Considering a visit to Disneyland in September or October to celebrate Halloween Time? If you are visiting with a toddler and preschooler in your traveling family, there is plenty of not-so-spooky fun at Disneyland that the younger set will enjoy this time of year. One of our TravelingMoms visited with her 4 year old at the beginning of the Halloween Time season and shares her best tips for things to see, do, and eat!
Fall at Disneyland in Anaheim, California is in full swing. The months of September and October are known at Disneyland as “Halloween Time.” The season officially runs from September 7 – October 31, 2018 this year. As you can probably imagine, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks have been transformed with Halloween decor. The parks feature new seasonal food and merchandise, special entertainment, and several ride overlays.
But what if you are planning to take a toddler or preschooler to Halloween Time? Visiting Disneyland can be very different for families with little ones (See: Tips for Disneyland with Preschoolers and 7 Things to Do With Preschoolers at Disneyland). Are the Halloween decorations too scary or likely to frighten small children? Are there rides or entertainment that are best for the younger set this time of year?
I just returned from a three day trip with my two kids at the beginning of the Halloween Time season to investigate specifically for families with younger kids in mind (disclosure: I was a guest of Disney on this trip). With me to help was my 9 year old daughter who has visited many times during her toddler and preschooler years as well as my 4 year old son. After sampling as much as we could in three days, here are our recommendations for what to do during Disneyland’s Halloween Time season with toddlers and preschoolers.
Best Things to Do at Disneyland Halloween Time with Toddlers and Preschoolers
Meet and Greet with Vampirina
The hottest character on Disney Junior television this year is Vampirina. If you have a preschooler singing his or her heart out about this “ghoulish girl in a human world” who moved from Transylvania to Pennsylvania, her character meet and greet should be number one on your list. My 4-year-old son is obsessed with the show. He had been talking all week leading up to our trip about meeting her, so we were not going to miss our chance.
During our visit, Vampirina had temporarily set up shop not far from the entrance of Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure in Disney California Adventure. The longer-term plan is for her meet and greet to take place in Hollywood Land. Be sure to check the official Disneyland app during your visit to find out where she is located on the day of your visit and the hours you can expect her to appear.
And, if you attend Mickey’s Halloween Party during the season, she’s a brand new addition to the Frightfully Fun Parade parade in Disneyland park on select special event party nights (separate ticket required).
Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land
If you have a toddler or preschooler, chances are pretty good that he or she is already a fan of the Pixar Cars franchise. Cars Land in Disney California Adventure park is a favorite any time of year, but it’s even more special during Halloween Time.
The entire land turns into Radiator Screams, decorated in colorful “Haul-O-Ween” decor. Photo opportunities abound! Some of our family’s favorites:
- Cars Land sign
- Movie poster wall near the Cozy Cone Motel
- Trunk or Treat sign after the Cozy Cone Motel
- Dia de los Muertos Doc Hudson ofrenda (a remembrance altar) in front of Ramone’s Body Art
- Mummy wrapped tractor in front of Mater’s Graveyard JamBOORee
- Statue of Stanley near Radiator Springs Racers entrance.
If your toddler or preschooler isn’t quite tall enough or thrill-seeking enough for Radiator Springs Racers, there are two rides that are likely just the right speed. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree has a temporary Halloween Time overlay turning it into Mater’s Graveyard JamBOORee. And Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween.
Both rides involve mildly thrilling spins and turns (think: Mad Tea Party teacups but without quite as much dizzying action). My 4-year-old son gave them both major thumbs up. Neither have particularly long lines except on the most crowded of days. That makes the attractions even more perfect if you have an impatient preschooler in tow.
Dia de Los Muertos and All Things Coco
Another Pixar movie on the radar of many preschoolers is this year’s hit Coco. Coco features the Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos. Disneyland had long celebrated this special holiday with the colorful decor in Frontierland in Disneyland park. But with a movie hit on its hands, the celebrations are much expanded this year. They run through November 2, 2018 (a few days longer than the Halloween Time events).
Head over to the Paradise Gardens Park area of Disney California Adventure if you have a young Coco fan. The area has been transformed into Plaza de la Familia with several Coco-themed exhibits. The craft station was especially a hit with my 4-year-old. There, he was able to decorate his own alebrijes (spirit animal) mask.
