Updated: Oct 8, 2019
This time of year, you have likely seen a lot about both of Disney’s Halloween events, each on their own coast. Disneyland has made a little more news perhaps, as its inaugural Oogie Boogie Bash is taking place in Disney’s California Adventure right now. On the East Coast, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is enjoying a longer-than-ever run that started back in August. Both are fun parties, but which one is the better value for you and your family? Having just spent the last weekend at the new DCA party, I am ready to weigh in on this important question!
How the Parties Work
Both parties work essentially the same. Both require a separate admission ticket on the day of the event. These tickets generally cost over $100 each, so they are not an insubstantial cost to your family! If you have a regular admission ticket, you can go to the given park any time during the day. There are usually a few areas where you can check in and show your tickets to obtain an extra wrist band. When the time comes to clear out the regular guests, leaving only those who bought tickets behind, these wrist bands will be what differentiates you from the crowd. Cast members will be stationed everywhere, asking to see your wrist bands. If you are coming in after 6:00pm when the party starts, you do not need any regular admission but you will get a wrist band like the rest of the attendees.
Once the party truly begins, you will find yourself in a much smaller crowd than usual! This is one of the best parts about the Halloween parties. You can stroll around the Magic Kingdom or DCA like you own the place, enjoying very short wait times on some of your favorite attractions. We rode DCA’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Breakout! Monsters After Dark (probably the longest title ever bestowed upon a ride) twice in a row with almost no wait at all. Same went for the Incredicoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania. If you are a ride junky, this might make the entire event worthwhile for you.
The party doesn’t stop there, however. Scattered throughout the parks are Treat Trails where you can roam through a themed line to get handfuls of top-shelf candy. Disney doesn’t skimp! I have seen parents and kids coming from these events with enough candy to stock their own Halloween parties (if the candy lasts that long!). The trails often have a long line at the beginning of the night, so be prepared to wait or come back later at night.
Characters are everywhere during these events. If you like to hunt for those rare photo ops with Villains like Frolo from Hunchback or Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood, you are in luck! Classic characters like the Fab Five (plus Daisy) are always around wearing costumes as well. We managed to catch a glimpse of Chip and Dale in their Rescue Rangers getup this year at DCA!
Most of the restaurants will close up shop during the event, but there are plenty of sweet treats you can buy. Stock up with an early dinner or plan on a late snack once you leave. It’s fun to see a lot of guest costumes up close when you hang out for a pizza at your hotel.
There’s another point to consider: what to wear! Kids can always wear costumes in the parks, but these parties are a great chance for adults to get in on the fun. Check out Disney’s costume guidelines before you go. In short, don’t wear masks that cover your face, don’t stop for autographs (leave that for the costumed cast members), and don’t wear anything too scary. I have seen some truly impressive costumes that always make me want to step up my game. Bonus points for getting the whole family in on the theme! My wife and I almost cried at how sweet it was seeing a dad and his daughter dressed as Sully and Boo, hand in hand.
Seems like enough, right? You could spend a few hundred dollars and be content with all of this, but Disney doesn’t stop there! Let’s discuss some of the events that take place during these two parties.
The Dance Parties
While both coasts host parades and spectacles, they are both very different. I will get to those in a bit. Family dance parties are a common thread in both parties. This year, the DescenDANCE Party provides a safe and fun area for you and your kids to groove to electronic versions of Disney hits. A DJ and characters entertain as the lights flash. Maybe you should have thought twice about wearing Stormtrooper armor to a dance party. Or was it the best choice you made all year?
DCA hosts a quick show creature great Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I only saw a brief glimpse of the show, but it looked like a fun story time for the whole family. According to Disney, the show is also interactive and features even more opportunities to get your hands on some candy.
Not quite a show, the Villains Grove experience transforms the oft-overlooked Redwood Creek Challenge Trail into a moody experience. We couldn’t believe the lines to get into the area. Sadly, we chose to avoid said line, especially since there were plenty of villains outside the zone. If you can brave the foggy forest, you won’t meet any actual villains, but you will explore themed areas suggestive a villainous presence, almost as if the villains had created a place to hang out and then left for the parade.
The Magic Kingdom features a show that my wife and I can’t wait to see someday. The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus have a show on the steps of Cinderella Castle. This show replaced a fun, villain-filled show with something most guests like even more! You won’t find the Sisters at California Adventure, so if you are a nineties kid, you should probably head over to the east coast post-haste!
