I know this blog is coming at you a little late, but don’t you miss Halloween as much as I do anyway? For my 21st birthday, I received the Halloween trip of a lifetime. I got to experience both Disney World’s and Universal Studios’ celebrations. I know we’re itching to move on to Christmas already, and most of us already have, but I keep Halloween alive as long as I possibly can and I want to deliver on my promise of giving you the break down of my Halloween frenzy.
Halloween at Disney
Our first day came to be over 20 hours long considering we were up around 4am to get ready for our flight and then rolled into our hotel room at 1am the next day.
We were able to check into our hotel early when we arrived. We stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. It was my first time staying on Disney property. My family would always use a timeshare growing up. Our stay at the resort was lovely, and I have to say it is wonderfully convenient staying at Disney if you ever get the opportunity. Honestly, unless you save a lot of money using a timeshare like I usually do, they make it well worth the money to stay at Disney. Without all the perks, you’re not really saving much of anything by staying at some other random hotel.
Once we had some time to settle and get our Fred and Daphne looks (a huge hit) in order, our first fast pass was set up for Soaring Around the World in Epcot that afternoon. It was a nice, relaxing way to start our trip. We continued on to Italy for our first table service. We had a standard meal plan consisting of 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, and 2 snacks per day for 3 days for each of us. It was plenty of food and, from what my mom told me, it was a pretty good deal. I would hope so, because the amount we would have been spending without a meal plan would have been astronomical.
After we left Epcot, it was time to head to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We arrived for early access around 4pm. I did a lot of research so I could create a reasonable plan of action. Of course, that plan went immediately down the drain. As soon as we walked in, the line for pictures with Jack and Sally was already 3 hours long, all Nightmare Before Christmas Oogie Boogie popcorn buckets were sold out and most of the exclusive merch was also gone. If I had one complaint about this whole event, it’s that part of what you’re paying for is the exclusive merch, and you don’t have half a chance at getting what you want. I was able to get my hands on a limited edition magic band and a cute tote.
After feeling like I had a semi-win with the merch, things started to fall naturally into a new plan. We found out the very last, very limited quantity of the Oogie Boogie buckets of the season were going to start selling at 7pm next to Cinderella’s Castle. We stumbled upon a line that was forming for them already between 5-530 and we decided to set up shop in the line. They actually started selling them closer to 6, so we didn’t wait that long for Oogie to make his final appearance of the season. We were early on in the line, and when Tristan and I got our hands on our bucket, it made the whole night. I was surprised even Tristan was so excited we got our hands on one. He protected it close to his chest.
The shows they have throughout the night are worth the watch. We hit a lull in the evening after making our way through the Speedway in Tomorrowland and noticed people starting to gather for the 7.40pm showing of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular. We found a decent spot to settle in and watch the show earlier on in the night than we planned. Why not? Our schedule was out the window, but at least it started to work in our favor. It was a really fun musical review of all your favorite Disney villains (with the coolest songs) coming together.
We decided after that to see how the line for Jack & Sally was. It was down to an hour wait- the absolute lowest it would get all night, I assumed, and we went for it with plenty of time until the fireworks and parade. Tristan agreed to another line for me, but he was not as enthusiastic getting through this one. We were definitely in that line at little a little over an hour, and it was discouraging when Jack & Sally decided to take 5 right when it was our turn, but I got my photo! I was pretty disappointed earlier in the night when I felt like it probably wouldn’t happen, but I accepted that and was still determined to enjoy my Halloween. Life shows me again and again in small and big ways that when it says, “No,” there is a reason. You have to lean in to what presents itself to you. I know that seems a little deep for a Disney visit, but there were lessons to be learned in completely letting my detailed research and planning on making the most of my night fall apart. I had to trust and everything fell into place.
Once we got through the test of perseverance and patience that was waiting for Jack & Sally, we were seriously starting to feel that 4am wake up call, but we still had fireworks and a parade to get through. We decided snacks would be a good idea, and used our meal plan to get some holiday themed goodies. I had the pumpkin cheesecake roll, and Tristan the giant Halloween cinnamon roll. Mine was a personal sized, gluten-free cheesecake with a white chocolate Mickey pumpkin head decoration and Tristan’s was a Mickey shaped cinnamon roll with orange accents and a chocolate spiderweb. These did not disappoint. They were as cute as they were delicious, although I wish they worked as a pick me up. To be honest, sugar has never been that much of a boost for me, so I don’t know why I thought it would work in that moment. Unfortunately we just had to do our best and use sheer will to fight the exhaustion. We continued on to the fireworks.
