How does the venerable, classic Haunted Mansion attraction stack up on each coast? As this is one of our absolute must-dos of any visit to the theme parks, we are reluctant to label either version inferior. Instead, we’ll discuss the exciting exclusives to each Mansion and then reveal which, in our opinion, has got the edge:Facades and queues
Let’s begin with the differences that you need not dare to enter to compare: the facades and queues of the Mansions.
Disneyland’s Mansion is an antebellum-style home that blends beautifully with the surrounding New Orleans Square area of the park.The facade evokes a fancy Southern plantation with towering white columns and balconies laced with wrought iron railings. The landscaping is perfectly manicured. The queue is laid out mostly as switchbacks that travel very closely to the Mansion and deliver you directly to the front door.
The Magic Kingdom’s brick structure is done in Gothic style, meant to be modeled after an 18th century home from the Hudson Valley region and a better fit for the surrounding Liberty Square section of the park. The flora surrounding the house appears to have been long-neglected. The atmosphere is heavier, gloomier, and definitely gives off a more “haunted” vibe. As for waiting in line, visitors have the option of traveling through a spooky-fun interactive queue that entertains all ages.
In our opinion, Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom wins this round.
Inside the Mansions
Once within the creepy dwellings on both coasts, guests are herded immediately into the traditional “stretch room”. After exiting the stretch room in the Magic Kingdom, you and yours are crammed into a relatively small, dark queue to board the Doom Buggies. We are typically more concerned with keeping our footing and party together in this space rather than enjoying the ambience. We prefer the Disneyland layout, where after exiting the stretch room you are able to walk leisurely down the portrait hallway to a loading dock illuminated by cobwebby chandeliers. We loiter in the space watching the thunderstorm light up the windows and the ghastly portraits displayed along the wall. The glowing busts in their niches at the end of the hall turn to watch as we board our buggies.
The creepy innards of the two Mansions are much the same: halls that rattle with restless spooks, ghostly ballrooms, spirited graveyards and attics haunted by a bloodthirsty bride. There are a few notable differences indoors. The Magic Kingdom Mansion tour, for instance travels through a library and an endless floating staircase scene not found in the California version. Exclusive to the Disneyland Mansion is the Animatronic Hatbox Ghost, a spector with a murky, but celebrated past. It’s a fun challenge to try and pick out a new variation with each ride taken.
We’re going to side with the West Coast for this round.
When the holidays descend upon Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Jack Skellington and his comrades from Halloween Town take up temporary residence and give it a Nightmare Before Christmas makeover. From the jack-o-lanterns and candelabras trimming the exterior of the mansion to the pumpkin-bedecked Christmas tree, gingerbready ballroom, and ghostly white snow in the graveyard beyond, it’s a darkly enchanting collision of the two holidays. Haunted Mansion Holiday is a treat for park guests visiting late September through early January.
The annual overlay is tricks and treats only for visitors to Disneyland, giving it the edge and ultimately winning our “Who Does It Better?” challenge. Regardless, the happy haunting grounds on either coast remain among our family’s best-loved Disney attractions.