the Headless Horseman during Disneyland’s Halloween Parties last year, I was thinking maybe more training would’ve occurred during the “off-season,” and the horse would be better this year.
Against all odds, the Headless Horseman was somehow worse this year. I know absolutely nothing about equestrianism, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s difficult to train a horse to gallop down a crowded theme park corridor with a headless rider without freaking out.
Still, it surprises me that this horse is so all over the place. More surprised that Disneyland would continue to do the Headless Horseman. To their credit, villagers have been added to the Headless Horseman’s “run” to make the scene more interesting, but it still lacks the wow-factor of the Florida version.
At least…that’s my take on it. I talked to several guests afterwards who all talked about how cool the Headless Horseman was, some even calling it their favorite part of the parade. I do have to admit that even an aimlessly meandering Headless Horseman is pretty cool–especially if you’ve never seen something like this before.
Shortly after the Headless Horseman, the rest of the parade approached. One of the bold moves of the Frightfully Fun Parade was making it slightly darker, and highlighting villains instead of classic Disney characters. Heck, Mickey and Minnie were not even in it last year!
This year, Mickey and Minnie now lead the parade with a bunch of other dancers before the other floats arrive. I think this is a good concession. It gives parents and kids what they want and expect, while maintaining the spookier atmosphere in the rest of the parade.
Here are some of my photos from the first Frightfully Fun Parade:
As I said last year, the Frightfully Fun Parade is such an improvement from the previous cavalcade that used to run during Mickey’s Halloween Party that there’s really no comparison. Other minor enhancements have been made throughout Frightfully Fun Parade, but no new floats have been added.
In my opinion, the Frightfully Fun Parade remains a couple of units too short. Well, it would be too short during a normal running. During this first parade, Jack & Sally’s float got stuck on the trolley tracks, and after about 15 minutes of technicians inspecting it, a tractor came out and one side of the float was put on a dolly and towed.
Rather than circling Town Square the long way, this float cut the corner (turning to the left). As it did, it fell off the dolly. This was directly in front of me, and you could see the faces of the parade techs drop as it happened. I felt really bad for everyone involved. It seemed like a fluke accident, and it had to be stressful for the performers and parade crew on an already stressful opening night.
On Page 2, we’ll see whether Zero was able to fly above Sleeping Beauty Castle, watch the second Frightfully Fun Parade, offer thoughts on crowds, and provide our overall impression of Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. Click here to continue reading.
I went to the 2019 event dressed in a leotux and I looked great. I asked the cast member how will I pee when I’m wearing my costume?
You may be right, Tom! I was at that Halloween Party this year and I wore the same costume Sarah was wearing.
Thank you for the heads up regarding pirate Mickey and Minnie. We would’ve missed it. Max pass plus was not working last night as they weren’t allowing any FastPasses during the party because “the lines were not long enough” according to a cast member. Headed to WDW this Christmas and looking forward to your advice regarding the holiday season.
We attended the 2016 party and I’ve got to say, the fireworks alone was worth the price of admission. It was absolutely spectacular.
Our family is heading the Disneyland next week and was wondering if there
Is a nightly street parade and fireworks on every night and where is the best vantage point to wait as we have small children.
Fireworks only happen nightly during summer and Christmas seasons. Right now fireworks are on Saturday and Sunday nights and Halloween Party nights. There is not currently a night time parade at either park. But DCA has World of Color and Disneyland has Fantasmic! Fantasmic! also only plays on non-party weekend nights, but World of Color is nightly, often it shows at 8:15 when the park closes at 8:00. If you want to see the day parade at Disneyland I would recommend watching the parade closer to Small World as the crowds are better there and you don’t have to wait as long to get a good spot.
