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.)

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

A little girl in a witch costume wearing a mask views a dolphin through glass at SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular

SeaWorld San Diego promises to make this year the most frightening one yet! They have introduced the all-new Howl-O-Scream, an “intense horror-filled haunt” on select nights between September 17–October 31.

Howl-O-Scream will be the nighttime version of their more family-friendly Spooktacular, which is still going to be offered during daylight hours. But beware, once the sun goes down. SeaWorld San Diego will transform into a terrifying playland, intended for mature audiences. Tickets will be priced separately ($39.99) from your regular admission park tickets.

SeaWorld’s Spooktacular daytime celebration will still be held this year as well on the weekends now through October 31. They promise to excite guests of all ages with a dance party, cookie decorating, some indoor exhibits, shows, and trick-or-treating. Spooktacular will also host a Pumpkin Hunt. Guests will be able to purchase a special map that allows you to search for SeaWorld animal-themed pumpkins for an exclusive Halloween prize.

Tips: You can get discounted SeaWorld San Diego tickets but you have to decide whether an All-Day Dining ticket or Kids Free ticket is best for your itinerary.

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, now through Oct. 31, 2021, 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 there’s a popular Halloween party that tends to sell out, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and grab your tickets early. This year, it is the Oogie Boogie Bash that has replaced Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Keep in mind that while it is possible to get discount Disneyland tickets, Oogie Boogie Bash is ticketed separately.

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, from the caramel apple smoothie at Schmoozies to the “Spoke-y” Cone Macaron at the Cozy Cone Motel. 

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, movie set-quality haunted houses, and mazes with themes such as The Exorcist, The Walking Dead, and Freddy vs. Jason.

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. When you get thirsty, be sure to try a “Blood Bag.” 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 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.

There are themed decorations, trick or treating in Ghost Town, live shows (such as Monsters are Coming at the Camp Snoopy Theater), costume contests, and plenty of mild spooky surprises — all of which are included in the regular park admission.  

Tips: Grab Knott’s Scary Farm tickets early because they do sell out. Invest in the Fright Lane pass so you can 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 just after Halloween, zombies, and ghouls take over Six Flags Magic Mountain.

This is now a separately ticketed event and the mazes require a separate pass in addition to Fright Fest 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. 

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. These all-ages party days take place on Saturdays after 3 p.m. throughout the month of October.

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

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.

Tips: Admission to LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat activities aren’t included with general admission, but you can grab discounted LEGOLAND California tickets in advance and then add a Brick-or-Treat upgrade at Guest Services after entry if available. Remember that October is Kids Free San Diego which means that one child ages 12 and under gets in free per paid adult when using qualifying tickets. Lines for everything are longer on Brick-or-Treat. 

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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