It’s the most magical time of the year: Halloween time in the parks! I stay on Disney’s schedule when it comes to holidays, which means that I’ve been celebrating Halloween since the big Mickey pumpkin appeared on Main Street in Disneyland on September 3rd. That may be too soon to celebrate for some, but once you have experienced the holidays in either Disneyland or California Adventure, you will be just as eager to get the holiday season started! In honor of Halloween this week, let’s recap all that Disneyland and California Adventure had to offer this Halloween season.
In my opinion, California Adventure shines the brightest during the Halloween season! The Oogie Boogie Man from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” takes over the entrance to the park with a huge display. You can hear him talking over the speakers near the entrance throughout the park’s open hours. The Oogie Boogie man of course has his own Halloween party as well, September through October. If you haven’t read our guide to the Oogie Boogie Bash, you can find that here. If you’re thinking about attending the Oogie Boogie Bash next year (and you most definitely should!) you can expect tickets to go on sale around July 2022. They will sell out quickly!
Buena Vista Street is decked out in bats and classic Halloween decor, including window displays of the 1929 cartoon “The Haunted House” featuring Mickey and the Grim Reaper. Both the cartoon and the window displays are a huge hit with my kids every year! If you haven’t watched the cartoon, I highly recommend adding it to your Halloween movie list for your kids before taking a walk down Buena Vista street to enjoy it all that much more.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree, and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween! These are just two of the Halloween makeovers from our Cars friends; all of Radiator Springs is transformed into Radiator “Screams.” It is always such a hit for little kids! The Cars characters roll down the street, or can be found parked, in their “Car-stumes.” The usual Radiator Springs get-up is transformed into spooky decor with bats, witches, and monsters. The lights glow green and purple, and a special sunset “show” takes place each night as the street lights turn on. All of Radiator Springs cannot be missed during Halloween time!
The Guardians of the Galaxy ride also gets a makeover once the sun goes down. Every night, the ride transforms into “Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark.” Instead of the usual story line, after dark the story changes to helping Rocket Raccoon save Groot.
Plaza de la Familia
Miguel’s (from the movie Coco) celebration of family feels especially festive this time of year! Located in the Paradise Garden, you can meet Miguel, write messages to your family members on the Memory Wall, make crafts, see the Tree of Life, enjoy the mural “Recuérdame,” (named after the memorable song from the movie) and listen to the Mariachi band perform music from the movie. It is the perfect spot to pair with some mexican dishes from Paradise Garden for lunch or dinner! “A Musical Celebration of Coco” is performed every day at 12:45, 1:45, 3:15, 4:15, and 5:15. The festivities end on November 2nd in honor of dio de los muertos.
It’s not a holiday until you’ve had a seasonal churro! This year there is a Fruity Sugar churro (fruity cereal topping with purple and green glaze,) chocolate marshmallow churro, chocolate and matcha churro, and a caramel apple churro. Some of the other Halloween food highlights at California Adventure include:
Festive caramel apples, Jack Skellington cake pops, mummy marshmallow wands, Oogie Boogie Rice Crispy, and pumpkin fudge
Halloween candy funnel cake fries at Award Weiners
Vampire Mickey sourdough at Boudin Bakery
Halloween ice cream at Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream
Our classic pals Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto can be spotted around California Adventure in their Halloween costumes and/or festive clothes. You can also catch more villains than normal, including the evil step-sisters from Cinderella, in addition to the usual characters we always love to see on Buena Vista street. Don’t forget you may also run into a Citizen of Buena Vista street as well! They love to chat and oftentimes have a trick or treat up their sleeve.
Due to Covid restrictions, the characters are still standing behind a rope or fence barrier for their interactions. You can not take photos up close and personal again with them quite yet, but they will happily pose with you in the background! One of the small perks to this restriction is that there are no lines to meet your favorite character. Just grab a spot in the small crowd that gathers and be ready for your character friend to wave at the camera with you!
All the classic Halloween decor can be found at Disneyland this year, which is always such a fun way to mark the season! The pumpkin shaped Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto sit on top of the park’s entrance. It is equally as cute in the day time as it is glowing at night! Inside the park, Halloween Time banners hang from the streetlights and jack-o-lanterns can be found all down Main Street in the storefronts and window displays.
Nothing says Halloween time in Disneyland like the big Mickey pumpkin in the center of Main Street USA! It is a very popular photo spot that we always make a point to pose in front of every year. In past years, there have been two lines to take a photo: one in the front of the smiling pumpkin, and one in the back with the winking pumpkin. This year, however, there is one long line. When you get to the front of the line, the cast member will ask which side you would like to pose in front of.
