Should I Take My Young Child to Mickey’s Not So Scary, Very Merry Party?

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While the season of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is still many months away, the time to purchase tickets for these events is now. (Official dates just released, yay!)

The parties are hoot, but they may not be for everyone. Guests with younger children, say ages 7 and under, may want to spend some extra time considering whether an evening Magic Kingdom party makes sense for their families at this time.

I’ve often heard new Disney guests ask whether the parties are appropriate for their young child. They’ll ask something like, “I’ll be at Walt Disney World in October, should I take my four-year-old son to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party?”

If your child loves Roo, a party may be the best place for a glimpse.

As with many Disney questions the answer is a resounding, “It depends.” It depends on your temperament and your child’s. It depends on your financial resources. It depends on where you’re visiting from. And it depends on what else you’ll be doing during your vacation.

Let’s walk through some of the decision factors to see if bringing a youngster to a Magic Kingdom evening party makes sense for you.

    • What is your child’s usual bedtime? The Magic Kingdom parties begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at midnight. Most young kids go to bed at the early end of this range. Do you intend to keep to your child’s sleep schedule during your vacation? Why or why not?
    • How does your child react to disruptions in his sleep schedule? Some kids are able to quickly bounce back from a late night out. Others are a cranky mess for days afterward. Which is more like your child?
    • What do you have planned the next day? Can you let your child sleep as long as she likes? Or do you have to get up early for a coveted breakfast with Cinderella?
    • How far away is your hotel? If you’re at the Contemporary, the travel time “home” is negligible. If you’re using Disney transportation to get back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you could be adding as much as an hour to your evening. Factor this into your sleep plan.
    • Can you physically manage your child when he’s asleep? For example, if you’re a single parent with a 50-pound preschooler, could you physically carry him asleep, and your gear, and fold your stoller, and get everything on a bus?

Is a dance party something your young child would enjoy?

    • Are you coming from a different time zone? This may impact everyone’s stamina.
    • During what day of your vacation does the Party fall? Personally, I’m more comfortable with completely wearing my kids out on the last day of my vacation than the first. I’m OK if my child is cranky and sleeps on the plane home. I’m not so OK if my kid is cranky during our one and only day at Epcot.
    • Is the party a financial imposition for your family? Let’s face it, the evening parties are not cheap. Will you feel disappointed if you’ve spent $50 for your child to attend the party and he falls asleep in the stroller an hour into it?
    • Why are you going to party? And can those factors be experienced at another venue at a different hour or for less money? For example, if you want to see the snow on Main Street, would you be satisfied with the similar snow at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights? Or if you want to see the special party fireworks, would you be satisfied watching them from distance, such as on the beach at the Polynesian?
    • Does your child have fears that may be exacerbated by party elements? For example, if your child is afraid of the dark, an evening party is not a good option. If your child fears costumes or costumed characters, then the Halloween party does not make sense for you.
    • Are there elements of the party that are not part of your home culture that you’d like your child to experience? For example, if you’re coming from a country that does not trick-or-treat, then that element of the Halloween party may override other concerns.
    • Is your child’s favorite character EVER only available to greet guests during a party? Sometimes enduring a late night is worth it to make your child’s dream of meeting Dopey come true.
    • Is your visit to Walt Disney World very brief? If you only have a day or two in the area, attending an evening party may be your only opportunity to experience some of the rides. This may trump other concerns.

Will your young child find elements of the party to be frightening?

  • Are you planning to come back to WDW during this season again in the foreseeable future? If you know you’ll be back for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party next year, the decision to forgo it this year may be easier.

I took my own children to their first evening party at the Magic Kingdom, the dearly departed Pirate & Princess Party, when my twins were six years old. We only lasted until 9:30 p.m. I’m glad we went to see what all all hubbub was about, but from a financial perspective, the decision to go might not have been our soundest.

What have your experiences been with young kids at the evening parties? Did they have a good time? Did you? Are there factors to consider that I haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on May 2, 2012

21 Responses to “Should I Take My Young Child to Mickey’s Not So Scary, Very Merry Party?”

  • I’m taking my 6 and 8 year old sons to the MNSSHP this year. Halloween is our favorite holiday. We love getting dressed up in costume and my children love the villian’s. Can’t wait!

  • We took our two daughters to last year’s Halloween party when they were 2 and 4. Both of them had an AMAZING time and it remains the highlight of the trip. We expected to be out of the park by 10, but both hung on until about 11:30 when we decided to beat the bus crowds.

    It took a good bit of planning to make sure they both got in a nap and that we had plenty of time to sleep it off the next morning, but it was worth it. We also did a dry run a couple months earlier at Kings Island, our local amusement park, to make sure they’d be OK staying up until midnight.

    It is now on my list of do-not-miss experiences at Walt Disney World.

    • I should add that one has a terrible fear of fireworks, so we made sure to be inside at Jessie/Woody’s dance party during the fireworks. She didn’t hear a thing. We had the characters to ourselves and had a blast.

