Disneyland's Spookiest Halloween Events You Won't Want To Miss

You haven't lived until you've sipped a pumpkin spice latte on Main Street, U.S.A. Okay, so maybe that's a bit dramatic, but Halloween Time at Disneyland is pretty great. Every autumn, spooky season descends upon "the happiest place on earth" with a delightful lineup of special events and limited-time fun that Disney calls Halloween Time.

From seasonal overlays of favorite attractions like Haunted Mansion to an after-hours event hosted by Oogie Boogie from "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Disneyland Resort goes all-out for Halloween across its two theme parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park) and surrounding property in Anaheim, California. If you're staying onsite at a Disney hotel, you can even trick-or-treat at your place of residence on Halloween night.

While you'd be forgiven for assuming Halloween commences once the calendar turns to October, Disney gets things started much earlier. Typically, Halloween Time at Disneyland begins in early September and lasts at least through October 31, and sometimes a few days longer, wrapping up just in time for the holiday season to get underway. There's a ton of ghostly amusement to discover, so let's hop aboard our doom buggy and dive in. Oh, and "don't pull down on the safety bar, please. I will lower it for you."

Haunted Mansion Holiday

The home of 999 happy haunts gets a makeover every year. As Halloween Time approaches, Haunted Mansion, a classic Disneyland attraction since 1969, transforms into Haunted Mansion Holiday, a seasonal version themed to Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." We're not talking about a few pumpkins thrown in for decoration. This is a complete overhaul of the entire Haunted Mansion experience that inserts Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and the rest of the gang into the Haunted Mansion story.

We're not gonna lie: Everyone hypes up Haunted Mansion Holiday big time, and we were skeptical of the praise before visiting. The original ride is so iconic. Can an overlay really offer something worthwhile? As we were thrilled to discover, it most certainly can. Haunted Mansion Holiday lives up to every word of its reputation and then some, perfectly blending the timelessness of the signature attraction with the whimsy of the 1993 stop-motion film. It's even more impressive when you remember the whole thing is temporary. It feels so permanent. In a neat tradition, Disney Imagineers design a new centerpiece gingerbread house for the dining room table in the ballroom each year.

In answering the age-old question "Is 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?" Disney says... both. Unlike every other item on this list, Haunted Mansion Holiday continues its run beyond the autumn season, operating through the holidays and into the New Year before returning back to its traditional form.

Oogie Boogie Bash — A Disney Halloween Party

In the words of its namesake host, "Well, well, well, what have we here?!" Oogie Boogie Bash — A Disney Halloween Party is an after-hours, separate-ticket event at Disney California Adventure on select nights in September and October. Oogie Boogie Bash is family-friendly. If you're expecting a haunt event with scare mazes and the like, opt for the nearby Knott's Scary Farm or Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.

Oogie Boogie Bash features trick-or-treating, a parade, a special edition of the World of Color water show, a show starring Mickey and pals, a walkthrough trail called Villains Grove, rides on favorite California Adventure attractions with short waits, and meet & greets with rare Disney villains. Disney switches up the roster every year, but past years' villains have included Sid from "Toy Story," Ernesto de la Cruz from "Coco," and Agatha from "WandaVision." Oogie Boogie Bash is also the only time when adults are allowed to wear costumes at Disneyland Resort.

Tickets to Oogie Boogie Bash start around $135, increasing depending on the date. The party lasts from 6-11 p.m., but guests with party tickets can enter California Adventure as early as 3 p.m. without daytime park admission. If it's within your budget, Oogie Boogie Bash is a good time, but you can definitely get your Halloween fix with other spooky activities throughout Disneyland if you don't attend the party. (This stands in contrast with Walt Disney World in Florida, where Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is the destination's only major Halloween offering.)

Guardians of the Galaxy — Monsters After Dark

In 2017, Disney California Adventure opened Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! The free-fall drop attraction has multiple song possibilities and storylines that randomize each experience. With new footage starring the movies' original cast, including Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldaña, the ride captures the jubilant spirit of the Guardians to a tee.

During Halloween Time, Mission: BREAKOUT! takes on a more sinister aesthetic as it becomes Guardians of the Galaxy — Monsters After Dark. This special version only happens after sundown in September and October. In a unique twist, the Monsters After Dark storyline posits itself as a sequel of sorts to Mission: BREAKOUT!, taking place immediately after the events of the normal version of the ride. Now that we've helped Rocket rescue the Guardians from the Tivan Collection, we've got to go back to save baby Groot from the monsters who have come unleashed from their cages.

Monsters After Dark operates during Oogie Boogie Bash, but it's also open on autumn nights when the event isn't happening, meaning you don't necessarily need to attend Oogie Boogie Bash to ride it. Even though Monsters After Dark is very well done, if you only have one chance to experience the attraction, ride the regular version during the daytime. It's more fun and has more Guardians involved. If you have extra time or if you've already ridden the normal version in the past, going out of your way to revisit at night for Monsters After Dark is well worth it.

