For many, the Christmas season can be a shimmering, tree-shaped double-edged sword. On the one hand, the world is alight with brilliant colors and radiant temperaments; hope and kindness are mirrored in the twinkling lights that surround us. On the other hand, the wondrous idea of embracing generosity often leads to fiscal frustration and monetary anxiety.
Christmas at Walt Disney World is no different. While Main Street holiday decorations bring the concept of magical atmosphere to a transcendent new level, the cost of Disney’s premiere celebration* — Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom — may leave you desperate to squeeze every last cent of enjoyment out of the event.
Don’t spend your hard-earned money just to ruin what could be a magical occasion with stress and confusion. If you know what you’re in for, this year’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party could wind up being the best gift you give yourself or your family. If, after reading this guide, you decide that you are better off filling your stockings with something other than event tickets, that’s okay too.
*For ticket dates and prices, head HERE
We’re talking more about mental preparation here, not remembering bottled water and hand sanitizer (although that’s always a good call). There are two things which, if you aren’t expecting them, can turn the sugar plums dancing in your head sour: crowds and weather.
Crowds: If you are imagining having the streets of the Magic Kingdom all to yourself and a few select others due to the limited number of tickets for this event, think again. While the entirety of the park may not be packed, any places where entertainment will be happening within the next hour, namely Main Street U.S.A., could be very congested. The DIS attended this year’s party on opening night, which was sold out. While you may not be attending a sold out event night yourself, brace yourself for some packed areas. If it fits your schedule, getting tickets for weekday nights that don’t fall on a holiday may help diminish this to a certain degree.
Weather: Florida weather is almost hilariously chaotic and unpredictable. A 20 percent chance of rain might mean a 10-minute hurricane that you didn’t anticipate. Florida weather will seem unseasonably hot to many visitors, but even on “cool” nights the humidity can bring out sweat and uncomfortability. You may luck out and get a cool, dry night later in the year — just don’t count on it.
When you add these two things together, you get a significant number of impatient, sweaty, frustrated people. This is standard for any theme park experience, but it can put an extra damper on what is supposed to be a happy holiday event. Most folks are feeling the magic, and you can be too — if you don’t let a little weather or crowding bring you down.
Where to find them: Main Street U.S.A. — this will be your entrance into the Disney Christmas season, and it’s where most of the magic happens. While you’ll see some colored lighting around additional lands in the park, actual Christmas decor is mostly relegated to Main Street. Shops are festooned with garlands and lights, the Magic Kingdom Christmas tree is on full display, and Cinderella Castle gleams in the distance.
When you should see them: There isn’t much strategy involved here. At many points throughout the night, you’ll be here to take in the decor. If you are present later in the evening for the parade, you’ll get to enjoy these decorations while surrounded by simulated snow. If you are hoping for prime picture taking opportunities you can find PhotoPass photographers stationed at various points during the event. If you’re snapping your own pics, waiting till park close after most guests have exited is probably your best bet for low-crowd shots. This will be the most crowded area throughout the night, and for good reason — the decorations are absolutely beautiful.
Where/When to find them: Everywhere, open throughout the event.
When you should ride them: One of the largest draws of any hard-ticket or after hours events is the noticeable lack of wait times for regular park attractions. While Magic Kingdom doesn’t do anything in the way of seasonal overlays for Mickey’s Very Merry, most of the rides you already know and love will be open. (For the full list head HERE) Some people purchase tickets to these parties specifically for the limited ride waits, and a large part of your planning may be a balancing act of whether you want to wait in line for a character or post up for a good show/parade spot rather than experiencing as many attractions as you can.
You can plan your night around attractions, occasionally watching bits and pieces of live entertainment as you pass. You could do the opposite, planning your evening around shows and parades, only occasionally hitting up a ride. Veterans of recent years’ parties will quickly find that most of the entertainment offerings for 2018 are not vastly different from what they’ve last seen: this may be the perfect excuse to just relax and get some rides in while everyone else is tightly packed and staring at the stage or sky. Newcomers will probably feel compelled to see the fireworks, shows, and parades for the first time — fitting in all of these won’t leave a lot of time to take advantage of the quick queues.
