Every year, thousands of families flock to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. And while great fun can be had by all it’s important to keep in mind that getting your money’s worth does not necessarily mean having a good time.
The basics: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is an annual event at the Magic Kingdom that runs 7 pm till midnight on select nights from mid-September through November 1. The event is fabulous, but not a good choice for first time visitors to the Magic Kingdom (there’s simply an overwhelming number of Halloween special events going on if you’ve never experienced the classic rides the park offers). It is, however, a great treat for returning visitors and those who celebrate all things Halloween.
How scary does it get? All events are geared towards young children and so while Disney cleverly shows the spooky side of Halloween, they make sure that little tikes get just the right dose of fright—and certainly will not be terrified. Unlike at Universal Studios’ Horror Nights, there are no vampire or chainsaw-swinging monsters scaring guests.
Tips and tricks: Even though it’s not officially stated, Disney will start letting guests with tickets for the party into the park as early as 4 pm (instead of 7 pm). Even at this time, you’ll receive a special event wristband and your trick-or-treading bag and can enjoy the park at your leisure. This is a great way to square away a few rides and have dinner before enjoying the special activities of the night. Your first action, however, should be to arm yourselves with the special events map—better yet download the map in advance of your visit—and study it before you even get to the park.
Hitchhiking ghosts you will want to take home: Get your special edition of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom trading card as soon as you arrive. Guests with wristbands can pick up the card at the Firehouse and at the distribution spot behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe as early as 4 pm. The game is for the tweens and teens in your party and while I do not recommend using precious party time engaging in the game, the special edition trading card is a keeper that is bound to become a valuable collectible.
Getting your fill of candy: If trick-or-treating is what your kids enjoy most, think about bringing an extra bag for each child or a backpack in which to empty your loot regularly. Over 240 tons of candy is distributed annually, and it is given generously.
The two special trick-or-treat trails and eleven stations throughout the park feature some great candy including favorites such as mini Snickers, Mars, lollipops, Tootsie Rolls and even Werther’s Caramel Apple candies at Pinocchio’s Village House. If you or your kids have certain dietary or allergy restrictions, candy can be swapped out at City Hall for sugar and nut-free treats. The lines for the stations tend to be longer at the start of the party and I suggest you go after the first parade. By the time the second parade is over, it’s an easy walk through and cast members won’t stop you to go through the line over and over again.
Special characters: This year Jack and Sally (the characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas) are the big draw. You can greet them at the meet-and-greet area right next to Guest Relations, but be prepared for long lines. Little tikes may be happier stopping at Town Hall and visiting with Mickey and Minnie, who are dressed in their Halloween costumes. If Jack and Sally are a must, I recommend you try just before the second parade starts. I did so and had a 15-minute wait.
I missed the Headless Horseman, but got to see the Boo-To-You parade once more. Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs no longer greet guests at the end of the Frontierland candy trail but you can now get your picture taken with them at the entrance to the New Fantasyland. Lady Carlotta, one of the 999 happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion, holds court on the lawn of the mansion. She is hilariously funny and lifts the dreary mood your little one might experience prior to entering the Haunted Mansion.
At times Ms. Renata Dubois, her sister and one of the twirling ghosts inside the mansion’s dinner scene, makes her own appearance. Other rarely seen characters out at night are Pinocchio, Tarzan with Jane and Turk, Winnie the Pooh and the gang of the Hundred Acre Wood as well as Abu, the spunky little monkey who at times joined Jasmine or Aladdin for a meet-and-greet.
It’s show time: The Disney Villains’ Dance Mix and Mingle! show in front of Cinderella Castle is a lot of fun, and if your kids love meeting the villains, especially the rarely seen Queen of Hearts and Dr. Facillier, it’s best to get a spot smack in front of the wall of the castle because at the end of the show the villains come for pictures and autograph signings. The show is staged at 7:45 pm, 8:50 pm, 10:05 pm and once more at 11:15 pm. I recommend the first show. Once the meet-and-greet was over, I was able to turn around, move to the hub right in front of the castle and wait for the first Boo-To-You Halloween Parade, which is held at 8:15 PM. After the parade I stayed put, had a snack and waited for the 9:15 pm Celebrate the Magic show and HallowWishes.
The HallowWishes fireworks are held at 9:30 pm and are fabulous. Little children might be frightened by the loud noises. If you don’t mind missing the projections on the castle walls, less-crowed viewing locations are available along the water at Liberty Square and from the New Fantasyland.
After the fireworks, which I cannot say often enough are spooktacular and an absolute must-see, many guests start leaving the park and it became easier to visit the dance parties and trick-or-treat stations.
Don’t rain on my parade: The Boo-To-You Halloween Parade begins in Frontierland at 8.15 pm and then again at 10.30 pm. While it’s easier to get a great spot for the second parade, it’s important to keep the ever-changing Florida weather in mind. If the second parade is cancelled due to inclement weather you will have missed the best event of the entire evening. Prior to the parade, on Main Street, the Creepa Crew lead by Phineas and Ferb entertain the waiting guests. Encourage your kids to join the dancing in the streets; it makes waiting for the parade less difficult.
You know the parade is about to start when the Headless Horsemen rides past and the lights of the Magic Kingdom are dimmed. He is a must-see and for me, together with the Gravediggers of the Haunted Mansion, the highlight of the entire parade. The last float is Goofy’s Candy Company and cast members pass out—you guessed it—some more candy.
Dancing the night away: Two dance parties are held simultaneously and kids will love it! Join Woody’s Happy Harvest Roundup in The Diamond Horseshoe in Liberty Square or shake your sillies with Mike and Sulley at the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball dance party on the Rocket Tower Plaza in Tomorrowland.
Dressing up for the occasion: If not for Halloween, when will you clad yourselves and your entire family in costume? Yours truly went dressed in honor of her favorite princess, Merida the heroine from Disney’s movie Brave. Guests were very creative this year and my all-time favorite was a couple dressed up as ghosts from the Haunted Mansion.
Be prepared: Staying for the entire party will require walking about 5 miles, and your little princes and princesses might easily turn into a pumpkins way before midnight. Make sure you have a stroller for the 3-6 group—and if you don’t then rent one. Remember, once the park closes you won’t be the only ones heading for the buses or the parking lot. You’ll be exhausted by the time you reach your hotel, so designating some time at the pool is a wise choice for the morning after. Last but not least, it’s still hot in Florida at this time of the year and temperatures can easily reach the upper eighties to low nineties. Stay hydrated and remember to have fun.
Dates: You can still catch Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year on the following dates: October 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29 and November 1. The October 31 event is already sold out!
Where to stay: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort as well as the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts, all deluxe properties connected to the Magic Kingdom by monorail, are top-notch. Prices start at $378 (Contemporary Resort), $482 (Polynesian Resort) and $549 (Grand Floridian) plus tax per room, per night.
For a mid-priced property, consider the Coronado Springs Resort. Room prices at this Mexican-themed resort start at $187 plus tax for a standard room per night.
For value-priced accommodation check out Disney’s Pop Century Resort, where prices start at $107 plus tax for a standard room per night. My personal favorite value resort is the new Art of Animation Resort where prices start at $120 for a standard room per night plus tax. The resort’s ‘Big Blue’ pool is fabulous and the food court is simply the best.