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3 Reasons to Stay Up Late At Disneyland

We had an incredibly fun time at Disneyland and California Adventure Land last fall and some of the best how-did-they-do-that moments happened after the sun went down. So take a pool break, take a nap,  have some dinner and head back to the park at night, especially if you visit in October.

Here are three special reasons to keep the kids up late the next time you visit these parks.

(Visiting Disneyland? Read all about Southern California.)

Mickey’s Halloween Party and Halloween Screams fireworks

On select evenings between now and Halloween, tree-lined paths turn into haunted woods, fog shrouds the lake and special effects turn Main Street into a groovy ghost town with a ghoulish mansion instead of a fairy tale castle.

jack on a stickpooh pumpkin"Halloween Screams-A Villainous Surprise in the Skies"

Tickets to these parties are limited so most rides have short or no waits. Plus, the Haunted Mansion dons a Nightmare Before Christmas theme (the one attraction with a line) and Space Mountain gets a ghostly makeover (as if it’s not scary enough). But the rides are almost beside the point. We spent much of the evening walking around the park trick-or-treating and admiring all the decorations and costumes.

These parties are the only time of year when adults can dress up at Disneyland. We saw lots of great family themes (one group came as the Inside Out emotions), as well as creative takes on classic characters (zombie Mary Poppins and Burt). Tiny Traveler liked seeing the many variations of Snow White, Cinderella and Alice.

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort 10_12_DL_000289

There is a rare opportunity to meet villains like Cruella de Vil (who is hilariously snarky), Captain Hook and Maleficent. The best part of the evening is the Halloween Screams fireworks. Jack Skellington’s head hovers above the castle as he MCs a fiery celebration of bad guys from heffalumps and woozles to the Boogie Man and Snow White’s evil queen. Smaller kids might be scared, but it’s the most fun fireworks show I’ve seen at a Disney park.

World of Color—Celebrate!

Disneyland is extending its diamond anniversary party through 2016 (it opened in 1955). The World of Color at California Adventure Park is a big toast to Walt Disney’s vision and creativity.

The show uses 1,200 water fountains as a movie screen on which Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse host a retrospective of the company’s cartoons and movies. Plenty of light, color, music and fire are thrown in for good measure. There is a lot of Disney horn-tooting but the show is so impressive (and enough of the praise is warranted) that you don’t care. Just when you think you’ve heard “Let It Go” enough for one day, the show hits its high note with a rendition that breathes new life into it.


The show runs nightly through 2016 (times vary) and is a must-see if you’re visiting the parks while it’s on.

Paint the Night parade

The anniversary party continues at Disneyland itself with the impressive Paint the Night Parade. The concept is simple – put lights on every thing in sight— but the effect is amazing. Ariel’s fin, Belle’s dress, Tinkerbell, Aladdin’s genie, the magic Monsters Inc. doors, Olaf’s snowy forest and the costumed dancers are all covered in colored lights. The parade ends with a sorcerer’s apprentice Mickey on a float of swirling waves of light.

Tiny Traveler was so dazzled and so excited, I really thought she would burst (keep in mind we are jaded New Yorkers and not impressed by much). Alas, the parade also exhausted her, so we missed the Disneyland Forever fireworks that follow it. I hear the light effects, which conjure up Peter Pan’s London, Simba’s savannah and Elsa’s ice storm are as great as you would expect.

If you go, I hope your kids let you watch the fireworks. Maybe we’ll just have to go back again to catch them.

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Stay up late at Disneyland on fall visits or at any time of year. The parades and light shows are impressive, magical and worth it. #disneyland #nighttime #thingstodo #parades #lightshows #kids

*We were guests of Disneyland at the Halloween party. For our visit to the park we were given CityPass Southern California passes, which include a 3-day hopper ticket to Disneyland as well as 1-day passes for Lego Land and Sea World. 

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  1. October 15, 2015 at 3:09 am — Reply

    Looks like a lot of fun! It’s a great idea, I think I should keep my kids up late the next time we are here.

    • October 15, 2015 at 7:56 am — Reply

      We never wake up in time to catch the Magic Hour in the morning, so that’s the trade-off. And we often take a midday pool break. But these shows really wowed us.

  2. October 6, 2015 at 11:09 pm — Reply

    What a fun experience! I would get a kick out of getting to visit Disneyland in costume. I hear it’s a big No-No at other times because they don’t want kids to mistake you for a bonafide Disney character if you haven’t had proper Disney training. I’d love to get during Halloween.

    • eileen g
      October 7, 2015 at 9:57 am — Reply

      It’s true. i think they also don’t want kids to see, say, Snow White smoking a cigarette or Mr. Incredible getting sick on Space Mountain. It kind of ruins the illusion!

  3. October 3, 2015 at 2:11 am — Reply

    When you guys were all enjoying the scarific scenes at Disneyland, we were at CA adventure enjoying the World of Color show. Even having passes for the past 3 years, that was our first time to see it. Definitely worth the effort of staying up late!

    • October 3, 2015 at 4:09 pm — Reply

      wasn’t it? I was really wowed by the shows.

  4. October 3, 2015 at 12:42 am — Reply


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