One of the best parts of revisiting Walt Disney World is that there is always something new to discover. Even for the longtime fan who has grown up taking more Disney vacations than they can count, the place is so huge and in a constant state of evolution that there are always unexplored experiences to enjoy. This is especially true if visiting during a time of year you’ve never been before. Disney’s seasonal offerings are top-notch, and for the longest time my family’s Disney trips did not coincide with any special events. This means that as I’ve gotten older and get the opportunity to visit at more festive times of the year, I’m exposed to things completely new to me. It is euphoric to traverse a space you know so well and love so much, but experience it in a completely new way. This is the case for all of Disney property during the holidays, but especially true of Magic Kingdom Park during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I had the privilege of attending my first-ever MVMCP last year. After years of anticipation, here’s what I gleaned from my evening and what every longtime Disney fan (whether you’re a party first-timer or veteran) should keep on their radar.
Let’s get the basic things out of the way… you know, the stuff that you’ll probably find in every MVMCP guide ever written.
- Separate admission to MVMCP is required to attend. A ticket for a day in Magic Kingdom Park is not the same as a party ticket. However, you do not need a regular park day ticket to attend MVMCP.
- The party begins at 7 p.m. and lasts until midnight, but your ticket is valid for park entry as early as 4 p.m.
- The day after the final party of each season (typically the Friday before Christmas), all of the special entertainment for MVMCP is performed during regular park operating hours for all guests. So, if you’re visiting the week before Christmas and thinking about attending that last party, you might just want to save your money.
Now let’s get to the juicy stuff.
What I imagined my first MVMCP would be and what it actually ended up being were two very different things. Over the years as I made imaginary itineraries for pretend vacations (come on, you’ve done it too… ), my MVMCP plans always favored special entertainment over attractions. In my mind, why waste time with rides that you can experience any time of day when the party’s hours are so limited and there’s so much else to pack in? That was my mindset initially. When I found out I would finally actually be attending MVMCP, it turned out that my visit to the party would be 1.) the main part of this particular Disney visit. It would not be a long stay, and the party would be our only time inside a theme park. 2.) I would be attending with someone who would be visiting Walt Disney World for the first time. This definitely changed what the expectations for the night were. I mean, how could they not, right? This is the only time I’ll have in a park, so of course I’ll want to see some of my favorite attractions. On top of that, if it’s someone’s first time in a Disney park, you can’t simply neglect all of those iconic staples of the park. In planning the night, I quickly became aware of what a challenge it would be to tour in such a way that satisfied both of my goals: create an incredible first Disney visit for my friend and simultaneously experience all of the wonderful Christmas festivities I had dreamed of seeing for years.
This brings me to the most important word of advice I can offer: Decide your priorities. There’s a lot going on during the party. Two major shows, a famous parade, and arguably the resort’s best fireworks spectacular are among the activities that you won’t find anywhere but here. There’s a ton of stuff jam-packed into the night, and it’s truly impossible to see and do everything party-related, much less try to work in regular park attractions into your plans.
I would group the night’s offerings into four categories: the two biggies (the night’s two biggest productions that everyone does and should want to see: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Holiday Wishes fireworks), the shows (namely Celebrate the Season starring Mickey and friends at Cinderella Castle and the more intimate Totally Tomorrowland Christmas, both well produced but slightly less in-demand than the two biggies), the attractions (the park’s rides that also operate all day long), and the characters (many of whom are dressed in special outfits exclusive to the party). (It’s hard to know where A Frozen Holiday Wish, the Castle lighting ceremony, fits within those parameters. Essentially, it’s a short show, but it attracts crowd levels of a major event. I’ll assume that if you’re really into the party stuff, you’ll probably be into this too, but definitely see the earlier showing vs. the later one. My group made it a priority to see it because of the grandeur of seeing the castle transform into ice. Honestly, maybe just place it in a category by itself.)
Put each of these categories (two biggies, shows, attractions, characters, Frozen) in order and decide which is most important to you. If you’re familiar with the park and with your group’s touring style, you’ll be able to discern a healthy balance of what your priorities are. It might be a little of both. It will also likely mean compromising. Did I get to see everything I wanted? Nope. But, that was ok because I knew what I was giving up was being allocated into a different category that satisfied my friends’ higher priorities (especially with one of them being a Disney first-timer). Our priorities for the evening were, from most important to least important: the two biggies, the attractions, Frozen, the characters, the shows. Here’s how we spliced those up throughout the night. Strategically, we chose about seven attractions we felt were “must-see” for the first-timer and tried to knock these out as soon as we arrived at the park, before we dove into any particular party-specific activities. We caught the first showing of A Frozen Holiday Wish in the midst of our attraction blitz. After those, we knew we could relax and spend the rest of the night enjoying party festivities and lower-priority attractions, making any further character or attraction decisions based on short lines. However, because of our #1 priority, we also knew that no matter what we were doing, we’d stop to accommodate seeing the parade and fireworks.
We attended the second-to-last party of the season. To my understanding, it was sold out, but it never felt terribly crowded.
Our character greetings are good examples of compromise. I love character greetings, but my friends don’t care much for them. However, I did want to take advantage of at least a few of the special character photos for the party because of 1.) the outfits and 2.) like I said, this was our only time in the park and I definitely wanted to meet some characters. Santa Goofy was a great compromise because he’s a fun, playful character but didn’t attract a huge line. We waited 10 minutes, maximum. Mickey was the same way. (And after all, you can’t go to Walt Disney World and not meet Mickey Mouse!)
If I had been by myself or with a different group, yes, I would have toured very differently. I definitely wouldn’t have missed Celebrate the Season, I would have met a few more characters (especially Uncle Scrooge) even if waiting in their long lines took up a chunk of time, and I might have even seen the parade twice. But… the experience would have been a different one and I would not have made the same memories I did that night. I also wouldn’t have realized just how many attractions were literally walk-ons all night long. Every visit has its own feel, and maximizing the value of each visit comes in determining what can make magic for everyone, not just yourself. Additionally, I admit our circumstances were a little unusual in that this was our only park time. This was our only chance to do anything, unlike a typical vacation where you might be content with not getting to everything because you can return two days later to see it. Of course, each item you don’t get to is one more excuse to come back!
Being a hard-ticket event requiring a separate party ticket, Disney really pulls out all the stops to make MVMCP feel like an exclusive party different from a typical night in the park (if there is even such a thing). Themed park-wide background music and exquisite lighting projections help give an especially cheery mood to strolling through the park between destinations. Take time to make yourself feel like you’re part of the party. Notice the lighting fixtures (they’re quite impressive!). Stop at the free snack stations for cookies and hot chocolate. Snap a selfie at a photo-op. There are a lot of fun, smaller aspects of the event that can be overlooked in the hustle of soaking in everything else. Enjoy them! Maximize your dollar.
There is a special kind of magic in the air throughout the holiday season at Walt Disney World, and that magic is encapsulated in one blissful, fleeting snapshot in the form of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I hesitate to even use “the M word” because it is admittedly overused to the point of watering down its true impact. However, I am firm in using it here to describe this event. Seeing two dozen toy soldiers that you’ve watched for years on television finally march around the corner of a snow-laden Town Square… there’s just no other word to describe that moment. Magic.
(Images belong to author’s personal collection.)
Have you attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? What’s your biggest tip? Which priority is top for you?
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade in Frontierland and then sprint to Main Street in time to see it again. You can find him on Twitter @olddirtyblake or at BlakeOnline.com.