written by Bri Totsch, Vacation Specialist
Happy Holidays! If you’re like me, you’ve been to Disney World during the summer countless times, but never really thought about going during the winter holiday season. Well, this year I set out to change that, and I finally got the chance to see Disney World all lit up and ready for Christmas! This was, quite honestly, a dream come true for me. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and I knew that Disney would pull out all the stops for the holidays. I wasn’t disappointed!
I really wanted to take advantage of what Disney World had to offer for the season, so I purchased tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party months in advance for myself and my family. While there is an additional cost beyond the daily park tickets for the party, you can choose to attend the party either with or without visiting one of the parks earlier in the day. Since the party technically begins at 7 p.m. on selected dates, one might think you would have to purchase a days’ worth of tickets if you wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom earlier. However, they do start allowing Christmas party attendees into the park as early as 4 p.m., so you still get a solid 8 hours of Magic Kingdom time to enjoy (the party ends at midnight).
So, what is different about the Magic Kingdom during the hours of the Christmas Party? As it turns out, quite a bit! As night falls on Main Street, U.S.A. is virtually transformed into a Winter Wonderland. The street is already decked out in its wintry finest, but then it begins to “snow!” It’s quite an amazing sight, being in Florida and all, but it sets the tone for a festive evening. When you receive your map to guide your way through the party, make note of all the special spots that offer complementary holiday cookies and hot cocoa or apple juice. There are quite a few places to pick up your treats, so keep an eye out. The cookies this year were snickerdoodles, but they also had allergy-free chocolate chip cookies on request. This was an especially nice touch; my husband and I are vegan and could still enjoy some cookies!
Twice during the evening, you can gather by Cinderella Castle and watch A Frozen Holiday Wish. While this live stage show is not exclusive to the Christmas party, it certainly does put you in the right mood if you’re able to catch it. During this short, but sweet, show, some of the most beloved characters from Frozen come to our “kingdom” and want to kick off the holidays just right by decorating the castle. I won’t spoil the whole thing for you, but any fan of the movie will appreciate this small tribute to Elsa’s icy powers and to the joy of celebration. You can watch this presentation at 6:15 and 8:00 p.m.
Gather early enough along the parade route and you’ll be able to view Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. This parade runs twice on each party night; the first one is at 8:15 and the second is at 10:30 p.m. One tip I found particularly helpful is to try and catch the second show, if it’s not too late for your little ones to be up. The second parade of the evening is generally the lesser crowded of the two, meaning you also spend less time staking out your spot in the crowd and more time enjoying the party itself. As luck would have it, I was able to view the first parade of the evening from a pretty primo spot just outside the Main Street Bakery. Our family was fortunate to snag this place; I’ve also heard that arriving in Frontierland, just outside Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn, about 45 minutes before the parade is due to start is usually a good bet.
Wedged between the two parades is a fireworks extravaganza like none I’ve seen before. Titled “Holiday Wishes” and chock-full of mind-blowing, spectacular fiery effects, this show gave my family goosebumps and injected the crowds with a heavy dose of shock and awe. If you’re a fan of Disney World’s fireworks shows on a normal day, I would rank Holiday Wishes as not-to-be-missed.
There are other, smaller-scale shows going on throughout the evening as well. “Celebrate the Season” is a neat twist on the Nutcracker story and stars Minnie, some dancing reindeer, and more. “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas” features Stitch and Buzz Lightyear and is great for the younger audience members in your party. Each of these shows has several showtimes per party night.
If meeting many Disney characters during the party is on your priority list, you may have to settle in for a lot of strategic waiting. There are rare characters out and about on these evenings. Favorite among them: Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws, Scrooge McDuck, all 7 Dwarves together, the princesses with their respective princes, Santa Claus himself, and more. The lines form early for many of these meet-and-greets; I noticed the line for the 7 Dwarves growing as early as 5:30 p.m., knowing they wouldn’t even be out in person until 7:00. If you’re itching to get this year’s holiday picture card taken with one of the rare characters, waiting in line might be worth it to you. However, please be advised that you can spend several hours of the party simply waiting for that meeting, so use your discretion about whether that’s what your family wants to do. A nice alternative to waiting in line for characters is to join them for a dance party! Throughout the evening, you can boogie down with Woody and Jessie in Liberty Square, or dance to infinity and beyond with Buzz and Boo (from Monsters Inc.) over at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland. There’s no long lines for these; just put on your dancing shoes and go!
On top of all this, you are also in a great position to score some rare merchandise during the party. The Emporium on Main Street sells special items that can only be found during those few short hours, such as T-shirts, holiday Magic Bands, and ornaments. You can also find select items at Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, Big Top Souvenirs, and Mickey’s Star Traders. The pin traders in your party will certainly appreciate the opportunity to find rare party pins! If you’re a fan of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game that can be played throughout the park, you’ll love the fact that free with your party admission comes an Elsa’s Icy Shield card to add to your collection!
Perhaps the best thing about the party for my more adventurous son was the elimination of a need for FastPass + while we were there. Because the park is only open to partygoers, they consolidate all the ride lines down to just one standby line. You don’t need a reservation to go on the rides; just choose a line and hop in. And because the lines aren’t being interrupted by switching from the Fastpass line to the standby line for entry, they move more quickly. Most of the rides remain open during the party; double check with your party guide map for details to see if your favorites will be closed. Once we had seen the parade and the fireworks, we were able to walk right onto some of our favorite rides. And for a 9 year-old boy who was enjoying his last night of Disney World before we had to return home, this was possibly the most magical part of the night indeed.