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5 Best Disney Souvenirs (and 5 Not Worth Your Money)

Disney world: it’s fun, it’s magical, and… it’s expensive! Parents save and save just to get their kids there. Then you finally set foot inside the parks, and the kids have the audacity to ask for MORE! The reason? There are fun and exciting toys and souvenirs around every corner! The kids don’t stand a chance against the genius of Disney marketing. The key is to figure out which Disney souvenirs to buy and which to skip (or buy ahead of time for a better price!) Here are the 5 best Disney souvenirs, and 5 not worth your money.

best Disney souvenirs

Best Disney Souvenirs

Make your own light saber

A huge hit with all the Star Wars fans visiting Disney World! The price varies depending on how elaborate you want to get, with the simplest single blade design selling for about $25 and the most elaborate double blade designs (like Kylo Ren) going for around $45.

There are several locations in WDW where you can make your own saber. Tatooine Traders in Hollywood Studios can be very busy since it attracts most of the Star Wars crowd, so check out Once Upon a Toy at Disney Springs for the same experience with a shorter line.

Another cool option is the Build a Droid available at the same locations for about $15.

Here is a fun video showing the process:

Photo Autograph Book

This is an easy and inexpensive way to capture the memories of meeting Disney characters!

Instead of just getting the basic autograph book for characters to sign, buy one with slots to put photographs in. Then when you meet a character, snap a photo of the kids (or yourself, who am I to judge?) with the characters to put in the book alongside the autograph.

We actually filled two books with all the characters we met on our last trip, so we did one for just princesses and one with all other characters.

Disney souvenirs autograph bookDisney souvenirs princess autographs
Disney souvenirs photo autograph bookDisney souvenirs photo autograph book

My kids ADORE looking through these! It helps to preserve their memories of the trip too. (Have I ever mentioned how I can’t stand it when people say not to take young kids to Disney World because they won’t remember it? Preschool age is an amazing and magical time for a Disney trip!)

Silhouettes

Ok this one isn’t exactly the most Disney-esque of all Disney souvenirs, but it is probably the best bargain around for a truly lovely keepsake.

For only $10 per person you get TWO portrait silhouettes (the way they are cut leaves you with two copies, one facing left and one facing right).

They are done extremely quickly. We were in awe watching the process, and even our toddler was able to sit long enough to get hers done. It was shocking to me how wonderful they came out. They captured our children’s profile at that age perfectly. I absolutely cherish these silhouettes!

The carts selling silhouettes are stationed in several locations throughout WDW. We did ours in Liberty Square because we weren’t able to find the one on Main Street near Town Square (maybe the artist was missing that day?).

You can also get them done in Disney Springs and sometimes in the France pavilion at Epcot.

best Disney Souvenirs
Silhouette Cart in Magic Kingdom (photo credit: touringplans.com)

HOT TIP! Learn from my mistake and make sure to bring cash or credit card with you when you get these done!

We are so accustomed to just putting all expenses on our Magic Bands when we’re in WDW that we don’t even bring a wallet to the parks. But the silhouette makers are considered independent contractors and can not accept Magic Bands! I almost had to run all the way back to our hotel to get money after we had ours made, but luckily I was able to recite my credit card number for memory and they ran the transaction by typing it in.

My husband was a little alarmed by my ability to recite my entire credit card number, but that’s another story for another day 😜

Personalized Mickey Ears

The most classic of all Disney Souvenirs has got to be the Mickey Mouse ear hat. Go with the classic or pick your favorite character: Buzz Lightyear, Piglet, R2-D2, and tons more.

They have sparkly Minnie Mouse ears attached to a headband, an ear hat with a bride’s vail attached, and even light up ears that change color to the beat of the fireworks music. Prices range from $15-$25 depending on the style you choose.

best Disney Souvenirs

While these may not be the most practical choice for theme park attire, there is just something special about a kid wearing them on their first trip to Walt Disney World. And it makes for all kinds of iconic photo ops.

One way to make these extra special is to have them embroidered with your child’s name on the back. Choose your font and stiching color, and within the hour your Mickey ears will have their owner’s name on them for only $3. You can also add two lines of text for $7.

best Disney souvenirs

You can get your Mickey ear hat embroidered at The Chapeau on Main Street of Magic Kingdom or at Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories in Disney Springs. If you want to order them ahead of time for your trip, you can order them through Disney Floral and Gifts.

