Welcome back guest author Katie Drake with a review of the Halloween parties at Disney World and Disneyland. Note that your experience with crowds, candy, and weather may differ based on the dates you attend the parties.
Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom are both arguably at their best at Halloween time, with decorations and special sweet treats coming out in force for the holiday.
Both parks feature some of their most-anticipated hard ticket special events — Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom (MNSSHP), and Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland.
Of course most guests will only get to visit one, but which party to choose? The events are as alike as their confusingly similar names, but there are a few differences that make each one unique.
My family had the opportunity to attend MNSSHP in Walt Disney World in 2010, and followed it up with Mickey’s Halloween Party in Disneyland in 2011. Here’s a head to head comparison so you can start planning on where to head for Halloween 2012!
Both parades feature a wide variety of favorite Disney characters dressed in their Halloween costumes, but the Florida parade wins this round based on one thing — the Headless Horseman.
It’s not quite the same now that he has to walk down the parade route, instead of canter, but the sight is still something amazing to see. Other than that, the parades are pretty similar.
Parade Winner: Magic Kingdom
Again, this is an area where both events are very similar, down to the same electro-pop version of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” following Ursula’s appearance. The main thing that will impact your enjoyment is the host.
Jack Skellington fills the sky at Disneyland, and Zero makes a special appearance flying over Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Haunted Mansion fans get a kick out of the show in Florida, which is hosted by the “ghost host” who narrates your doombuggy.
Both shows are fabulous though, and guests are sure to enjoy either one. Just make sure you stake out a spot on the hub early!
Winner: Depends on your preference of host. Slight edge to Disneyland, because the Zero effect is so cute.
First of all, there is a lot of candy. At both parties, my family of three made quite the haul — this year, wracking up around 20 pounds of candy without trying very hard.
At MNSSHP we got some decent candy, but it was mostly off-brand or Goofy’s Candy Co. stuff, with those tiny, two-bite boxes of raisins as the healthy snacks. While we got a lot of candy, most of it was the kind of stuff I can easily resist, and most of it ended up getting handed out to Trick-or-Treaters.
Disneyland was a different story. We stood in a few of the long lines for treats, and got loaded up with name brand candies. We won’t be able to eat all of it, but were certainly putting a much larger dent in that year’s pile.
The healthy treats were what really put Disneyland on top though. The kids snacked on apple slices — fresh and freeze dried — as well as fresh carrots and Craisins. Overall, much better sweets and snacks.
Candy Winner: Disneyland
Characters and Costumes
My little cousin dressed as Snow White at the Florida party and had the chance to get her photo taken with all seven dwarfs, which was pretty dang cool. Overall, there are just more characters out for autographs and photos at Magic Kingdom’s party, including several you don’t see very often.
They were easy to meet, and there were also character dance parties where we got to spend plenty of time dancing.
Disneyland was a different story. There just weren’t very many characters out, and those that were had huge lines! We ended up skipping several, because the line was just too long. A pirate-themed dance party with Goofy and Pluto was so crowded we could only look in, and it took a few minutes before we could even see which characters were there!
Costumes by guests were also better in Florida. We were worried we’d be the only adults dressed up, and ended up being so glad we had brought costumes! Nearly everyone was dressed up — adults and children — most in incredibly detailed and creative outfits.
Our past experience made us prepared for Disneyland’s party, so imagine our surprise when we were some of the only adults in costume! There were still a few people dressed up, but we were definitely in the minority. Still, nearly all of the children at Disneyland were dressed up. It might have something to do with the large number of locals who attend the parties.
Winner: Magic Kingdom
While both parks are dressed up for the holiday, Disneyland really offers something special. The Rivers of America are full of smoke and purple lights, with spooky music floating through the air.
Hundreds of intricately carved pumpkins surround Big Thunder Ranch, and figuring out which characters are represented is a lot of fun.
Live scarecrows fill the hub, interacting with guests with hilarious results.
And Disneyland offers a unique chance to experience two special holiday overlays. Jack Skellington and his crew from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” take over the Haunted Mansion, and an intergalactic spook has taken over for Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.
Magic Kingdom has plenty of charming Halloween décor, but the park is just missing those extra touches that make Disneyland so much fun.
This for me is really why you go to the Halloween party — the chance at short lines and the feeling that the park and characters are pretty much yours alone. There are still a few lines for popular rides, but there are plenty of others that are pretty much walk-ons.
At Magic Kingdom, lines for the characters were short, and we only waited more than a few minutes for one ride — Peter Pan’s Flight. At Disneyland, it was a completely different story. The park seemed as full as it is at the peak of summer, and it often seemed there was hardly room to move down the sidewalk.
Lines were long for Trick-or-Treating, restaurants, and many rides. I normally don’t mind crowds, but I’ll admit claustrophobia was starting to set in as we tried to make our way around the park.
Winner: Magic Kingdom
For me, there are two things that are vital to the success of any day at Disney — weather and transportation. I think I lost 12 pounds in the sauna of my costume at Disney World, where the temperature never seems to decline even when the sun goes down. The humidity is also miserable, making princess dresses hot and itchy and pirate make-up run.
Disneyland is by no means cold, but there is a slight chill in the air that makes wearing a heavy costume bearable. Maybe it’s just that I grew up expecting snow on Halloween, but the stifling heat is just wrong. A tiny chill that doesn’t require a sweater seems just perfect and helps set the spooky atmosphere.
The other thing I really noticed at Disneyland was how easy it was to get to the party. This is obviously a consideration during any visit, but it seemed especially relevant in costume.
We stayed off property at a hotel across Harbor Blvd., and I clocked our walk to the park at 9 minutes. You read that right, WDW vets, we walked to the main gate in the same amount of time it takes to walk to the bus stop at your on-property resort in Florida.
Once we were done, it was a quick walk back to the hotel, no waiting for the bus followed by a long, stuffy ride in costume.
This is a tough call. I really wanted to call this one for Disneyland, based on the cool holiday overlays, great extra decorations, cool weather and better candy. But the Disneyland party was just missing that special feeling that the park was closed to all but a select few, as thousands of un-costumed guests clogged the sidewalks and elbowed their way in for more candy.
For me, the ticket price is the cost of exclusive access, and the Disneyland party just didn’t feel that way for me. Visitors will have a great time at either party, but unless you are a diehard “Nightmare Before Christmas” fan, you’ll probably have more fun at Magic Kingdom.
Which party is your favorite? What makes or breaks the Disney parties for your family? Sound-off in the comments below!