A Halloween Guide to Southern California Theme Parks
Every year, Southern California theme parks go all out for Halloween. These parks have something for everyone, from ghouls, ghosts, and gore at events geared toward adults to spooky (but not scary) character encounters and plenty of candy at events designed for the whole family.
It’s worth mentioning that you should always consult a Halloween guide to your favorite theme parks before bringing kids to after-hours events. Many theme parks go above and beyond when it comes to scaring visitors, and some Halloween theme park events can be too intense even for tweens and young teens.
In this Halloween theme park guide, I discuss how the theme parks of Southern California celebrate Halloween, the Halloween events at each theme park, and tips for making the most of your fall visit.
Disneyland® Halloween Time During Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party at Disney California Adventure Park, from Sept. 17-Oct. 31, 2019, among all of the spooky fun, guests will be able to experience new and fully immersive treat trails. (Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort)
There are plenty of good reasons to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure® in September or October.
During Disneyland Halloween Time, the parks are adorned with special decorations, plus lots of carved pumpkins, themed additions to rides and attractions (e.g., the Haunted Mansion becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday which is themed after Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas), Halloween treats, events and parties, the Halloween Screams fireworks show, trick or treating, and a plethora of other fun things to do at Disneyland around Halloween.
Every year there’s a popular Halloween party that tends to sell out, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and grab your tickets early. This year, it was Oogie Boogie Bash which replaced Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Keep in mind that while it is possible to get discount Disneyland tickets, the Halloween parties are ticketed separately.
Tips: Make sure that you ask for Halloween Magic Shots from the PhotoPass photographers during Disneyland Halloween Time — your pictures will include some fun surprises. And, visit with an empty stomach because the Halloween food at Disneyland is especially good, from the caramel apple smoothie at Schmoozies to the “Spoke-y” Cone Macaron at the Cozy Cone Motel.
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See my Disneyland guide for more tips.
Universal Studios® Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights
Terror abounds at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, the park’s annual Halloween event that kicks off mid-September and runs through just after Halloween on select nights.
There are scare zones and live shows that will leave you feeling jumpy all night, movie set-quality haunted houses, and mazes with themes such as The Exorcist, The Walking Dead, Freddy vs. Jason, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
This is one of the most intense and immersive after-hours events that you’ll find in any Halloween theme park guide. One highlight of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights is the masterful special effects (makeup, blood, and guts) that make this Halloween event feel so frighteningly real.
Tips: Most Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights event dates sell out, so buy your tickets as far in advance as you can. You can get discounted Universal Studios tickets, but be aware that this is one of the Halloween events that is ticketed separately. When you get thirsty, be sure to try a “Blood Bag.” Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights events are not recommended for kids under 13 or teens who aren’t fans of the horror genre.
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See my Universal Studios Hollywood guide to touring it and Warner Bros. Studio® on the same day.
Knott’s Berry Farm®: Knott’s Scary Farm and Knott’s Spooky Farm Two families meet characters at Knott’s Spooky Farm (Photo courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm is one of the biggest and scariest events you’ll find in any Halloween theme park guide and one I used to attend annually as a teen.
The park is totally transformed for Halloween, with creepy haunted mazes, live shows, themed attractions, and more than 1,000 demonic lurkers waiting around the park to scare the pants off you. There are almost no scare-free spaces at Knott’s Scary Farm, which holds the title of the world’s first Halloween theme park event.
Every inch of the park is basically a scare zone at this separately ticketed, after-hours event where creatures and monsters startle, sneak, and scare visitors from out of the shadows. This event is best enjoyed by visitors ages 13+.
Knott’s Spooky Farm is one of Southern California’s family-friendly daytime Halloween events, and it is geared toward families with kids ages three to eleven.
There are themed decorations, trick or treating in Ghost Town, live shows (such as Monsters are Coming at the Camp Snoopy Theater), costume contests, and plenty of mild spooky surprises — all of which are included in the regular park admission.