In addition to this change, cast members are not able to take a photo using your personal phone or camera due to Covid restrictions. They will have their professional cameras for the photos that will be available in your app. Because of these changes, the line to take a photo in front of the pumpkin is long and slow! If you are determined to take a photo right in front of the Mickey pumpkin for that perfect shot, be prepared to wait a bit and have a designated picture taker for you.
Often times the other people waiting in line are happy to help, and ask for you to take their picture in return. If you would like a photo but don’t want to wait in line, you can always pose a bit farther away with the pumpkin in the background and accept that there will be more people in your photo as well. Either way, the giant Mickey pumpkin is a Halloween classic that we’re always happy to see!
Dia de los Muertos
You can find a festive tribute to dia de los muertos in Frontierland next to Thunder Mountain. It is a cute little spot that you might miss if you don’t know it’s there. There you can find some traditional skeletons on display, including a skeleton mariachi band, and traditional decor. This area makes for a perfect teaching moment for kids, and Miguel has been known to make an appearance for a photo op as well!
The most popular seasonal attraction is the Haunted Mansion Holiday! From September 3 to January 9th, the classic Haunted Mansion ghosts and ghouls are replaced by the Nightmare Before Christmas characters. The mansion is completely transformed and while I personally am more a fan of the traditional ride, it is a favorite for so many. You can expect the line to be busier during this time of year, all the way until the new year when it reverts back to the usual ride after Christmas.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy usually makes its appearance during Halloween time at Disneyland, but this year Space Mountain didn’t get the spooky makeover. The ghost did make it a bit spookier than normal so it was a fun change for Halloween, but with so many other exciting things in the parks it is not missed too much! There is no word on why Ghost Galaxy didn’t make an appearance this year or if it will return in 2022.
For some foodies, the seasonal treats are reason enough alone to make a trip to Disneyland! The Halloween churros this year at Disneyland include: regular churro with pumpkin dipping sauce, while chocolate churro, pumpkin spice churro, chocolate dusted churro, and chocolate cookie churro. Other treat highlights include:
Haunted Mansion Holiday wreath cookies
Blood Orange slush
Halloween Candy sundae
Pumpkin cheesecake funnel cake
Pumpkin brittle, fudge, muffin, and beignets
Halloween “grey stuff”
And so much more!
Just like at California Adventure, you can expect an increase of villain sightings and our classic friends in their Halloween costumes or festive clothes. Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas also make an appearance!
Firework shows have recently returned to the parks, and we could not be happier about it! The “Halloween Screams” firework show returned to Disneyland this Halloween season as well. Jack Skellington, along with his dog Zero, is the “master of scare-omonies” during this spooky show! Classic villains join the fireworks, along with flames of fire, which makes it all that much more amazing. Fireworks are only on select nights and may be canceled due to weather, so be sure to check the schedule if you have your heart set on seeing “Halloween Screams.”
The Downtown Disney Halloween decor is a bit underwhelming this year. Bright, colorful painted pumpkins can be seen in the bushes, and the Downtown Disney store has some cute window displays, but things do not feel especially festive outside of the parks. The Downtown Disney decor changes, so here’s to hoping that next year is a little more exciting! The store will have all the Halloween merchandise available, however, so you can always get your Halloween shopping done there.
Both Disneyland and California Adventure are part of so many family traditions for us, and they feel all that more special during the holidays. In addition to attending the Oogie Boogie Bash, my kids love to visit the parks in their Halloween costumes. If my little ones choose Disney characters for their costumes, we love to make it a game to try and find that character in the park to take a photo with!
My daughter has a photo with Tinkerbell in her matching costume, and even took a ride on the Tea Cups with Alice in her matching costume in past Halloweens. While these magic moments are fewer in between due to Covid restrictions, Halloween costumes just feel more festive in the parks! Be sure to follow all of Disneyland’s costume guidelines and leave the weapon props at home.
Whether you are staying at the hotels or not during a trip to the parks, a walk through the Grand Californian lobby is always worth it! I love the cozy vibe and seats by the fire. During Halloween time, a large display made of completely sugar can be found in the lobby. This year the Oogie Boogie man is the star; both my kids and I were impressed!
In addition to all of these festivities in the parks, the weather in October can occasionally play the part as well. While there are some very hot days in October, the temperatures usually drop later in the month and may be accompanied by rain. The cooler temperatures make the long lines and crowds a little more bearable and cozy, and the rain never lasts long, so enjoy a little bit of Fall in Southern California!
All the Halloween goodness can still be enjoyed in the parks until Halloween night, October 31st.