Autumn’s arrival has ushered in orange and black decorations at the Disneyland Resort — and it’s one that is well worth the money.
Halloween Time at the theme park began Sept. 17 and will run until Oct. 31. Aside from its typical array of cartoon-themed decorations, Disneyland now features pumpkins, ghosts and skeletons. As the story goes, the Disney villains have taken over the park.
The spooky atmosphere begins outside the boundaries of the resort, with statues of Disney characters dressed in ghoulish costumes and dancing in an orange plethora of pumpkins dotting the sides of the street. Entrance and exit gates are topped with Mickey and Goofy pumpkins, and on the park’s brochure and map, the old witch from Snow White clutches a pumpkin with Mickey’s likeness.
Each of the attractions has been redesigned to reflect the theme. Main Street, U.S.A., the first Disneyland town, is a magical sight of fall colors: ribbons and signs in orange, yellow and burgundy and scattered about are more than 300 pumpkins marking the Main Street Pumpkin Festival. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the 16-foot-tall Mickey Mouse jack-o’-lantern located in the center of Main Street.
But Disneyland’s Halloween Time is more than just new decorations, it’s also a chance for holiday-themed treats and gifts.
A trip to the Mad Hatter gift shop reveals sections dedicated entirely to Halloween wear: Mickey ears with candy corn, pumpkins and skeletons — even top hats from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Candy stores and bakeries feature Halloween-inspired snacks, such as Mickey-shaped caramel apples, though these treats are deceptively pricey. Several stands around Disneyland also sell similarly spooky souvenirs, such as T-shirts and balloons.
Another enticing element is the Disney characters who roam the streets in full Halloween costume. Classic figures, such as Goofy and Mickey, strut around as skeletons and vampires, adding a Halloween flair to everyday park events.
Aside from the themed hosts, the most impressive changes to the park accompany two major attractions: the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.
The Haunted Mansion is now a Nightmare Before Christmas-themed extravaganza that allows Jack Skellington and Sally from the film to wander the park. In an impressive effort, nearly every decoration and room has been altered, complete with ghostly holograms of Jack’s pet, Zero, and an enormous Christmas tree.
Psychedelic decorations mimic those seen in rides such as the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and accompany singing pumpkins, creepy ice angels and Santa hat-wearing zombies. Do not expect to miss Jack either; he makes multiple appearances throughout the ride along with other characters from the movie.
Although the Haunted Mansion is more glittery than scary, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy incorporates some truly frightening effects. There are no familiar characters or storyline — just a journey through space with ghosts and sound effects. The illusions are not 3-D, which lessens the scare-factor throughout the course of the ride, but it is still an overall amusing experience.
Less impressive, but still worth visiting, is a small corner in Frontierland dedicated to Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. A band of skeletons adorns the area, playing instruments and wearing flashy sombreros. The main attraction here is free face-painting with choices from four different skeleton pictures.
Also in Frontierland is the Big Thunder Ranch, which has various Halloween activities and crafts.
At the end of the day, Disneyland is a beautiful place covered in candles and jack-o’-lanterns. The nighttime fireworks display has been revamped for the Halloween season and is a must-see.
For those willing to spend the extra money, Disneyland also offers limited opportunities to participate in Mickey’s Halloween Party. Visitors can dress up to trick-or-treat, watch a parade and meet costumed characters.
California Adventure has also made small adjustments for Halloween Time as well. The infamous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror now includes confrontations with ghostly patrons. There is also the new World of Color show — an attraction not particularly Halloween-oriented — and a sci-fi party called ElecTRONica at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot beginning Oct. 8.
Halloween Time at Disneyland is a fun and thrilling experience — taking a fun time at the park and adding a holiday twist. It should not be missed.