Pressed Pennies

All over the parks, restaurants, and Disney hotels you will see pressed penny machines. Normally this is the kind of thing I try to steer clear of, but when traveling to Disney World with small children it’s one of those tools to keep in your arsenal. When there is downtime, things like this are a great distraction for kids and they get SUPER excited about it.

Here is the book we use to store them in:

best Disney souvenirs

They love going back and inspecting each one to see the different characters and rides on them.

best disney souvenirs

Disney Souvenirs Not Worth Your Money

Mickey balloon

I feel like such a Disney grinch saying this, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $12 on a souvenir that won’t even survive the duration of the trip.

While they will delight your kids for a moment, they will likely drift into the sky minutes later causing a flood of tears. Best case scenario, they end up tied to a stroller that gets parked somewhere for the day while you go on rides.

Disney souvenirs Mickey balloon

HOT TIP! If you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, they do not allow balloons of any kind on the premises. They are hazardous to the animals on property. Avoid disappointment if you are staying there and don’t try to bring one back to your room!

Princess dolls

For the 12 inch (Barbie size) Disney Princess dolls, buying in the parks will cost you around $20. The same dolls are sold at any Disney Store nation wide for $10 when you buy two or more.

Delight your kids by taking that same $20 and buying two at home before you leave for your trip and surprise them when you get there 😃

best Disney souvenirs

Princess dress up dresses

One thing every little girl wants to do in Disney World is Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Girls get princess makeovers with hair, nails, and shimmering makeup by cast members called “Fairy Godmothers-In-Training”. The basic package costs a hefty $65 for the experience lasting 30 minutes to an hour. If you want the package that includes a new princess dress, it will set you back $200!

best disney souvenirs
Photo credit: disneyworld.disney.go.com

My advice would be to buy a dress elsewhere and stick to the basic package. Disney store, JCPenney, Amazon, Etsy, etc all have similar dresses.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a special experience due to the interaction with cast members and feeling of being pampered. It really doesn’t matter much where the dress comes from.

FYI: Without considering BBB, just to buy the dress alone that they sell in the parks goes for $70. This dress is considered “deluxe” meaning it is a bit more ornate than the regular Disney store dresses. But I truly don’t think most kids would notice the difference between that and the $45 Disney store dress that is still shiny, sequined, and has the Disney label.

Light up Toys

When the sun goes down in Walt Disney World, the light up toys come out. Glowing swords, necklaces, spin toys, etc are everywhere you look.

Of course every kid will want one and of course they are way overpriced. I have fallen for this one before but then I got smart and came equipped with this:

Disney souvenirs light up toy

Light Up Galaxy Spinner with Flashing LED Lights

The kids were enthralled and I spent $7 on it. WIN!

Amazon also has a light up princess wand that would do the trick:

best disney souvenirs
Light Up Princess Wand

Then when it breaks or gets lost in an hour, it doesn’t ruin your night 👍

Large stuffed animals

Please try to talk your kids out of buying a big stuffed animal in Disney World.

First of all, you can get them anywhere. Choose a souvenir that is more unique to the Disney parks.

Secondly, what are you going to do with the thing while you walk around the park and go on rides all day??? Yes, Disney has thought of everything so they do offer the service of holding it for you or sending it back to your room. BUT, how many kids are going to be ok with shipping off the giant Mickey they just talked you into buying? Then you know who is going to end up carrying it around… MOM!

best Disney Souvenirs
Don’t be stuck carrying these guys around

What are some of YOUR favorite Disney souvenirs?

If you are planning an amazing family vacation to Disney World, don’t miss these 5 underrated attractions!

How To Beat Walt Disney World Crowds In 5 Steps

Are you planning the ultimate Disney vacation and trying to figure out how to best manage Disney World crowds? Your ultimate guide is here!

Disney World Crowds

 

1. Go in the off season

Thinking of a Disney vacation when the kids are off of school for Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, or summer vacation? Unfortunately, so is the rest of the world! These are when you will find peak crowds at WDW.

The week from Christmas to New Years sees the absolute highest crowds of the year, frequently causing Magic Kingdom to close due to capacity (Magic Kingdom holds an estimated 100,000 guests!) Even minor holidays like Columbus Day and Presidents Day will surge crowds for that week.

