Oh No! Not Another Upcharge Event!
One of the more controversial elements of the Disney parks over the past couple years has been the increase in upcharge events / experiences offered. The general hubbub when it comes to these upcharges is that it takes magic away from the common visitor in order to create a better experience for those who can afford to pay for it. This creates a form of class warfare in many’s eyes. While I suppose this is true to an extent, I think the impacts these experiences have on the common guest are way overblown. Most of these experiences are unobtrusive to the guest experience, and wouldn’t even be noticed by someone visiting who was unaware they existed.
The exceptions to that however, are the seasonal party events which close the park early (figure 6 or 7 pm) to all regular guests not attending the hard ticketed event. This seriously upsets a lot of people when they are planning their trips and can only find 2 or 3 nights of the week that Magic Kingdom is open past 7 pm. No in park dining reservations after 5:30, no fastpass after 6:00, no fireworks. I get why it gets folks upset. I am here to tell you its not all bad though. With a little proper planning its entirely possible to turn what looks to be a negative into a huge positive. This is my case as to why you should attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Turning a Negative Into a Positive
So, you are probably already a little confused. I mean, how you can create a positive out of Walt Disney World’s most popular park closing roughly 3 hours early for at least half of you trip? Well, for starters, you should be planning on visiting the Magic Kingdom on party days whether you are attending the Halloween Party that night or not. For the very reason you were probably upset to begin with, the park is typically far less crowded throughout the entire day on party dates. This is especially true on dates in September and August (yeah the parties start in mid-August… because money, right?) as the further out a party is from Halloween, the less busy it typically is. Tuesdays and Sundays are usually less busy then Friday parties as well, since Fridays are when most of the locals will attend. Attending the Magic Kingdom on a less busy party date can legitimately reduce your wait times by up to 50%. The benefits of this can not be overstated and it will allow you to get way more done than you would on a day with normal operating hours.
As far a touring strategy goes, arrive for park opening and you should have clear sailing the rest of the day for the most part. Start with Fantasyland and book your fastpasses for Space, Splash and 7DMT. You can get a ton accomplished by the mid afternoon then either head back to your resort for some rest and relaxation, or grab a nice dinner somewhere outside the park (there is no shortage of great restaurants on the monorail loop). Typically I would grab a nice meal somewhere then hop over Epcot or Hollywood Studios for Illuminations or Fantasmic respectively. As a side note, I always recommend adding the park hopper option onto your trip. This way you can hop over to Magic Kingdom another night when its open later to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks. They are fantastic and you will not want to miss them. If you are set on not getting a park hopper then I suggest returning another night and watching them from either the Polynesian beach or the ticket and transportation center boat dock. California Grill is also a great spot but that will obviously cost you the price of a meal there which is by no means cheap.
If I can convince you to attend one of the parties itself, I don’t recommend much daytime touring on that day. You do not need a separate admission ticket to Magic Kingdom in addition to your party ticket, and you can enter the park with your party ticket anytime after 4 pm on your party date (The party itself starts at 7:00). This gives you 8 full hours in the park without having to pay for another day on your standard multi-day Magic Your Way ticket. That alone should offset about 50% of the cost of the party. Also, you are going to be out late at the party so no sense in getting yourself all worn out before it even starts. Lastly, if you want to wear a costume to the party (and you absolutely should), its nice to have plenty of time to get dressed and ready to go. As for reasons why you should be attending the party, here we go.
Perhaps the hardest of the reasons to describe, the park just has an aura about it during the parties. Fun is in the air, even more so then usual, and you feel like you are apart of something special. Everyone is excited to be there, the background music loops are great, cast members are often in special outfits and the whole park feels… well, like a party.
Note: We attended last year’s party with my niece Bella.
I am a strong believer that anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you are attending the Halloween party then you should go all out and wear a costume. Note, Disney has had to enforce stricter rules on costumes over the past couple years, however there is still no shortage of great ideas that can meet the guidelines. Wearing a costume can add all sorts of fun to your night, from making interactions at meet and greets better to getting compliments from various cast members and party-goers throughout the night. Its fun seeing everybody else’s costumes as well and just adds to whole experience. Plus, its something fun to share on social media.
