It still may feel like summer in Orlando, but at the Magic Kingdom, fall came early (as it usually does) with autumn decorations and the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party mid-month. My family thinks this is one of the best hard-ticket events at Walt Disney World and has been attending the party for more than a decade. As such, we have some up-to-date tips for families who want to make the most of their time and money.
The party only lasts for five hours — from 7 p.m. to midnight — so you’ll need a strategy in order to do most everything that’s important to your group. Our family focuses on the entertainment that is unique to the party because we can choose to experience other things at Magic Kingdom another day.
First, know that your party ticket allows you to enter the Magic Kingdom at 4 p.m., even though most party activities do not start until 7 p.m. Early admission used to be a non-publicized perk and a tool to disburse the arriving crowds. Now, however, Walt Disney World touts the entrance time. You could, of course, use the extra time to experience attractions, but I think that three-hour window is best used to prepare for the party so you don’t waste precious party time.
** Once you enter the park, head straight to the Firehouse in Town Square so you can pick up a special Halloween card for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom virtual game. Each person will need his or her party wristband to collect the card, beginning at 4 p.m. Because this is the only time you can get the card, I recommend collecting it and using it on another visit. There was no line at about 5:30 p.m. on the day we attended the party.
** Next, if you are interested in exclusive party merchandise, head into the adjacent Emporium store. In the center room, the goods are displayed in a section behind the cash registers. Cast members will allow a few guests — with party wristbands — at a time to peruse and purchase items. This is a change from past years when the merchandise was not uncovered until 7 p.m. If you see something you like, don’t hesitate to purchase it because items can and do sell out later in the night. Other locations with party merchandise include Mickey’s Star Traders, Box Office Gifts and Frontier Trading Post.
** After shopping, I would either recommend having an early dinner before the party starts or getting in line for one of the popular meet-and-greets. If having an actual meal (as opposed to grabbing snacks on the go) is important to your group, don’t waste party time; eat beforehand. There are limited restaurants open during the party, so having dinner beforehand also gives you more choices for your meal. This may be especially important to families with small children. If the food aspect is not key to your group having a successful evening, then I would suggest getting in line for Jack Skellington and Sally or the Seven Dwarfs. Jack has moved back to the outdoor tent adjacent to Casey Jr. and there is a new, more detailed backdrop for photos this year. The Seven Dwarfs can be found behind Cinderella Castle near the gates to New Fantasyland. Both meet-and-greets routinely have lines of at least an hour, so if you do use your time before the party starts, you’ll have more time for the other entertainment later. Plus, it isn’t out of the question for some meets to start before 7 p.m. for guests with party wristbands.
Once the party starts, guests can begin trick-or-treating. This fun tradition is open to all guests, including adults, and bags are provided. Also, guests are invited to wear costumes, as long as they are family friendly. My own children love this tradition, which allows them to see the Magic Kingdom in a whole new way.
The big entertainment this year — Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade, Celebrate the Magic castle projection show and Happy HalloWishes fireworks — are all scheduled a little later in the evening. Depending on your strategy, this may actually give you more party time. The first stage shows and parade are always more crowded than the later ones, so if everyone in your party can stay awake, choose later options. For example, you could choose to view Celebrate the Magic at 9:45 p.m. and Happy HalloWishes at 10 p.m. (the only times they’re available) and then grab a seat in the hub for the Hocus Pocus show at 10:40 p.m. and the second parade at 11:15 p.m. That gives you at least two and half hours to collect candy, meet characters, go on rides and more.
What to do when the clock strikes 7 p.m. if you are saving the big entertainment until the latter part of the evening?
Here are a few suggestions:
** The Fab Five are decked out in their costumes, and lines to meet them typically aren’t as long as those for Jack Skellington and the Seven Dwarfs. We waited 30 minutes last year to meet Mickey Mouse, who actually talks to guests. Mickey engages guests in conversation about their costumes and even strikes a pose himself.
** Check out the dance party in Tomorrowland, which features the Monsters University characters. (There is only one character dance party this year, down from two last year.) This is not a meet-and-greet opportunity so characters don’t stop and pose but you may be able to capture some fun candid shots.
** Trick-or-treat. Be sure to walk along the pathway between Storybook Circus and Tomorrowland and go inside the Enchanted Tiki Room because these two locations have several candy barrels close together.
** If candy is not your thing, try one of the specialty foods at the party: ghost, monster and spider cupcakes and candy corn soft serve ice cream. We tried the candy corn ice cream at the end of the night and found a surprise in the bottom of each cone.
** Take advantage of short lines for attractions. You will be able to walk right on many of the rides, and others will have much shorter waits than a typical day. For example, we saw Seven Dwarfs Mine Train only had a 20-minute queue at one point. Some guests actually buy tickets to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party with no intention of experiencing the seasonal events. Instead, they plan to take advantage of the short waits for rides.
Finally, on our way out of the park, we had a photo of the kids taken in Town Square with the pumpkin statues and Cinderella Castle in the background. After learning that the PhotoPass photographers stay there until about 1 a.m., I thought it would be a nice change to get a photo with Main Street lit up instead of the afternoon image that we have taken for the last several years at the party. Unfortunately, the photographer was in a hurry and only took two quick shots of the kids and she zoomed in on them so much that you can’t see my daughter’s costume, which was the whole point. This was really disappointing after watching her spend ample time with the couple before us. But I didn’t realize the problem until we got home because it was the last thing we did at the party. So, if this shot is important to you, I recommend doing it earlier than we did and checking it online.
Have a tip or a question? Please share it in the comments.
DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.