Years ago, September and October were like any other months at Disneyland, only slower. Fall was a season coveted only by those without children, who visited a land of 10-minute lines and wide, stroller-free avenues.
It truly was the Happiest Place on Earth.
That started to change when the first mouse-eared, foam-rubber pumpkin arrived on Main Street. Thanks to theming and Halloween special events, fall is among the busiest seasons at Disneyland.
Well played, Mickey.
The autumnal highlight — at least for parents with disposable income and a willingness to ask their kids be excused from school for, say, Uncle Bob’s funeral — is Mickey’s Halloween Party. The event, held on 14 nights between Sept. 20 and Oct. 31, features parades, fireworks shows and free candy (depending on your definition of “free,” which may or may not take into account the substantial admission price).
5 things you should know about Mickey’s Halloween Party
- PRIVACY NOT AN OPTION: You would think the cost ($95-$120) would keep attendance low. You would be wrong. A few years ago, when we attended midweek in early October, the park was jammed throughout the night. There even seemed to be more strollers than usual. How is that possible?
- COSTUMES, OK. IMPERSONATION, NOT: As cool as the decorations are, it’s more fun to see people in costume, even if there were at least 20 Captain Jack Sparrows. By the way, Disney warns those dressed as officially licensed characters must not try to pass themselves off as the real thing, signing autographs and posing for photos. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also grounds for being escorted out of the park.
- YOUR CANDY IS GUARANTEED: Many people act as if a global candy shortage was in effect. Every party goer gets a Halloween bag, but we saw plenty toting emergency backup bags. It also explained the explosion of strollers, which were turned into candy haulers.
- BUT CANDY QUALITY IS HIT-AND-MISS: For every piece of name-brand chocolate, you might see three or four off-brand suckers or fruit chews. Be sure to check what’s available at the treat station before getting in line. Imagine waiting 10 minutes for apple chips, trail mix or other healthy snacks. At least you’ll receive sympathetic looks from cast members who understand your disappointment.
- NO PARTY CRASHERS: Those attempting to crash the party are summarily, and politely, dealt with. The park’s daytime visitors are asked to leave as the sun sets and wristbanded party goers take over. Not only do naked wrists draw unwelcome attention, but Disneyland sets up various checkpoints where cast members shout, “Show me your bands!” OK, that’s not how cast members behave. But the bare-wristed will be calmly escorted outside.
If you’re planning to go, buy tickets as soon as possible. Only five dates remain open, though Disney typically holds back tickets for guests staying on the property. You can purchase them on their website.