I know people PLAN Disney. They plan the heck out of Disney. They plan when they will eat, and where, and make reservations months in advance. They plan exactly which rides they’re going to go on and what order they’re going to ride them in. There is even some Fast Pass deal where you can register for rides ahead of time. Planned. Every minute. Out the wazoo.
But something magical happened to me last week. I went on a press trip to Melbourne, Florida and at the last minute we were given the option to visit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party “to see the fireworks show”.
Well, who can say no to an impromptu trip to Disney? Not me, that’s for sure.
At first, I thought they were bringing us to Walt Disney World strictly to see the fireworks, but I soon discovered that the Halloween Party is this whole THING.
It’s a separate ticketed event that happens in the Magic Kingdom, running from 7pm until midnight on select nights in August, September, October and November.
I didn’t see it myself, but there is a parade which apparently is led by the headless horseman himself (well, actually, technically there are two parades — one at 9:15pm and a repeat performance at 11:15pm). Then there is the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball (a Monsters Inc. themes dance party that seemed pretty popular with the four foot and under crowd), as well as the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltactular stage show and the Happy Hallowishes Fireworks. Rides are running. Some attractions are closed, but a good selection of rides across the Magic Kingdom are open.
We walked under the gateway and into Main Street at 8:30pm and we had to meet back up with the main group at 11pm. So we had two and a half hours. Two and a half hours to do Disney. With no plan. No clue where we were headed, or what we would see.
I partnered up with my pal Aeryn from Geek with Style. We talked about it and realized that we both had last been to Walt Disney World when we were around 8 years old. Things have changed a LOT in the park in thirty-some years. There were bunches of new rides that I’d never heard of. For example, I knew about the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride (I totally watched YouTube videos when that one launched. It looks so cool.), but Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor? What the heck is that? When did they add an Aladdin ride? And the Little Mermaid? How did I not know that existed? Geesh.
We had no plan, no sense of direction and a hard time reading the map in the dimly lit streets. We kept getting turned around. Disney in the dark, I quickly learned, is bewildering.
So we just wandered, basically, enjoying all the Halloween decorations, the costumes, the ghoulish tunes. The atmosphere was festive. It would be hard not to have a fun time.
We went on a few rides. It’s a Small World was nostalgic and fun, but Peter Pan’s Flight was pure magic. I hopped off that ride grinning from ear to ear, as Aeryn and I both loudly exclaimed, “That was AWESOME.”
We also managed to squeeze in a ride through the Haunted Mansion, which was pretty spooktacular. The special effects are really something else. I love that enormous dining room where the ghosts were waltzing in and out. If we weren’t on a tight timeframe we would have climbed right back on for another go.
Instead, we hurried over to the big square in front of Cinderella’s castle, hoping to find a good spot to watch the fireworks from. People were lined up, an unending sea of people, but it was still a great view (I don’t think there’s a bad spot to watch from, really).
And it was hands down the most amazing fireworks show I’ve ever seen.
I had a big goofy grin on my face as I watched in amazement. I joined in with the crowd, singing along to the scare-e-okee. It was just good fun.
Overall, I discovered that Disney, no planning, wander around and get lost in the dark Disney, is still non-stop grinning, put a skip in your step, fun.
We were only there for two and a half hours (yes, the event runs for five hours, but we were only there for half that long). In that time we managed to shop several of the Main Street stores, wander around and enjoy the Halloween decorations and cool costumes, watch the jawdropping Happy Hallowishes Fireworks show, get turned around in the dark half a dozen times, take approximately a bazillion photos, and ride on three iconic Magic Kingdom rides.
Here’s my takeaways, a.k.a. why Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party rocks:
Costumes are a thing. Normally Disney frowns upon adults wearing costumes within the Magic Kingdom. This event breaks all the rules and encourages all people, big and small, to dress up in their Halloween best (there are special rules about what you can and can not wear — for example masks are prohibited for anyone over the age of 14, capes max out at waist length and a floor length dress, or anything that drags along the ground, is a no-no).
Beat the heat. Wandering around the Magic Kingdom after dark sure beats cooking outside, at say midday, in the hot Florida sunshine.
No FastPass. FastPass doesn’t work during this magical Halloween event. It’s all old school. Head to a ride and decide if you want to queue up or not. And the absolutely lovely part is, the lines were ridiculously short.
How short are the wait times? Well, we waltzed directly into both the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World, and waited less than 20 minutes for Peter Pan’s Flight.
I suspect that people are distracted by the stage events (like the Hocus Pocus Villian Spelltactular and the Monsters Inc themed dance party), the trick or treating, the special character meet and greets, the Halloween themed photo opps, and, of course, Mickey’s “Boo To You” Halloween Parade. Whatever the reason – I think the short line-ups, plus the lack of that dastardly FastPass, make Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party the ideal way to do the Magic Kingdom with minimum pre-planning.
(Or, you know, go crazy and don’t plan at all — just jump in and wander around spontaneously like we did. Totally fun. Trust me.)
Disclosure: Thank you to Porter Airlines and Melbourne International Airport for the chance to travel to Melbourne Florida and experience, among other things, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. As always my words and opinions are my own.