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Theme Park News: Holy hell, it's already Halloween. Here's how parks are celebrating
You know that nervous anxiety when a pilot comes on the intercom to tell you how long it'll be until you finally reach a gate at JFK Airport? That's how every true-blue Disney fan is feeling this week. With D23 Expo 2019 on the horizon — the event runs all weekend in Anaheim, California — two years worth of Disney film, animation, and parks news is about to be heaved upon our rumormongering little selves.
While we all quake in anticipation of what's to come, I've decided to present a lil' round-up of all other happenings you've likely been snoozing on. From frozen wine slushies to veritable bloodbaths and everything in between, here's a taste:
A PRIMER ON THEME PARK HALLOWEEN, WHICH HAS (SOMEHOW) ALREADY BEGUN.
No, we didn't clickbait you with an article from Fall 2018 — it's mid-August and I still haven't bought a pair of summer sandals, yet it's somehow smack dab in the middle of Autumn as far as Walt Disney World is concerned. Yes, the Magic Kingdom is already throwing Hocus Pocus parties at the end of a jack-o'-lantern lined Main Street, U.S.A. and while I don't hate it, there's no chance I'll ever get used to seeing pumpkin-flavored desserts while the heat index is in triple digits.
But! We're carving our proverbial pumpkins open this week because there's so much new coming to Disney and Universal's seasonal events on both coasts. New shows, spectacles, scare zones — and some villains you can see up close for the first time ever. All four have their own kind of spook-packed parties offered on specific nights, but Disney has revamped their Disneyland event completely as Universal pours some extra nightmare fuel on the fire for this year's shenanigans.
You can get more hugs with Mummy Goofy or screams from Killer Klowns than ever this year too, because Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Walt Disney World are offering repeat park passes for All Hallow's Eve obsessives. HHN fanatics can visit Florida's crazy spectacle 26 times for the price of one — a truly unfathomable price — while HHN Hollywood offers multiple tiers of "frequent fear passes." Meanwhile, nearly endless access to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, which is being offered for the very first time, will cost $300 a pop.
Here's a primer on all four special ticketed events — and which you should pony up for:
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida – Orlando, Florida / September 6 - November 2
Prepare your nervous system for '80s vibes on high, with 10 soundstage-sized haunted houses themed to Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, as well as Universal Monsters (like Dracula, The Wolfman, and other iconic horrors), House of 1000 Corpses and, gulp, Us.
Best For: Horror fanatics who are ready to party. These loud and intense houses are no joke but crazy fun, considering some nights go as late as 2AM.
Don't Miss: Five intense scare zones, including a Hellbilly Deluxe zone offering bumping Rob Zombie's music all night long, Anarch-cade set within a retro arcade and another very chill experience through the streets of Hollywood where your flesh becomes the canvas in a twisted plastic surgery play. Just another day in Tinseltown, baby!
New This Year: Halloween Marathon of Mayhem, a brand new lagoon show in the center of Universal Studios Florida.
Tickets: Available here
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood – Los Angeles, California / September 13 - November 3
Hollywood's largest spook-filled spectacle takes over the theme park and beyond as terrors spill out on to Universal Studios' backlot sets, with sizable mazes themed to all the heavy hitters (Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, Killer Klowns from Outer Space) from Orlando's retro-packed event.
Best For: The casual horror fan looking to test the waters of their first purely terror-filled event.
Don't Miss: The Creepshow maze, rehashing three scenes from the '80s horror flick.
New This Year: More mazes than years prior and an all-new Fan Preview Night for early access on Thursday, September 12.
Tickets: Available here
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom – Orlando, Florida / Through November 1
As the pinnacle of family-friendly Halloweentime happenings, the name says it all. If you haven't seen the Headless Horseman run across the park during this pumpkin-spiced event's Boo-To-You Halloween Parade, have your kids even celebrated Halloween?
Best For: Disney-obsessed families wanting to don group costumes inside the park while celebrating alongside their favorite characters.
Don't Miss: Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular stage show, as well as rare character meet-and-greets throughout Magic Kingdom park.
