I have to say we’ve lucked out when it comes to visiting the Disney Parks. We arrived in Disney World on the weekend before Thanksgiving, in time for the first Micky’s Very Merry Christmas Party of the season. And we visited Disneyland at the end of September, in time for the first Micky’s Not So Scary Halloween party that fall.
A Disney holiday party requires separate tickets and they’re pricey (like everything at Disney). But they also present unique opportunities that make them worth the cost.
Of course the parties vary from year to year and between parks. Here are some tips to help you decide if you want to spend the money and how to make the most of the parties if you do.(Going to a Disney Holiday Party? See our Disney At A Glance page for more planning help.)
5 Ways to Make the Most of Disney Park Holiday Parties
Get ready for a late night
The holiday parties are evening events and you’ll want to stay to the end, or nearly the end, to get your money’s worth and to see the parades and fireworks.
Make sure your kids are old enough to have the stamina to stay up untll 10:00 or 11:00 or you will be marveling at how they can make it snow outside in Orlando while your child snores in his stroller (definitely bring a stroller for ages 6 or younger).
Even with older kids, pace your day with a fairly action-packed late night in mind.
I admit my 5-year-old daughter’s eyes look a little glazed in some of the later photos at the Christmas party because we did spend part of the day at the park (though we took a pool break).
At Halloween event two years later we didn’t head to the *parks until after lunch and we set an easy pace for ourselves. She held up much better.
Make a budget-friendly move
The Disney parties take place on Friday and Saturday nights. I think the ideal thing to do from a budget standpoint is to get party tickets for the day you arrive.
This way you can skip getting regular park tickets for that day. Settle in to your hotel, spend the afternoon chilling out at the pool or visit the parts of the Disney resorts that don’t require tickets, like Downtown Disney and any of the elaborately themed hotels.
Have an early dinner before heading to the event so you don’t take up time with dining once you get there.
Find out what the earliest is you can enter with your party ticket (they usually let you in an hour or so before the party starts). Make a point of being there then to make the most of your special ticket and the emptying park.
Note: If your schedule doesn’t allow for an afternoon off, make the most of your time by spending the day at California Adventure on the West Coast or EPCOT, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Save Magic Kingdom for the evening when you can make the best use of your time there.
Enjoy the extras
Visiting Disney Resorts at Halloween or Christmas is an extra treat because the parks and hotels are decked out with holiday decorations. Look for giant Pumpkins, fancy jack o’lanterns, candy apples and lots of fall colors in October. In December you can enjoy towering Christmas trees, characters in winter scarves and hats and lots of holiday themed shop windows.
To make the party tickets worth their price Disney offers lots of special treats, including rolling out rarely seen characters and specially theme parades and shows.
The best part of Mickey’s Christmas party was the parade, which featured a stream of classic characters you don’t usually see like Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Tweedle Dee and Dum, Peter Pan, Christopher Robin, Clarabelle Cow (who my daughter loves) and many more.
Additionally, staff roamed the park with trays of cookies and hot cocoa, which we welcomed thanks to some unusually chilly weather! Minnie and Mickey donned holiday clothes and the princes join the princesses for meet-and-greets.
And yes, they actually do make it snow!
Note: We visited before Frozen made it’s debut. I’m certain the movies characters and theming probably play a big role in the Christmas event these days at both parks.
For Mickey’s Halloween party villains like Captain Hook, who’s surprisingly polite, Maleficent, Lady Tremaine and others roamed the park. My daughter wouldn’t go near Cruella DeVille. But I did and she was hilariously catty.
The highlight for many is the once-a-year opportunity for adults to wear costumes in the park. Some of the costumes are very good and of course many families go with a group theme.
The highlight for us was the lightshow and fireworks (get a spot at the castle end of Main Street for the best viewing of it all). Hosted by the Boogie Man, it’s a celebration of bad guys and Disney’s truly dazzling special effects.
Note: There is also ample trick-or-treating throughout the park. Parents whose kids have nut allergies should note that there was a lot of peanut candy in the mix, which surprised me.
They offer Goldfish, apple slices and baby carrots as alternative treats but my child (and most others I saw) politely eschewed them.
Don’t forget the rides
With all the other things going on it’s easy to forget the rides. But they admit a much smaller number of people than usual to the park for these events (this is a big part of what you pay for).
You can walk onto many of the rides and the wait for even popular ones is pretty minimal. At Disneyland we waited about five minutes to ride the Matterhorn, compared with a typical wait of 45 minutes or more.
At Disney World we walked right on to Peter Pan’s Flight, which often has the longest wait among its group of classic-movie-themed rides.
The only attractions that I saw with long lines at the Halloween party were the Haunted Mansion, which they’d redone with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme, and Space Mountain, which also featured extra Halloween elements. I don’t actually know what eitehr ride looked like because my daughter wouldn’t let us go near either.
At the Christmas party I don’t recall lines for anything we wanted to ride. Take advantage of this early in the evening before the special events start.
The Bottom Line
We were Disney’s guests at the Halloween Party (though I did try buying tickets before the invite came) and we paid for the Christmas party tickets.
Was it expensive? Yes, especially on top of a daily ticket. But it felt worth it and if I were at either park in fall or early winter I’d do the holiday party again.
I would plan to not get a regular park ticket that day. You can enjoy all the seasonal decorations in the parks without a party ticket, but the extras were fun and memorable. And really, access to a half empty Disney park is by itself worth the cost.
Final Note: As you should expect, these events are popular—a lot of season-pass holders attend—and they sell out. Don’t wait until you arrive to buy your tickets.