It’s the spookiest time of the year! For Walt Disney World, this means the commencement of a fall favorite: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This after-hours event at Magic Kingdom Park takes place select nights in September and October each year and offers a full menu of exclusive activities and happenings. The trouble comes in navigating how to see and do everything to make the most of your party ticket.
There’s a ton to take in and navigating through it all can be overwhelming. Countless sites offer tips and tricks for how to see and do it all, but ultimately your schedule must keep one thing in mind: you. What’s important to you as a guest? What kind of traveler are you? What is your expectation of the night? The secret to making the most out of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is this: Determine your priority. This priority will be different for every family, and it’s important that you take time to prioritize prior to arriving.
Having an ordered list in mind beforehand will not only help chart a course for your night, but will also prevent wasting time on things that are less important to you and make sure you accomplish the things that are. What do you have to choose from? Here are major goings-on for the evening in the order I personally prioritized them for me. (Like I said, your ordering may be different, and that’s ok. There certainly is a “bad” way to tour the party, but there isn’t only one “good” way.)
1.) The parade. This is easily one of the best Disney parades you will ever see. With a cast so big it could easily form a small army, Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade pulls out all the stops. Its units are themed to Disney’s spookiest properties, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the Disney villains, including appearances from many rare characters, some of whom you might have never seen before or even knew existed. The parade runs twice each party night. The second parade is the least-crowded time and Liberty Square and Frontierland are the least-crowded locations. The parade begins in Frontierland.
2.) The Hocus Pocus show. This recent addition to the party first debuted in 2015 and is the ultimate Disney villain extravaganza. It’s called Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, and brings the world of the 1993 sleeper hit Hocus Pocus to life for the first time in a Disney park. The show is nearly perfect from three primary standpoints. Firstly, from a storytelling perspective, the script is crafted cleverly. This isn’t just another gathering of villains randomly assembled for no reason. The Sanderson sisters have returned to the mortal world for one night and are conjuring a spell, the ingredients for which they need from different villain friends. The story works wonderfully, with Maleficent’s involvement handled particularly well. Secondly, the tech is outstanding. The show utilizes the projection mapping technology from Celebrate the Magic to allow Cinderella Castle to become a glorious backdrop for anything the lighting designers wish it to be. It’s like you get two shows in one. (And that’s not even to mention the fog, the on-stage fire, or the finale’s mini-pyro show.) Lastly: The. Sanderson. Sisters. Are. Perfect. If you’re unfamiliar with Hocus Pocus, definitely watch the film before attending the party to heighten your appreciation for the show because it’s one of Disney’s most thoughtful productions.
3.) HalloWishes. The Halloween version of the Wishes fireworks spectacular is a completely different show than regular nights. The Haunted Mansion Ghost Host is our emcee for a celebration of some of Disney’s most memorable villain songs. With perimeter fireworks and some nifty effects on the Castle, there’s a lot to like.
4.) Characters. There are a multitude of special character greetings throughout the park featuring rare characters as well as common characters in rare, festive attire. The specific lineup can vary slightly year to year, but the most popular encounters are Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the seven dwarfs, commanding lines of nearly two hours. Most other greetings are a bit more manageable, but all require a significant time commitment considering the party only lasts five hours. But, like I said, maybe meeting rare characters is important to you and spending a whole party filling your collection with new ones is what you’d prefer to do. You’ll certainly find a lot of them here. Regardless of whether you’ll be spending all night meeting characters or not, if there’s a particular character you want to make sure to see, make that the first thing you do. Most characters arrive to their locations when the party officially begins at [7:00]. The smartest approach is to research the list of party characters, select the character that is most important to you, and line up at their greeting location a few minutes before the [7:00] start time. Once the characters actually arrive, their lines grow exponentially and can get extremely long for the remainder of the night.
5.) Attractions. Most party-goers want to spend their night packing in all of the special entertainment, leaving the park’s attractions ghost towns. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Almost all attractions in the park are open during the Halloween party, with most of them having very little or no line whatsoever. The longest wait of the night will probably be Haunted Mansion, which is lit up ghoulishly for the occasion and might even have a happy haunt or two waiting to greet you on the front lawn. A close second behind that for longest wait is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, still with that new attraction hype.