New This Year: Disney's Not-So-Spooky Spectacular, an all-new fireworks show led by Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Tickets: Available here
Oogie Boogie Bash — A Disney Halloween Party at Disney's California Adventure – Anaheim, California / September 17 - October 31
Forget about Mickey's Halloween Party. This spooky upgrade's got all the same general features as before, with treat trails packing bags of free candy, themed character appearances and the famed Frightfully Fun Parade — but it's also loaded with new entertainment, shows and an all-new villain theme centered around that somehow beloved bag-o'-bugs from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Best For: Families looking to make a big impression with custom costumes — but tweens, teens and adults visiting with friends should find more to explore at this year's reimagined event than before.
Don't Miss: Villains Grove, an overlay atop the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail that seems to pay homage to not-often-seen baddies and offer new levels of spooks for Disney fans.
New This Year: ... All of it. The classic event has moved from Disneyland to Disney California Adventure and with it comes plenty of new experiences, including a party-exclusive World of Color show, villain appearances within trick-or-treat trails, a Descendants-themed dance party and much more.
Tickets: Available here, but hurry — nearly one-third have already sold out.
IS DISNEY SPRINGS THE BEST THING AT WALT DISNEY WORLD?
I'm not about to proclaim that anyone's been snoozing on Disney Springs. The impeccable so-much-more-than-a-shopping-center formerly known as Downtown Disney has been open for over two years now and just keeps unleashing new stuff, which begs the question: have we all been sleeping on the fact that the best mall in the world might be here in Florida?
Show me any other expanse at Walt Disney World or Disneyland that has continuously opened new experiences, stores, and dining within 24 months of its debut. (You won't.) Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based Ample Hills Creamery is opening its second Walt Disney World location here, the recently redesigned World of Disney makes the dollar bills wanna float out of your wallet and The NBA Experience — which is intended for much younger folks obsessed with the sport — was a hell of a time. I attended the opening last week and hugged basketball Mickey Mouse and learned how to dunk from a Orlando Magic legend?! I also dribbled a basketball for the first time in a bajillion years, took part in all-you-can-play Pop-A-Shot and forced this guy to take a selfie, so y'all can have your Aerosmith-led super-stretch limos 'cuz I'm doing quite fine at this waterfront mega-mall.
Another favorite thing? You can truly get anything you want at Disney Springs. Spicy kimchee ramen in the summertime? Got it. A bath bomb kit themed to your favorite social media sensations? Got it. Starbucks hand-delivered to you while you shop?! They've got it!!! T-r-u-l-y no one else is keeping up with the times and doing this good of a job at it.
They're adding more celebrity chefs! Healthy(ish) eats from Chicago's premier restaurant group! A makes-no-sense-in-this-weather cookie dough truck! Yes a lot of this new colorful Disney Springs stuff is intended for Instagram but while ordering food for the sake of photos is& a young man's game, I've had one of the Wine Bar George "Friezling" concoctions and let me say good gosh is it the ideal way to unwind in unbearable Floridian weather. (The latest flavor is made with DOLE Whip Lime, riesling and vodka; strange, I'm already panting.)
Why have we been celebrating tossing back drinks inside Disney's Hollywood Studios when Disney Springs has been hand-delivering cold foam cappuccinos and serving up an insane array of noms all this time?! EPCOT may have been the Central Florida utopia we deserved, but if Disney Springs is the one we got — I think I'm perfectly OK with it.
And with that, the news...
EVERYTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENED IN THE THEME PARK WORLD:
– There is now another new Disney World ticketing option. The brand new Mid-Day Magic Ticket allows for entry starting at noon each day, which is perfect for
people with hangovers families who need a slower start in the morning. (If this ticket already sounds familiar, everything is just a word jumble at this point.)
– I AM IN MOURNING because Disneyland Resort changed the Lucky Fortune Cookery menu and removed my favorite rice bowl. MY FAVORITE RICE BOWL!
– Hoping to load up on kyber crystals at Disneyland now that they've been restocked? You'll apparently need to purchase a Holocron with each of them.
– I rarely, if ever, comment on rumors, but boy I hope this one is true.
– This behind-the-scenes look at the making of Jurassic World: The Ride is actually worth watching.
– The sweet taste of synergy comes with benefits. D23 Expo 2019 attendees will get an extra-special discount offer on Disney+ subscriptions — but you'll have to commit to three years on the spot.
– And, if you're planning to split it with friends... maybe don't.