Every year, Southern California theme parks go all out for Halloween. These parks usually have something for everyone, from ghouls, ghosts, and gore at events geared toward adults to spooky (but not scary) character encounters and plenty of candy at events designed for the whole family.

In this Halloween theme park guide, I discuss how the theme parks of Southern California celebrate Halloween, the Halloween events at each theme park, and tips for making the most of your fall visit.

(It’s worth mentioning that you should always consult a Halloween guide to your favorite theme parks before bringing kids to after-hours events. Many theme parks go above and beyond when it comes to scaring visitors, and some Halloween theme park events can be too intense even for tweens and young teens.)

Through my affiliations, you can save on tickets, tours, and hotels. I may be compensated if you purchase through some links in this post—our editorial guidelines.

SeaWorld® San Diego’s Halloween Spooktacular and Howl-O-Scream

A young girl in a witch costume trick or treats with her mom at SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular.
Trick-or-treating at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld’s Spooktacular daytime celebration will be held this year on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through October 29. They promise to excite guests of all ages with a Halloween Dance Party, hay maze, character meet-and-greets, and trick-or-treating.

This year, there’s also a fun new show featuring O.P. Otter and his SeaWorld character friends, where kids can join in a costume party and dancing. The show plays at the park’s Mission Bay Theater at select times throughout the day.

Spooktacular will also host a Pumpkin Hunt. Guests can purchase a special map that allows them to search for SeaWorld animal-themed pumpkins for an exclusive Halloween prize.

SeaWorld San Diego promises to bring the thrills and chills back for the older guests too, with the nighttime version of their more family-friendly Spooktacular, called Howl-O-Scream. Once the sun goes down, this “intense horror-filled haunt” will transform the park into a terrifying playland, intended for mature audiences.

Howl-O-Scream takes place on select nights between September 29–October 31.

SeaWorld San Diego Tickets will be priced separately ($39.99) from your regular admission park tickets and the terrifying fun kicks off at 7pm.

Tips: You can get discounted SeaWorld San Diego tickets and one child per paid adult is free throughout 2023!

See my SeaWorld guide that compares and contrasts SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando

Disneyland® Oogie Boogie Bash

A rendering of kids trick-or-treating on a treat trail with Oogie Boogie in the background at Disney California Adventure park.
During Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party at Disney California Adventure Park, among all of the spooky fun, guests will be able to experience new and fully immersive treat trails. (Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort)

There are plenty of good reasons to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure® in September and October.

During Disneyland Halloween Time, the parks are adorned with special decorations, plus lots of carved pumpkins, themed additions to rides and attractions (e.g., the Haunted Mansion becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday which is themed after Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas), Halloween treats, events and parties, the Halloween Screams fireworks show, trick or treating, and a plethora of other fun things to do at Disneyland around Halloween.

Every year, the California Adventure Park plays host to the popular Halloween party Oogie Boogie Bash, which replaced the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. The event tends to sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and grab your tickets early (like the day they are released).

Keep in mind that while it is possible to get discount Disneyland tickets, Oogie Boogie Bash is ticketed separately. And Oogie Boogie Bash takes place on select nights in September and October.

Tips: Make sure that you ask for Halloween Magic Shots from the PhotoPass photographers during Disneyland Halloween Time — your pictures will include some fun surprises.

And, visit with an empty stomach because the Halloween food at Disneyland is especially good. Head to the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, where you can find delicious Halloween treats including a Poison Apple Macaron, Mickey Bat Cookie or a Pumpkin Chai Cream Puff. 

See my Disneyland guide for more tips.

Universal Studios® Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights

Terror abounds at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, the park’s annual Halloween event that kicks off in early September and runs through October 31 on select nights.

There are scare zones and live shows that will leave you feeling jumpy all night, and 8 movie set-quality haunted houses with themes such as Stranger Things 4, Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count, Evil Dead Rise, The Exorcist: Believer, and Universal Monsters: Unmasked.

They’re also bringing back the fan-favorite Terror Tram. This year, explore The Mind Of Jordan Peele, with a special focus placed on his new film Nope (2022). Universal has set pieces and props from Jordan Peele’s films, ensuring that you’re fully immersed in his twisted, spooky world.

This is one of the most intense and immersive after-hours events that you’ll find in any Halloween theme park guide. One highlight of Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights is the masterful special effects (makeup, blood, and guts) that make this Halloween event feel so frighteningly real.

Tips: Most Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights event dates sell out, so buy your tickets as far in advance as you can. You can get discounted Universal Studios tickets, but be aware that this is one of the Halloween events that is ticketed separately.

Don’t forget to interact with the scare actors. I know, it’s frightening! But sometimes, scare actors in the maze’s line will have special treats for you. For example, when they did Ghostbusters a few years ago, you could use a special password to get a business card from a film character.

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights events are not recommended for kids under 13 or teens who aren’t fans of the horror genre. 

