As a former Cast Member at Disneyland, and as a Southern California mom who loves taking her children to the Disney Parks whenever possible, I put together “A Deliberate Mother’s Guide to Disneyland” about a year ago.
It’s a free resource that’s been downloaded by thousands of moms who want insider tips and tricks for making a Disney family vacation successful (meaning that no one gets overly tired, cranky, or annoyed, and the time together actually makes the family stronger). If you haven’t seen it yet, simply click here!
In that guide, I shared how Halloween is my favorite time at the Disney parks, and this year, our friends at Disneyland were kind enough to invite me and my children to experience Mickey’s Halloween Party. (They provided a wonderful evening for us, but the opinions written here in this post are my own…)
Because Power of Moms has a global audience, I recognize that a trip to Disneyland isn’t practical or possible for everyone in our community right now, so here’s what I thought would be most helpful with this post:
- I’ll briefly share what the Halloween celebrations are like at Disneyland during the months of September and October (in case you’re planning to go this year or would like to visit sometime in the future)
- I’ll give you a quick report on Mickey’s Halloween Party–explaining what it is, why it’s different from the “typical” Halloween activities, and how you can get tickets, if this sounds like something you’d like to do
- I’ll provide a brief list of ways to make any Disney trip fantastic, regardless of the time of year you go.
All right, let’s get started:
What’s Special About Halloween Time at Disneyland?
Well, it’s beautiful.
There’s a festive feeling there–with tons of pumpkins and flowers and fall decor. I just love it.
They have a special Halloween Carnival…with a little bit of spookiness from the Disney Villains (but it’s not scary in a horror-movie kind of way–like pretty much everything else at Halloween), and a few of the rides are transformed for the season (like Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion):
They still have the daily parade, which is simply magical:
And although I personally don’t eat the treats, they’re fun to see in the windows:
Plus there are plenty of themed hats and novelties that I would have loved as a child:
It’s just a wholesome, safe, fun environment I have really enjoyed with my children.
What is Mickey’s Halloween Party?
It’s a special event (with a separate ticket) that only takes place on 14 select nights throughout September and October, and it sells out every year. (It’s already sold out for 2014.)
Many of the activities and special attractions are the same as what I described above, but you also have a “Halloween Screams” fireworks show, a “Monsters U” dance party, and a special character costume parade.
Perhaps the best bonus is that guests are allowed to dress up in their Halloween costumes (even adults!), and everyone can trick-or-treat throughout the park (each little pumpkin with Mickey ears on the map is a candy spot).
What are the pros?
- Disney fans who love Halloween get so excited to dress their families up in costume and enjoy a magical night at the Magic Kingdom. It’s really cute to watch. There were three senior citizens in electric wheelchairs totally decked out with PVC pipes, Christmas lights, and signs reading, “The Main Street Electrical Parade.” That made me smile. We also saw an adorable family dressed as Mary Poppins, Burt, and two little penguins.
- For those who want a “big, fun party” feel, you can’t get much bigger or more fun than Disney. They put on a great parade, fireworks show, musical entertainment, themed rides…it’s something to get excited about, and the detail put into this party by Imagineers and other cast members is exquisite. We were surprised and delighted at every turn.
- This is the only time of year when candy stops are set up throughout the park and cast members give out as much candy/healthy snacks as you’d like to collect (3 pieces per kiosk–no limit on number of visits). It’s a child’s dream…trick-or-treating around the Matterhorn, by Pirates of the Caribbean, and all the way to Splash Mountain. And parents get to have fun right alongside their kids.
What are the challenges?
- Crowds. Because this party sells out, it takes more time to get into the park, you face a lot of long lines, and you have to be really selective when it comes to choosing rides and activities. You simply won’t have time to do it all. Toward the end of the night, the lines were really short, but for the first few hours, it was a little overwhelming.
- Price. At $60-$77 a ticket, this is quite an investment–especially if you’re taking the whole family or if you already have season passes (season pass holders do get a discount…). Obviously, there is quite a demand for this event, and many families make this a yearly tradition, but when you add up food costs, gas, lodging (for out-of-towners), etc., this is a major family activity–not just a trip to the local pumpkin patch.
- It’s not ideal for small children. The party officially begins at 7pm, which is when most little children are getting ready for bed. Walking through long lines while trick-or-treating was awesome for my 11- and 7-year-old boys, but if you have little ones who are going to say, “Mommy, my legs are tired. Can we stop now?” the last thing you want to do is make your child keep going because you spent so much money on the ticket, right?
So what’s my recommendation?
If an ideal Disney adventure means no lines, going on tons of rides, meandering throughout the park, and enjoying calm quality time with your family, then I would opt for a “regular” day during the Halloween season when you can enjoy the decorations, rides, and festivities–sans the crowds.
But if you’re a “party lover,” you can’t wait to show off your Halloween costume, your kids are old enough to handle crowds, lines, and late nights, and you have the budget to enjoy a lively night of adventure with thousands of your best friends, you’ll have a blast at Mickey’s Halloween Party. Sound like a fair assessment?
(If you do decide you want to go next year, tickets go on sale in July, and you can learn more on Disney’s official site.)
Now…what are my top five ways to make ANY Disney trip magical?
(1) Get there early. Very early. If the park opens at 10am, get there at 8:15. If you’re going to a 4pm Halloween party, plan to arrive by 2. You’ll thank me.
(2) Make sure your whole family is rested. The day we went to the Disney Halloween party, my daughter got up at 5am and went strong all day. By 10pm, she was ready to call it a night. Tired children (or tired parents) don’t typically have the time of their lives. My boys, on the other hand, woke up at 7 that morning and took a one-hour nap in the car on the way there. They had a fantastic experience. Set your family up for success.
(3) Have a family discussion beforehand about what, exactly, you want to do while you’re there. Let everyone pick one ride/activity that they are most excited about. Then everything else is icing on the cake.
(4) Pack enough snacks (and water bottles) so you’re never stuck in a long line, starving. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking, and snacks make everyone happy.
(5) Keep your eyes open for the magic. Out of all the rides, activities, and special events, do you know which one was my favorite?
Gun and sword fights with Tommy.
They have a little shop in Adventureland, where they sell plastic weapons like you would see in an Indiana Jones movie. My boys were looking around at the selection, and the cast member working the register (Tommy) started a spontaneous plastic-gun fight with them.
He was happy and good-natured. He made them laugh as he mimicked gun noises and hid behind his counter. We stayed in that store for 15 minutes, and my boys had so much fun.
That never happens at Target.
You see, the cast members at Disneyland want to create magic for you. They want you to enjoy your time. Sometimes you just need to take a break from all the “doing” and just let the magic happen. That’s what keeps me going back.
So there you go! Any other questions? Anything I left out that you’re dying to know? Have you been to Mickey’s Halloween Party? I’d love to hear about your experience.
And, of course, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing this season, I hope you make fantastic family memories!