Disney World crowds

Christmas crowds at WDW Photo credit: MouseSteps

Are you telling me to take my kids out of school?

That’s a personal choice that depends on a lot of factors. Consider things like: how many other absences your children have, their age, ability to catch up on missed work, and the school’s policy on absences. It may or may not be a good choice for you.

Also consider how big a vacation this will be for your family. Is this your one and only Disney vacation where you want to fit as much in as possible? Or do you go every year and plan on taking it easy?

If you’re still on the fence, sit down and look at your child’s school calendar. Are there any days off that most of the country won’t have off? A random fall break, teacher development days, or February recess? That might be your opportune time to go without missing as much school.

What if I have no other choice than to go during these peak times?

In my book, a crowded day at Disney World still beats a regular day at home. If you must go during high crowds, follow each my other points to the letter, and make the best of it.

So when is the best time to go according to Disney World crowds?

Gone are the days when the parks are ever “empty”. Even during the low crowd times of year you will see substantial wait times for the most popular rides. But the average wait times will be significantly lower if you go in: January, February (except the week of President’s Day), April (except Easter week), early May, late August, September, October (except Columbus Day), November (except Thanksgiving week), and the first half of December.

Disney World crowds

For more specifics, including which park is the best to go to each day, I highly recommend Undercover Tourist’s crowd calendar.

2. Avoid the park that has Extra magic hours

You’re staying in a Disney hotel and you want to take advantage of all the perks. I get it. But the key to avoid crowds is to zig when everyone else zags.

For those who don’t know, each day one of the four parks has “Extra Magic Hours”, or EMH, meaning it opens early or stays open late for guests who are staying at a Disney hotel. People love to feel like they’re part of something exclusive! They also want to take advantage of all the perks that go along with the big bucks they dropped on their Disney hotel. That means the park that has Extra Magic Hours is going to be the most crowded park that day. Avoid that park!

The funny thing is, most people don’t even end up at the EMH park during the bonus hours. They either end up sleeping through the early morning hours, or being too tired to stay out for the evening hours. But people still see EMH as Disney telling them which park to go to that day, and they listen!

The only exception to this rule: There is ONE situation where I recommend EMH parks. If you have park hopper tickets, and you actually get up early enough to enjoy the early morning extra hours, by all means go to the that park for those hours. You will enjoy a couple low-crowd hours. Then, once the rest of the pack arrives, hop over to a less crowded park.

3. Rock rope drop

In the first hour the park is open, you will be able to accomplish as much as you would in 3-4 hours in the afternoon. Unless you are a family of super late risers whose vacation would be ruined by setting an alarm, I’d recommend putting the effort in to arriving at the park 30 minutes before it opens.

avoid crowds at Disney World
T and Z in empty Animal Kingdom after arriving 30 mins prior to rope drop!

Tips for making Rope Drop work for you:

  • Carry breakfast with you and eat it outside the park entrance while you wait for it to open. We get groceries delivered through Garden Grocer so all we need to do is grab a banana, yogurt, granola bar, or single-serving dry cereal box and throw it in our bag.
  • Don’t light the candle at both ends. Plan your days so the ones that start early, end early. It’s not enjoyable to try to do parks from open to close, especially if you have little ones.
  • If you are trying to do morning and evening hours, make sure to take that afternoon nap/break.

4. Use FastPass wisely!

I have an in-depth post about Fastpass, but here are just some quick highlights:

Do NOT miss your booking window to select FastPasses! Book your FastPasses 60 days from your check-in date if you’re staying on Disney property, or 30 days from the start of your trip if you’re staying off site. Log on to MyDisneyExperience to book your FastPasses starting at 7am EST.

Hit that sweet spot when selecting the times of your FastPasses. You don’t want to use them the first hour or two in the morning, because crowds are already low then. Wait too late in the day, and you won’t be able to take advantage of the extra FastPasses you can get after using your initial three.

11am to 2pm is generally the ideal time to book your FastPasses.

It’s also critical that you’re making your selections wisely. Your kid might love It’s a Small Word, but don’t waste a FastPass on it! Use your FastPasses on attractions that have the longest waits so they save you the most time.

