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Get Ready for Halloween

Halloween in Orlando

Get Ready For…Halloween?

Yes, it’s still early summer, and yes, it’s hard to think beyond the obvious delights of the season. But we’re here to tell you that you need to adjust your seasonal dial and look ahead to the glories of the autumn and, more specifically, Halloween.

That’s right. It may still be only a quarter to July, but if you want to get in on all the fun and games (not to mention the scares and treats) of peak pumpkin season, you need to start planning now!

We certainly know that many Debbie’s Villas clients are already booked for that time of year, and that Halloween is high on their list of things to experience. But the essential message for anyone hoping to enjoy the contrasting flavours of this particular celebration at either Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando is that you need to book your party ticket or tickets, and soon.

There are two reasons for this:

1) These seasonal happenings have become SO popular with Orlando visitors that many evenings of the various special events sell out well in advance, notably in October itself.

And 2) The Halloween “season” starts earlier than ever this year, so it’s not too soon to consider your options in – wait for it – early August.

Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party 2024

What’s with all the Halloween events?

If you’ve never been to Orlando in the Autumn, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Yes, we now celebrate this time of year in the UK with our own brand of trick-or-treating and even special evening events in some places.

But no-one – absolutely no-one – does Halloween quite like our main theme parks when it comes to turning on the style, as well as the fear factor in Universal’s case.

At Disney, the Main Event is most definitely the series of separately ticketed evenings that go under the title of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (or MNSSHP as it is often known) at the Magic Kingdom. In years gone past, this didn’t even start until September, but this year the first of 38 Party dates is actually August 9, fully 82 days before All Hallow’s Eve itself!

Universal aren’t far behind, though. Their Halloween Horror Nights programme at the Universal Studios park opens in August for the first time ever (on August 30, to be precise), and tickets are already on sale for the record 42 selected evenings.

That means for anyone who already knows they are going to be in town from August to the end of October and they want to get with the trick-or-treating beat, it’s time to book those evening events now.

Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party 2024

That Disney Halloween style

But before we go any further, and especially for any newcomers to the Orlando Halloween scene, let’s draw up the attractions – and differences – between the respective delights of Disney and Universal.

It probably won’t surprise many people, but the House of Mouse goes for the family market, hence their version of the seasonal event is more funny than fearsome. As the title suggests, it is a Not-So-Scary occasion, highlighted by live shows, fireworks and LOTS of treats.

Visitors are also invited to come along in costume, and you’ll see a lot of people turning up in fancy dress of various kinds, which is definitely part of the spectacle whether you decide to take part or not. It is simply great fun to see guests dressed up as characters from the likes of The Incredibles or Peter Pan.

The Party officially only starts at 7pm, after regular park closing (which is usually 6pm on event nights), but ticketed guests can gain admittance to the park from 4pm to enjoy some of the regular rides and attractions. Just be sure to look out for the MNSSHP entrance and get your Party wristband after you go through the gate.

Disney Halloween 2024

What’s on offer?

The first thing to do is pick up a copy of the Party map, which will show exactly where the Treat Stations can be found. You will also be given a trick-or-treat bag, and you can then visit each of the Stations to pick up a different kind of treat along the way. And, yes, it’s OK to visit more than once!

Be sure to make a note of the time for the two key MNSSHP events that draw the biggest crowds. Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular is the big fireworks show especially for the evening (usually at 10pm), and that is bracketed by two performances of the essential Mickey’s Boo To You Parade (at 8.15 and 11.15pm), which is one of Disney’s very best parades and a must-see highlight.

There is then the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show on the main Castle Forecourt stage three or four times an evening, while there are themed dance parties at each of Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café and Rockettower Plaza in Tomorrowland and the hilarious Cadaver Dans barbershop quartet (the daytime Dapper Dans) performing in Frontierland.

Plus, there are special food and beverage items on offer as well as event-exclusive merchandise for those key souvenirs.

Halloween at universal 2024

The Universal vibe

There’s no disguising the all-out fiendish assault on the sense that is Halloween Horror Nights, a riotous production of horror movie style and imaginative haunted houses, plus live shows, scary performers and atmospheric lighting. Family-friendly? Not exactly (hence the warning that HHN is not recommended for children under 13). But, for older kids and, especially, adults, this is THE big draw of the season.

Like MNSSHP, it is a separately ticketed evening event, and it usually runs until 1am. And it is popular. Like ‘huge great queues at many of the haunted houses’ popular. If you can visit during the week rather than at the weekend, you will feel the benefit of (slightly) lower crowds. Oh, and costumes are not allowed here.

But it IS huge fun, if you have the right horror-movie-fan mind-set. There will be 10 haunted houses (indoor walk-through mazes packed with scare-actors, animatronics and ghoulish details and special effects), five scare zones (atmospheric outdoor areas packed with more scare-actors and grisly theming) and outrageous live entertainment, including a major stage show featuring the UK’s Fuel Girls, plus themed food and drink (yes, notably alcoholic ones).

Some of the haunted houses have already been revealed, with original themes such as Goblin’s Feast – the goblin village, where a lavish feast is being prepared for goblins, orcs, hobgoblins and witches and YOU are the main course – and Monstruos, featuring the monsters of Latin America, but we are still waiting for the headline houses, which usually include major horror franchises like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things.

But, once again, the message is book EARLY if you want to revel in this gruesome revelry, hence we’re telling you now, and not in October when it’s too late!

Which version of Halloween do you prefer – scary or funny? Tell us about it on our Facebook, X and Instagram pages.