It’s party time, people! While Disney World has their fair share of hard ticket events Disneyland has relatively few except for their annual Halloween bash: Mickey’s Halloween Party. We’ve been longtime fans of this event and while it is still not as big as the Disney World party we have been seeing improvements with each year.
For those who have never been Mickey’s Halloween Party is a hard ticket event, meaning that you will need to purchase a separate ticket to the event and cannot use the normal daily admission to participate. This ensures that the parties have a limited amount of guests who can experience something special without the typical crowds of a normal day in the park. Annual Passholders get first dibs on tickets as well a special pricing. Parties are not every night, so check the event calendar on Disneyland’s website for dates. The party begins at 7pm, with a pre-party in ToonTown at 6pm. The event ticket can get you into the park as early as 4pm, so it you want to make the most of your day you can show up well before the festivities begin.
This has become a popular option for guests who not only want to participate in the party but want the most of the park for the least amount of money. Halloween Party tickets vary in price, but can be $20 off the regular admission price on some dates. Parties do sell out, especially as the dates get closer to Halloween. Earlier dates will have lower prices and a higher likelihood of tickets being available. Weekend dates are also popular, especially with out-of-towners. My recommendation is that you keep an eye on the calendar a right when they announce dates and decide what day to aim for, try for earlier in the schedule, and hope for the best.
So what’s the big deal with the Halloween Party?
First: You can come in costume! Disneyland had strict guidelines for costumes on normal days, especially for adults. They do not want someone appearing to be a park character when they are just a normal guest. Not that you can just show up in anything for the Halloween Party. Online, on signs throughout the resort, and at the gate are costume guidelines: adults cannot wear masks, nothing that drags on the ground (although that is at Cast Member discretion), nothing deemed offensive, nothing too revealing, etc. While they say you cannot take or pose for costume pictures what they mean is that you cannot take or pose for pictures with the impression that the costumed individual is an official park character. Again, they don’t want someone potentially scarring a child for life. Most guidelines are more for safety reasons than creative control (seriously, do you want your princess gown to get stuck in the tracks on Big Thunder Mountain?) and aren’t terribly restrictive.
Second: Trick-or-Treat Trails! There are a multitude of what are known as Trick-or-Treat Trails all over the park. These are designated paths will stations manned by Cast Members who pass out edible goodies to guests young and old. The special map you receive when you enter shows where each trail is and you can visit as many times as you like. You are also free to bring your own candy receptacles, even though the park does provide you with a small sack at the start of the night. I’ve seen people ready with five pillowcases apiece because they want to stock up.
The treats are mostly candy but you’ll also find Pirates Booty, Cheez-Its, freeze-dried and fresh apples, and other low sugar options. If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies you can check with Guest Services for options. Most stations will have candy, though. Disneyland uses name brand candy so you’ll know what to expect. My favorite every year is the elusive Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Milk bar, a smooth milk chocolate and malt bar that is far superior to the Hersheys bars you’ll get. I’m willing to barter for one of those.
Each Trick-or-Treat Trail will have at least three stations and each station will net you a small handful of treats. By the end of the night the tiny bag the park gives you will definitely be full, so bring a bag from home or ask for a bag from a gift shop. Some locations change between years but you’ll find Trick-or-Treat Trails everywhere.
Third: Hallow-Screams Fireworks! Yes, non-Party guests can see these fireworks from outside the park, but what makes these special are the soundtrack and effects that Disney brings out only for the Halloween Party. These fireworks are hosted by Jack Skellington with appearances by the Disney Villains. Expect fire and flame, color and light, and a surprise appearance by our favorite ghost pup Zero! Last year we waited patiently in front of the Hub to get a prime viewing spot in front of the castle, making the fireworks a highlight of our night.
Fourth: The Frightfully Fun Parade! After years of hearing that Disney World had a better parade than Disneyland, the park upped its game last year with new floats, new characters, and the addition of the Headless Horseman riding on the parade route. The Headless Horseman starts the parade and really is quite chilling to see in person. The parade itself has all your favorites: Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Hitchhiking Ghosts from Haunted Mansion, Hades, Maleficent, and more. This year we got two new additions: Mickey and Minnie! While the parade is still smaller than its Florida counterpart we are seeing it slowly grow into something special.