Is there anything new this year? The crowds may be a little more significant than in years past, but even during the sold-out opening night wait times were still a tremendous improvement when compared to an average park day.
A Frozen Holiday Wish
What it is: This delightful plot device explain why Cinderella Castle is oh-so-brilliant throughout the night. The castle lighting (castle freezing?) ceremony sees the stars of one of Disney’s most popular intellectual properties gathered together to set the night off right. A short story involving Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf sets off a chain of amazing castle projections that transform Walt Disney World’s iconic landmark into a luminous winter palace.
Where/When it is: 6:15 prior to the start of the party and again at 8:15 p.m. on party nights at Castle Forecourt Stage
Should you see it? If you’ve never seen this spectacle before, you’ll probably want to catch it. The good news is that unless you desperately want to see the Frozen cast up close, the ceremony is still entertaining from a good ways out. The projections are the star of the show, so as long as you’ve got a good view of the front of Cinderella Castle, you don’t need to strategically stake out a viewing spot.
If you’ve got die-hard Frozen fans in your company, though, you’ll have to get there early and be patient. This is one of the many places where crowds gather tight from the get-go.
Is there anything new this year? Nope, if you’ve already seen it and don’t feel compelled to watch it again, skip it and ride something fun. If you arrive at the Magic Kingdom early enough, we recommend that you watch the 6:15 p.m. showing so you don’t miss valuable time watching it during the party.
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade
What it is: Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is a cheerful holiday parade that kicks off with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in their own festive float and also includes many favorite Disney characters from Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and many others all dressed up for the holidays. This parade is bursting with everything Disney fans love about Christmastime.
Where/When to find it: 8:30 and 11:00 p.m. – The scene is a bit more magical when seen on Main Street, U.S.A. with the “snow” falling all around you, but the parade can be viewed from anywhere on the parade route.
When you should see it: You’ll oftentimes see recommendations from folks suggesting that you wait until the second showing of the parade, but we found that the later presentation was just as crowded. If you really want a good viewing spot, you’re going to have to make an investment in time because many folks secure their spots early. There is a very special “snowfall” that takes place along Main Street, U.S.A. during the parade creating an atmosphere unlike any other; especially when you consider that temperatures can still be in the high 80’s.
In the parade, many Princesses can be seen along with their Princes, fun holiday props like gigantic wooden rocking horses, Gingerbread Men Cookies, and wrapped Christmas presents. The parade finale has all eight of Santa’s reindeer followed by the man himself in his giant sleigh full of gifts. This parade is not-to-be-missed, unless you’ve seen it before, in which case we’d recommend that you use this time to ride a few attractions or meet up with special characters.
Is there anything new this year? While nothing was different with this year’s parade in comparison to last year’s, both presentations were particularly crowded where it used to feel like the second time was less crowded. The parade is always great.
What it is: This holiday fireworks spectacular is one of the most beloved shows at the Magic Kingdom. The show is hosted by Jiminy Cricket and includes transformational lighting on Cinderella Castle, holiday-themed projection effects and seasonal songs that includes such classics as I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Where/When to find it: 10:00 p.m. – fireworks can be seen from anywhere in the park, but you must be in front of Cinderella Castle to see the projections. We were hoping that Tinker Bell would be wearing her red Christmas costume for the party when she flew like she is in the special party PhotoPass Magic Shot, but alas, she was in her standard green dress.
When you should see it: These fireworks are only presented once during the Party, so if it’s something that’s important to you to see, be sure to plan your evening around it. The presentation is different from any other nighttime spectacular you’ll find anywhere at Walt Disney World and for those who were fans of Wishes nighttime fireworks, this show might give you a familiar dose of nostalgia. You’ll be treated to Christmas-colored bursts that light up the sky in sync to classic holiday songs.
If you happen to lose track of time because you’re in a sugar coma, fear not as the fireworks can be seen from behind Cinderella Castle in Fantasyland, just about anywhere in Tomorrowland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, and even Adventureland. If you want to see the Castle in all of its glory, you can watch from either of the bridges that take you from the Castle HUB to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
Is there anything new this year? The fireworks are always spectacular, but we didn’t notice any changes from last year’s presentation.
Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration
What it is: Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration is a stage show that takes place on the Castle Forecourt Stage against the beautiful backdrop of the Castle itself. The show features a variety of Disney characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy, Woody and Jessie from Toy Story along with Clarabelle Cow and many others. Mickey and his Disney pals are joined by backup singers and dancers, belting out a number of holiday tunes both original and classic.
Where/When to find it: Castle Forecourt Stage — 7:40, 9:25, 10:30, 11:55 p.m.
When you should see it: As one of the main events of the evening with the largest number of performances, Most Merriest also requires some of the most planning. There are a few different strategies to take here.
The area in front of the castle will be jam-packed all night long, with folks camping out for one show after another. If you want a good spot and don’t mind staying in one place for long, try planning this around other shows such as before A Frozen Holiday Wish, or before/after the Holiday Wishes fireworks.
The largest spaces between showings are the two parade processions, which would give you the best window to get decent seating for the next show. If you are planning on staying till park close, you could skip one of the parades and make a play for getting better Most Merriest seating while the crowds are lined up along the parade route. This isn’t foolproof though, it would involve some careful maneuvering and timing.
Once again, all of this requires sacrificing a decent amount of time for good seats, but as the night goes on and guests leave the park it will become a bit easier to find yourself a decent view, especially during the 11:55 showing.
If getting an up-close view for this show isn’t terribly important to you, the numerous scheduled performances mean you can catch a song here and there while you are walking between treat stops and attractions.
Is there anything new this year? Nope. As is often stated in this article, if you’ve seen it and can live without it, use those shows as opportunities to get snacks or ride attractions.
Special Character Appearances
Where/When to find them: Multiple locations throughout the park, all evening long.
It’s no secret that the standard meet-and-greets that you typically find during a regular day at Magic Kingdom are kicked up a notch for their hard-ticketed parties. The Characters that you can meet at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are quite noteworthy, as they are not the same characters that you’ll meet during your average day at the theme park. You will find that characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet are all dressed up in their holiday best. You’ll also find that your favorite Disney princesses are all decked out for the occasion as well. Additionally, special characters such as Jack Skellington (dressed as Sandy Claws) and Sally, all Seven Dwarfs, and Santa Claus will be on-hand for some great interaction and photo-taking opportunities.
When you should see them: It’s important to note that meeting these special characters requires a serious time commitment. At the 2018 Party, there were 15 locations for meeting characters — if you have your heart set on hitting them all, you may not accomplish anything else that night. We’re not convinced that it’s even possible to catch them all due to time constraints of the event, considering that the wait time in line for the Seven Dwarfs can typically range from an hour-and-a-half to two hours. Sandy Claws and Sally can run a little shorter, but not by much. We saw the line at Princess Fairytale Hall forming by 6:10 p.m., well before the party began, on opening night.
More so than even shows or parades, where you can come and go to a certain degree if you aren’t saving a spot, Christmas Character meets require sacrifice. It might be wise to prioritize, and carefully consider which ones are worth the wait for you or your group.
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas
What it is: This Christmas stage show features holiday song and dance numbers tweaked to highlight popular Disney and Pixar characters with a Tomorrowland presence. The cast member lead interacts with the audience in between attempts to explain who Santa Claus is to Stitch. Guests will see routines by Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and Santa Stitch, all accompanied by cast member backup dancers.
Where/When it is: Tomorrowland Rockettower Plaza Stage — 7:45, 8:35, 9:25, 10:45, and 11:35 p.m.
When you should see it: This stage performance is much smaller and more intimate than the main castle show, so you won’t be waiting for an hour searching for viewing space. A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas is perfect for those that need a break from walking around, yet still want to pack in some entertainment. These three characters are highly entertaining to children, and most adults have a soft spot for them as well. It’s a solid family-fun break in your evening that doesn’t require the immense crowd navigation that Main Street does. Tired kids, or tired adults for that matter, tend to sprawl out in the front — a good spot to rest those tired feet.
