Never been to Disneyland? I’ve got THE reason why you need to go … Disneyland Halloween.
Halloween is my favorite holiday (check out our front yard come Halloween as evidence :)). I’ve just always been a sucker for friendly ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, witches flying on brooms, bats, etc. No gory stuff for me.
And Disneyland does Halloween like no place I’ve ever seen (and we’ve been to Walt Disney World at Halloween, as well).
We’re big Disney fans, but up until a few years ago had never made the trek to Anaheim (near Los Angeles) to see Disneyland. Once we earned our first Southwest Companion Pass and the world of travel opened up to us, because we could fly FREE, we thought it important to see the original incarnation that is Disneyland.
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Disneyland is certainly neat to see, but strangely disorienting if you’re used to Disney World. You feel like you’re at Disney World, but things just aren’t quite in the right place … the castle is way too small :-).
Before we get rolling, let me answer two common questions about Disneyland Halloween…
When does Disneyland decorate for Halloween?
Disneyland Resort begins its Halloween celebrations on September 6 for 2019, but you’ll slowly start to notice the decor showing up over time before then. We always notice Christmas decor slowly showing up when we visit parks in October ;-).
When are the Disneyland Halloween dates for 2021?
The Disneyland Halloween dates for 2021 are September 3-October 31, 2021.
Disneyland Halloween Time
One thing Disneyland knocks out of the park is Halloween. They call their celebration: Halloween Time.
The decor is outstanding and literally greets you every step inside the park. What a feat it must be to put all this up for Halloween, then take it all down and put up all the Christmas decor in November.
Halloween Time takes place at BOTH Disneyland AND Disney’s California Adventure, which unlike Walt Disney World, where the parks are quite far apart, are literally RIGHT across from one another.
This is one big thing we LOVE about Disneyland.
You can literally walk out of one park right into the other, which makes it easy to go in and out of parks.
I’ve divided some of my favorite things about Disneyland Halloween below by park for you and included some recommendations of where to stay further down.
1. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
The Halloween version of Space Mountain, called Ghost Galaxy, is spectacular.
Instead of images of the cosmos, space and stars, a creepy ghost/monster keeps popping up right in front of you, trying to grab you, timed with creepy sound effects, screams and haunting music.
Disneyland can switch what you see on the Space Mountain ride and has three options:
- Ghost Galaxy
- Star Wars
That means, you can experience THREE different versions of this classic ride.
Also, Disneyland’s version of Space Mountain seats two side by side instead of Disney World’s one in front of the other, and the coaster wraps around steel bars, making for a smoother ride.
2. Haunted Mansion Holiday
But the crown jewel of it all is their Haunted Mansion Holiday. First of all, the New Orleans-style mansion beats the creepy pants off of the one in Orlando.
It’s just beautiful and perfectly fitting for a haunted house.
A great thing about this attraction is that it is open through Christmas — all the way through early January!
In 2019, the Disneyland Haunted Mansion celebrated its 50th anniversary!
FUN FACT: Within a week of the Haunted Mansion’s opening in 1969, Disneyland had its then highest single-day attendance.
The Halloween decor outside is incredible, especially at night.
Jack-o-lanterns are lit with candles flickering on every corner of the house and lawn.
The whole thing is themed around Jack Skellington and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” basically combining the two holidays with amazing results!
My husband is even did an awesome mini recreation on our porch for Halloween :).
We waited a long time for this ride, and at night, but it was worth the wait!
Definitely put it on your list of rides to bypass lines if any options are available.
I thought the “re-theming” might amount to a few additional decor elements thrown in to give it a Halloween theme, but, oh no!! The whole thing is decorated from top to bottom and totally blew us away.
Two of the highlights include the ghost scene that you view from the top of the stairs, which is full of the “Nightmare Before Christmas” characters as ghosts, and the amazing outdoor scene at the end of the ride, which is simply filled with every conceivable Halloween delight.
3. Jack-o-lanterns on Main Street
As if Main Street isn’t picturesque enough, for Halloween, the decor turns to fall and there are jack-o-lanterns everywhere!
Be sure to snap a selfie or a family pic with the giant Mickey Mouse Jack-o-Lantern shown above and peek into all the windows, at store level AND above, to see all manner of pumpkins carved in silly and scary faces with flickering candles lighting them up.
It creates a wonderful Halloween ambiance!
4. “Halloween Screams” Shows
Previously reserved for visitors to Mickey’s Halloween Party after park hours, “Halloween Screams” is now available to all visitors to Disneyland during most nights of the Halloween season.
The show includes projections on Snow White’s Castle, special effects and fireworks (on the weekends only in 2021) and is “hosted” by, who else, but Jack Skellington.
5. Day of the Dead Celebration
In Frontierland, you’ll find a small exhibit that features a trio of musical skeleton figurines, brightly-colored flowers and other displays.