Fifth: The Cadaver Dans! Head out to the Rivers of America throughout the night and check out the slightly decayed versions of the beloved Dapper Dans. They’ll sing a collection of spooky songs, from favorites like “Grim Grinning Ghosts” to pop standards like “I Put A Spell On You.” If you love hearing the Dapper Dans and seeing their sunny, barbershop quartet performances you’ll get a kick out of their deadpan zombie selves.
Sixth: Special food! Halloween Time means special Halloween food in general, but the Halloween Party gives you a chance to try that food without an hour-long line or nab that special souvenir that comes with it. Earlier in the schedule it is easier to get these items, but they do try to restock between the normal day and the Halloween Party. There is no official downtime between the normal day and party so be ready to check multiple times if they haven’t restocked.
Sixth: Merchandise! There is specially branded Halloween Merchandise you can pick up in the park. Shirts, sweaters, candy bowls, snowglobes… there’s something for you to spend money on somewhere.
The decorations and special Halloween attraction overlays (Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy) are accessible to all guests during the day, and in fact may be busier during the party. If you have an annual pass it is a good idea to come to the park earlier in the day before the Party guests arrive, since locals tend to stay away from the parks on days they know they’ll have to leave early due to the Party. The decorations and attractions are phenomenal but lines are long and taking photos will be difficult.
We went to the Party on the first weekend in October this year. Last year we were there the weekend before Halloween and found the Party to be full. This time it felt like we nearly had to park to ourselves! No line was longer than 15 minutes, including the holiday overlays! This alone was worth the price of admission. There were actual sections of the park where we were the only guests, which was very eerie at night. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this as a guest since I was a child.
I can hear some of you asking, “Well, how do they keep out the non-ticketed guests? Couldn’t they have snuck in?” They wouldn’t necessarily have to sneak in, just stay later than they’re supposed to. I mentioned before that there is no downtime between normal park hours and the Halloween Party, which allows Party guests to show up earlier and get a few more hours in. At 6:30pm a P.A announcement informs normal park hour guests that they will need to leave by 7pm. At the entrance gates Cast Members are already starting to inform guests at 4pm that those who do not have a Party ticket will need to leave at 7pm.
The way they start filtering guests is two-fold: wristbands and controlled area entry. Each Party guest is given a wristband colored and labeled for that day’s Party (nope, you can’t sneak in with the band from an earlier date). While Party guests and normal day guests mingle it doesn’t matter, but starting at 7pm Cast Members erect roped gates at strategic points throughout the park. At each entry point guests are asked to show their wristband to move through. We saw a few normal day guests around 7:30 who were being turned back by Cast Members by King Arthur’s Carousel. At Trick-or-Treat Trails guests are also asked to show their wristbands before continuing on. On Main Street U.S.A. Cast Members ask any guests appearing to loiter (usually looking like they’re waiting for the parade and fireworks) to show their wristbands. This is a pretty efficient system for ensuring only ticketed guests are in the Party. I suppose you could elude Cast Members by sticking to areas where they would not be asking for wristbands and moving out of areas rather than trying to get in, but that would take a tremendous amount of planning and luck just for the chance to stick it to the Mouse.
A new value added to tickets this year was unlimited PhotoPass. This means that guests could have their picture taken at the Castle, nab that hilarious photo from Ghost Galaxy, and have pictures with all the Disney Villains and get a free download with all the photos. While this meant longer lines for PhotoPass opportunities it was something that made the price more justifiable.
For Busy Bumble and I the Halloween Party is all about taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the night versus running from Trick-or-Treat trail to ride to parade. We love seeing the costumes that people wear. So many of them are incredibly creative and handmade, especially group costumes. This year we saw a Main Street Electrical Parade group, Haunted Mansion Ballroom Dancers, a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? family (Dad was Eddie Valiant, Mom was Jessica Rabbit, and baby was Roger), a Moana family (Dad was Hei-Hei, Mom was Moana, little brother was Maui, and baby was Pua), a Luke Skywalker riding a tauntaun (you had to be there), and so many more that really made me proud of the Disney fan family.
With high winds canceling the fireworks we decided to make the most of our near-solitary night. We stopped by the Mint Julep Bar for a snack: the revamped Mint Julep and orange creamsicle beignets.
