The happiest place on earth is decked out for Halloween! It’s all about oranges, reds, purples and things that go bump in the night. You don’t have to attend Mickey’s Halloween Party to enjoy all the decorations and things out there. You can see everything in a day; just have a plan of attack ready to go!
Main Street USA
The first park I decided to knock out on my visit was Disneyland. Knowing how many families rush to get there first thing in the morning, I took my time enjoying a lie in at my hotel and headed over to Disneyland close to 10:00 a.m. The lines to get into the park were virtually non-existent. The decorations on the top of the entrance gates each year are the Fab 5 (Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto); its the first thing you will notice entering the park.
Continuing around the train station and past City Hall, you’ll see fall themed flora and fauna. My absolute favorite decoration is the giant pumpkin Mickey head that sits at the base of Main Street. It’s the best photo op you can have. Take photos at both daytime and nighttime if you are able to. The lights at night show up on the photos taken on the professional camera of the Disney Photopass Cast Members exceptionally well.
Photos can be very affordable. If you have a smartphone, download the official Disneyland app. It has wait times, digital maps, and more importantly will allow you to purchase MaxPass (which deserves it’s own post) for $10. MaxPass is basically a program that Disney has allowing you to have the ability to select fastpasses on your phone instead to running form attraction to attraction. Its real value is that it comes with all the photos you take for the day by any Cast Member or attraction.
Another photo op that is a must have for me is the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse partners statue that sits in the middle of the theme park at the end of Main Street. The partners statue is the most iconic part of Disneyland except for the castle. Every Disney themepark in the world has their own version of the partners statue. The circle and area around it are often referred to as the Hub.
The Hub has pumpkins that represent every land within Disneyland sitting around it in the flower beds. If you have your picture taken, you can have the pumpkins, partners statue and castle in one frame. The castle only transforms into Halloweentime decorations if you attend Mickey’s Halloween Party. It never gets old walking through it though and enjoying every angle of it’s beauty.
Adventureland, New Orleans Square and Frontierland
From the Hub, choose your own adventure and go anywhere you want. I like to start off in Adventureland. It has my favorite attractions, snacks and decorations. I will never say no to a Dole Whip, pineapple soft serve ice cream, but it’s something that I refuse to wait in line for. Typically I would go into the Enchanted Tiki Room when I’m eating it, but this time the Tiki Room was down for much needed refurbishment. So what did I do? Tried my first mobile order of food through the Disneyland app, picked it up and went over to the Jungle Cruise.
Powering through, I refused to wait more than 30 minutes for any attraction. I did have time to hop onto the Pirates of the Caribbean and see the new red pirate lady for myself. She looked pretty good, but it still saddens me that Disney felt the need to change such a classic attraction. Pirates is a nice way to escape the crowds for 20 minutes.
Heading to New Orleans square, the lights are definitely a must see! If you’re looking for a snack, I’ll recommend the seasonal Mickey beignets at the Mint Julip bar with a nice cold Mint Julip. Note that all drinks here are non-alcoholic! The seasonal flavor right now is pumpkin; closer to the holiday season you’ll see candy cane and peppermint beignets arrive.
The characters of Jack Skellington and Sally were hosting a meet and greet right across from the Mint Julip bar when I was enjoying my treat. They are well worth waiting in line for if you’re a fan of the Nightmare Before Christmas. I was able to meet Jack about 4 years ago. He loved the tiara I was wearing at the time and wanted to play with it breaking out into a spur the moment rendition of “What’s This, what’s this…..”
Arriving at the Haunted Mansion, I was prepared to wait all evening to ride this attraction. Luckily, the line was only about 45 minutes long at this point. The classic Haunted Mansion transforms once a year into a special holiday themed Nightmare Before Christmas attraction. Since 1997, it has been Disneyland exclusive attraction that is well worth the hour plus wait. In my opinion, the highlight is the real gingerbread house that the culinary Cast Members bake, design and place within the haunted ballroom scene of the attraction.
It was beginning to rain when I finally emerged into the day light once more form the Mansion. I skipped Critter Country as Splash Mountain didn’t seem like the best idea. Frontierland, however, was the next stop along the way. Another side note, if you want to see how Star Wars Land aka Galaxy’s Edge is looking, hop on the Big Thunder Railroad attraction. It’s certainly the wildest ride in the wilderness.
Frontierland at one point in time was the largest land at Disneyland Park. Sadly not much of it remains to this day. If it is not raining, riding the Mark Twain around the Rivers of America is especially scenic and relaxing. Frontierland, right now, is set up with decorations for the Day of the Dead. There is one tree next to the Mercantile shop that is also pretty special. You can see why for yourself.
With time running tight for me, I decided to skip Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Toontown. I would return to those if I had time after California Adventure (which we did!)
