Everyone knows that Universal Studios in Orlando holds the crown for the best theme park Halloween experience; Halloween Horror Nights is an amazing event, and I enjoy the houses and the scare zones. However, I also get inexplicably nervous going to HHN, and the prices tend to terrify me more than the houses (especially if you add the cost of an Express Pass to skip the long lines).
So, I wanted to do something different this year. I hadn’t been to Disney’s version of Halloween in almost a decade, and wanted to experience Mickey’s Not So Scary as an adult with no kids. I love Hocus Pocus and desperately wanted to see the new castle show featuring the Sanderson Sisters, but to be honest, I also wanted a night where I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of a guy with a chainsaw chasing me.
On Friday October 6th, we (the hubby and I) attended Mickey’s big, spooky night. Luckily, the rain stayed away for the evening, and we had a good time. Here’s what I enjoyed, what I didn’t enjoy, and some tips for others attending:
As usual, I like to start off with the negatives and get that out of the way.
Too Much to Do, Too Little Time
The first time I attended this party (which also just so happens to be the first time my husband and I ever went to Disney, back when we started dating), I felt like we did everything. We didn’t have Annual Passes back then, so we took advantage of getting in at 4 pm and riding a few rides first.
TIP: If you have a ticket to the Halloween Party, you can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4 pm, even though the party officially starts at 7 pm. This gives you a chance to line up for rare characters before they come out at the start of the party (like for the Seven Dwarfs, or Jack and Sally), or to do other, non-party exclusive things.
This time, however, we got to the Magic Kingdom at 7:30 pm. The party ended at midnight. I foolishly thought we’d have enough time to ride all the rides and see all the special shows, since we now have Annual Passes and know the theme park drill, so to speak.
I was so wrong. There simply is too much to do now, and you need to prioritize what you want to do first so you don’t miss anything. Figure out which characters you want to meet and line up for them first. If there are specific “magic shots” (more on those later) that you want, head there first. If the parade and the castle show are your main draws, get a good spot for those early. If you get done what you want first, then you can relax a little when it comes to the other experiences.
TIP: Make sure to do Halloween party exclusive events and photos first, before worrying about riding the attractions. The attractions will always be there, but you won’t get the Halloween parade, fireworks, or rare character opportunities during normal park hours. Grab a special event map at the beginning of the night, and figure out where and when the characters/events will be.
Also, the treat trails stay open all night, so don’t worry about getting enough candy. In fact, you may have better luck getting more candy if you trick-or-treat toward the end of the night- the cast members often start dumping large piles of candy in your bag as it reaches park closing.
Because of my poor timing, we didn’t get to ride more than three attractions- but we did get to see the Hocus Pocus show, watch the parade, get plenty of candy, and meet some rare characters.
Eating Dinner During the Party
This is probably the number one thing I would advise against. Seriously, sitting down and eating a cheap, quick-service meal during the party is a huge time suck.
For one thing, there aren’t any (to my knowledge) table service restaurants open during the Halloween Party. Your only options for “dinner food” are Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill’s, and Casey’s Corner. There are snack kiosks open, as well as Gaston’s Tavern, The Main Street Bakery, and Sleepy Hollow, but they have limited offerings.
My favorite quick-service in the Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbor House, is only open until 8 pm on Halloween Party nights.
The husband and I, since we got stuck in traffic and hadn’t had a chance to eat dinner yet, ate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland right after getting into the party. This was a huge mistake. It was crowded, the food was crappy, and we missed out on a lot of time that could’ve been spent riding rides or meeting characters.
Seriously, if you’re going to the Halloween Party and can’t grab a bite to eat before it starts, just grab some popcorn, a pretzel, or one of the special Halloween treats that they sell, and munch on those as you walk around. Eat an early dinner or a late, late dinner if you want a proper meal. Don’t waste precious party time eating bad quick-service. I’m ashamed to say that we wasted a whole hour queuing for food and then eating it. It was insanely busy in that restaurant.
TIP: Try not to spend valuable Party time eating sub-par meals, and spend the night snacking instead. It’s Halloween, let loose a little.
Long Lines for Rare Characters
During Not So Scary, a lot of rare characters come out for meet and greets. And the lines for them can get VERY long. A lot of the villains come out, but this year, it looked like the most popular characters were Moana, Jack and Sally, Lotso, and the Seven Dwarfs (yes, all seven of them at once- an amazing picture opportunity!
When I say long waits, I’m talking two hours or more- so if you want a photo with any of these characters that don’t usually come out during a regular park day, plan and be patient. You may not get to meet all the characters you want to in one night, and I feel as though Disney is doing this on purpose. They want you to pay to come back for multiple Halloween parties, so they make it impossible to do everything within a 5-hour window.