FastPass priorities for each park:

Magic Kingdom

  1. 7 Dwarfs Mine Train
  2. Splash Mountain
  3. Space Mountain
  4. Peter Pan’s Flight
  5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  6. Enchanted Tales with Belle

Epcot

  1. Frozen Ever After
  2. Soarin’
  3. Test Track  (note you can only choose ONE of these three due to the tiering system)
  4. Spaceship Earth
  5. Mission Space
  6. Character Spot

Animal Kingdom

  1. Avatar: Flight of Passage
  2. Na’vi River Journey (choose ONE of these two due to tiering system)
  3. Expedition Everest
  4. Kali River Rapids
  5. Kilimanjaro Safari

Hollywood Studios

  1. Rockin Roller Coaster
  2. Toy Story Mania (choose ONE of these two due to tiering system)
  3. Tower of Terror
  4. Star Tours
  5. Frozen Sing Along
Disney World crowds
You want to be in the line on the RIGHT. Photo credit: The Mouse for Less

Not sure if your children are tall enough for these popular rides? I’ve outlined every height restriction in Walt Disney World as well as which rides are potentially scary for children or may induce motion sickness!

5. Make a quick getaway

Last but not least! Some of the longest, most stressful lines are not for attractions at all, but for buses back to your hotel after the park closes. After the evening spectaculars, you along with tens of thousands of others are all trying to exit at the same time. When you’ve had a long day and the kids are falling asleep in their strollers, the last thing you want to do is get elbowed in a sea of people and have to wait an hour for a bus back to your hotel. Here are some tips for an easier getaway:

Strategically place yourself near an exit

The train station balcony by the exit of Magic Kingdom is a great place to watch fireworks and puts you right by the exit for an easy getaway. Another good option is the hub at the beginning of Main Street by the flagpole. This is also a good place to see the parade.

At Epcot, you can watch Illuminations from the entrance to World Showcase (by the two merchandise buildings) and you’ll make it out of the park before the herd.

Take a different route to the exit

If you do find yourself by the castle for the fireworks, here is a trick to get to the exit faster. Most people don’t know that the shops all along Main Street are interconnected on the inside. When everyone is making their way down at a snail’s pace, you can walk right through from shop to shop.

Epcot has an advantage because it has two exits. In addition to the main entrance, there is the International Gateway located in between the France and UK pavilions of World Showcase. For anyone staying at the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan, or Dolphin hotels, this exit puts them at an easy walking distance to their hotel. Even if you aren’t staying at one of these, exiting via the International Gateway and then calling an Uber to your hotel might be a good option for those looking to avoid a crowded bus.

Consider getting an Uber

Getting around Disney World via Uber can be a great option if you’re in the time crunch. Typically rides from place to place within the World will cost $8-$13.

Be sure to download the Uber app before your trip if you’ve never used an Uber before. This will save time and have you all set to go when you’re leaving the parks.

If you want to get $5 off each of your first 4 Uber rides, (and support Real Mom Recs!) use the code johnp37188ue when you sign up for your Uber rider account.

If you’re taking an Uber from Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to meet it at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Only Disney authorized vehicles can drive right up to the entrance of the park.

For those who need a car seat, it is possible to order an UberX with a car seat for about $8 more than the regular rate.. Check out Uber’s website for more details on this.

Disney has also partnered with Lyft and launched the new Minnie Van service but at this time it is only available to guests of the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club. I will update if/when they expand to all the resorts.

A final note about Disney World crowds

Don’t be that parent that lets the stress of crowds ruin a good time for you and your kids. Some amount of people-herding is inevitable during this type of trip. The more relaxed you are about it, the better your children will deal with it, too.

Best of Disney World With Preschoolers

The 2-5 year old age bracket has spoken, and these are their favorite experiences at Walt Disney World! If you’re planning on doing Disney World with preschoolers, here are the attractions and experiences you can’t miss.

Download the free printable checklist to make sure you hit them all!

Disney World with preschoolers

None of these has a height limitation that would preclude a preschooler, nor are they potentially frightening for small children. (For a guide to all the height restrictions and potentially scary rides in Disney World, read this post.)

Magic Kingdom

It’s no surprise that the majority of preschoolers’ favorites are at Magic Kingdom. This is the park that has the most rides in general and by far the most for small children to do. If you’re planning a 5 day trip, I would recommend doing 2 Magic Kingdom days and 1 day at each of the other parks.