This is tied to Disney’s movie “Coco” about the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos.
6. Parmesan Fries and Monte Cristo Sandwiches at Cafe Orleans
While I talk more about Halloween-themed food below, this one deserves a call-out all its own.
When at Disneyland, you MUST book a lunch or dinner at Cafe Orleans (you can do that online ahead of time or see if you can get in when you’re in the park as well) and nosh on their AMAZING Parmesan Fries and Monte Cristo sandwiches.
Because both are large, I recommend getting ONE for two people and sharing. You’ll thank me :).
This is my favorite food item at ALL of Disney parks (yes, it even beats churros) with the orange chicken at a restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom coming in second :).
We always go here whenever we are at Disneyland. It’s a highlight for me!
Check out my family’s picks of the 27 Best Disney Restaurants at both Disneyland AND Disney World.
7. Blue Bayou Restaurant
The coolest restaurant in all of Disneyland is by far the Blue Bayou restaurant.
If you like Mexico at Epcot at Disney World, this has the same feel — dining under a faux night sky — but this time you’re in a New Orleans swamp in the bayou complete with fireflies and hanging moss in spades.
The best part: the boats from “Pirates of the Caribbean” continually sail by.
So even if you don’t eat here, you still get to experience it when you ride “Pirates.” LOVE!
Disney California Adventure
The second park at Disneyland Resort is Disney California Adventure, which is themed into different areas, many California related.
It has some great rides like “Soarin,” Cars Land and the new Pixar Pier with Pixar-movie themed rides, including the great Incredicoaster (from “The Incredibles”).
Check out this guide to food at Pixar Pier from Trekaroo.
HOT TIP: Stay at Disney’s Grand Californian to have the ability to walk right into this park direct from the hotel. Super cool and convenient!
8. Cars Land Haul-o-ween Is AMAZING!!!
Second only to the Haunted Mansion is Disney’s amazing redo of Cars Land’s Radiator Springs as Radiator “Screams” for “Haul-o-ween.”
Every inch of this already-clever section of Disney California Adventure that truly feels like you’ve stepped into the real life version of Radiator Springs is decked to the nines in Halloween decor.
Purple and green lights are strung everywhere, the firehouse is cleverly turned into a spooky monster with its windows as a mouth and eyes, and spider webs are draped throughout.
You name it, they’ve thought of it.
Allow plenty of time at NIGHT to soak this all in.
It’s spectacular, and Disney’s creativity on this is unparalleled (the only thing I’ve ever seen that rivals it is Universal’s take on the World of Harry Potter).
Each of the “Cars” characters is also dressed up in “cars-tume,” and several rides get a Halloween redo.
“Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree” turns into “Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree” and “Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters” becomes “Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-o-ween.”
Both of these rides are SUPER fun, especially for young kids, and are set to “light-hearted” Halloween music the likes of “Monster Mash.”
Plus, you can meet up and get your photo with characters from “Cars” who are dressed up for Halloween.
9. Radiator Springs Racers
One of our favorite rides in all of Disneyland is the Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure.
This is TOUGH to get on, and you should make it your option to bypass any lines if available as soon as you are able.
TOP TIP: The only other option to get on Radiator Springs Racers is to ride in the Single Rider line. This is perfectly fine if you have kids, say 8 and older. You usually end up riding not in the same car, but within the same group of cars and you get through INFINITELY faster!
Radiator Springs Racers are basically Test Track at Epcot at Walt Disney World but 20X more fun and outfitted as characters from “Cars,” pitting you in a race against one another.
Kids (and adults — ie, me! :)) who love “Cars” will adore this ride, as you get to see some of the characters in action.
It does not get a total remake for Halloween, but is eerily awesome at dark lit up in bright spotlights of Halloween colors shown in the photo above.
10. Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disneyland Halloween Party
Replacing Disneyland’s Mickey’s Halloween Party, the after-hours Halloween fun moves to California Adventure with the Oogie Boogie Bash, running from September 9 through October 31, 2021.
The fun begins on select nights at 6 p.m., though you can actually enter the park at 3 p.m. and start riding rides!
Bad news: It’s completely sold out for 2021! It does usually sell out very early, so I’d advise booking as soon as tickets are released if you want to attend.
Enjoy the Frightfully Fun Parade, the Villians Grove walk-through, Mickey’s Trick and Treat Show and places to pick up “treats,” ie trick-or-treating.
You’re welcome to dress in costume (we wore Jack Skellington T-shirts :)), trick-or-treat at rides and stations throughout the park, and hop on select rides (not all rides are open) without all the daytime park crowds, which is one of the biggest perks in my book.
Walt Disney World also has a similar party: Disney After Hours Boo Bash.
11. Frightfully Fun Parade
I’m not a big fan of parades, but Disney, of course, has a knack for creating a parade I truly want to watch.