TIP: Don’t get upset if you can’t get a picture with every character. Go visit your favorite characters first, and try the lines for the others at the end of the night. My husband and I jumped in line for Jack and Sally around 11:55 pm (five minutes before the party ended), and got to meet Jack and Sally with a 15-minute wait. If you’re in line before midnight, the characters will take a picture with you (the popular ones will give out autograph cards, instead of signing books, to spend more time interacting with you).
Okay, so this isn’t really Disney’s fault, but I’m a bit salty over how little attention parents seemed to pay to their kids on this night.
While we were eating at Cosmic Ray’s, there was a table of middle-school kids next to me. I was waiting for my husband to get the food while I guarded our table and bags, so I was unable to move. I could hear the kids playing with the sauce packets, but didn’t really think anything of it. I had no idea where their parents were.
Then I felt it. A splatter of something icky raining down on me. I looked down at my shorts and saw barbecue sauce. I looked at my bright pink hoodie and saw barbecue sauce. I was COVERED in sticky, brown, staining barbecue sauce and it smelled FOUL. And the kids just laughed and did nothing. I had to sit there and keep waiting for my husband to return with the food before I could go to the restroom and try to clean up.
I was so grossed out, guys. This was not a good start to my night. Luckily, my jacket got the most of the damage and I could wipe the sauce off my legs (it seriously went EVERYWHERE), so all I had to do was take off my jacket. But damn, I was pissed. What if I had been wearing a costume that I had worked really hard on? Where the hell were these parents?
So yeah, watch your kids. Even if you think they’re old enough to be on their own, they may ruin someone else’s night. I could still have a good time, but I now have to buy a new jacket. If you’re wearing a nice costume, stay away from kids with condiments.
As always, when it comes to Disney, the positives far outweigh the negatives. This holds true especially during the Halloween season.
Special Shows, Fireworks, and Parades
The main reasons to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is for the special events. There is a Halloween-themed parade and fireworks show that you can’t see during normal park hours, and a Hocus Pocus Villains Spectacular castle show that you don’t want to miss. These are all extremely well-done, and if you plan it right, you can see all three in one night.
The Boo-To-You Halloween parade features special characters (like Captain Jack Sparrow, Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope, and all the villains), as well as Mickey and his friends dressed in their Halloween costumes. The Headless Horseman rides at the start of the parade, and there are some cool parade segments featuring the dancing ghosts from the Haunted Mansion, the Sugar Rush Baton Twirlers, and (my favorite), the Gravediggers from the Haunted Mansion, who use their spades to make sparks shoot out from the ground. They usually run two parades a night, one at 9:15 pm, and one at 11:15 pm (times may vary).
TIP: If you can, attend the second parade of the night. This one is usually less crowded, and if you watch it from in front of the Christmas Shop in Liberty Square, you can jump in Jack and Sally’s line right after it ends.
We had a strange experience with the parade, however. For some reason, the 11:15 pm parade was delayed, and didn’t start until 11:30 pm. When it did start, a bunch of characters were missing. The Headless Horseman didn’t ride, characters were missing from floats, and things just seemed a little off. Of course, I’m happy the parade didn’t get cancelled, but I missed seeing Ralph and the Horseman. Oh, well, I suppose that’s what YouTube is for!
For the Hocus Pocus show, they were doing four performances that night. We decided to see the 10:45 pm show, so we could go straight from there to the parade. The show was about 20-minutes long, and it wasn’t too crowded at that time. You don’t have to be a fan of the movie to enjoy the show, as most of the Disney villains make an appearance. It’s one of my favorite castle shows, and in my opinion, beats the one they do at Christmas time (sorry, I know people love the Christmas shows)!
Now, this is an unpopular opinion, but ever since seeing Happily Ever After, my husband and I find it hard to be impressed by any other firework show. It’s just not the same anymore without projections on the castle (and yes, I know they do some ghostly projections, but I’m talking full-on movie scene projections). Therefore, for the Halloween fireworks, we decided to take advantage of the short wait times and ride Haunted Mansion instead. We managed to catch the tail end of the show after we exited the ride, and saw the 360-degree firework finale.
This is a good time to remember that everyone likes different things. For most Not So Scary-goers, the fireworks are a must-do, and they stake out a spot in front of the castle. This is great, and if you want to see the fireworks, find a spot a few minutes before the show starts (unlike Happily Ever After, you can watch the show from behind the castle as well). The fireworks for the Halloween Party are unique in that they contain perimeter fireworks, meaning they can be seen from all around the park, and it is VERY cool. Personally, however, I wanted to ride rides instead. It’s totally up to you!
