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How to celebrate Halloween at theme parks this October

Sept. 15, 2022
11 min read
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Halloween is on the horizon, but if you are visiting a U.S. theme park anytime between now and Allhallows Eve, it's already here.

From Disney World to Legoland and many theme parks in between, characters are swapping their usual garb for Halloween costumes, jack-o'-lanterns are being placed in every available corner and chainsaw-wielding maniacs are practicing their best sneak attacks.

Whether you prefer tricks or treats, we’ve rounded up the Halloween happenings at 13 major theme parks across the U.S. below.

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Walt Disney World

COURTNEY KEIFER/DISNEY

During the day, you can get into the Halloween spirit among Mickey pumpkins and fall wreaths lining Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A., but the real frightful fun takes place in the evening during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Guests can wear costumes (Mickey and his friends will be in their costumes, too!); watch a Halloween-themed parade, stage show and fireworks; trick-or-treat through the park; dine on themed treats; and enjoy attractions like Mad Tea Party and Space Mountain with a spooky Halloween twist.

The party takes place on select nights between Aug. 12 and Oct. 31 and requires a separate ticket. Although the party starts at 7 p.m., guests can enter the park as early as 4 p.m. to sneak in a few rides before the Halloween happenings officially begin.

Legoland

LEGOLAND

Legoland parks in Florida, California and New York celebrate Halloween with festivities that cater to preschoolers and their families.

During Brick-or-Treat, kids can trick-or-treat throughout the park; join a costume parade; watch characters like a Lego mummy, witch and vampire perform rockin' Halloween tunes; and ride The Dragon coaster with a monster music soundtrack. The offerings at each park are slightly different, like the world's first wheelchair-accessible giant Lego pumpkin at Legoland New York.

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In Florida and New York, Brick-or-Treat takes place Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 4 through Oct. 30, and in California the event is held Saturdays from Sept. 17 through Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30. Brick-or-Treat takes place during regular park hours and does not require a separate ticket.

Universal Orlando Resort

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

With 10 haunted houses and five outdoor scare zones, Universal Orlando Resort's Halloween Horror Nights is not for the faint of heart. In fact, the event is not recommended for kids under 13. The houses are a mix of well-known franchises like the slasher classic "Halloween" and original concepts like Descendants of Destruction, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic subway system.

Related: TPG’s complete guide to visiting Universal Orlando

If you are already shaking in your boots, you can take a lights-on "Behind The Screams" tour of the houses during the day, participate in the Scarecrow Stalk scavenger hunt and shop for Halloween souvenirs and treats in the Tribute Store.

The event runs on select nights between Sept. 2 and Oct. 31 and a separate ticket is required. To maximize your time at the event, you can also purchase a Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass to skip the line, go on a "R.I.P. Tour" or purchase a "Scream Early" pass that will get you into the park before the gates open to other guests. If you have a daytime ticket or annual pass, you can also get early access to the park and be among the first in line when the haunted houses open for the night.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood hosts its own version of Halloween Horror Nights, but don't expect it to be a carbon copy of the events in Orlando. Even the houses that are available at both locations have distinct differences. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide, for example, features the Mummy, the Wolf Man and Dracula in both iterations, but the setting and story are different in Hollywood than they are in Orlando.

Also unique to Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights event is the Terror Tram — a spine-tingling version of the park's signature Studio Tour — and nightly performances by the Jabbawockeez dance crew.

The event runs select nights from Sept. 8 through Oct. 31 and a separate ticket is required. In addition to the Universal Express pass and R.I.P Tour, guests can maximize their time with a special "Halloween Horror Nights After 2 p.m." pass that gets you into the park any time after 2 p.m. and you can stay into the night.

Disneyland

Halloween celebration at Disneyland. DISNEYLAND RESORT

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort spans both theme parks and includes daytime and nighttime events, which is a good thing because the after-hours Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure sells out almost as soon as tickets go on sale.

While this year's Oogie Boogie Bash is sold out, if you were one of the lucky ones to snag a ticket or you hope to go next year, the event puts Disney's infamous villains front and center. The immersive trick-or-treat trail through Disney California Adventure has stops themed to characters like Dr. Facilier from "The Princess and the Frog," Cruella de Vil from "101 Dalmations" and, of course, Oogie Boogie from "The Nightmare Before Christmas." There's also a parade, a stage show with Mickey and Minnie and more.

Even without party tickets, you can still get your fill of Halloween fun at Disneyland park. Mickey, Minnie and all of their friends are dressed up in costumes, there's a "spook-tacular" fireworks show, Frontierland plays hose to a Dia de los Muertos celebration and the Haunted Mansion gets a "The Nightmare Before Christmas" makeover. During daytime hours at Disney California Adventure, you can check out the "Radiator Screams" makeover of the "Cars"-themed Radiator Springs area, visit with characters from "Coco" at Paradise Gardens and experience a "Monsters After Dark" overlay of Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout.

SeaWorld and Busch Gardens

Trick-or-treating at SeaWorld Orlando’s Halloween Spooktacular. SEAWORLD ORLANDO

SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Tampa Bay throw two very different Halloween parties – the family-friendly daytime Spooktacular and the more sinister Howl-O-Scream when the sky turns dark.