Día de los Muertos

Both parks celebrate the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead" with special activities throughout the duration of the resort's Halloween Time season. At Disneyland Park, guests can visit El Zócalo Park in Frontierland to enjoy decor, artwork, and food inspired by the holiday.

Over at Disney California Adventure, Paradise Gardens (near Goofy's Sky School) transforms into Plaza de la Familia, an immersive way to learn about Día de los Muertos with help from the world of "Coco," the hit 2017 Pixar film. Plaza de la Familia is truly one of the highlights of Halloween Time, complete with craft activities, mariachi performances, and specialty food at Paradise Garden Grill. At the center of it all is A Musical Celebration of Coco, a live show featuring vocalists, dancers, and an insanely cool puppet representation of Miguel, the story's hero.

The festivities in El Zócalo Park and Plaza de la Familia offer a pleasant refresher in contrast to the adrenaline-pumping thrill rides with long lines elsewhere throughout the parks. Particularly at Plaza de la Familia, you could easily spend two hours soaking in the atmosphere and partaking in everything it has to offer, presented at the same level of Disney excellence as any high-tech attraction.

Halloween Screams

There's nothing quite like gathering with other park guests under a moonlit sky to enjoy a Disneyland nighttime spectacular. During Halloween Time, the featured spectacle is Halloween Screams, a tribute to Disney villains. The show utilizes projection technology to bring its colorful imagery to life upon the park's architecture, like the buildings of Main Street and the castle itself.

Fireworks accompany Halloween Screams on select nights, and truthfully you can probably make better use of your time in the park if you're visiting on a non-fireworks night. The projection tech is neat, but the show is a tad bit underwhelming without the pyro features. With it, though, the production is your usual standard-setting, knock-your-socks-off Disney fireworks show. In the Disneyland app, performances with pyrotechnics will specifically be listed as "Halloween Screams with Fireworks." If you don't see this distinction, the show is projection-only that evening.

When picking your spot to enjoy the show, remember that Disneyland launches fireworks off-center to the left when facing Sleeping Beauty Castle. We've made the mistake of assuming the action would be centered directly above the castle, and a tree blocked our view of most of the show. Spoiler alert: During Halloween Screams, Zero the ghost dog from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" flies on the zipline that Tinker Bell usually uses during non-Halloween fireworks. Pretty cool, right?! If being near the castle and seeing Zero aren't important to you, projections and fireworks are also plenty visible on the facade of It's a Small World in Fantasyland.

Haul-O-Ween in Cars Land

You'll find touches of Halloween decor here and there throughout Disneyland Resort during Halloween Time, but there are a few areas that take things up a notch and really go all-out. One such area is Cars Land, a recreation of the town of Radiator Springs from Pixar's "Cars." Here, residents like Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Sally celebrate Haul-O-Ween (in "Radiator Screams," naturally) with a host of creative, in-universe parallels to Halloween as we know it. The Imagineer designers really outdid themselves here.

Garland strung in the shape of a monster's face above the main thoroughfare appears to be made from mechanical items. The giant orange Cozy Cones sport macabre faces, making them seem more like jack-o-lanterns than traffic cones. At night, the area's year-round neon glow nicely pairs with the seasonal decorations for a retro-spooky vibe whose color palette would feel at home in early episodes of "Scooby-Doo." The famous cars who roam the streets even wear Haul-O-Ween costumes. Lightning is a superhero, while Mater is a vampire and Cruz Ramirez is a friendly pirate.

Two of the three attractions in Cars Land even receive Haul-O-Ween makeovers in their visuals and music. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater's Graveyard JamBOOree, while Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters becomes Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween. (Their soundtracks are on Spotify, with songs recorded by Larry the Cable Guy and Tony Shalhoub as their respective characters, Mater and Luigi.) Radiator Springs Racers, the area's biggest ride, remains the same.

Pluto's Pumpkin Pursuit

If you'll be spending some time outside the theme parks in Downtown Disney during Halloween Time, check out Pluto's Pumpkin Pursuit. For around $10, you can pick up a scavenger hunt board and embark on a quest throughout Downtown Disney in search of pumpkins painted with the distinctive visual iconography of famous Disney characters. For example, Pluto's pumpkin has a green stripe emulating his collar, a ball mimicking his nose, and some floppy ears on top.

When you find all the pumpkins (and even if you don't), you can exchange your gameboard for a special prize, which varies from year to year. Previous rewards have included a trick-or-treat bucket or a themed tumbler cup. Pluto's Pumpkin Pursuit is a fun, low-key, off-the-beaten-path Halloween Time activity. Even if you aren't interested in officially playing, you can still keep an eye out for the creatively painted pumpkins throughout Downtown Disney.

Vintage spookiness on Buena Vista Street

Guests enter Disney California Adventure through Buena Vista Street, an avenue resembling a romanticized version of Hollywood as Walt Disney encountered it when he arrived there in the 1920s at the beginning of his career. During Halloween Time, Buena Vista Street receives some spooky flair in line with its vintage aesthetic.

