Which theme parks play tricks instead of providing treats at Halloween?

September 15, 2023, 6:13 PM · It's Trick-or-Treat season at theme parks across the country. But are all parks really keeping with the spirit of the Halloween season?

I was inspired to write about theme park trick-or-treating by a recent press release. The email promoted SeaWorld's upcoming Spooktacular, the park's family-friendly, daytime Halloween event. One of the highlights at such events is trick-or-treating, and SeaWorld will offer that as part of Spooktacular.

Kids in a theme park
Children with trick-or-treat bags at SeaWorld's Spooktacular. Photo courtesy SeaWorld

"Children can don their favorite costumes and go trick-or-treating throughout the park, collecting a variety of candies and snacks at 12 different candy stations along the way," the park's press release said. Sound fun!

"To participate, grab a SeaWorld trick-or-treat bag," the release continued. Okay, I can see the need for those, but the rest of the sentence stopped me: "available for purchase at the entrance of the Trick-or-Treat Trail."

Ugh. I don't know that the idea of having to pay for a trick-or-treat bag should have trigged me so hard, but it did. And that sent me down the stream of consciousness to question the whole concept of trick-or-treating.

If you think about it too hard, trick-or-treating is a bit weird. Ultimately, it's extortion - you give me candy, or else. But when you are a child, pretty much everything in your life feels like extortion. Clean your room, finish your veggies, do your homework, shut up and listen. All followed by some form of "or else."

Trick-or-treating inverts that power structure. Now the kids get to do the extorting. For one night (or more, if you are visiting a park), the kids get to be in charge and make some demands. Granted, the stakes aren't much higher than a bag of bite-sized Snickers, but when you're a kid, the price to buy you off tends to be low.

Still, when you're trick-or-treating, you're in charge... and you get candy, too!

Walt Disney World brought trick-or-treating to theme parks in a big way with its Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party - an attempt for the company to get into the lucrative after-hours Halloween event business that was making bank for rival Universal Orlando. Yes, that also was an after-hours, upcharge event, so people effectively were paying to trick-or-treat there, too.

But at least at its start, Disney's Halloween party offered plenty of value beyond the candy hand-outs. You could get into the park for the evening then for less than the price of a one-day ticket, enjoy generally shorter waits for rides than during the day, watch some event-exclusive entertainment, and enjoy the opportunity to dress up in costume in the park.

These days, I think part of the appeal of Disney's Halloween parties is nostalgia for how good of a deal they used to be. But even with prices well north of $100 now, Disney offers enough else with its Halloween parties that they don't feel like you're straight-up paying just to get candy.

SeaWorld's pay-for-the-bag play destroys that illusion. It flips the power structure back again, to normal. You kids get nothing for free. Even after your parents pay to get you into the park, they better pay again if you want candy. Threatening tricks will only get you thrown out of the park. We're in charge here.

Where's the fun in that?

Anyway, I would love to hear from you. Which parks do family Halloween events right? And who gets it wrong?

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Replies (3)

September 15, 2023 at 7:49 PM

The real trick here is SeaWorld left out the part saying the trick-or-treat bag is subject to the chain's 5% surcharge.

September 16, 2023 at 9:04 PM

They will also allow you to sacrifice your first born to Tilikum.

September 19, 2023 at 10:24 PM

Do kids get 5% more candy under the surcharge policy? Hey, fair's fair.

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