6.) Trick-or-Treat stations. You can’t have Halloween without trick-or-treating! Guests (yes, even adults!) are encouraged to attend in costume, provided they abide by Disney’s designated costume rules. Some families get quite creative. Observing all of the clever costumes is one of the highlights of the party. Throughout the park you’ll find several trick-or-treat stops, where Cast Members literally dump handfulls of candy into your bag. The best part: It’s included with your party admission. Allergy-friendly options are available, as well.
7.) Merchandise. Disney rolls out several party-exclusive merchandise items. For the more collectible or limited-release items, like the party pin, lines begin forming before the party starts just like they do for the character greetings. (This surprised me.) The more mass-produced items, like the party t-shirt, seemed to be fully stocked all night. To find out where specific party merchandise can be found, consult the party map.
8.) Other smaller tidbits here and there. There’s much more to the party that isn’t as much of a major tentpole item as the events listed above, but still are fun to stumble upon and observe. In Frontierland, the Dapper Dans become the Cadaver Dans, a ghostly barbershop (or is it graveyard?) quartet. They’re always worth stopping to see. Throughout the park, spooky lighting accentuates building exteriors for some really cool effects. Additionally, each land in the park has its own soundtrack. If you listen closely, between each song you’ll hear a fictional radio emcee introduce themselves. It’s a small touch that most guests probably don’t notice, but is thoroughly themed even down to the song selection matching not just the Halloween mood, but the land in which it is playing. If you arrive before the party begins, a fun option is to catch a showing of Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire on the Castle Forecourt Stage. The show’s finale rotates with the seasons, and Mickey and the gang celebrating autumn’s arrival is the perfect start to a night of Halloween fun.
For what it’s worth, here was what I was able to accomplish with my priorities in place and in the order I experienced everything:
- Met Tarzan, Jane, and Terk near Sunshine Tree Terrace (arrived [6:50] prior to their [7:00] arrival, waited 25 minutes to meet them).
- Cadaver Dans in Frontierland (stumbled upon them, didn’t plan on seeing them).
- Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade (began [8:30] in Frontierland, obtained front-row spot in Liberty Square [7:45]).
- Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular at Castle Forecourt Stage (began [9:15], obtained good spot [9:05]).
- Celebrate the Magic (began [10:00], obtained great spot in the Hub [9:45]).
- HalloWishes (began [10:15], remained in same place as CTM).
- Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular (began [10:40], obtained ok spot [10:30]).
- Met Mickey in Town Square Theater (waited 20 minutes).
- Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade (parade began [11:15] in Frontierland, obtained front-row spot in Town Square [11:35] but missed Headless Horseman and pre-parade).
- Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular (began [12:00], obtained good spot [11:55]).
- Exited park [12:28].
As a first-time party-goer this year, I was excited about an entire lineup of Disney entertainment that was entirely new to me. What’s more, this event has a completely different tone from anything Disney does throughout the year. What I feel Disney does better than anyone else is elicit emotion. Some of the best moments from any Disney vacation are the ones that prompt some sort of emotional response, whether it’s the awe of a fireworks finale or the simplicity of a child hugging their favorite character. Disney knows it has a storied legacy rooted in emotional connection, and its experiences are designed to embrace that emotion. I was curious, then, at how Disney would effectively conduct a night revolving around a holiday whose purpose is to frighten away those sappy moments rather than embrace them. What does the ingenuity of Disney look like when that emotional factor is taken away? The result is what amounts to an impressive showcase of Disney wizardry whose focus is “Woah” rather than “Aww.” With emotion extracted, the attention turns toward leveraging the best in technology to service a cool factor rather than a tear factor. The parade and Castle show are particularly impressive and examples of some of the finest entertainment you’ll find on Disney property all year long.
What’s more, as can be clearly seen in the diversity of this list, is that the party can be such a different experience for every family based on what they enjoy doing. If you want to make it the night that you meet more rare characters than you’ve ever met before, you can do that. If you want to make it the night you ride Space Mountain ten times with no wait, you can do that. Or, if you simply want to catch the entertainment to get you in the Halloween mood, you can do that, too. Determining that priority is key to a successful night. Boo to you and happy Halloween!
What’s your best tip or memory from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party?
(Images belong to author’s personal collection.)
Blake graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production/Broadcasting and Film. He is currently a participant of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.