The Cure for those Post-Summer Blues: A Trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!
By Matt Papuchis
This past Monday was Labor Day here in the U.S., which has left people all over the country collectively asking themselves the same thing; ‘where did summer go?’ I don’t have an answer for you, unfortunately, because I have been asking myself the same thing. Despite the fact that I live in Florida, which is basically an “endless summer,” there is always something sad about seeing summer end. For those of us with children, those laid-back carefree summer nights are quickly replaced with homework and sports practices. And life-guard’s whistles are traded for alarm clocks and school bells.
So with Labor Day signifying the unofficial end of summer, many are already starting to feel the post-summer blues. Fear not because while I can’t turn back time and bring us back to Memorial Day weekend (if Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of it), I do have some good news for you: it’s not too late to make some fun family memories this fall.
Whether you have some PTO days saved up from that summer vacation you didn’t take, or you’re just looking for a fun weekend get-away, now is the perfect time to travel to Walt Disney World in Orlando! And this blog is your guide to all the fun. Over the next four blog posts, starting with this one, I’ll focus on a different reason to visit Disney this fall. Sound fun? Let’s begin with…Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom.
If there is one thing Disney does right, it’s the holidays. Even though Halloween is still almost two months away, stroll down Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom right now and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a Halloween wonderland. The infamous Mickey pumpkin wreaths adorn every lamppost in the park (see pics) and pumpkin-shaped and Halloween-inspired treats are available at every food outlet. But perhaps the signature event at Disney World during the fall is Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). This party seems to start earlier each year – in fact the first one this season was August 17! But I digress. I actually attended the party on August 31 (as I mentioned with youth sports starting, Labor Day weekend was actually the most convenient time for us – plus I needed to check it out early, so I could blog about it and share my tips with you!).
Here’s the deal, this is a special ticketed event only available on certain nights, so you’ll need to check the schedule and purchase tickets in advance. If you are an annual Passholder, you do get a discount. If you’re not, you can just purchase tickets for the party and not have to buy a separate park ticket for that day. The party technically runs from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. But they let you in as early as 4:00 p.m. so you can get eight solid hours in for just the price of the party ticket. Depending on when you go between now and October 31, tickets range anywhere from $79 to $109 (Friday nights are more expensive and it’s also pricier the closer you get to Halloween). So, what’s so special about it? Here are a few highlights:
· Kids (and adults) can dress-up and go Trick-or-Treating. Now, as much of a Disney nerd (aka DisNerd) as I am, I have to admit, I am not into the dress up thing. I did wear a Disney t-shirt of course, but I didn’t do a costume. That said, plenty of other grown-ups did and my kids of course had a blast wearing a costume and running through the park loading up on candy. So even if you don’t wear a costume, you literally can go trick-or-treating through the Magic Kingdom and can stock up on as much candy as your heart desires. They provide an unlimited number of “goody bags” that you can fill up as much as you want all over the park. How cool is that?!
· Special Halloween Parade, Fireworks and Castle Stage Show. If there is one thing that conjures up images of Disney magic, it’s watching a spectacular firework show over Cinderella’s Castle. This is true every night of the year but especially so during special events like MNSSHP. “Hallowishes” is the fireworks show during the party and it is pretty awesome. Narrated by the host of Haunted Mansion, Hallowishses features the Disney villains, spooky castle projections and a haunting soundtrack. If fireworks shows are the signature event at any Disney party, parades are a close second. And the “Boo to You” parade is a special treat. See your favorite Disney villains and heroes parading down Main Street to fun music and choreography (with a special appearance from the Headless Horseman!). The castle stage show is another Magic Kingdom signature. In this one, the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus are the stars of the show and mix up a special potion to cast a spell on all at Magic Kingdom!
· Special and rare character meet and greets. If you’ve ever been to any Disney park, you know one of the most magical moments is meeting the iconic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh, or Cinderella. One of the coolest things about this party is, they break out the “rare” characters who typically are not available for character meets during a routine park day. Examples this year that we met include Lotso Huggin’ Bear (from Toy Story 3), Jafar (from Aladdin), Jack Skellington (from the Nightmare Before Christmas), as well as some of the “regular” characters decked out in their Halloween best.
· Smaller Crowds = more ride time without the waits. The best thing about the rides at Disney nowadays is the Fast Pass (which I briefly touched on in my last post). Essentially these allow you to skip the lines and get on a ride in minutes. Now they don’t offer Fast Passes for the party, but you don’t need them. While some rides will have wait times, they are considerably shorter than that of an average park day. For example, we rode Thunder Mountain twice in 10 minutes; each time it had posted wait times of five minutes, but it was more like two. Also, some of the rides, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, offer a special Halloween twist just for the party. Pirates, for example, featured a real live-action pirate just for MNSSHP.
· Decadent and fun snacks and treats. Let’s be real, it’s always about the food, am I right? MNSSHP does not disappoint in that department! From the ‘Not-So-Poison Apple’ cupcake at Main Street Bakery to the Pumpkin Shake at Auntie Gravity’s in Tomorrowland, each treat was sweeter and more decadent than the next. Plus, don’t forget to pick up your special Oogie Boogie refillable popcorn bucket!
OK so there you have it – MNSSHP in five bullet points. But like anything else at Disney, you won’t be able to do it all. So you’ll still need to walk in with a plan and prioritize what you want to do most and what you can’t “miss.” For us, we (ok me) really wanted to meet Lotso. It was about a 25-minute wait. If you’re not into the characters, then you can use that time to go on a couple rides or check out more trick-or-treat stations. The most popular character meet was Stitch in an Elvis costume. How rad?! But it was at least a 50-minute wait when we walked by it so we had to decide if it was worth that. For us, the answer was no – but plenty of people sure made time for it and probably had a blast. So, again, you just have to pick and choose and realize you can’t do everything. For us, we wanted to do a sampler platter if you will and check out a little bit of everything – so we met a few characters, rode three rides, watched the parade, fireworks and castle show, did some trick-or-treating, and noshed on a few treats. Oh, and the merchandise game was strong too! Either way, you will have a ball!
In my next post I will share my second reason to visit WDW this fall – EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival, which runs through November 12. Can you say YUM?