Halloween At Disneyland is the Best - 2017 Edition
We all know that Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth... and, if I may be so bold, October is the best month of the year. So by the transitive property October at Disneyland must be the ultimate experience. During the fall, Disneyland Park as well as California Adventure (for the first time ever this year!) transform into veritable Halloween-towns. Around every corner you can find jack-o-lanterns smiling, yellow and orange mums where colorful flowers once took root and characters decked out in their Halloween costumes. You'll also see a lot more villains out and about at this time of year, whereas on a normal day it's pretty rare to catch Cruella or Dr. Facilier.
I use the word spooky a lot - arguably too much. Disney Halloween, to me, is the perfect definition of spooky. It is fun, eerie and macabre while being silly and whimsical at the same time. I'm not the kind of person who enjoys haunted houses or being scared out of my wits but I am absolutely obsessed with things that are 'spooky.'
If you are planning a fall trip to Disneyland you should know that quite a few things that differ from the rest of the year. Obviously cosmetically there is the addition of pumpkins, fall colors and the giant Mickey pumpkin but don't worry - they leave the castle looking just as it always does so that your photos of it will be timeless. In California Adventure the vibe is a bit different. Where Disneyland has more of a small town harvest vibe, Oogie Boogie has taken over DCA this year and brought with him lots of bats and even a Headless Horseman statue. Cars Land has also transformed for the first time this year and is celebrating Haul-O-Ween. There are lots of little details including jack-o-lantern traffic cones and gravestones made from car parts. And oh so many car puns.
Both parks have areas dedicated to Day of the Dead. There is typically a display at Rancho De Zocalo but this year it seems like there's a lot more than usual, likely because the film Coco is scheduled to be released soon. There is an area in DCA's Paradise Pier dedicated to the film and the nearby Paradise Garden Grill is now serving Mexican dishes. Even Cars Land has an area honoring Dia de los Muertos. I think these displays are a great way to get people excited about Coco as well as getting people interested in traditions that come from other cultures. Yes, theme parks are meant to be fun but to paraphrase the late Marty Sklar, a legendary Disney Imagineer, the parks are also supposed to get you interested in learning about new places and things once you leave. They are supposed to inspire imagination and curiosity.
While we're on the subject of new experiences, another important feature of Halloween at Disneyland is that a few rides get overlays to give guests a special holiday experience. This year Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rocllickin' Roadsters all get a spooky overhaul for the season.
The most notable is probably the Haunted Mansion Holiday which lasts much longer than the others and is far more extensive. The Haunted Mansion gets invaded by the characters from Nightmare Before Christmas and has a whole new vibe. This overlay is always the subject of controversy - a lot of people don't like it, especially not for Halloween time. But the crowds in the park will tell you otherwise, as this one generally has quite a long wait. Get those fast passes people!
I've heard the argument that the ride is too Christmas-y for Halloween and that this is the perfect time of year to experience the original Haunted Mansion. This is how I rationalize the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Yes, the ride definitely has a big helping of the Yuletide spirit and it feels much more lighthearted than the original, but in my mind Halloween is the time when the spirits at the mansion are allowed to freely roam around the park. It's the one time of year that they're not confined to this house. So why not let someone else hang out there for a few months?
Okay now on to the important stuff. What can you eat and buy from Disneyland at this time of year. SO MANY SPOOKY THINGS. I was actually overwhelmed by the amount of Halloween themed foods and desserts. I'd encourage you to check out The Disney Food Blog if you want to know about every special item Disney is offering at this time. I love reading this blog as I am a both a big fan of the parks and eating food.
I only tried a few seasonal items but they were all fantastic. I had the vanilla orange swirl soft serve from Paradise Pier Ice Cream which was great. I don't usually associate orange flavoring with Halloween but it totally reminded me of getting ice cream at the beach when I was a kid! I thoroughly enjoyed the Enchanted Maize Flatbread from the Red Rose Tavern (formerly Pinocchio's in Fantasyland) - everything from this quick service has been pretty good but this little pizza was especially tasty. It's topped with Roasted Corn and a Spicy Lime Aioli which I thought tasted like a zesty version of the In n Out sauce. What's not to like about that? I'll take a gallon please.
I could have easily walked past the churro cart in New Orleans Square without knowing that there was anything special going on except that this one had a particularly long line. And with good reason - The Smores Churro. This thing is epic. The churro itself is a lot less sweet than your typical cinnamon sugar version since it is dusted with graham crackers instead. On the side you get a cup of warm chocolate and marshmallow for dipping. I could definitely go for another one of these right now.
It would be easily to talk endlessly just about the special sweet treats you'll find sprinkled around the park but I'll just say this - keep your eyes open because nearly every place has limited time Halloween items that you'll want to try.
I was excited to find that this seasons refillable cup features characters from Lonesome Ghosts which is one of my absolute favorite Disney cartoons (and featured on my list of vintage Disney toons you should watch right now.) I'm always so excited when I see references to this short in the parks but it's usually limited to a cup or popcorn bucket. More ghosts please, Disney! Maybe they wouldn't be so lonesome if they were allowed to move into the Haunted Mansion.
I found this cup at Rancho De Zocalo but I'd imagine they're available in several locations throughout the parks wherever fountain drinks are sold.
Of course there's an abundance of Halloween merchandise. I actually think that they have more this year than previous years, perhaps they're catching on that we love Disney Halloween. There were lots of tees, plushes and light up items in the gift shops as well as a few pairs of ears and hats dedicated to the spookiest time of the year.
My favorite item that comes back to the parks yearly is this little ceramic Mickey pumpkin candle holder. I bought mine a few years ago and bring it out every fall. It's great quality, well priced and the perfect little addition to your Halloween decor.
I've been noticing over the past couple of years that Disney parks have been bringing out some more subtle clothing options which I just love. These aren't seasonal but they do bring the haunt factor.
This flowy tank looks like an unsuspecting pastoral pattern from a distance but when you look up close you'll see characters and motifs from the Haunted Mansion. So cute and creepy!
In other subtle Haunted Mansion merch news, I found this little purse in Le Bat En Rouge in New Orleans Square and it is just perfect. Who doesn't love the bats from the Mansion?
This just seems like the perfect accessory to wear every day. Only people who really know Disney will know what it is which is something I always love. It's not that I don't want to broadcast my obsession, I just want to know who's on my level so I can geek out about really obscure Disney factoids.
In my opinion, Halloween at Disneyland is a can't miss seasonal event for any Disney Parks fan. It is so delightfully spooky and I just can't get enough of it! From the villainous encounters to eerie treats there is truly something for everyone at this time of year. It makes me happier than this ridiculously overjoyed Oogie Boogie plush.
All that and we didn't even discuss the Halloween fireworks display where Zero flies over the hub, or Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party when the Headless Horseman rides again. And the Cadaver Dans... honestly I think they might be my favorite part of Disney's Halloween celebrations. I guess you'll have to go check it out for yourself, if you dare!