Cars Halloween at Disneyland
Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Disneyland takes its holidays seriously.

The massive Mickey pumpkin and foliage wreaths lining Main Street, U.S.A. bring an autumnal glow, while the festive decor, sips and sweets bring the crowds. While Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets continue to sell out speedily and fans clamor for limited-edition popcorn buckets, the best place to experience the frightful holiday season is no longer at Disneyland. It’s at the park next door.

For the first time ever, Disney California Adventure has embraced Halloween to an unprecedented new level, with bats flying above Carthay Circle Restaurant, Oogie Boogie looming over the park entrance and spooky songs play throughout Buena Vista Street. And even with Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman at its center, appearing to breathe fire — and a brand-new take on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction — nothing compares to the changes Disney has brought to Cars Land.

Mater at the Cars Halloween Show at Disneyland
Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

The fictional Route 66 town of Radiator Springs, which is celebrating its first-ever “Haul-O-Ween,” has outshone every Halloween decoration at either park. The level of detail is astounding, with stores, trees, cones and every bit of the land being overtaken with spooks.

Seeing as the land itself is themed — Radiator Springs is the setting of Pixar’s popular “Cars” movie trilogy — all of its decor comes off as extra charming. In Cars Land, it’s not just twinkling trees, carved pumpkins and autumnal leaves; the spiders are made from car parts, gasoline cans have been transformed into pumpkin patches and exhaust pipes and tires are strung into spooky smiles.

There are also fake movie posters with whip-smart jokes and punny lines (“Hocus Spokus” is a “hilarious carmedy”), Jack-o’-lanterns on traffic cones and little surprises you have to seek out to find, like a “Psycho”-inspired diorama of the “Brakes Motel” in the Cozy Cone Motel lobby.

Two of its three rides are also embracing the holiday, with Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters playing festive fall music and spooky classics, while the iconic film characters get in on the action with delightful costumes. (Red the firetruck dons a jolly clown outfit while an all-purple Vampire Mater easily wins best dressed.)

Disneyland Park still hosts the park’s pinnacle holiday attraction — “The Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed Haunted Mansion Holiday ride — but Cars Land is giving it a run for its money. With Halloween this year came an explosion of hotly anticipated merchandise, specialty drinks and seasonal foods, many of which are exclusive to California Adventure’s eateries.

It’s so good that even attendees at Mickey’s Halloween Party are encouraged to attend, as tickets allow entrance to both parks prior to the event.

At this rate, it doesn’t even matter that Mickey’s Halloween Party has completely sold out. With so much going on at California Adventure — and the bonus of that new late-night “Guardians” ride — you’ll never look at Halloween at Disneyland Resort the same way again.