Both parties have great parades to go along with them. DCA’s Frightfully Fun Parade is almost the same parade that California used to have when the party was at Disneyland. The Headless Horseman leads on a truly massive horse, chasing Ichabod down the road. What follows is a quick assortment of Disney villains. Jack Skellington, Sally, and Zero get a float too, led by a crew of vampires from the film. The Haunted Mansion float is impressive as well. Ghostly dancers spin ahead of it and the three hitchiking ghosts offer to follow you home. At the end of the float, gravediggers drag their shovels and make sparks on the street. The parade isn’t super long, letting you get back to the fun elsewhere in the park.
The parade can be a little scary for kids at a couple of points, so you might not want to crowd along the curb. Doctor Facilier’s friends from the other side are tall, black- and neon-clad spirits on stilts and they tend to rush the crowd at stops along the route. Some of the Mansion dancers will also mingle with the crowd, but they are just dressed up in pastels and grays. Much of the remaining parade dancers and villains will be more familiar to kids.
Mickey’s Boo to You Parade has a few additions this year. It is a longer parade with more than just villains. The Pirates float is a good one, with Jack Sparrow stumbling about on the top. Villains abound, but so do traditional characters in their Halloween garb. This year, Ralph and Vanellope emerge from the arcade to hand out candy on their float.
As for scary elements here, the Headless Horseman also starts off this parade and I have seen some kids react with wide eyes to him. The dancing ghouls of the Mansion sometimes rush the curb here as well. Even my wife was surprised when a group broke off and yelled, “Boo!” at her! Overall, this parade has more fun in it. Just ask Clarabelle Cow and her chickens singing Flight of the Valkyries.
We can’t call them fireworks shows anymore, now that Oogie Boogie has taken over DCA. The new show Villainous! is performed using the World of Color technology and it is predictably great. The story features a completely new character on an adventure as she tries to figure out what to wear for Halloween. It’s a fun review of your favorite Disney villains and even some you might not have remembered. The visuals are great and culminate with Chernobog from Fantasia blasting a jet of flame high into the night sky.
The Disney World fireworks spectacle is new this year as well. I wish I could have seen it this time around because it looks pretty amazing too. Jack Skellington hosts a story about Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald on a trick-or-treating expedition to a haunted house. If it’s anything like the spectacle of the new Happily Ever After show, you will definitely want to catch this one.
The following might not be the best value for a larger family. There is enough going on at these Halloween parties to take up your time and money. Disney has become quite adept at offering more experiences for those discerning guests who want to shell out a bit more cash.
Disney World has done a great job of this in the past. When my wife and I attended the Villains Dessrt Party several years ago, we got a chance to get up close and personal with a bunch of characters while eating some amazing food and desserts. Oh, and it was hosted in Cinderella’s Royal Table, too. Truly a memory we cherish!
For an additional $99 each, guests can hang out in Tony’s on Main Street at Cruella’s Halloween Hide-a-Way. The experience allows you and your party to come and go throughout the evening, much like club level lounges. Food, drinks, and alcohol are provided, but the real fun comes from Cruella de Vil and her pals. A crew of villains will mix and mingle with you and yours for as long as you care to stay. Considering the park closes at 12:30 am, that could be a long time! If you want to emerge from the experience, you can enjoy reserved seating for the parade as well.
California Adventure does not have a similar offering. What it does have is much like the Fantasmic and World of Color dining packages. A three-course prix fixe menu at Wine Country Trattoria will set you back $50. There are a lot of options for your dinner, but you will have to wrap it all up early. The restaurant stops accepting reservations after 4:30 pm and the wait seemed fairly long for many of those without one. The preferred seating for the parade was a perfect spot to watch the festivities without waiting around all night.
And there you have it! Which of these experiences do you want to try the most? I was very pleased with the experience at DCA this year, having tried out the party at Disneyland a few years back. Plenty to do and see. While we didn’t get to the Villains Trail, we did get to see everything else and get a bunch of rides in without staying out too late at night.
If you want to try one of these experiences out for yourself, contact one of our ConciEARS today! It’s never too early to plan for next year. These party tickets sell out quickly and our planners are happy to help you snatch a few up for your family. They can even help you decide which coast you want to visit first!