Hello and Happy Holidays everyone! After our first year as locals, I wanted to take the time to put together some thoughts and my own list of tips for handling the night time parties that take place from September through December over at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The first is Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (now noted as MNSSHP) and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (now noted as MVMCP)...these names are seriously too long for us bloggers. While my list of tips is by no means exhaustive, and we did do these parties mostly sans children in mind, I think what I discuss is good for all ages.
So, this was the first year we were able to attend both parties in the same year. Many people have their own favorite for one reason or the other, but there are a few things these parties have in common. Taking these things into consideration, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of these parties, whether you’re a Florida local or coming in from out of town.
To comment on this year’s parties, I did notice that some decor had made it past Main Street, which is a thing not typically seen in WDW (we don’t get a Haunted Mansion or Space Mountain overlay or even ghosts in ToonTown- though I know that’s not possible anymore). However, with both parties, WDW has started a small uptick in the decor. An, even though it’s small, it does help to bring the feel of the festivities beyond Main Street. The decor really just includes lights projected onto buildings (such as pumpkins for MNSSHP or snowflakes for MVMCP), but it did add to the atmosphere. Also, during MNSSHP, there were the Cadaver Dans in Frontierland performing and the Haunted Mansion is always lit up with fog effects during this time. For MVMCP, Gaston’s Tavern and the Village Gift Shop had evergreen bunting with white lights to lend a bit more of the holiday spirit.
These parties, if you’ve never attended, take place at Magic Kingdom after the park closes, and are a hard-ticketed event, meaning you must buy an additional ticket to attend (discounts are applicable for annual passholders and DVC members but the dates are limited and can sell out quickly). The parties are typically from 7pm to 12am, though you can enter the park typically around 4pm but there will be regular day guests there too, which may cause a bit of a crowd until they shut the park down. You will get a special wristband to indicate you have bought the ticket to attend the party and cast members will check these throughout the night to ensure the appropriate guests are in the park. Hopefully these touches will start to grow and help bring the feeling of season throughout the park.
Ok, basics out of the way. So what does one do at these parties to fully enjoy the festivities? While these events are very popular, going during the week can help. Other things? Well, let’s see….
The parties usually start at 7pm, though your ticket does allow you to enter the park beginning at 4pm. While this is great for people without tickets to the park that day, it can also create a bit of a congested park prior to the start of the party. If you’re willing to get to the park early, I would suggest entering between 5:30-6:00 pm in order to get in before the rush of the party goers but hopefully with the day guests leaving, the park will start to feel more empty. I will say, the amount of people in the park during our MNSSHP made the park feel insanely packed until the park closed and they began checking for wristbands. However, the good news this year was that, once the parties officially began, the crowd did lessen to the extent that most wait times were between 5-20 minutes (with the exception of Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train being about 30 minutes during MVMCP). A nice way to start your evening is grabbing something to eat before 7pm so you have fuel to go all night and you can eat while the crowd disperses. Also, many places are not open to serve food during the parties (especially during MVMCP as these places may turn into treat stations), so getting what you want to eat before the park closes is key. You may not also want to take time out of the party to eat, so getting it over with beforehand is a good idea. While there are treats being handed out at both parties, sustaining yourself on candy, cookies, and/or cocoa may not be the best idea. First Tip- get there a little early and have dinner, relax, and take it all in.
Next, the parties both feature stage shows happening on the castle stage, parades, fireworks, and, for MVMCP, turning the castle to ice. There are multiple stage shows throughout the night, so never feel that you need to run to the first one. There are also 2 times that the parade makes its way through the park. The only show that you can only catch once is the fireworks and the turning of the castle to ice. Since the fireworks take place in the sky, getting a good spot for these is relatively easy- Main Street, the hub in front of the castle, or even in Frontierland are great places to view the fireworks. For both parties this year, the hub was not overly crowded, which meant we could walk up to the hub and nab a spot within 20 minutes of the fireworks starting. This is usually the best way to start your stay in front of the castle. But, since the fireworks typically take place around 10-10:30pm, there’s plenty of time while the early parade and shows are going on for you to run around the park and hop on as many attractions as possible. With MNSSHP, there are trick or treat stations in some of the attraction queues that give out candy, which can also be done prior to the fireworks (the lines look long but they move insanely quickly so no worry). For MVMCP, Pete and I were able to hop onto Mine Train, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Dumbo, and Haunted Mansion with no longer than a 20 minute wait. So, Tip 2- spend the first half of the night enjoying the rest of the park outside of Main Street- go trick or treating during MNSSHP, ride the attractions, stop for cookies and cocoa during MVMCP, and mosey through the park at a casual pace.
If you’re spending the first half of the parties running around the park, the fireworks are the cue to head over to the castle/Main Street area. During MVMCP, Main Street features performers and snow that help get guests in the spirit while they await the second half of their night. This is a great spot to watch the parade from. Personally, I enjoy watching the fireworks from the hub area, as you can then also catch the stage show that happens between the fireworks and parade. Plus, the fireworks take place 180 degrees around you, which feels really cool if you’re sitting in the middle of the hub. A great idea may be to head to the hub for the fireworks and, since they take place in the sky, don’t worry about how close to the castle you are- sit and enjoy.
Once the fireworks are done, take a stroll to Frontierland. This is where the parade originates and the viewing spots along the first half of the route are great. Plus, since this is where the parade starts from, it’s over for you long before it is for everyone else and you can move on to something else before the people near the train station and fire house. There’s also a final stage show at the close of the party- why not watch this before you go? Most people have already watched and many won’t typically make it till midnight, but if you can push through, you will have a great view of the show with little guests around. So, Tip 3 watch the second parade and last stage show- this gives you a ton of free time to enjoy more of the park.
So, there are a few things that you should consider while at these parties. Typically there are character meet and greets and these are with characters not normally in the park- for instance, during MNSSHP, Jack and Sally are out, while at MVMCP, Jack is dressed as Sandy Claws. If you want to get a photo with a character not normally out, this should be the first thing you try to do as these lines typically can be crazy long. Unfortunately, due to packed parties in the past, I never wanted to meet characters because I wanted to enjoy more of the party. But, if this is something you or someone you’re with wants to do badly enough, just understand that this can take away some of your party time- if you’re good with that, then perfect! Tip 4- do character meets early- if you get them out of the way, you can still catch the second half of the entertainment.
Another thing that tends to come up is the special event merchandise. The park maps list where these things are being sold, so if you want to nab a pin set or t-shirt, make sure you check out where these places are and go there- Big Top Souvenirs is a great place that few people check out since it’s back behind Fantasyland, and they sell not only tees and pins, but also special desserts! Tip 5- Big Top Souvenirs is less crowded than Main Street and you can nab some collectibles there.
Finally, remember to have fun! You can go in with a game plan, but always enjoy the time you have and drink in as much as possible! Have any tips I missed- let me know!