Friday, October 11, 2013
If you've been to the Disneyland Resort before, you might think you've experienced everything the place has to offer. But Have You? There's a reason people keep going back to the resort time and time again, and that's because there is always something new to enjoy! If you want to see the Disneyland Resort from a completely different perspective, check out their Happiest Haunts Tour. It's a special tour that runs during Halloween Time that showcases the spooky side of Disney. The kids and I had the opportunity to experience the Happiest Haunts tour a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of the highlights of our visit.
SPOILER ALERT -- The narrative that follows describes everything we experienced on the tour, so if you want to keep an element of surprise, stop here! Skip the next section and scroll straight down to my Happiest Haunts tour wrap-up and tips. That being said, Disney does tweak the tour every year to keep it fresh and interesting, so next year's tour won't be exactly the same as the tour we took.
Our tour started at the Disneyland Tour Gardens kiosk to the left of City Hall, where we checked in and received a souvenir button to pin to our shirts and identify us as part of the tour. Our tour guide was incredibly friendly and informative, and she started us off with some tour housekeeping details (2.5 hours long, bathroom break in the middle, etc..) and some fun facts about Halloween Time at the resort. We then exited Disneyland Park and went into Disney's California Adventure.
Our first stop was the Tower of Terror, where our guide told us the story behind the tower and led us straight into one of the haunted elevators so we could enjoy my favorite ride in the entire resort.
As we exited the Tower of Terror, we were joined by a ghostly gentleman named Gracie, who hails from the Haunted Mansion. Gracie turned out to be our "ghost host" and stayed with us for the rest of the tour. Throughout the tour, he regaled us with tales of the Headless Horseman, the origins of Halloween, how jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating began, and other spooky stories. I love how he stayed in character throughout the entire tour.
Next, we stopped by the Trolley Treats candy shop in Disney's California Adventure, where we were given a sample of their Holiday Marshmallow Treats. These marshmallow pops are coated in a layer of caramel and a layer of chocolate, then rolled in candy sprinkles, and they are absolutely delicious!
With our sugar levels restored, we made our way back into Disneyland Park, down Main Street (where our guide showed us where some of the coolest pumpkins were hidden!), and into Tomorrowland. Gracie led us to Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and told us the legend behind the scariest ghost in the galaxy. He used his ghostly powers to float us past all the lines and board the ride from the exit side (we've never done that before, we felt like such VIPs!) with zero wait.
Our third ride was a big surprise: the Matterhorn! I was expecting Pirates of the Caribbean because of the undead skeletons, and the Matterhorn was not on my radar at all -- but when you think of it, it makes total sense because the Yeti is a monster too :) The kids and I were so excited, because the past two times we visited the Disneyland Resort, the Matterhorn had been closed, and the lines were super long, so we were debating whether to brave the lines or miss out on the ride for our third consecutive visit. As members of the Happiest Haunts tour, we were given the privilege of skipping the lines. How's that for an eerie-sistible perk?
After the Matterhorn, we made our way into Frontierland, where we stopped to admire the Dia de los Muertos displays at the Rancho Zocalo and listen to Gracie's stories about the Mexican holiday. I love how this tour makes it a point to show guests all the little Halloween Time details you might miss if you're rushing around the park. For example, I would never have known about The Halloween Tree, which is Disney's tribute to the 1972 Ray Bradbury novel. Now I'm going to look for it every time I visit during Halloween Time.
Our final stop was, of course, The Haunted Mansion, which had been transformed into Haunted Mansion Holiday for the season. Once again, we got to hear lots of fun trivia about the mansion, including an inside scoop on the secret surprises that the Imagineers have hidden in this year's decorations. It was a fitting end to a wonderful tour -- and to top things off, as we rode away in our Haunted Doom Buggies, we saw Gracie waving good-bye to us from the side!
At the end of the tour, each guest received a sugar cookie shaped like a candy corn as well as a collectible souvenir pin. The pin is not available for purchase, and it changes every year ("2013" is engraved on it), so it's quite a keepsake, and a great reason for Disney pin afficionados to join the tour.
The Bottom Line
Is the Happiest Haunts tour for everyone? No. If you or your children don't like any of the rides on the tour (and remember, one or two of the rides may change each year so there's no way to tell in advance), or if your children don't meet the height requirements for the ride, you'll have to sit it out -- which means you miss out on one of the key benefits of the tour, namely the chance bypass the standby line and the Fastpass line on some of the parks' most popular rides. You'll get the most out of your ticket price if you are able and willing to go on any ride in the park.
Also, if your goal is just to hit as many rides as possible, this may not be the tour for you. With the help of a Fastpass, you could probably do more than 4 rides in 2.5 hours (although maybe not the same rides -- there are no Fastpasses for Matterhorn and Haunted Mansion, and those lines were LONG!). I would describe the pace of the tour as leisurely at best, which is great if you've been to the parks before, but maybe not ideal if this is your first visit, or if you only have one day to spend in both parks.
But if your goal is to take a step back and truly appreciate everything that Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure Park have to offer during Halloween Time, the Happiest Haunts tour is to die for. It's such a unique experience -- and since they refresh it from year to year, it's a wonderful Halloween tradition you can start for your family every year!
Tips for enjoying the Happiest Haunts tour
* Make a potty stop before the tour starts
* Buy a bottle of water and snacks before the tour starts, just in case you get hungry
* Wear comfortable walking shoes
* If you plan to stick around for Mickey's Halloween Party, consider renting a locker to stash your costume, treat bags and sweaters
* Bring a camera to capture the beautiful scenery that the guides point out to you.
* Have fun!
Disclosure: Disney provided tickets and accommodations so my family could experience Halloween Time, including the Happiest Haunts Tour, at the Disneyland Resort. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.