Halloween Time: Disneyland Touring Strategy to Maximize Time and Experience the Spooky Fun

Visiting during Halloween Time at Disneyland is exciting because there's so much to see and do. One of the biggest questions guests have that are visiting during Halloween Time is “how do we see and do it all?”

There are a few basics that are essential to becoming familiar with in order to best use your time at the Disneyland Resort. This is especially important when you're visiting during a seasonal celebration and the crowds may be higher than usual.

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Disneyland App To Jumpstart Your DayMorning strategy for Disneyland: Cast member holding plate of food

Disneyland has an app that you can download for either Android or iPhone that will give you the most accurate wait times for rides. This app is a must have for anyone visiting Disneyland. You can link your park tickets to it, make dining reservations, use the mobile food ordering feature and link your PhotoPass tickets.

Pro tip: download this app PRIOR to your trip and become familiar with it. This way when you show up to the gates you are already a pro at using the app. Take a look at the layout of each park on the app so you have a rough idea of where you are going once you enter!

Doing Disneyland Rope Drop RightDisneyland Halloween Pumpkin

Thirty minutes before park opening, cast members will begin letting guests into the parks. This helps control the flow of crowds and it can be a huge advantage for morning park visitors! There will be ropes (guarded by cast members) that block off access points of the lands until the official park opening time. Being one of the first groups positioned at those ropes can be a huge advantage for your morning strategy for Disneyland! To be there at Rope Drop plan to arrive at least one hour prior to the park opening.

Pro tip: Grab breakfast to go and eat while you're waiting to be let in through the turnstiles. This will help keep adults happy and kids occupied during that early morning wait time. We always recommend either eating here or at your Disneyland hotel.

Popular Seasonal Attractions

There are five rides at the Disneyland Resort that get the Halloween Time seasonal treatment which are definitely worth centering your day around. These attractions become even more popular than usual during these holiday overlays so our Halloween Time Disneyland strategy prioritizes these attractions so you don't miss out!

  • Haunted Mansion Holiday
    • The Haunted Mansion gets a makeover inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Be prepared to experience decor courtesy of Jack Skellington such as jack o’ lanterns and wreaths, terrifying toys, and a spooky scented gingerbread house! Sally and Oogie Boogie are also on hand to wish you “Season's Screamings!”
  • Guardians of the Galaxy- Monsters After Dark 
    • Groot was left behind in the escape and it's up to you to help save him from the monsters that have been unleashed in The Collector's Fortress!
    • This spooky theme only takes place after 3PM each day in California Adventure.
  • Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween
    • Luigi and Guido celebrate Halloween with a dance party complete with Halloween themed decor.
  • Mater's Graveyard JamBOOree
    • Don't miss Mater's Halloween celebration with ‘high spirited' Halloween music.
  • Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
    • Disney describes this spooky overlay as being full of chills and thrills, “Dip and careen past spectral stars and scary satellites during your spirited space ride in the dark. Shiver and shudder amid the inky blackness—glowing apparitions reaching out in all directions to grab you. Behold ghoulish orbs of light, howling comets and materializing meteors. And shriek in fear inside a wicked wormhole—piercing screams, ghostly music and inhuman sounds echoing all around.”
    • This year unfortunately Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy will NOT BE FEATURED.

The Best Halloween Time Disneyland Strategy Halloween Time Disneyland Strategy: Haunted Mansion Holiday

If you're visiting on a day that Oogie Boogie Bash takes place then remember you will be asked to leave California Adventure when the party begins. Check out our full normal Disneyland morning strategy and Disney California Adventure morning strategy for tips you can use in combination with the strategies below!

Disneyland

  • Arrive at Rope Drop!
  • Get your picture in front of the Mickey Pumpkin on Main Street (We recommend doing this in the morning for a few reasons: you're fresh and looking your best, the line will be shorter, and it's right on your way as you make it down Main Street)
  • Line up by the rope drop to Adventureland.
  • Ride Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Since Haunted Mansion Holiday is easily one of the most popular Halloween themed rides you should head straight there at Rope Drop. This way you can ride it with the lowest time and it also allows you to ride it again later in the day if you have time! Not a morning person? Save it for the end of the night, right before park closing.

