Growing up in a multicultural household we were lucky enough to celebrate many holidays: Passover, Hanukkah, Christmas and Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) to name a few. But every year the one we got most excited about was Halloween. Each back-to-school season was not only about buying notebooks and backpacks, but also fall decorations, costumes and pumpkins. My dad isn’t one to dress up, but he always said he loved Halloween the most because it brought the whole neighborhood together. People from all walks of life—young and old—would open their doors and lean into the fun. That’s what Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort feels like; one happy neighborhood where everyone, local Angelinos and visitors from around the world, have come together for some good ‘ol fashioned fall fun.
When my 3-year-old daughter and I arrived, the first thing she noticed was, “Pumpkins!!! Mickey pumpkin! Goofy pumpkin! SO many pumpkins!” (The second thing she noticed was Anna and Elsa were not at the entrance to greet her). Everywhere you look, the park is decorated in festive, fall colors, which, for a moment, can make you forget it’s 100 degrees and not quite sweater weather. The heat did not deter us or the other hundreds of other visitors, dressed in princess costumes, custom matching Disney shirts announcing a family reunion or bachelorette party, or classic Halloween-themed Mickey and Minnie ears, which was our accessory of choice.
Festive foodie fun
Simply walking around would’ve been enough for my daughter, in awe of the Disney magic. But we had rides to ride and food to eat. The seasonal churros were my daughter and my favorite treat, which come in limited time flavors like pumpkin spice and chocolate cookie crumble. I appreciated the fall-themed coffee drinks like the pumpkin cold brew, a perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up to brave the rest of my day with a toddler. Other fall treats include Oktoberfest-inspired burgers from the Galactic Grill, pumpkin spice funnel cake from Stage Door Café, and ghost pepper micheladas for the adults. If you can’t make it into the park, you can still feast on some themed treats at Downtown Disney. La Brea Bakery Café will feature kids monster pancakes on Oct. 31, Kayla’s Cake is offering mummy macarons through Sept. 31 and Marceline’s Confectionery has various fall-themed Mickey and Minnie apples dipped in chocolate, caramel or vanilla.
Spooky sights & sounds
While we were on the hunt for Anna and Elsa, we met many wicked queens and other villains looking to stir up trouble. Throughout the park Disney villains and characters are dressed up in Halloween attire. But my daughter simply wondered if they knew where the Arendelle sisters were. As we waited in line for Haunted Mansion, which received an extra frightful makeover for Halloween Time, my daughter delighted in all of the skeletons looking at us. She also wondered if they knew Anna and Elsa. If my daughter was about an inch taller, we would’ve ventured over to Guardians of the Galaxy’s Monsters After Dark, a thrilling ride to rescue Groot from monsters. Other Halloween-themed attractions include Radiator Screams (aka Radiator Springs), my daughter’s personal favorite, and the famous giant Mickey Mouse pumpkin on Main Street, U.S.A.
Fall for the family
Over in Paradise Gardens at Disney California Adventure, Plaza de la Familia features an immersive celebration inspired by Día de los Muertos. Unfortunately, the heat cancelled Disney and Pixar’s “A Musical Celebration of Coco” the day we were there. But we still got to see fantastic Mariachi music at Paradise Gardens Bandstand and meet Miguel from “Coco.” Other seasonal features include an arts and crafts section where you can make your own spirit guide mask from “Coco” and post personal messages on the beautiful Memory Wall.
As we made our way back to Disneyland for a final train ride around the park, I was about to give up on my daughter’s all-day search for her heroes when we bumped into Anna and Elsa! We waited in line along with other families with small children, single women in their forties and fifties and couples decked out in their Halloween costumes. No matter their age or background, everyone was just as excited to meet the queens of Arendelle as they were to partake in the festivities of fall and Halloween Time. The scene reminded me of being with my family, walking around our neighborhood where everyone, including my dad, was excited to see Halloween come alive. The spirit of fall, Halloween and the magic of Disney is alive and well.
Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort runs through Oct. 31 and Plaza de la Familia at Disney California Adventure Park runs through Nov. 2.