Tips: Grab Knott’s Scary Farm tickets early because they do sell out. Invest in the Fright Lane pass so you can bypass the lines for rides and mazes (which can have up to two-hour waits). Don’t miss the drinks with floating eyeballs and special menu items like pumpkin soup, candy corn funnel cakes, and Halloween churros. For Knott’s Spooky Farm, buy discount Knott’s Berry Farm tickets instead of paying full price. You don’t need to bring trick-or-treating bags because every kid receives one when they arrive at the park.
La Jolla Mom Knott’s Berry Farm Ticket Exclusive: Save $76.50 when you purchase 2 General Admissions. While supplies last.
Buy Discount Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Scary Farm Tickets Six Flags Magic Mountain® Fright Fest Ghouls scare riders as they board the Goliath roller coaster (Photo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain)
On select dates from mid-September through just after Halloween, zombies, and ghouls take over Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Some Halloween theme park guides and Six Flags Magic Mountain guides neglect to mention that this is not a separately ticketed event (though mazes do require a separate pass). Instead, visitors enjoy extended hours — 11 p.m. on Sunday and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
During the day, there are decorations, spooky props, stage shows, and themed modifications to rides (e.g., pitch-black roller coaster rides after dark) that are reasonably family-friendly. But after 7 p.m. every evening, creatures of the night begin roaming the scare zones and the mazes — most of which are absolutely terrifying — are open to visitors.
Tips: Ride lines tend to be shorter at night, and it’s usually possible to hit all seven mazes in about four hours without the express maze access pass. Sundays are the least crowded.
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See my Six Flags Magic Mountain guide.
LEGOLAND® California Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Children in costume post next to a life-sized LEGO mummy Minifigure. (Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California)
If you’re searching through Halloween theme park guides specifically for family-friendly events, LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat fits the bill perfectly. These all-ages party nights take place on select Saturday evenings in the fall, when the park stays open later than usual.
There are costume contests, lots of trick-or-treat stations, roaming performers, character meet-and-greets, live shows, games, Halloween crafts and decor, and dance parties to entertain kids and their parents.
Costumes are encouraged for guests of all ages, and you don’t have to worry about the treats running out because LEGOLAND famously stocks more than 1 million pieces of candy as well as special bricks, too.
Tips: Admission to LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat nights aren’t included with general admission, but you can grab discounted LEGOLAND California tickets in advance and then add a Brick-or-Treat upgrade at Guest Services after entry. Remember that October is Kids Free San Diego which means that one child ages 12 and under gets in free per paid adult when using qualifying tickets. Lines for everything are longer on Brick-or-Treat party nights.
Buy Discount LEGOLAND California Tickets SeaWorld® San Diego’s Halloween Spooktacular Sea lion show at SeaWorld San Diego’s Halloween Spooktacular (Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego)
SeaWorld doesn’t go all-in on Halloween, but its daytime Halloween Spooktacular (which happens Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. until close, from late September through October) is still a lot of fun for families.
There are Halloween decorations around the park, including fantastic jack-o-lanterns, singing pumpkins, live shows, the Sesame Street® Halloween Parade, the kids-only Spooktacular Hay Maze, spooky dance parties, and plenty of trick-or-treating spots. Grownups are welcome to trick-or-treat, and doubling back to stations with your favorite candies is encouraged.
Tips: The Halloween Spooktacular is included with regular admission, and you can get discounted SeaWorld San Diego tickets. Trick-or-treat hours run from 2:30 p.m. to closing. Everyone is encouraged to dress up, but only kids under 10 are permitted to wear masks. Find all the animal pumpkins in the park, and then redeem your map for an exclusive pin.
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See my SeaWorld guide that compares and contrasts SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando
There are lots of things to do in San Diego around Halloween for kids and grownups that don’t involve going to Disneyland or Six Flags. That said, if you want to enjoy a few immersive or super scary Halloween events this Halloween season, you’ll find some of the best in Southern California theme parks.
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