When fall comes creeping into Cali, it takes its time. In the daytime, it’s all sunnies and shorts, but at night you’ll feel a chill in your bones. Hotels seem eerily empty, which makes shoulder season a great time to dig up a deal. If you love Hallowe’en, get a head start and keep running to these three spooktacular theme parks. Like Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back. You don’t know what might be gaining on you”.

If You’ve Got it, Haunt It – Spooky Fun for All Ages

Every Hallowe’en, Disneyland Resort in Anaheim gets in the holiday spirit by hand carving hundreds of Jack-O-Lanterns, draping the park in yards of spider webs, and cooking up holiday-themed treats like Vampire Alien Macarons. Rides and attractions add spooky touches, but you won’t find zombies lurking on Main Street USA. The park is definitely kid-friendly as always.

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort brings spook-tacular experiences from Sept. 6-Oct.31, 2019. Halloween magic will enchant guests at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park as favorite experiences are transformed into dreadful delights. With seasonal attraction overlays, Halloween-themed décor and food and beverage offerings, plus encounters with dastardly Disney villains, happy haunts seem to materialize around every corner. Disneyland Resort is located in Anaheim, Calif. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Disney’s Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square is celebrating its 50th birthday, and as usual, the Disney Imagineers have gone all out to scare up some nervous giggles. The mansion is taken over by Jack Skellington, Sally and other scare-actors of Tim Burton’s movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in a colourful, neon counterpoint to the dark of night. You’ll be dying to get into the mansion after a walk through the graveyard where veils of Spanish moss drip over the caskets and tombs of former residents. Once inside, a Doom Buggy ride whisks you through haunted rooms in the mansion before you drop into Jack’s macabre world.  Not to worry though, there’s nothing here that will paralyse young ones with fear. Jack’s dog Zero helps make everything lighthearted and fun.

Over in Disney California Adventure Park, Cars Land’s Radiator Springs becomes Radiator Screams, and even the cars and trucks are dressed in Hallowe’en costumes. Mater the tow truck’s scrapyard becomes Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree where creepy country tunes are spun by an unseen hand.

During Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort, from Sept. 6-Oct. 31, 2019, the citizens of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park celebrate Halloween by turning Radiator Springs into Radiator Screams. The entire land is transformed with a special Haul-O-Ween makeover as the townsfolk of Radiator Springs don Halloween costumes and decorate their respective homes for the season. Popular Cars Land attractions transform as well. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Most of Disney’s Hallowe’en special effects, like the evening special effects show “Halloween Screams”, will disappear after October 31, but Jack and his gang will rule the Haunted Mansion until February.

Before February 16, 2020, Canadians can save 20% on entrance fees by ordering a 3-day or longer Disneyland Resort theme park ticket online or by phone. They can be used anytime until December 31, 2020. Be sure to see the newest land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and take a flight on the Millennium Falcon.

Creeping it Real in Buena Vista– Kids by Day and Adults Only Nights

Knott’s Spooky Farm is a daytime Hallowe’en treat for families with kids ages 3 to 11. Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang celebrate the season with gentle good humour. The Ghost Town residents have plenty of goodies to hand out to little trick or treaters. Kids can decorate cookies and pick their own pumpkins in Linus’ Pumpkin Patch. Camp Snoopy is all about dressing up, with costume contests, crafters and magicians on hand. Timber Mountain Log Ride draws dozens of woodland creatures out of their caves and lifts everyone’s spirits with some country music.  All the activities are included with regular park admission.

Families meet Snoopy and Charlie Brown in front of pumpkins. Photo Knott's Spooky Farm

Families meet Snoopy and Charlie Brown in front of pumpkins. Photo Knott’s Spooky Farm

When night falls, the park becomes Knott’s Scary Farm, the largest haunted theme park in SoCal. Over a thousand creatures of the night make an appearance in the 14 attractions, four scare zones and nine mazes. New for this year, Wax Works features the work of a demented plastic surgeon, every Californian’s worst nightmare, who works his fingers to the bone creating fleshy masterpieces. Also new this year is Dark Ride: Castle of Chaos that takes you into an abandoned carnival ride. Or is it?

Carnevil Big Nose Clown. Photo Knott's Scary Farm

Carnevil Big Nose Clown. Photo Knott’s Scary Farm

Puppet Up! Uncensored features Jim Henson’s improv group following up on audience suggestions with no holds barred. It’s adults-only at this event. For Knott’s Spooky Farm and Knott’s Scary Farm tickets and hours, check their online calendars.

The Scream of the Crop – for Tweens and Grown-Ups

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights is no place for snack size humans. The catch-your-breath mazes and shriek-inducing attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood weren’t made for children under 13. Universal has unearthed ten gut-wrenching mazes that’ll tie your nerves in a knot. Prepare to be scared by the cast of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Jordan Peele’s US, and the mysterious entity from “Stranger Things” Seasons 2 & 3. Grandparents might meet some old fiends at the Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman maze. And who doesn’t like being chased by The Walking Dead or investigating voracious paranormal predators with Ghostbusters?

You won’t be out of the woods yet. If you make it through the mazes, you’ll have to run a gauntlet of ghouls in 5 Scare Zones. Wicked witches, dead geishas and gangs of zombies stalk the streets looking for fresh blood. There are tons of clever props and backdrops perfect for photos along the way if you can stop running long enough to take them. Universal’s Horror Nights appear on select nights starting September 13th to November 3rd, 2020. On Throwback Thursdays you can dress in your 80’s best and rock out to a live band but don’t wear a mask or costume on other nights, or you’ll be left out in the cold.

The writer was a guest of Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios. As always, her opinions are her own. For more photos, follow her on Instagram @Where.To.Lady