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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Theme Park holiday season is upon us, even amid a pandemic

By Carlye Wisel
Mickey Mouse dressed for winter and pointing at the castle

The weather's getting colder and the holidays are approaching. Naturally, all our favorite theme parks are preparing their Halloween and, yes, even Christmas activities — and trying to make the good times happen despite the coronavirus pandemic. Here's the Theme Park News you can use. 


It’s time for... more seasonal updates! After a bit of hesitation, it turns out all the majors have a few tricks up their sleeves and will have some Halloween treats for us. Several regional parks have detailed their forthcoming safety-enhanced escapades. (Note: Masks, social distancing, and enhanced safety protocols are a given at these parks, in case it's not explicitly mentioned.):

Purple three-eyed pastries

Knott’s Berry Farm announced its Taste of Fall-O-Ween event on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Sept. 25 through Nov. 1. Admission to the outdoor, family-friendly event is available through pre-paid tasting cards, which are limited for restricted capacity, at $35 for adults and $20 for kids, plus tax. There’s even a Camp Snoopy Trick-or-Treat trail for kids (sorry adults, you’ll have to pay for a bag if you want to load up on candy). While the park itself is not technically open, it has been operating as an alfresco food festival with limited capacity and no attractions for a few months — unless you think of boysenberry sweets as the star of the show. Costumes are allowed, and masks are required. 

Cedar Point’s Tricks and Treats Fall Fest, an amended version of their HalloWeekends, will be offered on weekends through Nov. 1. Similar to Knott’s, Fall Fest offers tasting cards, themed foods, and trick-or-treating, as well as games, dance parties, corn mazes, live music, appearances by Peanuts characters, and plenty of activities for all ages. Masks are required, costumes are encouraged.

Disney World added a few more things to its Halloween lineup, including the Cadaver Dans, a ghoulish take on the famed barbershop quartet, which is typically reserved for ticketed evening events. By the time you read this, Main Street will be flanked with festive decor, but merchandise and souvenirs have already been on sale for the past week, including a Haunted Mansion Madame Leota sipper and... this hilarious thing:

A popcorn bucket filled with churros? 2020 truly is cursed. If you plan to celebrate while staying safe at home, D23’s Halloween Mousequerade costume contest will allow fans to digitally show off their costumes to celebrity judges Ashley Eckstein and Yvette Nicole Brown for the chance at nabbing a $500 Disney Gift Card.

And, last but extremely not least, Universal Orlando Resort finally announced that a glimmer of Halloween Horror Nights would be making its way back into the parks during regular daytime hours with two houses debuting as part of a test run this weekend.

It was the worst-kept secret in recent theme park history — second only to, you know, that whole coaster being built in the middle of Islands of Adventure thing — given that Universal itself added flames to the fire by plopping metal HHN house entry signage in the middle of the freaking park, and then trolled fans about it:

Brilliant work all around; give these people a raise, seriously. The stunt garnered plenty of fan anticipation leading up to yesterday afternoon, when Universal Orlando Resort confirmed that, yes, it would be trial-running "HHN Light" with houses themed to Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives as well as allowing costumes to be worn and offering trick-or-treating for kids at Islands of Adventure.


Theme park Christmas. Yes, even though we just finished discussing Halloween, Christmas news also toplined this week's biggest moves.

Walt Disney World unveiled its holiday lineup, which includes themed food, merchandise, entertainment, and amended Cinderella Castle decor from Nov. 6 through Dec. 30. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party won't be going on, but you'll still be able to see Santa, enjoy seasonal tastes from around the world at Epcot with its Festival of the Holidays (starting on Nov. 27), and even see toy soldiers come down Main Street, USA. (Disneyland Park, which has not yet reopened, has unsurprisingly canceled this year's Candlelight Processional.)

Hersheypark also announced its wintertime festivities this week, with its Christmas Candyland attraction open on select dates between Nov. 13 and Jan. 3. There will be twinkling lights, reindeer (!), festive treats, and even a chance to ride the brand new Candymonium hypercoaster. Hershey Sweet Lights, a glimmering two-mile drive through 600 illuminated displays, will also be offered (and looks incredible!).


There’s been a lot of chatter among theme park fans this past week that the parks noticeably have more people in them. Labor Day weekend was busy, sure, but it appears the trend is here to stay on the weekends. According to Touring Plans — which independently uses data to analyze theme park crowds and wait times — there are more people visiting Walt Disney World now than in the past few months:

Admission to all four Disney parks — across all three Park Pass calendars, mind you — is completely sold out for next Saturday. It’s not a holiday, not even summer, just a regular fall weekend. Why? Well, it's probably due to it being the first weekend with Disney’s Halloween decor and events. Given that Walt Disney World does not release crowd figures publicly, it’s impossible to say if crowd capacity is actually increasing, or if the parks just “feel” busier since many queues appear longer due to social distancing. Still, Blog Mickey points to the "canary in the coal mine" — Disney's Hollywood Studios availability — that signals Thanksgiving is already starting to fill up as well. We'll continue to watch the crowds from afar and update you with what we find.




- A 21-year-old worked died after falling from Orlando's StarFlyer earlier this week.

- A docuseries about Disney's Animal Kingdom is coming to Disney+.

- This Give Kids The World Village holiday event is a heartwarming experience with proceeds going to a great cause.

Cinderella's Royal Table without Cinderella is... weirdly my ideal way to dine.

- Move over, Hersheypark — Lindt's got a whole chocolate museum.

- Shanghai Disneyland celebrated Teddy Bear Day with a Duffy twist.

- The debut of Disney Cruise Line's new ship, Disney Wish, will be delayed.

I did not know this happens at Universal's Islands of Adventure!

- LEGOLAND is expanding to Belgium.

The ultimate Disney celebrity sighting.

- This incredibly important Washington Post story sheds light on how dire central Florida's housing crisis really is.