On Sunday night, we attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, an after-hours holiday event held at the Magic Kingdom. This extra-charge event includes a special Halloween-themed parade and fireworks show as well as trick-or-treating at various candy-distribution stations located all over the park. There also is a lot of special Halloween decoration, lighting, and music in the park in order to add to the mood.
Disney has wisely created a fun, very family-oriented event that is focused on the more light-hearted aspects of the holiday instead of the scarier blood and gore type of horror that is found at the Universal Studios and Six Flags parks and at the grandfather of theme park Halloween events, the Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm. The focus here is mostly on Disney characters (and kids) dressed in Halloween costumes and Disney-style spooky characters like Jack Skellington, The Headless Horseman, and the ghosts of the Haunted Mansion. It is generally the right tone for an event at a Disney park.
We started our evening with dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern, a character-dining restaurant located in the Liberty Square section of the Magic Kingdom. This has become a favorite of our family and is now pretty much one of our annual traditions during our visits. The meal is a very traditional American meat and potatoes meal served in an all-you-can-eat family-style approach. The menu includes roast beef, turkey and ham as well as mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green beans, and lots of salad and rolls. Dessert is apple cobbler and vanilla ice cream. Obviously, this is hardly an exotic meal, but it is a type of meal that our family tends to really enjoy. I wouldn’t call the food quality spectacular, but it is generally tasty and they provide lots of it.
The characters at this meal include many of our son’s favorites, including Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Chip & Dale. A great added touch for the Halloween event nights is that all of the characters are wearing costumes of their own. For example, Chip & Dale were wearing spider and bat masks, respectively, causing us to occasionally amuse them with our renditions of the "Spider-Chip" and "Bat-Dale" theme songs. We have always had great experiences with the character interaction at this location and our dinner this year was no exception. The visits to our table were frequent and the characters gave our son (and the rest of our party) lots of attention.
When we first arrived at dinner, it had just started to rain. By the time we finished it was absolutely pouring rain and wasn’t looking much like it would let up too quickly. We struggled into our already-purchased rain ponchos, which did turn into a bit of a battle with our son that was finally resolved by a threat to return to the hotel if he wouldn’t wear it. We then made a quick trip to the front of the park to get a locker since some of us were carrying bags that weren’t overly waterproof. It turned out that the use of a locker was being offered at no charge that evening, which was a really nice touch. We didn’t need one, but at the same time we learned that stroller and wheelchair rentals were also free. I’m not sure if these were due to the rain or if it is normal for these events.
We had a Cookie Monster costume that we had brought along for our son to use, but we decided to just put it in the locker at that point instead. With the weather, we were worried that it would pretty much just fill with water and quickly become seriously uncomfortable, not to mention get ruined. We had serious doubts that we would be able to convince him to wear it anyway. We actually had brought the exact same costume along to the Halloween event at Disney’s California Adventure last year and he ended up not wearing it then for basically the same reasons. I doubt it will fit him much longer, but at least it was an inexpensive costume, so I guess it isn’t that big a deal if he never wears it at all.
The first parade of the night was scheduled for 8:30pm and we decided to go ahead and stake out a spot for it with the hope that the rain would let up enough that it wouldn’t be canceled. Fortunately, the rain did taper off, allowing the parade to run as planned. The parade is entitled the "Boo To You Parade" and is really pretty great. It is a rather lengthy parade featuring segments themed to Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Disney villains, and closing with a "Goofy’s Candy Company" float paying tribute to trick-or-treating and including the distribution of candy to guests sitting along the parade route.
The parade includes a lot of clever costumes, floats and choreography. My personal favorite is a whole troop of gravediggers that follow the Haunted Mansion float and perform some expertly timed and synchronized choreography using shovels. The music used for the parade is very catchy and fun and the parade even has a float towards the end that features a live band playing and singing along with it. The only minor complaint is that the music does get a bit repetitive, but that is a common problem with Disney parades.
After the parade, we staked out a spot on the bridge to Tomorrowland to view the fireworks show, entitled "Happy Hallo-wishes", a play on the "Wishes" title for the regular Magic Kingdom fireworks show. Typical of recent Disney fireworks shows, this one features a variety of complex and expertly chosen fireworks that are very carefully timed to a music soundtrack in order to tell a loose story. Of course, this show is very centered on the Disney villains and their music. One aspect that I especially appreciate is that the show is hosted by the Haunted Mansion’s Ghost Host, keeping a very strong overall connection to the park.
Having seen the parade and fireworks, our final goal for the night was a visit to the trick-or-treat stations to get some candy. Bags for trick-or-treating (decorated with ads for the DVD releases of "Ratatouille" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End", of course) were handed out on entry to the event and could be pretty readily replaced at many places around the park, if needed. The trick-or-treat stations were spread pretty evenly through the park and could be easily found by looking at the park map. They also were well marked by glowing balloons.
Although we had taken our son trick-or-treating at California Adventure last year, he didn’t really remember the concept and wasn’t sure what to do. He was very funny at the first station as I carefully coached him on how to hold his bag opened, which he did as he proceeded to walk past the person distributing the candy without stopping at all. We then guided him back over to where he could get his candy and his eyes got rather wide as it finally dawned on him what this was all about. He was particularly funny when we were later walking through Fantasyland past his favorite rides (the teacups and merry-go-round) and he seemed really torn between wanting to possibly stop and ride, but really wanting to go on looking for more candy.
We also attended the party at WDW two years ago and felt that they were somewhat stingier with the candy this year than they had been that year. Each distribution seemed a bit lighter, although we still got a pretty good haul. The previous time, there had been a "candy trough" at the exit filled with the various candy at the event. Guests could then top off their bags there. This year, the trough was still there, but it was sponsored by Hershey’s Kissibles and castmembers were stationed there to manage the distribution of just a handful of bags to each guest.
This was a minor complaint, though, and really didn’t take that much away from the evening. My biggest complaint about this event is one that I generally have also had about WDW’s Magic Kingdom Christmas party as well. These events are a lot of fun, but they are also awfully expensive on top of what already tends to be a rather costly vacation. Guests who don’t opt to spend that extra really miss quite a bit of the experience this time of year.
Disneyland offers most of the same features as the Christmas event to regular day guests throughout the holiday season and they have also been recently ramping up their Halloween celebration as well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them add a parade and fireworks in the next year or two and I suspect that they will also be done the same way, with the trick-or-treating staying as a special event at California Adventure, but at a much lower cost than the WDW event. I really think that is a better approach.
Despite these little concerns, though, we really did have a lot of fun at the event and my son generally loved it.