Disney fans will tell you that the dates between Memorial Day and Labor Day have always been prime time for out-of-state tourists to visit at the Anaheim sister parks Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
As a result, most savvy California Disney theme park-lovers patiently wait it out during the long summer months so they can return in the fall for smaller crowds, cooler temperatures and the annual series of holiday events that kicked off this month and continue through early January. Halloween Time events are now underway through Oct. 31, and the annual Holidays at the Disney Resort will run Nov. 12 through Jan. 9. To honor Californians’ loyalty, Disney is now offering discounted tickets, as low as $83 a day, to state residents through Sept. 30.
Disney officials say Halloween Time has become the most popular themed event of the year for regular park visitors. Many fans come each fall to enjoy the “Nightmare Before Christmas” makeover at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride, but crowds also line up in long queues to buy Halloween-themed popcorn containers, cobwebbed mouse ears, glow-in-the-dark sweatshirts and ghostly macaron cookies.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of this fall’s Halloween Time and Christmas holiday festivities.
The Haunted Mansion celebrated its 52nd year in August, but this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the ride’s annual seasonal overlay, with themed decorations and music from the cult favorite Disney film “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Every year, Disney Parks art director Tim Wollweber designs a new gargantuan gingerbread house for the dinner table in the mansion’s spook-filled dining room. Wollweber said this year’s 13-foot-tall creation is the largest yet, with design elements that pay homage to some of the gingerbread houses from years past. This year’s house required more than 30 pounds of gingerbread and 120 pounds of frosting. Riders only get a brief glimpse of the house as they glide past in their “doom buggies,” but their shared observations are a popular topic on social media each year. Unlike the other Halloween Time events, the “Nightmare” theme will stay in place at the mansion through Jan. 9.
Through Nov. 2, the Paradise Gardens Park at Disney California Adventure has been renamed Plaza de Familia. It’s filled with decorations, photo spots, crafts stations and onsite entertainment themed around the Disney animated film “Coco” and Mexico’s tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Co-designed by Disney senior art director Dan Torres and creative director Susana Tubert, it’s a family-friendly stop where park visitors can honor the memories of their loved ones by hanging a card in their name on a memory wall near a tree of life sculpture. They can also enjoy mariachi music and storytelling, pose at photo stops and learn about the history of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. The décor includes paper marigold flowers, colorful papel picado (perforated paper) designs and calavera sugar skull statues. “It’s culturally authentic and uniquely Disney,” Tubert said.
These special-ticket trick-or-treating-themed Halloween Day 2021 events take place from 6 to 11 p.m. on 22 select nights through Oct. 31 at Disney California Adventure. During those hours, the park is closed to all but Oogie Boogie ticket holders, who can enjoy immersive trick-or-treat trails throughout the park, walk-around characters in Halloween costumes, a Disney villains parade, a spooky walk-through of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, a live Mickey and friends Halloween show, special photo stations and holiday lighting. Elaborately costumed fans fly in from all over the country to attend. Depending on the night, prices start at $114. This year’s events sold out months ago, but some members of the Magic Key Holders Facebook group are selling their tickets at face value on that page.
This year’s Christmas-themed season has been expanded by three nights to celebrate the parks’ return from pre-pandemic shutdowns. As always, the holiday events include themed decorations, a new parade and fireworks show, themed food offerings and holiday overlays on rides.
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