See my Universal Studios Hollywood guide to touring it and Warner Bros. Studio® on the same day.

Knott’s Berry Farm®: Knott’s Scary Farm and Knott’s Spooky Farm

Two families meet characters at Knott’s Spooky Farm (Photo courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm)

Knott’s Scary Farm is one of the biggest and scariest events you’ll find in any Halloween theme park guide and one I used to attend annually as a teen.

The park is totally transformed for Halloween, with creepy haunted mazes, live shows, themed attractions, and more than 1,000 demonic lurkers waiting around the park to scare the pants off you. There are almost no scare-free spaces at Knott’s Scary Farm, which holds the title of the world’s first Halloween theme park event.

Every inch of the park is basically a scare zone at this separately ticketed, after-hours event where creatures and monsters startle, sneak, and scare visitors from out of the shadows. This event is best enjoyed by visitors ages 13+.

Knott’s Scary Farm is on open select nights through October 31. The fun starts at 7pm and the event closes at either 1am or 2am, depending on the night. Tickets cost from $59.99.

Knott’s Spooky Farm is one of Southern California’s family-friendly daytime Halloween events, and it is geared toward families with kids ages three to eleven. It runs through October 29, plus Halloween.

There are themed decorations, trick or treating in Ghost Town, live shows (such as the skeleton marionette puppet show at the Bird Cage Theater), costume contests, and plenty of mild spooky surprises — all of which are included in the regular park admission. Kids can also get in the Halloween spirt by visiting the spiders and bugs at Creep Critters Corral or try to spot aliens and ghosts on the popular Timber Mountain Log Ride.

Tips: Grab Knott’s Scary Farm tickets early because they do sell out. Invest in the Fright Lane pass to bypass the lines for rides and mazes (which can have up to two-hour waits). Don’t miss the drinks with floating eyeballs and special menu items like pumpkin soup, candy corn funnel cakes, and Halloween churros.

For Knott’s Spooky Farm, buy discount Knott’s Berry Farm tickets instead of paying full price. You don’t need to bring trick-or-treating bags because every kid receives one when they arrive at the park. 

Six Flags Magic Mountain® Fright Fest

Ghouls scare riders as they board the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Ghouls scare riders as they board the Goliath roller coaster (Photo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain)

On select dates from mid-September through Halloween, zombies, and ghouls take over Six Flags Magic Mountain.

This is now a separately ticketed event, and the Haunted Attractions Pass for Fright Fest is a separate ticket in addition to regular park admission.

During the day, there are decorations, spooky props, stage shows, and themed modifications to rides (e.g., pitch-black roller coaster rides after dark) that are reasonably family-friendly. But after 7 p.m. every evening, creatures of the night begin roaming the scare zones, and the mazes — most of which are absolutely terrifying — are open to visitors. 

This year, there’s a whopping 15 haunted houses and scare zones, plus roller coaster rides in the dark, where you might find yourself seated next to a macabre monster.

Fright Fest is another one that’s recommended for older kids, preferably kids 13 and older. This event can get really spooky, and everyone fully participates in the frights.

Tips: Ride lines tend to be shorter at night, and it’s usually possible to hit all seven mazes in about four hours without the express maze access pass. Sundays are the least crowded.

See my Six Flags Magic Mountain guide.

LEGOLAND® California Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

Two children in Halloween costumes pose next to a life-size LEGO mini figure mummy at Brick-or-Treat
Children in costume post next to a life-sized LEGO mummy Minifigure. (Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California)

If you’re searching through Halloween theme park guides specifically for family-friendly events, LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat fits the bill perfectly. The event occurs on select days at the park through October 31.

There are costume contests, lots of trick-or-treat stations, roaming performers, character meet-and-greets, live shows, games, Halloween crafts, and decor to entertain kids and their parents.

LEGO monsters join the Halloween fun and take center stage at the Brick-or-Treat Monster Party, every Saturday in September and then every Saturday and Sunday throughout October. The party is included with your daily admission ticket.

You can also grab popcorn and head to the park’s theater for the 4D Movie: The Great Monster Chase. Or take part in Lord Vampyre’s V.I.M. Costume Contest and Party. 

Costumes are encouraged for guests of all ages, and you don’t have to worry about the treats running out because LEGOLAND famously stocks more than 1 million pieces of candy as well as special bricks, too. Guests can also snack on Mummy Marshmallows or Creepy Candied Apples, which are sold throughout the park.

October is Kids Free San Diego which means that one child ages 12 and under gets in free per paid adult when using qualifying park tickets. However, Kids Free tickets exclude Brick-or-Treat, so you’ll need to buy a date-specific ticket that includes Brick-Or-Treat.

Also, lines for everything are longer on Brick-or-Treat nights.

There are lots of things to do in San Diego around Halloween for kids and grownups that don’t involve going to Disneyland or Six Flags. That said, if you want to enjoy a few immersive or super scary Halloween events this Halloween season, you’ll find some of the best in Southern California theme parks.

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Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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