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We recently returned from our longest trip ever to Disney World and it was wonderful. Based on the fabulous time we had last year at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) we decided to go again during this trip. This was perhaps one of the things the kids were most excited about for the trip. So, did the party live up to the standard it set last year?
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a hard ticket event offered several nights a week at Magic Kingdom. Party days tend to fall on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, though there can be some variety in this. In 2018 the parties run from November 8-December 21. The cost per ticket varies depending on the part of the season and day of the week the party falls on. For example, parties in the beginning of November are cheaper than those the week before Christmas. There are also discounts offered on certain dates for Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, and the military.
As soon as we booked our dates for this trip we decided we wanted to do the party again. If you read our MVMCP trip report from 2017, then you know that we had the best time at the party last year. The kids spent all year looking forward to going again. Clearly, that’s a lot of pressure to put on an event. I first began getting nervous when reports of “overselling” tickets began circulating about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). The general consensus was that the parties were getting more and more crowded each year, while the ticket prices were simultaneously going up. Tracey and I went to MNSSHP in September during our infamous last minute trip, and that party definitely felt significantly more crowded than the sold out MVMCP we went to last year. I had my worries, but I decided I would take my approach of “plan for the worst and hope for the best” and just go with it.
True to form in Disney planning, we chose the date of the party we wanted to go to over 6 months in advance. Typical wisdom is that Tuesday parties will be the least crowded and Friday parties are the most crowded. Even with this information, a Friday night party fit the general flow of our vacation best so we decided to just go for it.
All of our Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) and Fast Passes (FP) were then planned around this schedule. It wasn’t until we were less than 60 days away from the trip that I realized my mistake: the party we chose wasn’t available for the DVC discount. The savings with the discount would have been a good chunk of change, but since Disney encourages you to have your entire vacation planned out to the minute, there was nothing I could do about it without changing EVERYTHING we already had planned. So, here you go Disney, just take my money. At least I bought the tickets with my discounted Disney gift cards so I saved a little money on them.
After some discussion, Doug and I decided that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and used the same general MVMCP touring strategy that we used last year. We had such success with it last time we wanted to see if it was a sound strategy that would continue to hold up. The only big change that we made was arriving to Magic Kingdom earlier than last year thanks to the Disney Vacation Club membership benefit that was offered this year. All DVC members could bring themselves and up to 7 people into Magic Kingdom starting at 2:00p instead of 4:00p for all other party ticket holders.
Our plan was to get there around 3:00p, giving us time to use some FPs before our dinner reservation. Well, that didn’t quite work out as well as we would have liked. Due to the challenges involved in getting 4 people out the door, dealing with transportation, security, etc., we ended up having to power walk our way into the park and head straight to our first FP at Jingle Cruise. We made it with a minute to spare in the FP grace window.
It was shortly after this that I realized our next FP would either make us late for our dinner reservation or we would have to skip the FP. As it happened, this FP was for Thunder Mountain, which is one of our favorite rides at Disney World. So, we were late to dinner.
Last year we had a 4:00p reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern and loved how that turned out. We debated going to Liberty Tree again this year, but ultimately decided to book a 4:00p reservation at Jungle Navigation Company’s Skipper Canteen because of the amazing reviews we read. Skipper Canteen has a great reputation within the Disney Gluten Free community and we really wanted to try some place new. I’ll write a full review later on Skipper Canteen, but overall we enjoyed the meal and atmosphere.
Also, we feel that having a longer sit down meal at this time worked out well for us and our touring strategy. Most people will discourage doing a sit down during a hard ticket event so you aren’t “wasting money”, but for us it’s perfect. Between 4p-6p you will find the biggest crowds of the night while party goers enter and day guests are trying to enjoy the last couple of hours they are allowed in the park. Using a good chunk of this time stuffing my face with delicious food is a win in my book.
After dinner we had one more FP to use up and then we would officially switch gears to party mode. An interesting anecdote during this time frame comes courtesy of my friend Rachel and her family who were at Disney with us. They were also at the party that evening, and one of their priorities was meeting Moana. I had given Rachel basic timelines of when to begin lining up and when Moana would see guests based on reports prior to our trip.
Rachel headed to Adventureland and could find no signs of the Moana line. She even asked a cast member who was wandering by where the line was supposed to be for Moana. The CM didn’t even know who Moana was! The only vague answer she was given was that Moana wouldn’t come out until the party started at 7p, which I knew was untrue. Rach was texting me all this information while we ate our dinner.
After dinner we walked right by Moana’s location on our way to our Pirates FP, and there was the line, complete with a sign at the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room identifying that Moana would be there. This was probably just before 5:30p. Moral of the story: don’t trust a CM who hasn’t heard of Moana. Good news is they got in line after I told them it was there and they saw Moana with a relatively short wait time.
Our basic strategy at this point was to watch the 6:15p castle lighting and then begin the rounds on the rides. Instead of the Adventureland side of the Hub, this year we tried the planter areas on the outskirts of the Hub on the Tomorrowland side. I think the views on this side are a little better than on the Adventureland side. We got there about 10 minutes before it started and found a good spot. I love this area because the kids can stand on the little wall without blocking anyone, there are no crowds behind you, and the planted area in front of you prevents anyone from blocking your view too badly. And you can show up 10 minutes in advance and still get a spot.