Town Square Mickey

Disney World with preschoolers

Aka Talking Mickey! Meeting characters is a huge source of excitement for most preschoolers, and the main mouse tends to draw the most excitement of all. Of all the places to meet Mickey, this one is not to be missed because he’s the only one that talks! He will greet your child, ask them questions and even tell jokes.

Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel

After walking through Cinderella’s castle, you will see every child’s eyes light up when they see the carousel. In fact, if you are rushing to another attraction you should probably take a different route to avoid walking by the carousel. If you walk by it, your kid is going to want to ride it right then!

Dumbo

It doesn’t matter that today’s tykes most likely have never seen the movie. They will still want to take a spin on the classic flying elephant! An added perk is that you don’t have to wait in line. When you enter the queue you will be handed a paging device which you hold onto while you relax/play in the air conditioned play area. While parents cool off and sit down to rest their legs, the little ones will love running and climbing.

Festival of Fantasy parade

A catchy song, dancers, all their favorite characters, and a fire breathing dragon? What’s not to like? Tip: keep kids under a sun-shaded stroller if you have a stroller. Most of the viewing areas are in direct sunlight and that pavement will cook you. Grab a spot and then send one parent to get them an ice cream and some ice water. It will help the wait go by and keep the kids cool.

Casey Jr. Splash and Soak

Speaking of keeping cool, if you’re visiting during one of the 9 months of the year when it’s hot at WDW, pack a change of clothes and let the kids get soaked at the Casey Jr. splash pad.

It’s A Small World

Disney Scrooges hold your tongue. The little ones truly enjoy this ride, and to them the song is fun, not annoying.

Walt Disney World Railroad

They say Walt himself was a lover of trains and that is why there are so many train-themed attractions in Disney World. Preschoolers may be too small or too scared to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Big Thunder, but they can certainly enjoy the quaint train ride that circles all of Magic Kingdom. BONUS: Use the train to get from one side of the park to the other if your need to rest your legs and take a break!

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid

Ariel fans will be captivated by this mini journey through the movie, taking you virtually under the sea and through all the major scenes from the movie. My 5 year old son was afraid of the larger-than-life Ursula, but I don’t expect most kids have that reaction.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Disney World with preschoolers

This one is a bit of a time commitment, so plan accordingly! It is well worth it to work it into your touring schedule. Disney magic transports you to the day Belle met the Beast in a way that leaves even adults wondering “how did they do that?” Many small children will get a role in the re-enactment that follows, putting them into the heart of the story.

Peter Pan’s Flight

The line is almost always long for this popular ride, so get to it first thing in the morning or better yet book a Fastpass! Kids love the sensation of flying when the pirate ship you boarded moves by suspension from the ceiling.

Tomorrowland Speedway

It kind of kills me to put this one on here, because it’s truly one of my least favorite Disney rides. The smell, the heat, the old cars that barely move… it’s pretty awful for adults. But this is about the preschool crowd and unfortunately they LOVE it. It’s every small child’s fantasy to drive a car and they manage to see past all its faults and enjoy this attraction.

Epcot

Disney World with preschoolers

Frozen Ever After

Disney knew what it was doing by bringing Frozen to Epcot. Any parents who were considering skipping this park, which is known for lacking “kid appeal”, are now making a beeline for it so their little Frozen fans can ride this.

Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Summerhaus

Piggybacking off of the Frozen ride, you will also find Anna and Elsa’s meet and greet at Epcot. My son (the same one who was terrified of Ursula) was afraid that Elsa would “blast him with her ice powers” but I’m pretty sure every other preschooler is delighted to meet the Frozen duo.

Disney World with preschoolers

The Seas with Nemo and friends

Similar to the Little Mermaid ride at Magic Kingdom, Epcot has the Finding Nemo ride that makes you feel like you’re going under the sea. The building that houses this attraction has a fun little aquarium for kids to explore so plan to spend some time there.

Turtle Talk with Crush

Another attraction in the Seas building is this interactive experience with talking Crush, the hippie turtle from Finding Nemo. It’s really impressive to see how he actually responds to what the kids say, and he’s hilarious too. Another great example of Disney magic at work.

