The downside is that the person providing the free tickets has a condition that makes them averse to sunlight, so they didn't want to go until later in the afternoon.
We got to the general vicinity of Disneyland at 4:30. Then we got to wait in line to get into the parking facility. Then we got to wait for the tram to Downtown Disney. Then we got to wait in a (short) line to get through security. Then we got to wait in line to buy the fifth ticket, during which time inkbot managed to track down the people we were meeting up with.
It was at least 5:30 by the time we actually got into the park. The friends weren't actually interested in doing any rides yet so we split up and made plans to meet for dinner at 7:30
The first place we tried to go was Space Mountain, both because it's one of the Halloween themed attractions and because it was closed the last time we were there. When we got there however the predicted line length was 90 minutes, and by that point it was 6, so we'd definitely be late for the dinner meetup if we did that.
So our fallback was Big Thunder Mountain. When we got there the line was listed as 45 minutes but it actually took a little less than that. So we headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. That line was also listed as being something close to 45 minutes but also moved more quickly than predicted, so we got out of it just before 7:30.
So we _ought_ to have time to make it to the meetup more or less on time, but when we started heading back towards the entrance we got redirected from the path around the lake, presumably because people were gathering for the Fantasmic show. So we got sent over the archway thing that goes over the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance and into Adventure Land. And as soon as we got to the end of the archway everything came to a dead stop. We were packed in shoulder to shoulder and literally inching forward. Once we got past the Indiana Jones entrance (which took a couple minutes) things cleared out a little. It was definitely still crowded but at least we weren't packed in like sardines anymore.
We'd been told a little earlier that the plan was to do dinner at Tortilla Joe's, but that they were currently getting drinks at the bar in the Rainforest Cafe. Downtown Disney itself was rather crowded, though not as bad as inside the park, and we saw lines out the door at several or the restaurants on our way to the Rainforest Cafe, so we were dubious about the odds of getting anywhere to eat in a reasonable time. When we found them inkbot stayed with them to chat while Avalyn and i went to check the wait at Tortilla Joe's. We were told that the wait for a table for 5 was currently an hour and 45 minutes, but it _might_ be quicker. We were told we could put our names in, they would text us when a table was ready, and we could cancel then if we'd found an alternative, so we did that. It was 8 at the time so the expected table time was 9:45.
We went back to the Rainforest Cafe and explained the situation. When we mentioned the "it _might_ be quicker" i quipped "by which they probably mean we might get a table in an hour instead of an hour and 45 minutes." The friends decided to go out and see if they could find any other restaurants with a shorter wait and gave their bar seats to us so we could get drinks while they did so. At about the same time the two people next to them left and also gave us our seats, and inkbot managed to snag a recently emptied chair from the other end of the bar and drag it over, so we actually had five seats that the three of us spread ourselves over.
We got some drinks and it wasn't that much longer before the friends came back, expressing surprise at how bad the wait was everywhere. So they claimed the extra seats and we just ordered food at the bar. Sometime between when we ordered and when the food showed up Avalyn got a text saying a table was available at Tortilla Joe's, almost exactly an hour after we put our names on the list =) Since we had already ordered she canceled the reservation via text.
It was around 10 by the time we finished eating and got back to the park. The first order of business was going to the Haunted Mansion, because duh. One of the friends was a little nervous because she didn't like horror stuff and had never been in the Haunted Mansion before, but we assured her it wouldn't be a problem.
The line for the Haunted Mansion was out the front gate and listed as being about 45 minutes long. We got in line and shortly after we did so the second showing of Fantasmic started. There were some trees in the way but we got to see some of what was going on as we gradually moved through line. The last bit wrapped up just as we got to the front porch and were waiting to go inside, so that was pretty much perfect timing.
So i knew the Haunted Mansion is updated with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme during October but i've never actually managed to make it there before. That was why we'd been eager to meet up with them and do Disneyland during October and why Haunted Mansion was on the list of "must do" rides. And we'd seen some themed modifications to the landscaping outside as we went through the line. However i wasn't really expecting them to have redone the _entire_ ride. Except for hallways and the crystal ball room, which had only "minor" modifications, everything else was completely plastered over with Nightmare Before Christmas stuff. Even the dialog has been completely replaced. All in all it was pretty amazing and definitely the highlight of the day. (The only downside being that i don't have the alternate dialog memorized. Yet. =)
When we got out we decided to see if we could make it to Space Mountain. It was a little after 11 when we got there and we were disappointed to see that the listed wait was 80 minutes. We were debating going in anyways, hoping the sign wasn't up to date. Then we overheard the a staff member telling someone else that they would let everyone who got in line go on the ride, even if it went past the official closing time. So we were thinking about committing anyways when two people passing by noticed our hesitation and said they had a fast pass for six people and offered to share it, which worked perfectly. (The friend who was nervous about the Haunted Mansion also apparently doesn't like roller coasters, so wanted us to go without her.)
While we were in line i chatted with the two people a bit about Kingdom Hearts (i was wearing my Nightmare Before Christmas land Kingdom Hearts shirt.) They also mentioned that they come to Disneyland fairly often and that day was one of the most crowded they'd ever seen it.
So with the Fast Passes it probably only took us 15-30 minutes to make it through the line. The changes to Space Mountain for Halloween are pretty minor, but it was still fun. After that since we still had a little time we went all the way back over to New Orleans Square so we could check out the Villains gift shop next to the Haunted Mansion. Avalyn got a scarf and we got several t-shirts and the others picked up various things as well.
I think it was actually slightly after midnight by the time we were done with that and walking out. We took some pictures along Main Street (especially of the giant Mickey pumpkin) and then walked with the friends back to their hotel room to grab some stuff we'd dropped off earlier. By the time we headed back to Downtown Disney to get to the tram station it was 12:55, and we had to jog to make sure we caught one of the last trams back to the parking lot.
So all in all it was a pretty good day. We definitely could have gotten more than four rides done if we'd gotten there earlier, but then we would have had to pay for three tickets instead of one, so i'm not complaining :)