This is a big selling point for many. The party has several rare meet and greet opportunities which can only be experienced either there or at the Christmas party. The most popular of these are definitely Jack Skellington and the 7 Dwarfs, but other characters such as Scrooge Mcduck, Moana and several others can draw quite the wait as well. Even common characters, the classic Mickey bunch or the Winnie the Pooh gang will often have much larger waits than normal. Its for this reason, that we typically do not do a lot of meet and greets during the party (hence why I don’t have photos with any of the rare characters to post here). This goes against what most websites will tell you as many of them suggest to skip all rides so you can get in as many of the characters as possible. Admittedly, we are not huge character meet and greet people, so if you are it may be a much higher priority for you than it is for us.
Most rides will be walk on, or very short waits so we like to mix in a few of them with all of the wonderful entertainment the party has to offer. Its good enough for us to see the rare characters from a distance. If you absolutely have to meet the rare characters, I would suggest getting in line for either Jack or the Dwarfs at least 1 hour prior to the start of the party (they will often start meeting before the official party start time). One thing I do suggest, as my pictures show, is to meet the princesses at Fairy Tale Hall near the start of the party. They will have less than 5 minute waits and that way you don’t have to spend time waiting on a normal day when their waits can exceed an hour. Plus its fun to get a shot with them when you are in your costumes.
As I said above, most of the rides are either walk on or have very short waits during the party. The exceptions to this are probably 7DMT, Peter Pan (earlier in the evening) and Haunted Mansion. Many people will suggest skipping the rides as they can be experienced during non party hours, but we have always enjoyed taking advantage of the short waits and at least ride a few things throughout the night. The Haunted Mansion is the one ride that everyone seems to gravitate towards. This makes sense I guess, but the ride is no different than any other time and is the only ride in the park that will have longer than normal waits during the party. There is one huge positive to at least getting in the line for it though, as Madame Carlotta will be out on the lawn heckling guests and telling some downright entertaining stories and jokes. Last year she was joined by the butler and they bounced off each other well. In addition to that, cast members at the attraction will have special outfits and makeup, and tend to just get super into their roles which can have a great effect on the entire experience.
Hocus Pocus Villains Spectacular
There are a few bits of entertainment scattered throughout the park during the party, mostly in the form of dance parties. All of those are fine for a few minutes or so, but they all pale in comparison the the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular.
Performed on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle several times a night, this show is an absolute must see! Its based on the 90s kid Halloween movie Hocus Pocus, which while wasn’t a huge smash at the time, has gained quite a bit of a cult following over the years. The movie follows a teenager named Max and his kid sister as they accidentally wake up the Sanderson sisters; 3 witches who were killed hundreds of years ago during the Salem witch trials. Its a mix of mild scares (for young kids anyway), comedy and a little action here and there. I rewatched the movie last year for the first time in probably a decade and its fine. Nothing special but entertaining enough. This show based on it however, is a pure delight from start to finish.
Naturally, the show stars the Sanderson sisters, who are awakened by a group of (I assume) cultists who decide to all get together to dance and sing “Season of the Witch” by Donavan for some reason. Its a thin plot device to bring the sisters back but who cares… its awesome! Once the sisters arrive back on the scene they need to find the ingredients to make their Hocus Pocus Party Potion because apparently if they throw a really kickin’ Halloween party, they won’t turn to dust when the sun rises like they did in the film. Long story short, several Disney villains arrive, sing their signature songs, and help the sisters with ingredients for their party potion.
Again, the plot is ridiculous but it all works because everything that happens on stage is so entertaining. I’ve seen the show 3 different years and each time the actresses playing the sisters have been wonderful. The witches were played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi and Sarah Jessica Parker in the film, and they actresses in the show do a great job of not only sounding and looking like the originals, but also seem to nail each of the characters personalities dead on. All of this comes together to present a great show with a rocking soundtrack, and a chance to see many of the rare villain characters on stage.