California Adventure

  • Guardians of the Galaxy- Monsters After Dark will begin starting at 3PM so you have to wait until then to see the special overlay of this ride. The line for this ride will stay consistently longer once this overlay begins so it's best to just head here right when it starts so you can get it crossed off your list. It's worth the wait!
  • Head over to Cars Land and see the Halloween decorations and themed attractions such as Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween and Mater's Graveyard JamBOOree. 

Disneyland Halloween Genie+ Tips

Utilizing Disney Genie+ during your visit is also a smart way to cut down on time spent in line during the busy Halloween season. Genie+ starts at $25 per day depending on the day and includes access to 19 rides along with unlimited PhotoPass downloads. This will be a huge help for the rides you're saving for later in the day and for other attractions in the resort. Plus as you take advantage of getting your picture taken in front of the giant Mickey pumpkin at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. you can then download your PhotoPass photo.

Guardians of the Galaxy- Monsters After Dark is listed as a SEPARATE Genie+ reservation each day! This Halloween themed overlay begins at 3PM each day with Genie+ reservations becoming available at NOON. These will run out quick so grab them while you can! And yes… since Guardians is the ‘normal' attraction until it switches to its Halloween theme, you can ride the regular version with Genie+ and then ride again with Genie+ for monsters! Normally you can only use Genie+ once per attraction but this is a nice feature.

It makes the most sense to start your day over at Disneyland so you can ride Haunted Mansion Holiday first since the over main overlay (Guardians!) doesn't start running with their Halloween theme until later in the day. But also keep in mind to watch the schedule for Oogie Boogie Bash so you can experience the park on a day the party isn't taking place or make sure you get done what you need to before it begins if you don't have a ticket. If you have a ticket, then that's a great time to ride Guardians since the line will be much lower during the party than during the regular park hours.

Genie+ Halloween Crowd Tips

Genie+ will see some strain under high crowd levels and this is something we experienced during our recent park visit. Reservation times for popular attractions often ran out quickly for the day along with many return times not being available until evening once the morning was over. If you plan on using Genie+ then it is crucial you arrive to the parks early and purchase it right away. If you don't plan on arriving to the parks until after lunch time, then you will not get as much use out of the service. Your best value for using Genie+ will be if you arrive to the parks early and use it consistently throughout the morning and afternoon. Avoid booking rides that have return times far out in the future that will tie up your ability, at least for as long as you can.

Keep in mind that the return lines for Genie+ Lightning Lanes will also start to see longer lines throughout the day so make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before your reservation is set to expire. Take a screenshot of your time if you're cutting it short, just in case.

The ride you can expect to see with the highest wait times at both parks are Haunted Mansion Holiday and Guardians of the Galaxy- Monsters After Dark. Since these are the two popular seasonal Halloween rides this makes the most sense of why you would see the highest wait times! These are also the first rides that may run out of Genie+ return times so make sure you grab these when you can- you definitely don't want to stand in the long standby line! Haunted Mansion Holiday averaged around 160 minute standby wait times on the two most crowded days of our trip and did not settle down until nearly park closing.

Another key trick, refresh the tip board! Even if return times are gone for the day for many attractions, don't give up. Many times you will see return times show back up on the tip board and you can grab them. So just keep pulling down on that screen to refresh and grab those additional Genie+ reservations.

But my favorite Genie+ hack, which can be a bit of a gamble, is to fish for Multiple Experience passes! When a ride breaks down during the time you had a reservation, you will be given a Multiple Experience pass which has no designated return time and can be used on any ride within the same ‘tier' as the ride you held it for originally. Indiana Jones Adventure is notorious for breaking down, especially when its crowded, so during our trip I booked reservations for Indy first thing in the morning. Twice out of our three mornings at Disneyland, I secured a Multiple Experience pass this way since Indy was not ready to run at park opening. If Indiana continued to stay temporarily closed, I would book another return time. If it was still closed for that return window, I'd be given another pass.