There is only one chance to see Happy Hallowishes Fireworks, and you don’t want to miss out. If there’s one thing Disney knows, it’s fireworks. You get taken through a medley of rearranged versions of your favorite Disney villain songs, with extra touches of Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s accompanied by an entertaining light show on the surface of Cinderella’s castle and of course… fireworks. LOADS of fireworks.
After that, it felt like we waited a century for Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade. I wanted to be able to catch the Haunted Mansion that night, but sadly, we didn’t have quite enough time to wait on that line before the parade. It left us with nothing to pass the time, which made our eye lids grow heavier by the minute. The parade was gorgeous, although I wish there was more Nightmare Before Christmas involved. It makes no sense to me that Jack & Sally aren’t in it. Not only might you not get a chance to take a picture with them, but taking our picture would be your only chance to even see them the whole night. Anyway, the parade is entertaining. Tristan and I really enjoyed the dancers. They do a really good job throughout the whole thing. Final note- I have to agree with the reviews I watched and say perhaps the parade could use some updating. It’s really fun the first time, but I could imagine being annoyed coming back and have the exact same experience.
Overall, this is a very fun event for the whole family. It’s not at all scary, but it’s a lot of fun if you are a true lover of Halloween. I had to hold back tears throughout the day because I was so grateful and joyful to be there, having that experience. I don’t recommend going ON Halloween like I did. It’s the busiest night of the Halloween party season, so if you don’t want to run into the problems that I did, maybe plan your trip for September. Although, I think Disney should do THEIR part with things they can control, like not making limited products SO limited or having some kind of event that the exclusive characters can be apart of so that people can get a chance to at least see them, even if they don’t have the time to get their picture taken. Anyway, if Halloween makes your year, go. You’ll enjoy it.
Halloween at Universal
The next day we were able to sleep in, recharge, and take serious advantage of the gorgeous pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort. I swear, I could live in water.
I have to admit, I was really nervous about this night. I LOVE Halloween (have I said this enough for you yet?) and I have a deep appreciation for everything that comes with that, including the horror genre, but I am weak. My heart says yes and my head says no. I want with every fiber of my being to love scary movies, and I do, but my limit is so low. I’ve been fighting this duality my whole life. When it came to making the decision to attend Halloween Horror Nights, I was simultaneously thrilled and completely terrified.
Anxiety brain loves to tell you stories. You can say this about all brains, but anxiety brains have a special talent for it. Leading up to HHN, I had to constantly shut down these thoughts building up how scary this thing was going to be. “Relax. It couldn’t possibly be that bad. It’s not real.”
It’s not real. It’s not real.
I focused on excited heart and not overactive imagination. “I love Stranger Things. I love the Halloween Films. (Both of these had their own themed haunted houses at the event.) Haunted houses are great. Getting scared is fun. I can’t wait to see the world they created.”
Well, what a world they had to go and create. Everything horrifying thing I built in my mind, for the first time in my whole life, turned out to be completely true. I think that was the scariest part. They do WAY too good a job. At doors open, they have people waiting right at the gate with chainsaws. Why did it have to be chainsaws? I am to the sound of chainsaws (and also spiders) as Indiana Jones is to snakes.
No joke, you enter those gates and you are in a completely immersive horror experience. If you don’t know anything about the event, Universal keeps select rides open, creates RIDICULOUS themed haunted houses, and has hired actors all over the park meant to keep you terrified between your haunted house experiences. I practically ran to the Stranger Things haunted house line. I didn’t care how long the line was. I was safe in the line. No one could get me. Tristan on the other hand, used the rest of his line patience for our entire Florida trip on this line. He cannot do waiting, he feels like he’s wasting time. If this is you, you NEED to opt for the fast pass ticket for this event. Throughout the whole night, it’s at least an hour wait for every house. Stranger Things was a 75 minute wait when we got on line, but we probably waited closer to 2 hours. It would be the only house we would experience the whole night between the line issue and me not being sure if I could physically handle another one, no matter how hard I was fighting.
