It may be back-to-school season everywhere else, but at Disney Parks, the end of summer means it's time for Halloween.

By Carlye Wisel
Disneyland Halloween
Credit: Mariah Tyler

If you've never visited a Disney theme park between August and October, you may not realize that Disneyland and Walt Disney World take this spook-tacular holiday as seriously as they do Christmas. Oversized pumpkins decorate Main Street, USA, and certain rides are even overhauled to better fit the season.

It's not just the ability to wear costumes and nab quick-to-sell-out seasonal merchandise that makes Disneyland and Walt Disney World worth visiting around Halloween. Both parks have spectacularly themed parties, which bring with them eerie entertainment and more Disney villains than you've ever seen in one night.

Whether or not you're planning to attend the ticketed festivities — which, in our opinion, you should — here's what spooks are in store from now until November at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

Celebrations that will outshine other park visits

Disney's Halloween parties are five-hour spectacles with themed entertainment including meet-and-greets with rare Disney characters, haunted parades and performances, fireworks, and other spooky surprises you won't find at Disneyland Park or Magic Kingdom at any other time. There are no gruesome sights or haunted houses (besides The Haunted Mansion) to deter young ones, either. Instead, it's all about the theme and embracing kid-friendly fun. The parks, too, are closed to daily guests during each party, allowing for an immersive experience with the added bonus of shorter wait times for popular attractions.

Party tickets and park tickets are not the same thing.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland Park are special ticketed events offered on select evenings through November 1st. Party admission, which starts at $74 per person in Florida and $94 in California, increases gradually in price as dates get closer to Halloween night, which costs $115 at Walt Disney World and $120 at Disneyland. The charge may seem steep, but event ticket holders can enter the park three hours before the party begins to maximize their time — and at Disneyland Resort, party attendees can visit both Disneyland as well as Disney California Adventure prior to its start.

If you are visiting Disney in late August, September, or October, keep in mind that both California's Disneyland and Florida's Magic Kingdom close early on park nights to daily guests — i.e. no fireworks — and party admission is an entirely separate fee from multi-day ticket admission, so plan your vacation accordingly.

Even adults can wear costumes

Disney Parks famously don't allow guests over the age of 14 to dress in costume, but an exception is made during Halloween Party nights at both Disneyland as well as Walt Disney World. Attendees of all ages are allowed to arrive as any character or princess they prefer, and families often attend Mickey's Halloween Parties in elaborate Disney-themed costumes.

There are very specific rules on what can and cannot be worn, however, so be sure to check Disneyland and Walt Disney World websites for restrictions prior to arriving in that Cinderella ball gown, which better not touch the ground.

Trick-or-treating for Park Guests of All Ages

Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World are known for their unlimited "treat trails," which offload more sweets and surprises than you've ever gotten going door-to-door back home. Regular attendees know to bring their own bag (preferably pillowcase sized or larger) because adults and children alike take home piles of chocolate, candy, and allergy-friendly snacks with the only limit to one's haul being how much you can carry.

Villainous Parades, Fireworks, and Entertainment

Fireworks feature evil beings, performances recall 90s witchy favorites, and parades get bone-chilling additions during Disney's Halloween parties. Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, for example, is an annual stage show at Walt Disney World helmed by the Sanderson Sisters and starring a handful of nefarious favorites like Maleficent and Dr. Facilier.

And though Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang don delightful costumes, Disney villains also come out en mass at both coasts' events. This is when you'll have a chance to face Jack Skellington, The Queen of Hearts, and Cruella de Vil at all-night meet-and-greets, while a special Halloween parade is kicked off on both coasts with a spellbinding ride by the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

Don't leave these parties early, because you won't want to miss the haunting rendition of the parks' nightly fireworks. Halloween Screams at Disneyland and Happy HalloWishes at Disney World summon Oogie Boogie, Ursula, Jafar, and others to torment the skies above Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castle. It's an exclusive treat for party-goers only.

Season-long Halloween Decorations and Merchandise

Both Walt Disney World as well as Disneyland are transformed by decorations, themed food (think: Haunted Mansion cakes and chocolate Mickey Halloween Cupcakes with purple marshmallow fluff), and drink specials in the weeks leading up to Halloween — not to mention some of the best souvenirs you'll find all year. And you don't even need to pay extra admission to the parties to experience the chilling fun.

There are Hocus Pocus-themed T-shirts and trinkets featuring the dysfunctional sisters, a limited-edition Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Magic Band that comes in a chocolate-scented box, and Jack-o'-lantern Mickey Mouse mugs that are an Instagram favorite. (It's no surprise Halloween must-haves are known to sell out quickly.)

Ghoulishly Redone Rides

Space Mountain's beloved flight among the cosmos becomes a macabre coaster through supernatural spirits in September and October, while at Disney California Adventure, Radiator Springs adds a holiday spin to Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.

It's actually the first time Disneyland's sister park has embraced the holiday, and it's even changing its newest Guardians of the Galaxy attraction for Halloween. The new "Monsters After Dark" version will bring changes to the entire in-ride experience with a new plotline, music, and effects through October 31 — but only at nighttime.

As always, The Nightmare Before Christmas lands at Disneyland Park with Jack Skellington's annual full-fledged takeover of Haunted Mansion. Even if you can't make it to Disneyland in the fall, you can enjoy the Tim Burton masterpiece all winter long, as Haunted Mansion Holiday remains open until early 2018.

This Story Originally Appeared On Travel + Leisure