You do not need to redeem that Multiple Experience pass to book another return time so you can go ahead and make a new selection once you're given one. Since ride breakdowns tend to happen more often when the parks are crowded, you can use this to your advantage if you're willing to gamble with your Genie+ reservations. If you notice one particular ride is breaking down a lot, that's the one to keep booking to try and fish for more passes. But you can usually count on Indy! This hack helped us ride attractions at our leisure with having passes with no set return times and save them for our most favorite rides… plus ones we wanted to repeat!

Rise of the Resistance

You can also expect the Individual Lightning Lane purchase for Rise of the Resistance (averaging around $25 per person during our trip) to sell out very quickly. Keep in mind that Rise will close at 9PM most nights so you want to plan to ride it early. Your best course of action is to NOT go here first thing in the morning as it will be the most crowded. We saw the best wait time for Rise of the Resistance, around 75 minutes, during dinner time and the fireworks. This would be your best bet to ride without paying for Lightning Lane or waiting in an extremely long line. At one point during the morning we saw this ride with a wait time of 180 minutes! Definitely do NOT wait in that line, come back later!

Avoiding Disneyland Crowds

If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious by the crowds, there's a few areas in Disneyland you can catch your breath and take a break. This is a good plan if you find yourself beginning to lose patience or if others in your party are beginning to become frustrated.

Here are some of my favorite things to do when I'm feeling overwhelmed by crowds:

  1. Grab a Blue Milk in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and find a quiet corner to sit down. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is much more wide open than other lands in Disneyland so even during the most crowded days you will find the walkways in this area are less jam packed and it's easier to find a corner to relax in.
  2. Ride the Main Street car vehicles and horse drawn carriage rides on Main Street, U.S.A. We rode the Omnibus twice, making sure we waited in line to get the very top of the bus, and enjoyed viewing the Halloween decorations from the top of the bus. It was also nice to get some physical space from others on this bus. This is one of my favorite ways to decompress from the crowds!
  3. Grab a Dole Whip and watch a show at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland. If the mobile order return times are gone for the Dole Whips, still take the time to enjoy a show anyways. There's always plenty of space for everyone to sit down and the show is calming for the nerves. I always find the Enchanted Tiki Room mellows me out if I feel overwhelmed!
  4. Run around Tom Sawyer's Island to take a break from the crowds in Frontierland. Or ride the Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia in Frontierland. My son's favorite option is to run around Tom Sawyer's Island! He has room to stretch his legs out and get out some energy especially when shuffling around crowded walkways. I like this option for myself because I can just find a bench and let him explore on his own.
  5. Watch Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln located near the entrance of Main Street U.S.A. This air conditioned and dark experience will help if you're feeling overstimulated.
  6. Enjoy a stroll through Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through in Fantasyland. Or if you like, enjoy the accessible experience just to the left of the entrance. This is a quiet, dimly lit space with two benches and plays the entire scene on a tv. We like this spot if I'm feeling too tired to do the stairs and also need some peace.
  7. Ride the Disneyland Railroad around the park and enjoy the scenery. Keep in mind: this is not always the best well kept secret so the lines for the railroad often reached peak times of 40 minutes during our last crowded Halloween day!

Overall, you can still have a great experience at Disneyland even if its crowded if you arrive prepared and temper your expectations on what you will accomplish. I can't emphasize enough how crucial it is to allow time for a break, even if it's a small breather on Tom Sawyer's Island, just to allow your family some peace. And look at it this way, a crowded day at Disneyland is always better than a day at work, right?

More Disneyland Planning Tips

There is always a lot of information to consider before planning a Disneyland vacation. Make sure to spend time planning your days in the theme parks and become familiar with everything Disneyland has to offer. Don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE Deals Newsletter to stay on top of the current planning tips, strategies, and deals.

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About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the editor of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and writing Disney culture pieces on DisneyDose.com- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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