Friday, August 18, 2023

The DO's and DON'Ts For Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party


With temperatures reaching record highs in Florida, prompting heat advisories during the last week or two, that can mean only one thing in Disney terms - Halloween is back!  Each year, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party stretches out longer and longer, and what was once a brief add-on at the end of October now begins in mid-August.  This is also the official start of "party season" at Disney, as right after the Halloween party ends, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party returns to fill your nights during November and December.

If you find yourself in a spooky state of mind (or simply if you're visiting Walt Disney World during this time), having to plan around party season can be challenging.  I actually wrote about this last year and that advice remains solid, so no need to rehash that if you are already in the not (and if not, please pause and read that post first - it's a foundation for what follows here).  

Disney goes all out during these parties, and guests love them (based on the sell out rate, even with expanded dates each year).  Trying to do everything in one party is nearly impossible, so I thought I would put together a list of do's and don'ts that will help you maximize your time.  As always, if some of these things don't appeal to you, that's where you should go "off book" and fill that time as you see fit.  I'm trying to touch on all of the entertainment aspects to make your party as smooth as possible.  To that end:

DO: Visit Magic Kingdom during the day on a party night

I know I said I wasn't going to rehash that post from last year, but this is a point that needs reiterating.  The BEST days to visit Magic Kingdom during party season are days where a party is taking place.  Most guests see the shorter hours (and lack of Happily Ever After) and choose to go elsewhere.  This is exactly why the best plan is to visit on those days - lower crowds.  Don't believe me?  Here's a quick illustration.

As always, this data is pulled for  See those green bars all the way at the end?  Those represent the dates of the Halloween party as of this writing - 8/11, 8/15 and today (8/18).  Looks like some good crowds out there!

The other sneaky good part about party days at Magic Kingdom is that the park opens at 8:00 rather than 9:00 to help fill in some of that time it loses by closing at 6:00. This is another huge advantage!  As discussed on this blog, early entry at Magic Kingdom is the hardest of the four parks to really take advantage of, because of its late start time.  Combine an early start with an already lighter day of crowds and you will come out way ahead.  Conversely ...

DON'T: Use the Halloween party time to ride attractions

We've talked about this before, but there are two different hard ticket event types that Disney runs.  One is a party such as this one or the Christmas one.  The other is After Hours, which, as the name implies, is designed to take place after the regular park hours for the day. The appeal of After Hours is a lower crowd even that focuses solely on rides and attractions.  During Covid, the parties were re-branded as After Hours events, kind of splitting the difference between the two.

If that's what you're looking for during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party though, you will be in for a rude awakening.  First, the capacity cap has increased for this event over the years.  If you went five years ago and found/were promised lower crowds, that was indeed a selling point.  That isn't the case any longer, though.  Demand is high and Disney pushes that envelope as much as possible.  It must be working, though, as dates are selling out at a faster pace than ever.

Instead, the selling point of these parties is the themed entertainment.  And since there is a lot of that (which we'll discuss below), if you paid your money to go to this event, you should take advantage of what Disney is giving you.  Trust me, there will be plenty of time for attractions on other days (or even earlier this same day, if you listened to our advice above).  If this is your only day at Magic Kingdom and you don't have day tickets, arrive right when you are able to be let in (4:00) and do some attractions then.  But otherwise ...

DO: Rare Meet and Greets

The Halloween party is known for two meet and greets in particular - Jack Skellington and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas (who meet in the Town Square Theater) and returning this year, the Seven Dwarfs (who meet in Storybook Circus).  There are plenty of other characters throughout the night, many of them rare (as in, not around at non-party times in the parks) but these two will surely draw the biggest lines.  In fact, it might be difficult to do both of them in the same night unless you try to hit one on the way out (a risky proposition).

The party doesn't start officially until 7:00 but these meet and greets start earlier (in the case of the Dwarfs, often as early as 5:00).  So if you're going be waiting anyway, it's probably a good idea to use that non-party time to wait until these lines open (we did this for Moana at a Christmas party back when she was my daughter's favorite).  The entertainment doesn't start until party time, so this is a good way to get a jump on some of the longest wait times of the night.

DON'T: Spend time trying to do all the Magic Shots

I love Photopass, and Magic Shots can be one of the coolest parts about that service.  Disney knows this, and there are a plethora of shots you can get that are exclusive to the party.  However, not every photographer has the ones you're looking for, the lines are often long and you probably won't be able to get to all of them anyway.  Much like attractions, many of these are available during the regular daytime hours, with shorter waits, so that's when I would recommend doing them.  If you're interested, Disney Tourist Blog has a great list of all the shots available.  But your precious party time is better spent elsewhere.  Speaking of which ...

DO: Disney's Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks

This is actually a more general recommendation to do all of the "big" entertainment during the party - truly, that's what you're paying for. These include the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular (on the Cinderella Castle stage), as well as Mickey's Boo to You Parade.  I singled out the fireworks here because there is only one showing of these - 10:15, unless that changes along the way.

With the stage show and parade, there are multiple opportunities to catch them throughout the night (the parade twice, Hocus Pocus three times).  So if you planned on watching the first parade but you're stuck in a meet and greet line, don't fret - there will be another.  But for the Not So Spooky Spectacular (featuring a giant Jack Skellington puppet!), you only get one shot.  Make sure you see that one.

My general rule of thumb is if there is more than one show/performance of something, the later one will be less crowded.  That should hold true here as well.  You can stack the fireworks (10:15), parade (11:15) and last stage show (12:00) before you're done.  I would caution you that sometimes weather or crowd patterns make this difficult, so I would split them up a bit.  I would still encourage seeing the last stage show though - since it starts at midnight (the official party end time), you really get "extra" time by doing it then as opposed to earlier in the party.  Your mileage may vary.

DON'T: Trick or treat

I know the idea of walking around Magic Kingdom with a costume and a bag, and being given candy by smiling cast members sounds wonderful. And if you have little kids, where this is the big appeal of the holiday, you might be forced to anyway.  But I would skip this.  These often have long lines, and all you're getting is candy that you can buy at the store (or get from trick or treating in your neighborhood, but without the cost of a ticket).  If there were exclusive giveaways, I would change my mind.  Otherwise, unless you want to see the inside of the Tiki Room when a show isn't being performed, there are better uses of your time.

DO: Stay to the end (and beyond)

As noted above, if you do the last stage show, you'll be in the park after closing time.  Even if you don't do that, you should stay until the end of the event. This is my advice for any kind of late night event.  The later something goes, the less crowded it gets.  Maybe that's the time to try to sneak in a couple of attractions or another meet and greet. But often being at the park late just means some well earned peace and quiet, with the opportunity to see the park in a way that most people don't.  Get some pictures, take your time shopping (they won't stop you from doing that) or just soak up the atmosphere.  

DON'T: Go to the first party of the season

As an amateur blogger myself, I know that the first party of the season is when all of the bloggers/vloggers/influencers, etc descend upon Magic Kingdom.  I have no issue with this group, but if is assuredly not the same as the usual mix of guests.  The first party sells out among the earliest of the season, and may feel more crowded (and hotter!) as a result.

The same rule of thumb applies for the party on Halloween itself, October 31.  While that date makes the most sense from a thematic perspective (and the weather will surely be better), this will also be a mob scene.  I don't know if Disney sells more tickets to the most popular dates, but I do know that the "feels like" crowds are worse, so if you can avoid it, do so.  It's also true that much of late August through September are the least crowded park days in general, so that's probably your best bet from a crowd perspective if you have an options in your travel dates.

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