I also was at the first party and have been to Floridas. I felt that the one in Florida was a little less confusing, but then again I didn’t get a schedule or map for disneylands. I was really really bummed and sad though because a cast member announced while we were watching the parade, that the best spot to watch the fireworks was at Its a small world. We were right by there so as soon as the parade was over we rushed over and got an awesome seat. We waited and waited and did not hear any announcements of a delay and then the fireworks started and there were no projections on it’s a small world. We could see some of the fireworks but nothing else. We finally tried to rush over to the castle with no luck. So the one thing we were really looking forward to we did not get to see. I was unhappy at the happiest place on earth But the kids got to trick or treat at disneyland (I mean what’s better than trick or treating at Disneyland, right ). I did see a few characters, watched the parade and saw the dance party which was great, but I feel like I missed out on a lot and I have no chance of going back this year. But I guess I did learn what I need to do if I ever do go back.
Any idea how Disney releases additional tickets if/when they do so? We’d love to go but we’re too slow on the uptake in getting tickets. We called guest services and they had no info. Just curious what they’ve done in the past.
Same. We weren’t sure of our travel dates and by the time I had those nailed down, it was sold out online. Before reading this, it hadn’t occurred to me to call, but I called on 9/25 and was told there were different allotments for over the phone sales and online sales, but that as of 9/21 the phone allotment had also sold out. The rep wasn’t sure if anymore tix would be made available. Did you have any luck?
I enjoy your blog very much and my family is planning to visit Disneyland for the first time next month. My young girls are 2 and 5. I’ve purchased tickets to MHP, because it seemed a cheaper, and less crowded opportunity to see both parks. I’m second guessing my decision and wondering if I should try and offload these tickets and attend a regular day (Wed) at DL instead and do a park hopper option. I hate that there isnt a parade or fireworks on regular park days like at WDW, but Im worried the parade is going to be too scary for them anyway. Any thoughts?
I enjoyed your review of the party but was surprised that Sarah chose to wear a heavier costume since in the past, you’ve advised readers to go light when it comes to attire. Don’t get me wrong, she looks great and all; I just was taken off guard, I guess!
I was surprised by this, too.
(Also, it’s unseasonably cool in Southern California right now, so her decision makes a lot more sense than wearing the same costume would in Florida.)
I was actually working guest control right where you were! I can’t believe I didn’t see you! Of course, it might have a little to do with the fact that we were kind of in panic mode and I had several Guests yelling at me the whole time because they couldn’t cross during the parade, which went from being 10 minutes to half an hour. Not sure what they wanted me to do with a float broke down literally right in front of us, but oh well. Still wished I would’ve seen you guys so I could’ve said hi!
Also, they did lower the number of available tickets by about 2,000 per party this year because of last year’s overcrowding. From a guest control perspective, that really helped make the party more enjoyable.
Sorry we missed you, too! Crowd control on Main Street at Disneyland is not something I’d EVER want to do, let alone during a parade, so hats off to you!
Thanks for the info about the 2,000 fewer tickets. If I had to guess, I would’ve said 5,000 fewer people, but perhaps it’s the combo of opening DCA to party guests coupled with the 2,000 fewer tickets that made it feel even less crowded in Disneyland.
I’m glad to hear the sold-out event was relatively uncrowded. This is a big change when I went 2 years ago when it was so crowded and hot that it was a miserable experience. The exorbitant price increase stopped me from going this year. Seems like all rules are made for breaking. It’s a cascade of rule breaking. I broke a rule last year. I finally bought my AP last year and I sneaked in two treat lines. I won’t do it this year, but feel tempted.
Oh oh…Sarah’s costume is GOALS! I love it! (Your’s is cool too Tom of course, Donald Duck, Number 1!).
I was lucky enough to do the Disneyland Party last year (I live in the UK so epic timing skills I know), and loved the atmosphere at the park.
The CM’s were great, the Toontown section was great before the official start – never noticed WDW have something like that… they should. Excellent way to fill up my candy bag, meet Donald/Daisy/Goofy with little wait time then enjoy the rest.
Got to 100% agree with you on the Dans.
Last year I grabbed some Mickey beignets and followed them down the Rivers with a very light crowd. So memorable and so atmospheric, its a true stand out memory of the night for me.
Great recap! We’re going tonight and I have a quick question. Did I read correctly that MaxPass is included at DCA those 3 hours before the party starts? That’s pretty sweet!
