It used to be that you could toss a bowling ball down Main Street USA without hitting a soul on Halloween night or Christmas morning because kids and their families had something better to do on those classic holidays.
Now Disneyland is the thing to do during the Halloween and Christmas seasons that stretch from Labor Day until the New Year.
Summer is no longer the peak season at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm. Halloween and Christmas are king at Southern California theme parks.
Disneyland has been nearly giving tickets away in parts of June, August and September when you can get into a single park for $104 — the lowest price of the year in a multitiered ticketing system.
A quick glance at the ticket calendar shows you when the peak season truly is at Disneyland. Prices range from $159 to $179 during the entire month of October, throughout Thanksgiving week and the two weeks around Christmas.
Halloween decorations go up in August at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure before some kids are even back in school after summer vacation.
Disneyland is already touting Halloween Time, Oogie Boogie Bash and Plaza de la Familia specialty food and beverage items that add a spooky twist to the menu. Oogie Boogie Bash is so popular that the annual Halloween event at DCA sold out in less than 12 hours — in July.
Universal officials refer to Halloween Horror Nights as the “13th month” of the year thanks to all the additional ticket sales and revenue the Halloween season generates. Universal Studios Hollywood keeps the holiday money train rolling until the end of the year with Grinchmas and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Knott’s Berry Farm invented the Halloween season that theme parks across the country and around the world have now copied and cashed in on. Knott’s owner Cedar Fair has exported the Buena Park theme park’s Halloween Haunt seasonal event to its other locations across the United States — and virtually every theme park around the globe now has some sort of monthlong Halloween event. This year, Knott’s Scary Farm celebrates its 50th anniversary that promises to be even more popular than the past 49 years.
Knott’s only takes a few weeks off between Scary Farm and Merry Farm when the ghouls and goblins are swapped out for garland and gingerbread. The park’s “Snow and Glow” show covers the Calico Ghost Town in sparkling lights and a thick layer of faux snow — the bubbly “snoap” that passes for snowflakes in temperate Southern California.
When it comes to Halloween, Six Flags Magic Mountain is a relative newcomer compared with Knott’s, with the Valencia amusement park’s Fright Fest celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Magic Mountain’s Holiday in the Park event decks the halls every winter with millions of twinkling lights.
SeaWorld San Diego is even newer to the Halloween game with the park’s Howl-O-Scream preparing for its third season this fall. Legoland California caters to the trick-or-treating grade school crowd with a family-friendly Brick-or-Treat event. Both San Diego County parks keep the festivities flowing with Christmas events that stretch through November and December.
Here’s a closer look at the dates for Halloween and Christmas events this year at Southern California theme parks.
Halloween Time at the Disneyland resort: Sept. 1-Oct. 31
Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure: Sept. 5-Oct. 31 (Select nights)
Plaza de la Familia at Disney California Adventure: Sept. 1-Nov. 2
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood: Sept. 7 to Oct. 31 (Select nights)
Knott’s Scary Farm at Knott’s Berry Farm: Sept. 21 to Oct. 31 (Select nights)
Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain: Sept. 8 to Oct. 31 (Select nights)
Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld San Diego: Sept. 29 to Oct. 31 (Select nights)
Brick-Or-Treat at Legoland California: Sept. 16 to Oct. 29 (Select nights)
Holidays at the Disneyland resort: Nov. 10 to Jan. 7
Disney Festival of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure: Nov. 10 to Jan. 7
Disney Viva Navidad at Disney California Adventure: Nov. 10 to Jan. 7
Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood: Nov. 24 to Jan. 1
Knott’s Merry Farm at Knott’s Berry Farm: Nov. 17 to Jan. 7
Holidays in the Park at Six Flags Magic Mountain: Nov. 24 to Jan. 1 (Select nights)
SeaWorld Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld San Diego: Nov. 13 to Jan. 7
Holidays at Legoland at Legoland California: Nov. 18 to Dec. 30 (Select nights)