It sometimes feels like there is so much to know when planning a Walt Disney World vacation, and just when you get a handle on it – changes are made. Disney is always adding and removing things to “enhance” your experience (and their profits, lol!) Here are just a few that we have enjoyed over the years.
The Parties – there are a few different parties offered throughout the year but the two most popular are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Often times these holiday parties are referred to by their initials (MNSSHP and MVMCP). These parties require an additional ticket over and above the regular priced daily ticket. The party tickets are a little cheaper than a regular full day park ticket so rather than using up a full day and a party ticket all in one day we usually spend the day of our “party night” at the pool or at Disney Springs. * Tip: not everyone is aware but party ticket holders are usually allowed in at 4:00 p.m. (which gives you a bit of a jump start on the festivities). How it works is that each year there are “party nights” where the Magic Kingdom park closes at 7 p.m. to everyone in the park that does not have a party ticket (wristband) and yes, if it’s after 7 and you’re not wearing a party wristband you must exit the park. We have done the Halloween one a couple of times and the Christmas one once and really enjoyed it. Some nights sell out (especially dates close to the holiday), so we highly recommend you pre purchase your tickets in advance.
The Magic Kingdom is decked out to the fullest for Halloween, the highlights have to be the special Halloween parade (it’s so good – I never get tired of it!), and the trick or treating – there are trick or treat stations throughout the park giving out handfuls of “good” candy – meaning lots of chocolate! Lots of unique character meet and greets – especially the villains.
Part of the fun of the Halloween party is dressing up, can you guess the theme of The Lucky Bug’s costumes?
The Christmas party works pretty much the same way as the Halloween Party and runs through certain nights in November and December. No trick or treating but hot chocolate and delicious sugar cookie stations. Again, the parade is amazing, and it even snows on Main Street. Another perk to these parties is that there are so many other events going on that a lot of the rides are basically “walk on,” which allows you to get more in.
Festivals – there are two different festivals held at Epcot during the year. The International Food & Wine Fest, usually held during the months of September and October, and The International Flower & Garden Fest, held in the spring. The Bugs have never attended the Flower and Garden Fest, however we have attended the International Food & Wine Fest a few times and it is a lot of fun. Mama Bug has always enjoyed walking around the World Showcase and this is the perfect location for this event. There are booths set up amongst all of the countries with samples of food and wine from that country. There are also different cooking demonstrations and concerts, etc. running throughout the festival. Note: Admission to the Food & Wine Festival is included with your Epcot admission, however certain special events and the food and wine samples are not included and must be purchased separately.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – A Princess makeover/spa package for ages 3-12 ( note: there are also packages for little “knights” as well). We did this right after it was introduced. I was unsure as to whether it was something we should do due to the cost, but the timing was perfect. It was on our first Halloween party trip and I made an appt. for around 4:30 since I knew we were allowed in at 4:00 with our party ticket. We arrived at Cinderella’s castle where it was located at the time, with Baby Bug in costume. What a great experience! There are a few different packages to choose from ranging from $65 to $200, with the basic package being nails, hair and make up, and the top priced package including a princess gown. There are two locations in Walt Disney World (1. In the Magic Kingdom Cinderella’s Castle and 2.The World of Disney store in Disney Springs). These packages are very popular so reservations are definitely recommended. These packages are also available in Fantasyland at Disneyland.
Character Dining – we have done several different experiences over the years. In our opinion, this is a great way to see the characters without waiting in line and enjoying a good sit down meal and a break from the parks. There are so many to choose from and things often change, however here are some of the ones that we have enjoyed in the past : Winnie the Pooh @ Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast at the castle), Princess Story Book Dinner at Epcot, Tea with Alice @ Grand Floridian. Most of the character dining must be reserved 180 days beforehand by calling (407) WDW-DINE, and some are more difficult to get than others, but there is a chance you can get one last minute. Also, some are worth more dining credits than others if you’re using the dining plan, due to popularity.
The Winnie the Pooh Crystal Palace breakfast buffet at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World had a great selection and lots of character interaction. (notice how Baby Bug really only cares about her waffle)
The Cinderella’s Royal Table breakfast is probably the most popular of the character dining choices in all of Walt Disney World because really, who wouldn’t want to meet the princesses while eating in the castle? Due to popularity this one does sell out very quickly, so be sure to mark your calendars and call as soon as availability opens.
Dessert Parties – Walt Disney World is always adding different types of experiences, these experiences are basically selling you a premium spot for an already included with your park ticket event, and adding in some desserts/ refreshments. One example is the Fireworks Dessert Party, (but there are also more to choose from), where at the end of a long day in the parks you would just like to relax and enjoy a great view of the fireworks in a seat without having to stake out a spot 2 hours ahead of time. We did one once in Disneyland, and while we enjoyed it – I’m not sure we would do it again due to the cost. Note: each of the several different dessert parties offer different things, so be sure you are clear on what you are wanting when you reserve ( for example, some do not offer a seat and are standing room only.)
Photo Pass – a photo pass is free… kinda. How it works is if you are wanting one, photographers (stationed throughout all 4 parks) will give you a card with a number on it, and any time you want a professional picture taken all you have to do is simply hand the photographer the card and your pictures can later be viewed online by submitting your photo pass number. It’s really not a bad idea especially if you want photos of your whole group, there is no charge and you are under no obligation to buy any (you actually have 45 days to decide, before they are erased). Also a good idea if you don’t want to carry around your phone or camera or you’re just a lousy picture taker. There are also special effects that can be done to the pictures that are really quite cute.
this is an example of some of the cute things they can do to your pictures with the photo pass
Cons: the pictures are quite expensive at approx. $12 each, however that leads me to the option of Memory Maker. The Memory Maker is basically an all inclusive picture pass, you can purchase the Memory Maker in advance for $169 or pay $199 (ouch!) for it at the gate. This will link all of your pictures in one spot (character dining, attraction/ride photos, etc.), and they are yours to download.