Bewitching bat-shaped cutouts adorn the street's lamp posts. An imposing statue of the Headless Horseman — connected to Disney lore through the 1949 animated featurette "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" — greets visitors near the street's central plaza. At nighttime, Buena Vista Street shines with an enchanting overlay of twinkling purple lights in its trees and purple lighting upon its centerpiece fountain. The evening purple lighting of Buena Vista Street is one of those things you see on Instagram and hope looks just as good in person. Real talk: It's everything.

Main Street Pumpkin Festival

Disneyland Park decorates its turn-of-the-century American hometown with oodles of jack-o-lanterns in what Disney calls the Main Street Pumpkin Festival. The pumpkins make a statement right out the gate — or rather, right in the gate, as soon as guests approach the park's entrance. Even before entering Main Street, as guests scan their park tickets underneath shaded structures, they'll see giant pumpkins on top of the shelters' roofs shaped like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. When glancing at the floral arrangement of Mickey Mouse in the garden area in front of the train station, visitors will notice autumn colors in the flower selections.

Upon formally stepping into the park, guests find themselves in a sea of creatively carved jack-o-lanterns (albeit, fake ones, but cool nonetheless). This includes a giant pumpkin with Mickey Mouse ears carved to look like Mickey's face winking. It's a popular photo spot during the season. About halfway down Main Street, the Market House is a themed Starbucks in disguise. (Look for the hanging sign of a coffee cup simply labeled "Coffee.") It serves all the seasonal favorites of your hometown Starbucks, including the classic pumpkin spice latte and the new(ish) favorite pumpkin cream cold brew.

Meeting Disney characters during Halloween Time

While it's true that you'll find many exclusive character greetings at the after-hours Oogie Boogie Bash event at Disney California Adventure, you can also keep your eyes peeled for Halloween Time meet & greets throughout both parks during regular operating hours. On Buena Vista Street at DCA, Mickey and pals wear "home-made" Halloween costumes with wardrobe styles that match the area's 1920s setting. (Goofy dressed like a sheet ghost is particularly charming.)

Over at Disneyland Park, Mickey and the gang show off an entirely different ensemble of Halloween garb in Town Square, toward the front of Main Street, U.S.A. (Donald Duck is dressed like candy corn!) Back in Fantasyland, villains like Maleficent and the Evil Queen wander about, occasionally even taunting their heroic foils like Aurora and Snow White (as well as young guests dressed like them) if they cross paths.

Meanwhile in New Orleans Square, also in Disneyland Park, Jack Skellington and Sally from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" pose for photos, making for a perfect prelude to enjoying a ride on the nearby Haunted Mansion Holiday. Jack and Sally are loads of fun. When we met them, Jack asked us where we were visiting from. We told him Charlotte, to which he turned to Sally and excitedly proclaimed, "They're from North Carolinatown!" Also, if you're a Florida regular who's used to Jack and Sally's line being three hours long at Walt Disney World, meeting the pair here on the west coast at Disneyland is much easier. We waited a whopping ten minutes.

Festive merch and scrumptious treats

If you're in the market for a souvenir to remember your Halloween Time visit to Disneyland, or want to take advantage of some specialty menu items only offered during this time of year, there's no shortage of either. Disney sells multiple collections of new merchandise property-wide every year, plus adds an extensive amount of seasonally themed food and drinks to restaurant menus.

Where merch is concerned, you can count on plenty of shirts, mouse ears, pins, and the ever-popular Loungefly mini-backpacks themed to perennial mainstays like "Hocus Pocus" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas," as well as Disney villains and Mickey and pals. For the widest selection, head to the shops on Main Street, U.S.A. and on Buena Vista Street, as well as World of Disney at Downtown Disney. A limited selection of items are also typically sold through shopDisney, Disney's official online store.

As for the food, Disneyland culinary artists roll out new Halloween treats alongside established favorites each year. A few of our top picks from years' past? The sweet potato hand pie (pictured above) from Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street, U.S.A. (heavenly) and the vampire Mickey ice cream bar from Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream on Buena Vista Street (so cute it's almost a shame you have to devour it).

The Halloween Tree

A specially decorated tree in Frontierland is easy to overlook but holds a special historical connection. Just outside the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, Disney designers cover an oak tree with orange lights and small, painted pumpkins. You'd be forgiven for glancing at the tree and assuming it's a generic decoration — festive, for sure, but not particularly noteworthy. As with many details throughout the Disney theme parks, a closer look yields a delightful discovery.

This tree, simply named "The Halloween Tree," is a tribute to the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name. Bradbury, perhaps best known for writing "Fahrenheit 451," loved Disneyland and hoped that the namesake of "The Halloween Tree" would perhaps one day make its way into the theme park. In 2007, Disney Imagineers did just that, dedicating a specially decorated tree in Frontierland during a ceremony with the help of Bradbury himself, just five years before his death. Among the many Disneyland tips to remember during your Halloween Time visit, slow down in your speedwalk between Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Haunted Mansion Holiday long enough to pause and observe a touching monument to a terrific storyteller that many guests walk right past.