    • by Erin Foster on May 2, 2012, at 4:02 pm EDT

      The dry run was a great idea. Even if you can’t “practice” at a local amusement park, it may be worth it for some families to try keeping their child up extra late a few times to see what the possible ramifications might be.

  • Great article and information! Went to MNSSHP last year with a 10 and 7 year old. Was very impressed with the park, atmosphere and overall party. There were some elements that were creepy/spooky (it is Halloween, after all) but preparing our kids prior to the party made all the difference and allowed for an awesome time. Feeling depressed we aren’t heading back this year!

  • Here’s how to figure out whether or not to attend the party:

    Step 1: Do you HAVE the money in the budget (not is it worth it, that comes later) If not, don’t go. Simple.

    Step 2: How much money is it (factors included how many people; and are (small) discounts available (pre-payment; annual pass; DVC;)? Figure out a list of 3 things you could otherwise do with that money. Simple comparisons are a nice dinner; hoop-dee-due review; any resort activity, (boat or surry) rental, or tour you might enjoy; a water park outing (not really comparable in December, but definitely in September).

    Step 3: Understand what there is to do at the party that you can’t do at other times: special shows and parade, special fireworks, mini-”party” activities like dancing or trick or treating; special character greetings; and the cool general transformation of the magic kingdom.

    Step 4: Take the time vs money component into factor: it’s a lot of money for only about 4 or 5 hours in the magic kingdom. But if you think if it as just a normal time in the magic kingdom, then DEFINITELY don’t do it. Compared to the time the other choices for similar monetary costs, it’s probably similar (except for a water park day).

    Step 5: Compare the alternatives on YOUR step 2, and make a decision. Then don’t worry about the decision. Attending the party or doing some of the alternatives mentioned in step 2 are all fun and the important thing is the fun/enjoyment you have – not the things your “missing out” on.

    =======MOST IMPORTANT TIP==========
    DO NOT buy tickets in advance!! (Unless you want to avoid being shut out on the days that do sell out; but those aren’t days you’d really enjoy the party anyway because of the large crowds.)
    Getting a 10 day pass or annual pass or even a 4 day means that it might rain and it might not. You just deal with it. It’s not cheaper to just not buy the park admission. (And the marginal cost between 4 days and anything over 4 days is very low to nothing.)

    But if the party gets rained out, they may not run the special parade or do the special fireworks or even do some of the outdoor shows. But they won’t give you your money back!! They don’t even give you a rain check for use at a different MNSSHP or MVMCP. You can use the special event ticket as regular admission to magic kingdom on 1 day within the next 365 days. The value of this is next to nothing because as long as you’re already going for at least 4 days, the marginal cost of the 5th – 360th day is very low or $0.

    So…. Don’t pre-purchase!! (especially if it’s not expected to sell out, i.e. September MNSSHP.) It’s not worth wasting the admission.

    I doubt that I will do the MNSSHP again ever (as it doesn’t really seem compelling on that 2nd or 3rd time). And I’ll probably do the MVMCP again and again, because the extra special christmas themed stuff is nice and puts me in a xmas spirit mood.

    But save your money for the decision until the last minute. You’ll be glad you did if it rains and you save. It’s a very small amount of money saved if you pre-purchase or take advantage of discounts.

    Maybe take advantage of discounts by pre-purchasing within the range of a good 5-day forecast that very certainly predicts no rain and mild temperatures.

    But don’t pre-purchase MNSSHP for September when tropical storms and very rainy events are common or at least likely.

    • by Erin Foster on May 2, 2012, at 4:00 pm EDT

      Wow. This is an incredibly cogent and comprehensive analysis. Thank you for sharing.

      The pre-purchase vs. not discussion is interesting. I always tell people to wait to purchase water park tickets because of the possibility of rain out. You make a good point that weekday Sept parties can be treated much the same way. But you really can’t wait to purchase if you want to go on a weekend in Oct or on Halloween itself. If that’s when you’re traveling, you really must consider whether you’re willing to spend money on a gamble (like a possibly wet party) or prefer to spend on a sure thing (like the HDDR).

      • Learned through experience about not pre-purchasing tickets!! We got totally rained on in a september MNSSHP and since we were already season passholders, the rain check conversion of that MNSSHP ticket into a single day MK admission was worthless. Guest Services would NOT convert it a MVMCP or even a discount on MVMCP. It was converted to a pirates and princess party ticket finally. But it took 3 trips back to WDW (and multiple guest service visits) to get any worth out of that.

        Thanks for the response.

  • I took my 8 year old son to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We enjoyed it, but then while waiting for the parade, he fell asleep right there on a curb on Main Street. I was able to wake him up, but he was a bit Grumpy for the rest of the night. However, since it was the week before Christmas (I think the 22nd of December) we were thankful to get those special rides in without having to deal with the holiday crowds. NOTE: getting out of the Magic Kingdom after Fireworks, whether it be special party days or any holiday is CRAZY! So make sure you plan for the extra travel time.

  • by Alicia M. on May 2, 2012, at 3:15 pm EDT

    We took our son to MNSSHP when he was 3 years old. We took a nap earlier in the day. He had no problem staying up until we made it back to our room at All Stars. He had a blast!