Related: First look at the brand-new Sesame Place theme park in San Diego

Spooktacular festivities include a trick-or-treat trail, dance party, costume contest, mermaid meet-and-greet and more. Howl-O-Scream has terrifying haunted houses, outdoor scare zones, live entertainment and even roaming scareactors who could pop up anywhere in the park.

Related: Celebrate National Roller Coaster Day on 1 of the 10 best coasters in the US

Spooktacular is included with park admission, but Howl-O-Scream requires a separate ticket. Both events run select nights in September and October.

Dollywood

CURTIS HILBUN/DOLLYWOOD COMPANY

Halloween time at Dollywood means colorful leaves, fall-flavored treats and lots of pumpkins. More than 12,000 illuminated pumpkins light up the park during Great Pumpkin LumiNights, part of Dollywood's annual Harvest Festival which this year runs from Sept. 23 through Oct. 29.

Related: Dolly Parton just turned her glittery tour bus into the ultimate Tennessee hotel suite

Some of the pumpkins are used to form larger-than-life sculptures like Dolly's guitar, a giant spider and a 40-foot-tall pumpkin tree, while others are intricately carved to resemble butterflies, frogs and other critters.

Related: A Smoky Mountain-themed roller coaster is coming to Dollywood in 2023 — here’s everything we know

The event also features apple-, pumpkin- and maple-infused treats, along with country-cooking favorites like smoked sausage macaroni and cheese and a pulled pork sandwich with pumpkin barbecue sauce.

Dollywood's Harvest Festival is included with regular park admission.

Holiday World

TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

With lands dedicated to many major holidays — including Halloween — Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, technically celebrates spooky season all year long. But, it appropriately amps things up during Happy Halloween Weekends in September and October.

Related: 11 regional theme parks that are closer to home but just as fun as the big names

This family-focused event has trick-or-treating, G-rated haunted houses, corn mazes, hayrides, live entertainment and other ghoulish delights.

Related: 13 absolute best things to eat that you can only get in US theme parks

Happy Halloween Weekends admission is included with your regular daytime ticket purchase.

Silver Dollar City

SILVER DOLLAR CITY

Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, forgoes the scary haunted houses and gory creatures for a Harvest Festival with craftsmen who make everything from moccasins to hand-painted turkey feathers, chuck wagon cooking demonstrations, pumpkin-spiced everything and giant pumpkins that weigh as much as 1,400 pounds (that's a lot of pie).

When sunlight turns to twilight, thousands of illuminated pumpkins will set the park aglow. New this year is the Foggy Hollow trail, with rolling fog and cascading lights synchronized to music.

All Harvest Festival activities are included with regular Silver Dollar City admission and the event runs from Sept. 21 through Oct. 29.

Knott's Berry Farm

SEAN TEEGARDEN/KNOTTS BERRY FARM

On select nights between Sept. 22 and Oct.31, California's Knott's Berry Farm becomes Knott's Scary Farm, with original haunted houses like Pumpkin Eater and Dark RIde: Castle of Chaos, outdoor scare zones, a show with death-defying carnival acts and an adults-only puppet show.

The most unusual offering at Knott's Scary Farm is the Halloween Hootenanny overlay of the Timber Mountain Log Ride. We don't want to spoil it, but you will definitely be in for a few spooky surprises before you splash down.

Because of the frightening nature of the event, Knott's Scary Farm is not recommended for children under 13 years of age. This is a separately ticketed event and there are fun add-ons like a "Boo-fet" meal with monster photo opportunities, a lights-on tour and a Very Important Monster tour with skip-the-line access and other perks.

Six Flags

SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS

Six Flags locations across the country mark the start of spooky season with haunted houses, open-air scare zones and thrill rides in the black of night during Fright Fest. The event takes place on select nights in September and October.

The event is a bit different at each location. Six Flags Over Texas holds a Looney Tunes Halloween Dance Party and Six Flags Great Adventure starts each night with The Arrival Ghoul Parade.

Most locations also host a family-friendly Kids Boo Fest during the day with costumes and trick-or-treating in a more-silly-than-spooky atmosphere.

Admission to Kids Boo Fest is included with park admission, but Fright Fest is a separately ticketed event.

Hersheypark

HERSHEYPARK

An oversize Reese's Cup with vampire teeth doesn't exactly scream "scary," but it perfectly embodies Hersheypark's sweet and spooky Hersheypark Halloween event. There's a dance party with Hersheypark characters, trick-or-treating and, at night, lights-out coaster rides.

If you are looking for something on the scary side, Hersheypark also offers Dark Nights, with four haunted houses and three outdoor scare zones. Rather than a separate ticket, Dark Nights is treated as an add-on. There's only a small additional fee to stay after hours for Dark Nights.

Bottom line

It doesn't matter if you are in the mood for sweet treats or devilish dismay, there is certain to be a theme park with your type of Halloween event lined up for the fall season. Some even have both, with separate offerings for daywalkers and night dwellers.

Most do require a separate ticket so if you plan to attend, be sure you have the ticket you need for the type of frights you want.

Featured image by PHOTO COURTESY OF LEGO LAND
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
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  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more