I could skip the regular ol’ park ones, but their holiday ones are AMAZING.
Many years ago I was blown away by their Christmas parade complete with pumped out scents of gingerbread and manufactured “snow” falling on us, and I am just as impressed with the Halloween incarnation of the parade at the Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party.
The Frightfully Fun Parade is quite a show.
It’s lead by the Headless Horseman, is full of Disney “villians” and features characters you won’t see anywhere else like the hitchhiking ghosts at the end of the Haunted Mansion ride.
This is worth the price of the Halloween Party ticket!
12. Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark
What was once the Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure is now a Guardians of the Galaxy ride, and they’ve re-themed it, as well, for Halloween.
Riders help Rocket and Groot escape from monsters attacking the Collector’s Fortress.
While I personally have not ridden this one, as free falls are NOT my thing :), I do love the Guardians of the Galaxy, and this sounds like a fun spin on a classic ride.
13. Meet Villains and Disney Characters in Costume
This is also the time of year where you can get a pic with your favorite Disney Villain. Ursula? Cruella de Vil? Scar?
Personally, the witch from “Snow White” always creeped me out!
You’re likely to find these dressed-up-for-Halloween characters throughout the parks, especially during the Oogie Boogie Bash.
14. Oogie Boogie Welcoming You to Disney’s California Adventure
This was a new and wonderful addition to the Halloween decor when we visited in 2017.
A GIANT Oogie Boogie (from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” if you’re not familiar; if you’re not, go and watch that movie before you head to Disneyland. It’s a great one for Halloween!) spookily stands to welcome you into Disney California Adventure.
15. Get a Selfie With the Headless Horseman
It doesn’t get much more Halloween than the Headless Horseman, and you’ll find Disney’s version of this creepy creature toward the front of California Adventure on Buena Vista Street.
The 10-foot tall horseman is lit up wonderfully at night holding his pumpkin head to the sky.
Be sure to snap the perfect Halloween selfie!
16. Disneyland Halloween Food and Treats
You’ll also want to grab some of the limited-time Halloween-themed foods like purple-sprinkled churros (we might have had a few of those…). Other 2021 options include:
- Worms, Dice and Everything Nice drink
- Poison Skull Apple
- Jack Skellington Cake Pop
- Haunted Mansion Holiday Wreath Cookie
- Chocolate and Matcha Churro
Here’s the full 2021 Halloween food guide for Disneyland.
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Where to Stay at Disneyland
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Disney’s Grand Californian
Disneyland has several hotels, which are super convenient to the parks (you can just walk right to them!), but that tend to book VERY quickly. So reserve early if you want to stay on property.
We absolutely LOVE the Grand Californian.
It takes its design from California Arts and Crafts architecture and is absolutely gorgeous.
The best perk of this property is that it has its OWN entrance into Disney California Adventure.
You literally walk right out of the hotel into the park!
You can also walk right into the Downtown Disney District, as well.
Disneyland Resort Hotel
We have also stayed at the Disneyland Hotel.
It doesn’t have any special theming, other than “Disney,” but is a comfortable spot to surround yourself in all things Disney.
We really liked the hotel pool with its “monorail waterslide” running over top, and it, too, is within walking distance to the parks and super accessible to Downtown Disneyland.
The second time we visited Disneyland we stayed a few nights at Anaheim Marriott and a few nights at the Hilton Anaheim.
Both are just a few minutes from the parks and though not quite close enough to walk (especially if you are going to spend the rest of the day walking around the parks!).
It was about a two-minute Uber ride for just $5 or so each time; there’s also a free shuttle to the hotels that will drop you at the parks.
We liked this hotel, as the rooms were clean and modern with programmable elevators (you type in your floor and it takes you directly there — no stopping!) and a Starbucks inside (always a plus for me!).
How We Flew to Disneyland FREE on Southwest
My family pretty much flies free EVERYWHERE, and when we fly in the United States, we’re usually using Southwest points together with our Southwest Companion Pass (which lets 1 of us always fly FREE).
We flew from Chicago (we live in Indianapolis, but got a cheaper points fare by driving a couple hours north to Midway Airport) to Los Angeles, though you can also fly into Burbank and John Wayne/Orange County airports (this is one of my favorite airports, small and VERY nice) on Southwest.
We collect Southwest points in a variety of ways from spending on the Southwest credit cards, taking advantage of deals in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal and referring people to the Southwest credit cards.
We then use those points to book free flights on Southwest with one of us never costing us anything because they fly free using my Southwest Companion Pass!
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Want to know more about Disneyland?
Here are some tips for educational activities to do with your kids at Disneyland and some Disneyland tips for first-timers.
Coming to Disneyland in November or December?
Travel Mamas’ has your guide to How to Save Money at Disneyland During the Holidays.