It’s no secret that Halloween is one of my most looked forward to holidays. I love everything about this time of year- the cool chill in the air, the way people start bundling up and standing a little closer together, scary movies, pumpking carving, trick-or-treaters, spooky decorations and a spirit of fun that seems to possess everyone and makes it alright for even grownups to wear costumes and get excited about monster movie marathons!
Normally, my autumnal traditions only extend as far as Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt, my own horror marathon on the 31st while waiting for trick-or-treaters to stop by, and Olvera Street’s Dia de los Muertos celebration- but if Disney intends to keep bringing back Halloween Time like they did this year then I think I’ve found myself another Halloween treat to look forward to!
I’ve been excited about this since they first announced that they were doing a ghostly overlay for Space Mountain and unveiling a new, Disney villain themed fireworks show- so it was just a matter of getting a good night’s sleep, finding a free, full day and making sure the camera batteries were charged. The plan was to head straight over to Space Mountain to pick up Fast Passes before doing anything else because there was no way that I was going to miss that ride.
The day started out perfectly! The 8-minute walk over from the Howard Johnson Hotel in Anaheim was a breeze [as always!], and we couldn’t have picked a more perfect day; it was cool enough outside to wear hooded sweaters and jeans but still warm enough for t-shirts in the sunnier pockets of light. But once inside the Park, our plan took a series of quick hits. We decided to stop in for one more quick peek at The Disney Gallery where we ran into a couple of friends from MiceChat [I hope you made it back to Arizona alright, guys!]. Then we were walking past Star Tours and there was no line and I hadn’t been on it in forever and I had to ride! After disembarking from our Starspeeder, we went through the Star Trader and well, you just can’t get out of the Star Trader without seeing something that catches your eye! By the time we got to Space Mountain, we found that it was shut down with no re-open estimate time.
My stomach sank a little, but I decided to just think positive thoughts and make the best of it! After all- there was still Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the fireworks to look forward to!
We took the Disneyland Railroad to New Orleans Square, and arrived just in time to see Jack Skellington and Sally being escorted out to meet the crowds! The standby line for Haunted Mansion Holiday was the scariest thing I’d seen so far, so while we admired the overlay from the outside, we decided to go ahead and ride Pirates instead.
By the time we were finished with Pirates, it was starting to get late enough in the day to make me nervous about our chances of riding Ghost Galaxy and getting a good spot for the fireworks and riding Haunted Mansion. So we headed back to Space Mountain and were delighted to find that it had reopened, but disheartened to discover that there were no more Fast Passes available for the day.
The standby queue displayed a 90 minute estimated wait- but luckily, we had loaded up the trusty old iPhone with some movies and brought along a headphone splitter for just such a possibility, and so we were able to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest [I know- you're so surprised!] while we waited in line. As we inched closer and closer, I got more and more excited. And then, finally [finally!] it was our turn.
It was WORTH IT! I would ride Ghost Galaxy if it meant that I had do it without a Fast Pass every single time! The music and sound effects, the pitch blackness of the interior of the ride with just a few well placed, unobtrusive screens makes the nightmare that was Rockin’ Space Mountain a far distant memory and puts themed overlays of Space Mountain at the front of the list for ‘Best ideas that Disney has had- ever!’ By the time the ride was finished, our eyeballs were the size of saucers and all we could do was just look at each other with gaping mouths.
A note for guests with children: I have heard a lot of people talking about whether it’s too scary for children who meet the height requirements for the ride, but I would say that it depends on the child. I know that my little brother, at that age/height, would have done just fine- but I probably would have been a complete wreck for the rest of the day. The images of fiery, grasping hands and searching eyes are fun and intense- but they might be a little more intense than fun for some younger children. You know your kids better than anyone- so you’ll be able to tell if it’s something that you think they can handle.
It was just about the magic hour when we emerged from Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, and we decided we had time for one more ride before we should grab a good spot for fireworks. We rode Astro Blasters and for the first time in my life, I made it past Planetary Pilot. Now I’m a Ranger 1st Class!
After rubbing in my victorious win [by more than DOUBLE!] we staked out a nice spot for watching the fireworks. We were sitting on the ledge around the Partners planter, facing towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle through all of Celebrate! A Street Party, and we were feeling really good about our position- until a Cast Member walked over to us and let us know that they’re not letting people sit in that space during fireworks anymore; now you have to be on benches or on Main Street. We scrambled quickly and were able to get a nice bench spot which I held for us while popcorn and hot coffee was procured.
Oh- and you know what else Disney has available for purchase? BLANKETS! Which is amazing because after sitting quietly as night started to fall- we started to freeeeeeeze! So, I am now the proud owner of [what else?!] a POTC fleece blanket. At $35 each, its probably worth it to pack your own, but its nice to know that it’s an option if you need it!
Finally, the lights started to dim and that familiar Disney Announcer voice informed us that the fireworks show was going to be starting shortly. I wasn’t sure what to expect- but once again, Disney surpassed all my expectations! The show is perfectly timed and soundtracked and the special tricks-n-treats were something I’m already planning to go back and see again!
As always, one of my favorite things at Disneyland is to turn around and look down Main Street USA at all the people after the fireworks have finished, and all the smiling, happy faces I saw lead me to believe that I wasn’t the only one wowed by Halloween Screams.
We booked it over to some heat lamps to warm up for a bit before striking out for the next adventure and were approached by a couple who were getting ready to leave the Park. They asked if we were planning on staying for awhile and when we nodded that we were, they gifted us with their Fast Passes for Haunted Mansion! We were so surprised and so grateful, and because of their kindness we were able to see Murphy [the new Fantasmic! dragon] for the first time, ride Haunted Mansion Holiday, and still have time for one more ride of Pirates before heading out.
Disney promised their guests a lot with Halloween Time this year, and after the rough start that Summer Nightastic! had [Murphy, we're all looking at you!], I was sort of wondering if they’d be able to pull this off. It’s pretty clear that I’m enthusiastic about it- but have a look for yourself and let me know what you think!
See you in the Parks!
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