Unique Merchandise and Sorcerer’s Cards
Another cool reason to purchase a Party ticket is a chance to get exclusive Halloween items, like Magic Bands and Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom cards (for those who like playing the game and collecting the cards, you get exclusive cards at the Halloween and Christmas parties- you can only get them by attending the party, or by paying outrageous amounts for them on eBay).
In fact, sometimes the Sorcerer’s Card and the Magic Bands are SO exclusive (depending on the year), that they limit the amount of special merchandise you can get. For instance, when we got in line to get our Sorcerer Card, they had to mark our bands to make sure we each only got one. For the Magic Bands, they were limited to only a few per guest (we didn’t buy any, so I’m not certain, but usually for Limited Edition Magic Bands, it’s two per person).
They also sell Halloween-themed merchandise like shirts, household decorations, ears (and more), but these I’m pretty sure you can get during normal park hours. They do sell out quick though! The Hocus Pocus shirts, for example, only had a few left by the time we got to the Emporium at the end of the night. Definitely check with a Cast Member to ask about exclusive party merchandise, and where you can get them.
Unique Photo Opportunities
Along with the rare character meet-and-greets are things called “magic shots,” where a Photopass photographer will insert a “surprise” image into your photo- this is usually themed to the ride or land you’re in at the time the photo is being taken.
For example, you can get magic shots during regular park hours as well. One of them is on Main Street, where the photographer will tell you to hold your hands together and look down- then, after you look at the picture, you’ll see Tinkerbell there! There are more and more magic shot opportunities all over the parks- you can get one with a “banshee” inserted over at Pandora, one with Figment over at Epcot, and one with Sebastian over at The Little Mermaid attraction. The photographer might tell you to “act surprised” or point somewhere, so the pictures come out looking like the characters are actually there.
During the Halloween Party, some of the magic shots include Hitchhiking Ghosts, Spooky Butlers, and the Headless Horseman appearing in your photo. You can also get special photo opportunities with props, like holding a lantern in front of the Haunted Mansion ride.
A magic shot I really wanted was one located near the Tangled restroom area. With this photo, guests can hold an actual lantern, like the ones from the film. Since Tangled is one of my favorite movies, I wanted this photo badly.
Now, this photo opportunity is not exclusive to the Halloween Party, but it usually has a really long line. So, I took advantage of the short wait for this night and got my “floating lantern” magic shot. I wanted this more than any of the Halloween photos, and I’m really happy with my decision- I don’t know if I could’ve waited in a long line for that picture on a regular night.
TIP: Ask a Cast Member where all the exclusive magic shots are located, as they can be all over the park. The best time to get these shots is at the end of the night, as you have a better chance of getting less people in the background.
Short Waits for Attractions
You’ll never see shorter wait times for rides than during the Halloween or Christmas parties at Magic Kingdom. Since they only sell a certain number of tickets for the party per night, and because there is so much going on, the attractions are all usually walk-ons. They don’t even offer FastPass+ for these nights, since they aren’t needed.
For instance, Space Mountain had a 15-minute wait. Peter Pan, usually the ride with the longest wait times, was 30-minutes. The longest wait time I saw was for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which was at 45-minutes.
My husband and I got to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the People Mover (I know, but it’s my favorite), and Haunted Mansion- a must-do attraction on Halloween Party nights, just because the atmosphere is extra spooky. We probably could’ve done more, but chose to do other activities instead.
TIP: Keep in mind, not all attractions are open during the Halloween Party. Some attractions are used for treat trails, where you can collect candy (they give you a candy bag upon entering the party). Stitch’s Great Escape (soon to be closed for a Stich Meet-and-Greet location) is a walk-through candy trail during Halloween nights, and Mickey’s Philharmagic is also a treat trail (however, in Philharmagic, they do play Halloween cartoons on the screen inside the theater, so you can always sit, chill, and watch some Ichabod and Mr. Toad if you need a break).
Amazing Costumes and Atmosphere
I’m not into dressing up, but some guests are so creative with their costumes, and everyone looked amazing. I loved guessing who everyone was dressed up as- surprisingly, I didn’t see a lot of Elsas!
Magic Kingdom also has a lot of special lighting, Mickey pumpkins are everywhere, and the fog is out in full force. A ghostly character telling stories sits on the Haunted Mansion porch, interacting with guests. Spooky projections shine on certain buildings, and the castle is bathed in blue, purple, and green light. You just don’t get this kind of atmosphere during the day!
All in all, I really enjoyed the party. Yes, I wish I could’ve done more, but that’s the way the parties are laid out now. So, come early, focus on what you want to do most, and enjoy the night! Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I’m glad I got to experience it the Disney way, rather than the Universal way, for this season.
Have you ever been to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Is it just for kids? If so, do you have any tips or favorite moments?
Hugs and Fishes,