Buena Vista Street
California Adventure Park’s entrance in the last two years is a giant Oogie Boogie with bats behind him from the Nightmare Before Christmas. If you get wait long enough, Oogie will talk and the lights behind him will change colors several times. As you enter, Buena Vista street is just as impressive as Main Street. Walk until you see tallest point at the end of Buena Vista street, Carthay Circle Restaurant.
Bats are flying out of its windows. Immediately to the left of the DCA version of the Walt and Mickey partner’s statue is the Headless Horseman! The sound of him riding down the street is heard in the background. I had to stop this year to appreciate him! Last year, his lines were much too long. You have a couple different ways you can walk if to t=explore the different lands of California Adventure.
I would recommend avoiding the Hollywood backlot area if you’ve been there before. Where Bug’s Land used to sit is currently closed for the coming Marvel themed land. There is no through access to Carsland. The Marvel characters are worth meeting at least once if you are a fan of Thor, Spiderman, Captain America or the Black Panther. If you don’t suffer from motion sickness, consider exploring the looming tower of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The interior alone showcases the best of Disney’s imaginerring team’s attention to details.
Carsland and Pixar Pier
I hadn’t been to California Adventure since the opening of Pixar Pier. I wanted to spend my time enjoying Carsland and the Pier. Carsland is another land that is only found in California. It’s been very popular since it opened and is always busy. It’s the best option for kids to explore within the park. So many hidden gems exist there. The Halloween spirit is strong in Carsland.
Lights and costumes adorn all the cars, like the other characters. Special food offerings exist at Flo’s V8 Cafe and the Cozy Cone Inn. My favorite moment in Carsland is called the Shaboom moment. Everyday at Sunset the lights of Carsland click on as the song Shaboom plays just as in the movie Cars. It is always a crowd pleaser. You will see spiders and other creepy decorations on pretty much every structure within the land. This is another place I would highly recommend enjoying in both the day and night if you can.
If you walk behind Flo’s V8 cafe towards the Pacific Wharf, be prepared to see on of the most and spectacular views of the Carberator Canyon. Yet another example of the attention to details here make this area a must see and must stop place for a photo. The Pacific Wharf area where the pathway ends up will take you to one of the places in the theme park where you can find alcohol and pretty reasonably priced food options.
When I finished with Carsland, it was beginning to get late and I didn’t want to get stuck behind families waiting for the Paint the Night Parade that evening. Paint the Night is a must see (if you have time) and is a modern version of the Main Street Electrical Parade. Line up early if you want to experience it. I would venture to say this parade alone is worth the cost of upgrading your ticket to a park hopper to see if you only have the one park per day ticket.
I went straight to Pixar Pier and was a little surprised to see the World of Color was down for refurbishment! That’s one of the main draws for DCA after Paint the Night. Pixar Pier did not disappoint; I would have loved to have seen some Halloween decorations up, but it was lovely to walk through and enjoy. The Lamplight Lounge at the entrance where Ariel’s Grotto used to be was one place I regret not stopping at this time around. The line was going to be 45 minutes to order drinks.
I wanted to enjoy the Incredi-Coaster and jumped in line for it first thing. I was really sad when the previous incarnation of California Screaming went away, but the new ride is incredible! No pun intended! It is very smooth and is seemless in its storytelling from beginning to end. It’s rare for me to like something so much more than the original, but I did! It’s an attraction again for those who do not suffer from motion sickness.
It was starting to rain again at this point so I hopped on the Toy Story Midway Mania attraction and waited out the weather. This ride is always a long wait, but is worth experiencing once a trip. I always forget how much I enjoy it and just wish the line up area was a bit more interactive. It would make time go a lot faster. Buzz Lightyear was meeting outside the attraction this time around and had fun playing around with the families in front of us during the downpour.
Walking through to the end of Pixar Pier, stop at the Paradise Gardens and watch the Coco performance if you happen to stumble upon it. It’s a colorful and fun show. I only wish Coco could be expanded into it’s own attraction. maybe in the future.
I went back to Disneyland after this and waited for a few of my favorite attractions (Peter Pan, Small World and the Disneyland Railroad) while many families fled back to their hotels due to weather. It was excellent to enjoy an almost empty park! I only wish I had more time. It’s always sad to leave. I want to leave you with a few words of advice here!
If it rains, don’t wait for Paint the Night. It’s a waste of time; performers can’t dance or wear electrical lights in water. Some guests just don’t understand this! If it rains, don’t run away! Enjoy the park to it’s maximum. You paid to be there, go have fun. Buy a poncho if you must. Some attractions may close like Alice’s teacups, but others will stay open. You’ll notice the lines become a lot shorter.
It is possible to enjoy many of the Halloween decorations in both parks in 1 day if you plan accordingly! Don’t plan to see everything; it’s impossible! Take breaks when your feet hurt and splurge on snacks or meals. It’s all part of the experience and if you’re hangry it’s no fun. Food is expensive, but when else will you be in Disneyland! Again the goal is to maximize your time!
Hope my mini trip report and musings on the Disneyland Resort at Halloweentime will help you! Until next time, happy travels.