Starting in September when the Magic Kingdom at WDW starts to close earlier, you can add a ticket to Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party. The September parties are definitely less crowded and cheaper. (Annual Pass-holders get additional discounts.) Parties are held on select nights during the week through November 2 (in 2012) and last from 7 pm to midnight. People really get into it.
There are more adults in costume than children. The children’s costumes are often the package variety, many bought at the Disney Store. The adults however have thrown all their creativity into it. There are serious princess “wantabes”, some with more elaborate costumes that the actual cast member counterparts. (Disney employees are all called cast members.) I saw a young woman dressed as Cinderella turning people away because she, like them, was a guest. Kudos to her; I might have been tempted to let them take the picture and sign the autograph book. Of course, my days of being mistaken for a storybook princess are long over. The fairy godmother maybe, but no longer Cinderella.
The Disney cast member greeters are in special costume just for this event. You are given a wrist band to distinguish you from the regular guests who must exit the park at 7 pm. Somewhere around 4 or 5 pm you can start arriving in costume. Although you will see small children in Disney costumes (usually a princess) year-round, adults are only allowed to enter the park in costume for the Halloween parties so they are not confused with the cast member performers. In addition to your wrist band, you are handed a bag so you can go trick-or-treating and a schedule of events. We got to the park in costume about 5:45 pm and the looks from the day guests (who were probably clueless as to the later event) were priceless.
“People watching” was a big part of the evening. It was fun to see the composition of the crowd change as the day guests departed and the costume-clad partiers arrived. I would say that 85-90 % of the party-goers come in costume. Right at 7 pm, the lighting in the whole park changed and special music was piped through the Disney sound system. Large free-standing pumpkin lights were set up to mark the trick or treat spots. This was Maggie’s 4th Halloween Party so she served as our private guide for the evening. No worries. Even if you don’t have a guide, the locations for candy are all marked on the park map. I really don’t remember the last time I trick-or-treated, but it was a hoot. Definitely not about the candy for me, just the experience. For those keen on a trip to the dentist, you are allowed to go back as many times as you want. On either side of the park, there are also trails with multiple candy stops along the way.
We went to the Villains’ Dance Mix & Mingle at 7:45 pm, just after dark. They do a short show on the steps on the castle and then you can take pictures with the villains (no autographs). You must know where your villain of choice will be because they are only out for 10 minutes and then go inside. This is the only time of the year that these characters appear in the park. Luckily with Maggie as our guide, we were able to snag a picture with Maleficent because we knew where she would stand. Stephanie, who was in front of us in line and dressed like a Mouseketeer, told us she had come the night before just so she would know where to stand to catch each of the villains. I told you; people really get into this.
Next was more trick-or-treating and then the parade. They do four villain shows during each party and the parade is run twice.
Mickey’s “Boo to You” Halloween Parade is not to be missed. Characters are in costumes unique to this event and the floats and parade themes are special. My favorite performers were the dancing grave diggers modeled after the Haunted Mansion attraction and led by the light-bearing caretaker and his dog.
Next was…you guessed it…more trick-or-treating. For younger children, there are character dance parties on either side of the park with Woody from Toy Story and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. Of course you can’t forget the shopping. If you are a collector, you might want to pick up one of the special tee-shirts or trading pins that are only available for purchase during the Halloween parties. Purchasing one also means you have a larger bag to fill up with candy. (I did not do this. Well the shopping yes, but not the big bag trick-or-treating.) At some point having had only candy for dinner, we decided to sit down and have some popcorn. Not the most nutritious evening.
Try as I might to convince her otherwise, my tour guide insisted that we did not have time for any of the rides. This in spite of the fact that most of the wait times were only 5 or 10 minutes on the major attractions. Maggie was right, we barely had time for all the special events. However, this is a great time for short waits if that is your priority. The only ride we did go on was The Haunted Mansion. I do recommend a stop there as they make a few changes/additions to celebrate the holiday.
There is a wonderful fireworks show unique to the halloween party, Happy HalloWishes. In addition to the lights in the sky, there are halloween projections on the castle. Best viewing for the whole show is facing the castle. However, if your just want to see the fireworks portion, you have a better view behind the castle in Fantasyland. Some people consider this the best fireworks show that Disney does.
Since we were all reliving our childhood on this trip, Emma bought us autograph books. We closed out the evening with a stop at the Town Square Theater (just to the right as you enter the park and pass under the train station) for autographs and photos with Minnie and Mickey who were in special costume for the event. There is a separate line for meeting the storybook princesses Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. What is special about a visit during the Halloween party is that their Princes are also with them. These “face characters” work hard to stay in character while reacting to your costume. Since I was dressed as a tavern wench, Prince Charming suggested I apply at Gaston’s Tavern which is set to open in the new Fantasyland in December.