We attended last nights party as well, our first one at DL but we’ve done WDW a couple times so it was fun to compare the two. I agree the parade seems a bit short, I loved the floats and characters/performers, but it should be longer in my opinion. Also, the floats seemed really spread out, but maybe that’s to make it seem longer(?). I do think the presentation of the headless horseman is cooler at Disneyland than WDW. No “trotting” noises, but I liked that he seems to move slower and the lit pumpkin was really sweet. I did have the parade theme song stuck in my head the rest of the night, pretty catchy tune. we lined up for Jack and Sally 15 minutes before they were scheduled to start and it took nearly 40 minutes before they even showed up, not cool. That was a huge time-suck for us. Totally noticed the fireworks finale failed to go off, that was really weird and lackluster. I feel like they need more photo pass photographers in the park, they touted the photo downloads being included in the party admission, but then there are no photographers to be found. overall it was still a fun event but they definitely have bugs to work out.
I had no idea you had never seen Halloween Screams before! I love that show and totally agree with you about the parade improving. The light crowds last night were a pleasant surprise. I have to admit though the line about no one joining you to watch the first parade stung a little. What does a blogger stalker have to do to get a little respect!
Haha, it was nice to meet you–but you didn’t show up until I had awkwardly sat there through a number of family photos!
Fair point. I believe not wanting to end up in dozens of family photos was my first comment to you!
So did the D850 ever arrive? Inquiring minds want to know.
It sure did…today at 1:30 pm! 🙁
I think you need to track down two tickets to tonight’s Halloween Party and break that puppy in.
Out of interest, what things do you value about the Halloween hard ticket events at both DL and MK? I’ve been to a couple and been pretty nonplussed by them all. I mean, I enjoyed them, but I had the little matter of “this parade is costing me $80” troubling my mind.
I’d go if they were free, and I know many people make the math work by skipping a ticket day and entering at 4:00 pm, but if I’m blowing an extra $80 on something I already have access to as an annual passholder I’d rather it be an incredible meal… than a special event with a smattering of different parades and fireworks. Also, it irritates me that it starts over a month before Halloween in WDW, and then there’s more of it for Christmas – I was at WDW for the past 5 days and It didn’t sell out on any of those.
(Sorry if this post is a downer, but you must appreciate, this is a privilege that comes with an AP… but also I’m genuinely interested to hear what is is you enjoy about these events so much!)
I love holidays (especially Christmas, but to a lesser extent, Halloween), and am big on ambiance. Even though it’s not an attraction or piece of entertainment, per se, I really enjoy experiencing the different atmosphere during the parties. That bleeds over into photography, as different lighting packages are used that I also enjoy photographing.
Parades and fireworks are also a big piece of the puzzle for me, but it’s mostly the festive ‘feeling’ of the party that is really difficult to quantify.
Ultimately, these parties are a splurge for us that I probably cannot justify if coming at them from a rational perspective, but we have so much fun at the events (namely, the WDW ones) that we do them every year. Definitely a YMMV type of thing, though.
Thanks (that’s actually reassuring, as I was wondering what I was missing). I enjoyed the alternative ambience too (amazing what a difference different BGM makes; just for one thing), but then I look at what HKDL does, with no upcharge, for Halloween and feel cheated by the US offerings. TDL and DLP top it too, bearing in mind their offerings are free. (Yes, no parties, but DLP has lots of entertainment and TDL has the parade). I’ve never done DL’s Halloween party, but HMH/GG are spectacular overlays (compared to WDW’s zero), so I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a better job.
I expect I’ll do MVMCP this year as I’ve never done it before, and failing that call an end to WDW hard ticket events.
Hotter than a giant pumpkin pie, the scorching inferno of a tombricker hot take blazes off the page. On FIRE!
My husband and I were in Disneyland in October 2014 and ate at Hungry Bear for lunch. We split their seasonal burger and funnel cake. Oh my God. It was SO GOOD. Honestly for a quick service place, I was blown away. I still think about it to this day. That is all.
It was my birthday a few days ago and I was wondering when is top 10 Disneyland rides?? Please, I’ve been waiting for it