If these characters aren’t your favorites, or you have other priorities for the event, you won’t feel bad skipping this one. While enjoyable, it doesn’t have the spectacle of other entertainment offerings. No one will be asking you why you ditched it to ride attractions.
Is there anything new this year? Nope. If you are a Christmas party veteran and have caught this performance before, there will be no big additions or new characters added. If you loved it, watch it again. Otherwise, feel free to skip it this year.
The Edge Effect
What it is: This holiday concert features classic holiday harmonies performed in a cappella and is a great way to relax a little bit and enjoy some awesome vocals.
Where/When it is: Tomorrowland Rockettower Plaza Stage — 8:10, 9:00, 10:20, and 11:10 p.m.
When you should see it: The Edge Effect’s performance is all a capella, so if you’re not a fan of that type of music, “never” would be our recommendation on when to experience it. On the other hand, older guests who may need a break from all the walking at the party might find this show to be relaxing and enjoyable as the classic Christmas carols typically leaves you feeling festive. Performance times don’t greatly change the crowd size as it’s never very busy, so hit it up whenever you need a break or stop in for a song as you are passing by.
Is there anything new this year? While this event has had a cappella groups perform in the past, The Edge Effect is new to the party. Once again, if you happen to be a huge a cappella fan, this will be a draw. Otherwise, pretty much more of the same.
Disney Junior Jingle Jam
What it is: This lively dance party features favorite Disney Junior characters Vampirina and Doc McStuffins dancing the night away.
Where/When it is: Storybook Circus — 7:00 p.m. until midnight
When you should see it: One of the best things about this dance party is that it is continuous throughout the entire evening. This is a great way for young guests to get their wiggles out while dancing with characters from some of their favorite shows on Disney Junior. Parents with overly energetic kids looking to tire them out may want to bring them by for a while, but those without children will probably want to steer clear. If characters don’t matter and you’re just looking to tucker the kids out, bring them to Club Tinsel instead, as that has better seating options for adults.
Is there anything new this year? This offering is entirely new, so if you’ve got some little Very Merry veterans that want to experience something new this year, bring them by Storybook Circus.
What it is: This is another dance party featuring out-of-the-ordinary Disney holiday friends dancing the night away indoors with a live DJ.
Where/When it is: Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe — 7:00 p.m. until midnight
When you should see it: Like the Disney Junior Jingle Jam, this dance party runs continuously throughout the entire evening making it a great spot to let the kids dance until their heart’s content while parents and grandparents take a load off and watch as the shenanigans unfold. Fit this in-between the other bigger entertainment offerings that are only presented at specific times throughout the evening. While it doesn’t boast any prime children’s entertainment characters like Jingle Jam, just dancing polar bears and reindeer, it does have plenty of seating right on the dance floor. You can keep close by the young ones and take a load off while the kids party with Christmas-themed animals.
Is there anything new this year? Nope, this is your standard nondescript dance party.
What they are: Scattered throughout the park are complimentary snack offerings where guests can indulge in some holiday treats.
Where/When to find them? These are offered at numerous locations all evening long. (For an in-depth review of them, head HERE.)
When you should go: These snacks are not incredibly high-end, just free and kind of pleasant. The lines aren’t incredibly long for most of the party, but if you see a long line feel free to come back later. Some may be tempted to try and get every free snack there is. Try to keep things in perspective — for the price you paid to get through the gates, your time is far more valuable than a Dixie Cup of apple juice and a cookie.
If you are near a snack stop and you are a little peckish, pick something up. Spending time hunting these things down seems a little illogical when compared to riding attractions or watching shows. Luckily, there are quite a few of them throughout the park, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to grab and go.
Is there anything new this year? While there are only slight differences from last year, the most notable surprise is the addition of plastic bags to the cookies, which were previously handed out in napkins. Thereby killing the illusion that these treats were carefully crafted by Christmas elves.
Find Some Magic
What it is: That thing you start to feel when you stop worrying about how to have a good time, and just have one.
Where/When to find it: Inside you, and all over the Magic Kingdom.
When you should look for it: Always, but especially Christmas.
Is there anything new this year: There’s something new every year, if you look for it.