There was much discussion about the change in the Mint Julep this year. I can assure you the new version is tastier and closer to a real Mint Julep. It tastes like a refreshing limeade with a hit of fresh mint. While I’ll miss the unnatural green of the old drink, this new version tastes real and that’s what matters. The orange creamsicle was a big surprise. We got it because we wanted beignets and were just curious enough to try it. I thought it would taste of fake orange candy, but it was actually a very subtle orange flavor that got the “cream” part of “creamsicle” from the dough itself. It was amazingly good and I’m very happy we went for it. Disneyland has a new obsession with edible glitter and you can see they went for it with the beignet’s coating, including edible glitter and stars.
With so few people in the park, rather than having to plan in advance where we needed to head to try to beat the crowds we found ourselves wandering from place to place, taking how honestly creepy a theme park can be alone at night. You could hear the atmosphere music and people were never that far away, but there’s an impressive loneliness and isolation when you’re in a place usually filled to the brim with people and no one’s around.
We came across someone at the bridge on Big Thunder Trail, staring across the pond at the old train tunnel that is purportedly haunted. Curious as to why they were just staring at the tunnel, which was spookily lit up but otherwise unremarkable, we stopped. There was some atmospheric sound effects, like animals screeching in fright and scattering, the clatter of rocks falling and echoing in the tunnel, and then an unearthly feline rumble…
Sweet cheese and crackers!! After it happened Busy Bumble and I turned to each other in spooked out delight. This was hands down my favorite moment of the night. A few other guests also came by and we all had the same reactions to see the display: a set a feline eyes lighting up the darkness, scanning across to see us on the path and growling menacingly before receding into the blackness of the tunnel. I love the fact that Imagineers played on the legend of the tunnel being haunted and turned it into a Halloween display!
We stayed all night, riding just about every ride twice and having one of the best trips in recent memory. I think a large part of that is the date we decided to go. If you’re planning on attending a Halloween Party here are a few tips:
- Check the calendar in the summer to see if dates have been updated. Annual Passholders usually get their first window to purchase tickets sometime in the summer, so dates should be updated then.
- Choose an early date. Don’t be afraid of attending a Halloween Party in September. The closer you get to Halloween, the bigger the crowds. You’ll also see an increase in ticket prices that follows that trend.
- Pick your costume early. Remember to adhere to the guidelines but also make sure you’ll be comfortable in whatever you wear. You could get soda spilled on it, have a freak rainstorm, or just get uncomfortable.
- If you’re staying in a hotel try to find something nearby. One year we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which was awesome. As a side note with that hotel, the Monorail does not run during the Party, so you will not be able to take it into the park or out once the Party starts.
- Come to the parks early to make the most of your ticket. This year was the first time that DCA would honor the Halloween Party ticket as a mini-Hopper Pass. This was done so that guests could experience both parks and hopefully not have Disneyland be so crowded before the party.
- Bring your own trick-or-treat bags. You’ll think you don’t need the candy, then do one Trick-or-Treat Trail, then find yourself scouring the park for any trails you’ve missed with candy falling out of every pocket and purse on you.
- If you have kids or love character photos, consider going to the 6pm Pre-Party in ToonTown. This is exclusive for Party guests even though normal day guests will still be around. You can have your picture taken with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale while you’re there as well as complete the first Trick-or-Treat Trail.
- If you want to see the parade and fireworks back-to-back on Main Street, you’ll need to stake out a spot early. You should consider parking yourselves around 7:30pm. I know, that’s early, but that ensures a prime spot. You can have someone make a run to Coke Corner or an outdoor vending booth for food and eat dinner while waiting. We got some corn on the cob, popcorn, and drinks and parked the first year we attended. If you don’t need to be on Main Street, the Rivers of America and It’s a Small World are both excellent viewing areas. Remember that weather conditions can scrap the fireworks, as it did for us.
- Take breaks and don’t try to do it all in one go. You’ll never be able to ride every ride and hit up every Trick-or-Treat Trail during the average Party. Decide what matters most to you and remember that many experiences are available during normal operating hours.
If you love Halloween and love Disney, Mickey’s Halloween Party is the perfect pairing. We know we’ll keep coming back and we hope to see you there sometime in the future!