From this point of the night on, our goal was to wait no longer than 20-25 minutes for anything, with that longer wait designated for 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. Spoiler alert: we were wildly successful. The kids decided to skip Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show in favor of rides. I was a little sad about this as I love a good stage show, but I wasn’t upset to get on more rides.
We also began scoping out the snack stations at this time, going in if we passed one with a short line. This year the cookies were individually wrapped, which I think helped to make the lines move even faster than last year. No wasted time while the CM wrapped your cookies in a napkin! Another side benefit to this is that the cookies stay fresh for longer. Between the 4 of us we collected a lot of cookies (and we only went to 2 or 3 cookie stations!). Doug and the kids are still eating the cookies almost 2 weeks later and find them to be perfectly good.
As was the case last year, the allergy friendly offerings were lame. I was repeatedly offered a bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies. They are fine, I guess, but not exactly the greatest. At one of the stations (I think Pinocchio Village Haus) when I asked the CM for the gluten free option she looked at me like I had two heads and offered me some vegan cookies. When I asked if they were also GF, she looked at me exasperatedly before turning and walking away without saying a word. She came back with the bag of the Enjoy Life cookies.
This is an area where I feel Disney could really improve with the parties. For anyone with allergies, the complimentary food offered at the parties is pretty bad. Rachel and her crew similarly struggled to find allergy friendly offerings. We did not buy any of the party exclusive treats this year. None of them really jumped out at us so we decided to save our money. This is another reason why I insist on having a good sit down meal before the start of the party: I know my food options will be more limited once the party starts so I need to fill myself up beforehand.
This year we decided to try watching the parade from Liberty Square instead of Frontierland. Our plan was to dash off to Mine Train after the parade passed us. We found a spot that was exactly on the bend of the road through Liberty Square with Haunted Mansion off to our right and Columbia Harbour House behind us. We didn’t get there early enough to get front row, but we were able to get the kids in the second row and we figured this spot gave us a great escape route. Of note, we decided to park the stroller away from us at this point and go without it for a little while to allow us easier maneuverability through the crowds.
I was pretty pleased with this parade spot right up until the parade started and the very bright spotlight directly across from us was turned on. It was like the sun was setting right across from us. You had to shade your eyes in order to see. Also, since right next to our spot was considered a thru traffic area before the parade started, there was a CM right there to keep it clear. This CM then spent the entire parade standing almost directly in front of us, walking back and forth in front of us, and yelling at the people behind us to get off the ledges. I actually felt pretty bad for her as you could tell she was stressed, but needless to say, this took away from the ambiance a bit.
And don’t get me started on the grown man who decided to stand directly in front of my two kids at the last minute instead of sitting on the ground with the rest of his family in the front row and not blocking the view of everyone behind him under 6ft tall. But he did help to block the direct glare of the enormous spotlight at least. Clearly, I wouldn’t recommend this spot for anything other than it really was a clear escape after the parade was over. After all this, the wait for Mine Train was still too long for our tastes, so the whole maneuver was a bit of a fail.
We watched the fireworks in Fantasyland again, specifically in front of Beast’s castle, which I continue to highly recommend. It’s just so cool to be surrounded by the fireworks, especially during the finale when the perimeter fireworks are launched. Just like last year, from the fireworks on was the sweet spot of the party. It was at that time that we were finally able to get onto 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (twice!) and had what was perhaps all of our favorite memory of the whole night.
After riding Mine Train, we checked the wait times on the app and saw that Thunder Mountain had a 5-minute wait. As mentioned before, the whole family loves this ride, and we especially love it at night. So off we went to ride a runaway train. We walked right on the ride, as a posted 5-minute wait is typically code for walk on. As soon as we exited the kids asked to go again so we hopped right back in the “line”. Once again we walked right onto the train, there was not even a slight pause in our gait. When we got off the train onto the platform after this ride, the CM said that if we wanted to ride again we could just hop right back on. Well, Nolan thought this was the coolest thing ever and began laughing maniacally in a way that only an overtired 6-year-old could manage. It was awesome, and a memory I will keep forever.
We closed out the party at midnight in Fantasyland before beginning our leisurely walk to the exit. I was really looking forward to this as I love being in a park this late when it’s beginning to empty. All fine and good, except that this year there was a midnight showing of the stage show, so my “almost empty” time of last year was replaced by a large crowd of people. But the kids enjoyed watching bits of the stage show before we left, so there’s that at least.
As you can probably tell, we once again really enjoyed the party and consider this to be a worthwhile up-charge event to do. Again, our main goal is ambiance and rides, which we achieved big time. We all agree that there’s just something special about the Christmas party. As Disney continues to increase the price and number of tickets sold, we’ll have to re-evaluate.
Despite reports of “overselling” the party tickets, we really didn’t see too big of an impact at our party. Sure, there were aspects of it that felt more crowded than others, but judging by the quantity of rides we were able to get on while waiting 20 minutes or less, including all of the most popular rides in Magic Kingdom, having a successful party is still doable.
Have you gone to MVMCP? Do you love it as much as we do, or do you find it’s just not to your taste? Comment below and let me know. Don’t forget to follow The Disney Journey on Facebook and Pinterest.