The Stranger Things house was incredible. It took you through the story line of the whole first season. The hired actors in the house, mostly women, looked a lot like the actual cast, especially in the dark. I screamed at every Demogorgon jump scare, which were everywhere. I’m actually not very good at screaming, so when I try, it’s usually accompanied by me falling to the floor as a means of physically expressing my terror. Of course there was no room for me to fall down and roll on the ground, because they intentionally make these houses claustrophobic, so Tristan left that night with some bruises and scratches, courtesy of my outbursts.
I exited the house with extreme mixed feelings, which is pretty much how I spent my night. I loved and appreciated what I just experienced, but felt on the verge of a panic attack.
It’s not real. It’s not real.
I had to search for proof of this. We set out to the streets and I was targeted for the first time while trying to assess the event map, being caught completely off guard by a vampire from 1985. This didn’t help my current state and so we went for refuge in the gift shop. Universal Studios knows how to keep exclusive event merch stocked (shade, Disney). I got a really nice HHN draw string, which we needed, and a Stranger Things keychain, because I survived. It gave me enough time to catch my breath and meet the Vamp 85: New Year’s Eve territory head on. They have different theatrics set up in every scare zone that make it fun to just be in the streets and experience the themes. It’s like the park itself is a ride. Looking scarers dead on really helped me get my head under control and have the fun I wanted to have.
But then came the chainsaws. The frickin’ chainsaws. Even worse- unexpected chainsaws. I thought if you were in an area not labeled a scare zone, you were safe. I was VERY WRONG. I don’t think there is anything worse for me than being caught off guard by a chainsaw. I started literally running away, like an idiot. At one point, I grabbed Tristan painfully tightly, shut my eyes painfully tightly and screamed “NONONONONO,” thinking the combination would magically make me disappear like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz. Once again, we sought refuge, this time in Harry Potter world. I was losing the battle. I couldn’t breath, think, or barely even talk, and I was ashamed of myself. I was actually getting triggered over play pretend. I felt like a coward. I just wanted to have fun like everyone else, and I couldn’t convince myself it wasn’t real. How could I not convince myself it was fake? I wished more than anything that my dad was there, because maybe how much he would have loved it would have made all my fear go away. I felt so defeated.
I started texting my mom in hopes of salvaging the night and came up with the perfect summation of my feelings- this was something I should have been drunk for, which was simultaneously the smartest idea I’d ever had and the dumbest. Regardless of which it was, it was definitely one of the truest things I’d ever said. We’ve talked about this before, but I am not a huge fan of alcohol and have only been very drunk once. That night, though, I was convinced I would not survive without the dulling of my senses.
Despite my overly sensitive nature and my absorption of my overwhelming environment, I couldn’t bring myself to resort to liquid courage. I’m attached to my brain cells and the idea of not throwing up. I decided I would go out there again and, in the words of Brené Brown, brave the wilderness (although, I don’t think she at all had this in mind when she wrote that book). And I did it. I looked every scare zone dead in the eye, and found a way to appreciate how beautiful and spectacular they were. I even braved the chainsaw crew. Killer Klowns From Outer Space, which I told Tristan he had no chance of me going through, ended up being the least scary scare zone, and the most fun. I made the rookie mistake of standing in front of this one clown that wasn’t moving and taking pictures with people, debating if he was real. ROOKIE. MISTAKE. I knew he was real and I knew the second I questioned that fact, he could see the uncertainty in my eyes. He waited for me to go and take my picture, after he didn’t move for several others, and he turned his head to me. I knew he was going to to that and I still jumped and yelled, “I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DO THAT.”
As on edge as I was feeling that night, and as you now feel reading through all my range of emotions, I look back on that night as a positive experience. It was an exercise in embracing the uncomfortable and inviting it to tea. I would do it again, mostly because I’m determined to do a lot better next time.
To summarize, this is not an event for your family. Do not take your small children. I recommend following the 13+ rule, unless you want your little ones to be traumatized. It’s quite the experience for the Halloween lover, and definitely perfectly catered to horror fanatics.
I actually felt Halloween’d out after all that. We had so much fun in our remaining days just enjoying the happiest place on earth. We made it to Animal Kingdom on Friday and Hollywood Studios (you need Toy Story Mania in your life) on Saturday, crossing all 4 parks off the list. The weather was about as tolerable as it gets in Florida, so couldn’t have asked for more there. I found myself thinking about my dad a lot, wishing I could share my happiness with him, especially after finding out some of his favorite memories were with us in Disney, but that’s all part of adjusting to life these days. I had such a fantastic time and can’t wait to be in Disney again.