  • We took our 2 yr old to MVMCP our 1st trip…..bad idea! She was a very cranky tired little girl and cried for the 1st 2 hours of the party until she exhausted herself to sleep. Not how we imagined the evening going. We did the PIrates and Princess Party when she was 4 and her brother was 2…..it was a much better experience that time! Truthfully nothing was different, we had again spent the whole day in the park with no rest. It was just different reactions from different children. When we went last year we debated long and hard about going to MNSSHP, but with the cost of tickets for the 4 of us $200+, it just didn’t make good financial sense. Now DH and I are going this year for Food and Wine and we will be doing it by ourselves.

  • We did MVMCP this past December and definitely didn’t feel like we got our money’s worth. The kids had fun, but the10 and 8 year old boys were way more interested in riding the rides. 3 year old daughter was tired the whole time and just kinda hung out. We watched the parade from behind some adults that stood up just as it started and watched the fireworks farther up Main Street, so we could avoid that again. We basically paid a ton of money to ride rides! We felt like we should because we had never experienced a party before, but looking back we shouldn’t have. Oh well, live and learn!

    • I wonder if touring plans could give crowd level predictions of various dates for the special occasion party events.

      It is probably a much better time to attend a lower crowd party than a higher crowd party.

      And it’s almost as if you have to prioritize the 1 must see at the party whether it’s the parade, or a good fireworks spot or a certain show or whatever…

      But it isn’t a total loss to just ride rides as the lines are usually shorter during the party events.

      However, the Fantasyland lines are still way too long.

      • I would love to see crowd predictions for MNSSHP or MVMCP or get some guidance on busy vs less busy times (time of month, day of week, etc).

  • I like the idea of waiting to buy tickets- but is the Christmas party more likely to sell out than Halloween? Also, the week we will be there crowds are predicted to be a 1 and 2 on party nights- so my thought is with small crowds they won’t sell out? Any thoughts on that logic? I want to wait- but don’t want to be shut out either.

    • I think that MVMCP is much more popular than MNSSHP, (hence the higher price). We waited on MVMCP once and a Sunday night at the beginning of vacation was sold out so we bought the Tuesday night right then.

      December is way nicer weather there than September (and possibly October); although the locals can think it is too cold.

      The don’t pre-purchase advice is more for September MNSSHP weather. And the don’t pre-purchase advice is more about alerting people that purchasing party tickets should have a whole different calculus on the risks and cancellation and refund policies than normal tickets.

      There doesn’t seem to be any way to predict a sell out or not, but I’ve been to a non-sell out party and some sold out parties. The sold out party was very crowded around the parade route.

      The crowd level 1 and 2 is not a good predictor of party night crowds or sell outs IMO. But mid-week 1 and 2 crowds would probably not have as much demand compared to a weekend 3 or 4 in early December. But they could both sell out.

      If you can wait for the 10 day or 15 day forecast, then you can at least get a slightly better knowledge on the weather than months out.

      Also, another reason to wait to purchase tickets is that when you wait until being physically on site, you minimize the risk associated with travel interruption / car breakdown / plane delays / family emergency / job situation or whatever might cause you not to get to Disney. I don’t know the exact refund policy for a pre-purchased ticket if it’s still August for example.

  • We went with an almost 3 year old to MNSSHP and MVMCP last year so cost was not an issue as she did not need a ticket but she LOVED both parties. She is a night owl normally so she stayed up both nights no problem (we left at 11:30 both nights and she did fall asleep in the car). She was a little grumpy the next morning so we let her sleep in until about 10 am.

    I would do it again. One note however is that we went to parties in mid-sepetmber and early december so the low crowds were a huge factor. We rode almost everything with little or no lines, saw the second parades (which she loved), trick or treated during MNSSHP, and ate cookies during MVMCP. I am not sure we would have enjoyed it as much if it was a packed night.

  • We took our 2 year old last year to a weekday Sept MNSSHP. We did not go to a park earlier in the day but, had a resort day. Our little one loved it especially the dance party with Woody. We rode rides with little wait and enjoyed the parades. She did fall asleep before the fireworks but, that’s OK. Trick or Treating in the Magic Kingdom is fun for the 2-6 year old crowd. Older kids would probably think MNSSHP a bit tame and may like the Halloween party at Universal better. Our little one had so much fun we are going to MNSSHP on Nov 2 and the MVMCP on Nov 9. In early Nov MK closes pretty early so, going to a party makes sense to maximize park time. Cost equates to a character meal (if you pay cash for meals and don’t use DDP). So ditch a character meal and spend more time at the park!

    Does anyone know what the crowd will be like on NOV 2? Last day for party, I’m thinking it will be crowded.

  • We took our then four-year old son to MNSSHP last October and we closed the park down! We did skip going to a park during the day, but had a low-key relax around the resort day prior. He is a little night-owl so it was no problem. We’re going back again this year! Even my usually grumpy husband (when at Disney) really enjoyed the parade.