I'll start off with the major events, and then work my way down to smaller things to see!
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom is pretty much my favorite event of the year. Well, maybe it's tied with Epcot's Food and Wine fest because... wine. Anyway, this is a hard ticket event which means that it is not included in regular park admission, but also means that you don't need regular admission for it. I think that tickets to the event are now a bit over $50 (which seems kind of nuts considering that they were about $35 when I started going), but it's totally worth it. (And there are cast member discounts! Woot! Yep, even cast have to pay for this one.) The parade and fireworks are total must-sees - YouTube up Boo To You parade or Hallowishes to see what I mean. There's way more than that, though. The whole park is transformed by spooky lighting and effects, there are a ton of rare characters out and about (and the characters you see on a regular basis like Mickey and Minnie are out in their own costumes!), the entertainment is super fun (The Dapper Dans become the Cadaver Dans for the night) and they've now added awesome sounding treats like candy corn ice cream. Yes, please! Plus, you get to wear costumes!
My tips for the party:
*Lines for the rides are generally pretty short compared to a normal day at the park, but unless you're on a really short visit here or something, I wouldn't suggest wasting a lot of time visiting attractions. Use the hours for all of the fun things that *only* happen at the party. Space Mountain will still be there tomorrow. Five hours goes by surprisingly quickly, especially since if you add in waiting time you'll find that the parade and fireworks will eat up about 90 minutes of the night.
*The party runs from 7 p.m. until midnight, so if you're a party of adults my biggest tip is to be patient. It can be pretty crowded the first few hours, but after around 10 p.m. the crowd drops significantly as kids get tired and the families start to leave. Those last couple of hours are the best time for meeting characters without a crazy line, getting less crowded photos, etc. If you're not usually a night owl, nap first. You can actually enter the park as early as 4 p.m. with your tickets, but I've found that if I do that, I'm about as ready to leave as the little kids are by the time 10 o'clock rolls around.
*If possible, do not go to the party that's actually on Halloween or the day before. For obvious reasons, those are the most crowded. The parties usually start in late September and run into the first week of November. I'm fan of going in early to mid October, since it's close enough that you're feeling the Halloween mood, but nowhere near as crowded as those near the actual holiday.
*If you're planning on trick-or-treating at the party, save that for last. They won't be running out of candy, I promise. If anything, I think cast members working a treats shift are more likely to start chucking big handfulls of candy out later in the night. Life's just easier if you're not hauling around two pounds of candy for several hours.
*I am always blown away by some of the costumes that guests come up with. Dress up - it's fun! Just make sure you're wearing comfy shoes. If you're visiting from somewhere else, keep in mind Florida weather when planning your costumes. Chances are that it will still be pretty warm (80-ish), but there's always a chance we'll get one of those random cold snaps where it's in the 50s at night. Check the forecast and plan accordingly! This is also really not the party to break out your Slutty Bumblebee costume for. Scary and sexy are totally ok, but keep in mind that there are going to be a lot of kids there. If you have an especially awesome costume, don't be surprised if people are coming up to you all night asking for photos with you!
Halloween Horror Nights is the scarier alternative that takes place at Universal Studios. As someone that is a total whimp about haunted houses, I can't offer any first hand tips on this one because I've never been! (File being chased by armed, evil clowns under "Oh hellllll no!") Another reason I haven't been? It's freakin' expensive! A single night ticket is over $90, but they do have various discounts available.
LOL NOPE. Passing on this one!
This party is all about the haunted houses and scare zones. Since this is Universal, most have a connection to a movie or TV show (for instance, this year they have a partnership with The Walking Dead.) Like the Disney party, HHN runs from late Sept through early Nov, so you can squeeze this in at your convenience. I asked a friend that works at Universal for tips, and his main suggestion was for parents to be realistic about what their kids can handle. This is billed as a PG-13 event, so unless you want to be out what you paid for the ticket plus extra for many years of therapy, you might want to stick with Disney for kids. (Or me.)
Not to be left out of the holiday party game, SeaWorld has an event called the Halloween Spooktacular. This one is definitely the most focused on younger kids, so again, I've never been. (Should I be embarrassed to admit that I would totally go to their character breakfast with the Count from Sesame Street, though?)
The always awesome Enzian Theatre has a full schedule of movies all month to get you in a spooky mood. This year's lineup includes Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, Killer Clowns from Outer Space and Frankenstein. Admission to these range from free to $10, depending on the night.
The Peacock Room always kills it with Halloween Decor. Here's a pic I stole from their Facebook:
Can you imagine how much a few drinks must enhance the effect?
I wish that all bars put this much effort into seasonal decorating! Other local bars going beyond their regular spirits include Wall Street Plaza's annual Plazaween (with a costume contest where the prize is free drinks for a year!) and Howl at the Moon on I-Drive, which has holiday appropriate drink specials like apple pie bombs for their party on the 26th.
Church Street Bars are also in on the costume contest/Halloween party fun!
Orlando Brewing Taproom's free party includes a psychic and happy hour prices for anyone in costume!
I'm sure that I'm missing a ton of bar-related events, but c'est la vie.
Just because October is over doesn't mean the Halloween fun has to stop! My friends' band Darko Gray is playing at STP on Nov 1, so break out your costumes one last time! (Sloppy Taco has excellent chips and salsa, and I don't think there's ever been a time there that I didn't somehow wind up with free tequila. Go!)
Are you going to any awesome events this year? Did I leave anything important off my list?