It’s that time of year again! Yes, Disney Halloween time! This year the fun and festivities began in August with the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom on August 16. I was lucky enough to attend, so here are some tricks, treats, and a few unfortunate sour apples…
This was not my first visit to the special ticketed Halloween event, and it has always been my favorite in the past. As a fan of the Haunted Mansion, I prefer the spooky Halloween atmosphere to the glittering lights of the Very Merry Christmas Party, but this was my first time attending an opening night celebration, so here are a few tips to help you on your way.
Get there early! We decided to sleep in that morning and arrived at the Magic Kingdom shortly before lunch. Right off the bus, we secured a locker for our costumes so we could change in the bathroom when guests began entering for the party at 4:00. The actual event is from 7:00 to midnight, but guests are allowed to enter without a park ticket three hours before the event’s start time. Promptly at 4:00, cast members began distributing wristbands at the Tortuga Tavern and the front gate. We scanned our MagicBands in Adventureland and received a bag of candy before we returned to our lockers. As we navigated down Main Street, we passed the entry to a pathway that circled to the right beyond Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, so we followed that and received more candy, as well as an opportunity to have pictures by PhotoPass photographers.
After a quick change in the bathrooms next to the Fire Station (with a floor-length mirror in the ladies’ room), we headed to the back of the park and grabbed a quick meal before events began at 7:00. I think it’s important to have a strategy to avoid wasting time at the party, so the hour between 6:00 and 7:00 is golden if you have a priority. We chose to eat because we didn’t want to meet any particular characters or acquire a certain souvenir, but be sure to queue up early for special meet-and-greets like Jack and Sally or exclusive merchandise like the Hitchhiking Ghost popcorn bucket in Liberty Square or Mickey pumpkin bucket in the Hub near Tomorrowland. It’s better to wait in line for an hour before the party than an hour during the party.
Other merchandise is easy to purchase before the event. Starting around 2:00, shops like Sir Mickey’s and Frontier Trading Post sold merch to party attendees who showed their electronic tickets on the Disney app. I saved precious time during the party by getting my pins and shirt early, and then I stored them in the locker during the actual event.
Food queues are rather varied during the event. The line for the new Constance’s mini wedding cake in Liberty Square was too long for our daughters, so we opted for the fanciful Amuck, Amuck, Amuck cupcake at the Main Street Bakery (aka Starbucks) instead. This treat was so sweet that we didn’t finish it (even with four people sharing), and it stained everything a sickly black-green, including our teeth and lips, so take caution when you eat it. I expect it will be popular with the preschool crowd and those who like sugary peanut butter, but it was not for my taste.
As in years past, the Not So Scary Halloween Party offered a nice mix of activities. The new club-like Descendance Party at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café was fun for older kids and tweens who enjoy the Descendants films, and fans of Monsters, Inc. could groove with Sully and friends in Tomorrowland, while littles could see their Disney Junior faves at the Storybook Circus. There was also the returning stage show Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular and Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade.
The parade experience was different this year than in the past. Guests attending the Halloween Party received an email shortly before the event recommending “tips,” including the suggestion that they attend the 11:15 parade rather than the first parade at 9:15. The first parade was indeed packed with spectators lined up seven to ten people deep along the route. We decided to head to the Haunted Mansion during the first parade to see the interactive ghost in the queue (always a lot of fun) and hopefully avoid a long line.
When we departed Haunted Mansion at 9:40, the parade had just entered Liberty Square. I learned later that the parade was late, which in turn made the 11:15 parade late, as well as the stage shows in front of Cinderella Castle. This was frustrating for many attendees, including a mother I met in line for our bus who had to miss the second parade because she had to choose between waiting for its late start or queuing for Jack and Sally. Our family had a similar disappointment; we had intended to see the interactive pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean between the second parade at 11:15 and the final Hocus Pocus show at midnight, but the parade started after 11:30, so we had to forgo the pirates. Hopefully these were only opening night problems that will not recur at future events, but be sure to plan accordingly just in case.
When you decide to view the parade, try to get a space early. Our youngest daughter fell asleep in her stroller at about 10:30, so my husband secured a spot with her near a raised garden between the Diamond Horseshoe and Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland, which had a kind of natural seat and a great view of the route and pre-parade Headless Horseman.