The show is so good that I honestly recommend viewing it twice during the party. There are performances in between the fireworks and each parade, both before and after. I suggest viewing either of these 2 shows depending on which parade you are watching, and then again at the end of the night as the final show is right at midnight. This allows you to not miss any more time of the party while actually extending it a bit. It also allows Main Street to clear out a bit as the party goers leave allowing you to get some good photos afterwards.
The fireworks display for the party is Happy Hallowishes. The name is a play on the Magic Kingdoms old fireworks show Wishes. I know a lot of people still miss Wishes terribly (I’m not one of them. HEA is a better show no matter what nostalgia tells you), but unfortunately for those hoping to relive it here, the show has literally nothing to do with the old Wishes show aside from the name connection. The show is solid, with a decent soundtrack highlighted by narration from the Haunted Mansion’s Ghost Host. Compared to Happily Ever After however, Hallowishes starts to show its age. It lacks the castle projections included in HEA, and is significantly shorter. The saving grace however, is the perimeter bursts included in the show. They only happen a few times thoughout, but man are they awesome to see. There’s not many things cooler than standing in the hub and seeing fireworks going off all around you. These bursts alone make Hallowishes worth seeing. Side note, they also look great from the observation deck at California Grill.
Mickey’s Boo To You Parade
Alright folks, we are winding down here so lets get to the main event. Mickey’s Boo to You Parade is in my opinion the best parade you can see in Walt Disney World. A lot of people will tell you its the Christmas parade, and while that is also an amazing parade, I give the edge to Boo to You. The music is unbelievably catchy, the floats and characters are all wonderful and the whole parade is just a blast to watch. I enjoy this parade so much that I honestly don’t even have many good photos from it. I’m usually too busy watching gleefully and singing along.
The parade is easily deserving of 2 viewings in the same evening, but realize that it will take quite the time commitment to if you choose to do so. For the first parade, your probably looking at setting up at least an hour before showtime to get a prime spot. Then even after the parade begins, it will still take another 15-20 minutes reach main street. If you are not too concerned about where you view the parade, spots can be found much easier in either Frontierland or Liberty Square closer to showtime. I’ve also had luck nabbing a spot right below the train station with only about 15 minutes until showtime.
The 2nd showing of the parade is much easier to find a spot for. The only downside here is that you are guaranteeing yourself one viewing, where as if you see the first parade and love it, you can always decide to watch the 2nd one as well. For most, seeing the parade once is enough and if that’s what you decide on ahead of time, I strongly suggest taking in the 2nd showing.
As of 2016, Goofy has been replaced on this candy float by Vanellope from Wreck It Ralph. This gets a big ole thumbs down from me but alas, it is what it is.
So Let’s Recap! Aka “You Really Could Have Just Read This Paragraph and Saved Yourself A Bunch of Time”
So, when I started writing this, I did not expect it to turn into the ~2500 words that it has. I tend to ramble on a bit so hopefully it hasn’t been too terrible for you all. In summary, you should very strongly consider attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party if you have the chance to do so. I know its expensive, especially for a family of 4 or 5, but its really worth it in my opinion. If you decide to attend I suggest cutting back one day off your multi-day Magic Your Way ticket to offset the expense a little bit. I also suggest day touring Magic Kingdom on a party date, different from the one you are attending, in order to take advantage of lightened crowds. If you do decide to attend, do not miss the Hocus Pocus Villains Spectacular, Happy Hallowishes or the Boo To You Parade. They are the main draws of the party and where most of the value is. I didn’t mention it above but I also strongly suggest NOT trick or treating during the party. The lines to get a piece of candy can get absurd and there are plenty of other delicious goodies that can be enjoyed throughout the parks. If your child REALLY wants to have a trick or treating experience, I suggest bringing a bag of treats along and giving them one each time they spot at trick or treating location.
Well that about does it for now. Hopefully all this information was helpful to anyone trying to decide whether or not they should attend MNSSHP or not, or will help in planning for anyone who has already decided to attend. Let me know in the comments if I either forgot anything or if you just have something interesting to add!
Thanks for reading!