Halloween WDW and Universal

Halloween 2020 at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Like so many of our favorite things, Halloween looks a bit different in 2020. Halloween 2020 at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are different too. As neighborhoods across America reinvent Halloween celebrations, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort also reimagine their iconic Halloween Events. 

Traditionally, WDW and Universal each deliver very different Halloweens to us. While Walt Disney World celebrates with the family-friendly Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party, Universal focuses its festivities on its decades-long, proud horror movie tradition with Halloween Horror Nights. Both resorts have cancelled these official parties this year, but they have not given up on Halloween altogether. So, how is Halloween 2020 at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort? Let’s examine.

Costumes:

In the past, Disney’s and Universal’s rules on costumes differed. At Disney, while many park guests do ‘Disney-Bound’, costumes were discouraged outside of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween party. 

At Universal, however, costumes were permitted during regular park hours (as evidenced by the loads of Hogwarts Wizarding Students milling around), but were prohibited during Halloween Horror Nights. I guess they didn’t want costumed guests getting confused with the scare-actors throughout the park.

This year turns all of this upside down. With no after-hours celebrations at either park, guests are encouraged to wear costumes during regular park hours. Each location has specific rules regarding costumes, so check their websites for the latest.

Harry Potter Costume

Shopping:

Terror-seekers at Universal Studios Park can get a taste at the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store, a tradition 5 seasons running. A socially distanced queue leads guests through the creepy, crumbling arch of what looks like a gothic castle. From here, distinct rooms make up the store: among them, The Universal Monsters Room; The All Hallows Carnival Room; The Attic Room.  You can personalize t-shirts, browse gory props, and create and purchase your own collectible wax figure. There are even tons of retro merchandise in tribute to HHNs of the past.

At Disney, Halloween swag abounds. In Magic Kingdom, one can always find Haunted Mansion collectibles at the iconic Memento Mori. This time of year, though, nearly every gift shop overflows with items like Mickey Jack-O-Lanterns and Candy Corn Minnie Ears. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you can even score a Madame Leota sipper at Sleepy Hollow refreshments. Sadly, these were sold out during our recent visit.

Food:

Like the Madame Leota sipper, collectibles sometimes accompany Disney’s halloween food items, so you can score a two-fer: treats and merch in one. We sampled the cinnamon donut holes from Gus, the Hitchhiking Ghost at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.

The savory Monster Mash Burger returns to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, but the bulk of Disney’s Halloween edibles lean more on the sweet side. Nearly every MK dining destination serves something. Of course, there is no better stop for a Halloween sweet treat than the Main Street Confectionary.

Disney Halloween Treats

At Universal, before exiting the Tribute Store, guests can opt to wait in another queue for some Halloween themed grub in the final room.  We had no space left for a Red Velvet Blood Splatter Cake Pop or a Striped Pretzel Hot Dog, but they were truly impressive to look at. Also impressive to look at and eat were the Halloween specials available at VooDoo Donuts in CityWalk. Of course, we picked some up for the next morning’s breakfast.

Halloween beverages, sweets, and savories are also available throughout the parks at 2 food trucks and the Skeleton Bar. While Franken Fried Chicken and Funnel Brains sounded delish, we opted for the simpler Twisted Tater. It definitely hit the spot for a mid afternoon snack.

Twisted Tater at Universal Studios

Decor:

In 2020, Universal Studios keeps it’s Fall and Halloween decor limited to inside the Haunted Houses and Tribute Store. We didn’t notice much else throughout the park. Since their theming sits heavily on the haunted side of Halloween, I have a feeling it’s because they try to keep the frights from those who don’t want to see them. That said, a LOT goes into the theming and decor at the Tribute Store. Even if you are not into shopping, check it out and read more about the background behind it here: Behind the Scenes: Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store.

Disney on the other hand, decorates for Fall and Halloween whimsically and not-so-scarily, as only Disney can. Mickey shaped pumpkins and swags of autumn leaves adorn light posts and buildings throughout Magic Kingdom, though not as abundantly as when Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is in full swing. Cast members dressed in their MNSSHP costumes bring the festivity to regular park hours this year as well.

Halloween Mickey

Entertainment:

We certainly all miss the traditional Halloween entertainment, but both Universal Studios and Walt Disney World do a great job of bringing some of the usual holiday spirit during regular park hours.

At Universal Studios, two Haunted Mansions, recommended for kids age 13 and up, offer legit frights to brave guests. The Bride of Frankenstein Lives brings traditional Universal Monsters back to life.  Revenge of the Tooth Fairy creeps in with original characters. Despite all the action remaining behind plexi-glass this year, the scare actors elicited genuine screams from the three of us.

Universal Studios Horror Make Up Show

If you’re not so into intense scares, you can opt for Universal’s tongue-in-cheek Horror Make-Up Show or the Scarecrow Stalk Scavenger Hunt. For the hunt, find all 13 custom-crafted scarecrows and skeletons to receive a candy sampler bag. Guests 12 and under can participate in traditional Trick-or-Treating at retail stores throughout Islands of Adventure. 

Sadly, Trick-or-Treating is not an option at Magic Kingdom this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit this year. Disney brings Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party to us during regular park hours in the form of character cavalcades, including one with Disney Villains, whom we never used to see outside of the party.

 As we mentioned in our Covid Silver Linings post, the bonus to these impromptu cavalcades is the spontaneity itself and no crowds to push through to catch a glimpse of a single, longer parade. We loved seeing some of our favorite characters dressed in costume, and humming along to the catchy Boo-to-You theme song. Cadaver Dans also make an appearance on Main Street, whereas in the past they only emerged during the party.

Disney Halloween Parade

All in all, like everything else in 2020, Halloween at the theme parks looks different this year. But, whether you are into intense frights and horror or playful pumpkins and spooky sing-alongs, you’ll still be able to get your fix, all during regular park hours. Yet another Covid Silver Lining: you won’t have to pay a separate Halloween event admission to do it..

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The MousekeMoms, Lori, Jennifer and Juliana, are experienced Disney moms who dole out valuable, honest, no holds barred information on their weekly podcast to help you plan your Disneyland, Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line vacation.

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