Getting to the parade area early gave my eldest daughter and I the chance to dash between trick-or-treating locations and fill our bags with goodies. We went through the Country Bear Jamboree five times in a row, and the cast members kept encouraging us to go through again. The rule is that you can get as much candy as you want at the candy stops as long as you wait in line each time, so it’s fun to find a nearly empty queue and walk in circles. (Pro tip: put the candy in the refrigerator when you return to your hotel because it will melt incredibly quickly in the Florida heat.) When the parade finally started, we grabbed seats with my husband and awoke our youngest to watch.
There was also great pre-parade entertainment in Frontierland. The Cadaver Dans performed in front of the Diamond Horseshoe, and there was a promenade for kids to march along the parade route with some classic Frontierland characters.
My favorite addition to the parade this year was the Ghost Bride, Constance, from the Haunted Mansion. She eerily floated between the ballroom dancers and sneered menacingly at the audience. Fans of Buzz Lightyear and The Incredibles will like the addition of new futuristic floats, and those who want more pirates will most certainly appreciate the return of Angelica and Captain Barbossa aboard Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate ship.
In addition to the futuristic floats, Tomorrowland itself got some upgrades this year. Space Mountain now features a Halloween twist: a pitch black ride with spooky, seasonal music. The queue was over forty minutes when we were in the area, as opposed to a short five minute wait for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, so we opted instead to experience a smoother ride through total darkness with a peek inside Space Mountain instead of the actual coaster. The PeopleMover was also a great way to see costumes and holiday decorations! Also in Tomorrowland, guests can now visit Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor to experience some (honestly disappointing) jokes and (very limited) character interactions as they get candy.
Some of you may have heard about several “upgrades” (for an additional fee) to the Mickey’s Not So Scary experience, including a dessert party. While I did not experience these myself, I heard from several cast members that they were not widely supported by event loyalists because they limited viewing areas and some attractions for regular party attendees. Just watch for roped off areas when you secure your place for the new Not So Spooky Spectacular fireworks display.
I should confess that the old Halloween party fireworks display was my all-time favorite nighttime spectacular. I loved the fireworks that wrapped around the Hub and the eerie score. The new Not So Spooky Spectacular does away with many of the fireworks themselves but offers an upgraded projection show on the castle, plus special appearances from Jack Skellington and Zero. The biggest gasps from the audience came at the end when fireworks literally lit the entire sky. If you choose to watch in the Hub, be patient and kind. There was a rush of people into the viewing area about ten minutes before the fireworks started, so there was a lot of jostling and pushing for a good spot. After the show, there was another rush across the Liberty Square bridge for those going to secure a spot at the parade. If you have a stroller, it helps to decorate it with battery-powered lights to navigate the crowds (of course, turn these off during the fireworks) and to use glow bracelets for any hand-holding little ones
As in years past, this party featured many meet-and-greets with rather exclusive characters, as well as the addition of PhotoPass magic shots. We found the best time to get photos on Main Street was during the first Cinderella Castle stage show, when lines were only one or two families long. That was also a great time to get the party exclusive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom trading card at the Fire Station. The characters’ queues were especially long all night, most likely because it was opening day, so get in line for your favorite character before the event to secure a chance to meet them when the party begins.
This year, despite the many treats at the party, there was one worm in the enchanted apple: lines for busses to DVC resorts were excruciatingly long. Our first bus back to Old Key West was full, and we had to wait over thirty-five minutes for a second bus to arrive. That bus also failed to hold everyone waiting in line. Nearby Saratoga Springs was even worse, with the queue threading out of the turnstiles and only one bus arriving in the same time that Old Key West had two. Other resorts, such as the All Stars and Pop Century, had many more busses and relatively short lines, which led my husband to suspect that Disney failed to recognize that the ratio of DVC-members in attendance to traditional resort guests was greater than on regular days, so hopefully Disney will correct this problem. We thankfully talked to the concierge the next morning and had two FastPasses added to our account to make up for the wait time, but it may be more beneficial to either drive to the park or stay at Bay Lake Tower, if possible.
All in all, this is still my favorite after-hours ticketed event. I think I’ll avoid opening night in the future in part to get the DVC weeknight discount and in part to experience the event without parade delays, but I can honestly say that I can’t wait to do it again. As Mickey might say, “See BOO real soon!”