There’s also live mariachi music at the bandstand several times a day. The most popular attraction is undoubtedly “A Musical Celebration of Coco.” In this show, puppeteers control Miguel and several figures from the Land of the Dead in a performance filled with music, dancing, and storytelling. It’s so popular in fact that we couldn’t get in to see it except from afar!
If you hope to see this show with your child, I’d recommend arriving and setting up shop right in front of the Plaza de la Familia sign about a half hour in advance. It’s a standing room only show so your child will have a hard time seeing without a front row view.
Costumed Character and Villain Meet & Greets
On our family’s visit to Halloween Time this year, the main thing my 4-year-old son wanted to do was meet characters and gather autographs. We were all especially excited to see so many of our Disney favorites in special Halloween costumes this time of year. This made the photo opportunities even more varied and special. There are also quite a few villains out and about so don’t miss them either, assuming your child isn’t scared.
Just a sampling of the characters we spotted (many more in the app):
- Goofy in a skeleton costume (Town Square, Main Street USA, Disneyland park)
- Mickey as a bat (Buena Vista Street, Disney California Adventure park)
- Donald dressed as an orange devil (Buena Vista Street, Disney California Adventure park)
- Lightning McQueen playing superhero (Cars Land, Disney California Adventure park)
- Goofy as a ghost (Buena Vista Street, Disney California Adventure park)
- Cruella De Vil & the Queen of Hearts (Town Square, Main Street USA, Disneyland park)
- Jack Skellington & Sally (New Orleans Square)
- Dr. Facilier (New Orleans Square)
Always check the Disneyland app for character locations and times. If there is a character your child just can’t miss, it’s smart to line up about 10-15 minutes before the character comes out so you are first in the queue. Later in a character’s time window, a cast member may cut off the line in anticipation of the character’s break time. It can hard to explain to a toddler or preschooler why you can’t get in line for a character they see right in front of them, so earlier is better.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
During Halloween Time (and continuing into Disneyland’s Christmas holiday season), the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland features a special Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. Jack Skellington and his pals dominate the decor, which is much more colorful and festive.
Whether Haunted Mansion Holiday is going to be the right fit for your preschooler very much depends on your child. If you had asked me 5 years ago when my daughter was a preschooler whether it was a great fit for this age group, I would have told you an emphatic yes. She loved the attraction overlay and we rode it many times. I thought it was a great introduction to the scarier standard version of the attraction that runs the rest of the year.
My 4-year-old son was a different story. He’s much more sensitive than his sister and is highly suspicious of dark rides already. We got into the line after a major pep talk and he absolutely fell apart with fear seeing the spooky decor in the queue. We bailed before entering the attraction. So my best advice as a parent is to listen to your child and know that this ride will likely be a major hit with some at this age and a major no-no with others.
If you do plan to ride, definitely try to snag a FastPass/MaxPass because the queue is extra long during the holiday season.
Halloween Time Eats & Treats
What is a trip to Disneyland with the little ones without a few special food items? Disneyland has really raised the bar on special event food in the last few years. Halloween Time has so many food items this year that Disneyland released a food guide brochure, just like they do for the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival or other foodie-focused events. Snag it when you enter the park so you can peruse the possibilities with your child.
What About Mickey’s Halloween Party?
Mickey’s Halloween Party is a special ticketed event that happens on select nights in Disneyland. There is a special parade, fireworks, unique character meet and greets, and lots of trick or treating (See: Planning Guide to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland and Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland). I’ve been with my young kids in a previous year, and we had a blast.
But if you have younger kids, should you make Mickey’s Halloween Party a priority? Probably not for many families. The party is a very expensive event that goes until either 11 pm or midnight. Families with toddlers, preschoolers, and younger kids often just can’t get their money’s worth because the kids are tired and ready for bedtime halfway through the event. There is so much going on at Halloween Time already at Disneyland that the party just isn’t a must-do in my mind, even as well-done as it is! We didn’t miss not attending this year.
Of course, if party tickets are in your budget and you can make peace with the fact that your child may sleep through half of it in a stroller or be cranky the next day from being up late, more power to you. But go into it with realistic expectations. And definitely take time earlier in the day for a nap or rest time so you can make the most of your time there with a young child.
Have you been to Halloween Time at Disneyland with your toddler or preschooler? Share your best tips and favorite experiences.