Hollywood Studios

Frozen Sing Along

Just in case your kiddos didn’t get their Frozen fix at Epcot, there’s the Frozen sing along at Hollywood Studios. Kids love the show, which will have everyone joining in to sing. Have you ever heard of this little tune… what’s it called again?… Let It Go?

Disney Junior Live on Stage

Disney World with preschoolers

This is a can’t-miss show for preschoolers. Join Mickey, Sophia, Jake, and Doc McStuffins in a live stage show with all their hit songs and plenty of surprises like bubbles and gold doubloons falling from the ceiling.

Toy Story Midway Mania

An all-around fun ride for young and old alike! Put on your 3D glasses and get spun around to a series of midway shooting-style games with all the Toy Story characters. You will want a Fastpass for this one as it’s very popular. Heads up: There will surely be other preschool favorites coming to Hollywood Studios soon with the addition of Toy Story Land, coming in the summer of 2018!

Animal Kingdom

Nope, it’s not a zoo. It’s definitely a theme park (and it’s my husband’s favorite!)

The Boneyard

Disney World with preschoolers

Make sure to take the little ones over to Dinoland USA to let them burn off some energy at the Boneyard, a very cool themed play area. In addition to running and climbing, kids can be mini paleontologists by digging up dinosaur remains with their shovel and pail. Do this one early before it heats up too much to be enjoyable.

The Festival of the Lion King

Don’t miss this captivating show with amazing costumes, music, and talented acrobats. It’s definitely a highlight of Animal Kingdom for the younger set who isn’t quite thrilled by the World of Avatar yet.

Kilimanjaro Sarafis

While Animal Kingdom isn’t a zoo, it does have animals. Board your jeep and drive through the terrain on this safari to see animals “on the loose” in their habitats (there are invisible enclosures). The giraffes, elephants, and lions were the highlight for my kids.

In addition to these 20, all ages will enjoy these 5 underrated Disney attractions

These are family favorites that you won’t find on every must-see Disney list.

Plus, 2 can’t miss bonus experiences

Disney World with preschoolers

Schedule some time at your hotel pool!

Parents might cringe at this, but when you ask a preschooler what their favorite part of the Disney World was, most often their answer is the hotel pool! Make sure to take breaks from the parks and let the kids go for a swim. All the Disney resorts have life jackets in various sizes that the kids can use.

And lastly, book a character meal!

There are so many great ones to choose from, I can’t recommend just one. Cinderella’s Royal Table or Akershus if you have princess fans, Chef Mickey’s or Tusker House if you want the classic Mickey characters, Crystal Palace for Winnie the Pooh and the gang… I could go on and on. Just pick one (or more than one) and book it. It’s a great way to get to meet multiple characters without waiting lines, and a fun way to eat a meal if your kids need some entertainment to enjoy a restaurant. Win-win.

If you’re planning to do Disney World with preschoolers, print this checklist to make sure you hit all the attractions they are sure to love!

Disney World with preschoolers

Click here to download and print!

 

Our Review of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Last week I took my 9 year old on a very special one-on-one trip to Disney World. While we only had three days there, we packed in as much fun and bonding as we possibly could. The focal point of the trip was Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP), which my daughter has been wanting to go to since she knew it existed.

Mickey's not so scary Halloween party

I’ll give you the play by play of how our night went, and sum it up by answering the question “is it worth the ticket price?

Ticket prices range from $74 to $115, depending on the date (Halloween night is the most expensive, August and September dates are less expensive). The party ticket costs almost as much as a full day park ticket, so it’s important to weigh your priorities.

Entering the park

Here is something they don’t tell you on the party ticket, and it could make a real difference for people deciding whether or not to go. The party officially runs from 7pm to 12am, but you can enter Magic Kingdom with your party ticket at 4pm. So if you’re calculating how much you’re paying per party hour, count it as an 8 hour party instead of 5.

Thanks to the internet, I knew this tidbit ahead of time. Tiana and I rolled up to the gates just after 3:30 pm along with a few thousand of our closest friends. The cast members were directing the people with party tickets to line up to enter through the gates on the right, and people with regular tickets to enter on the left.

They scanned our Magic bands and finger print like a normal park entry.

As soon as we were through the gates, cast members were waiting to put our party bands on us.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party
photo credit: Allears.net

Just beyond them were other cast members handing out the treat bags.

The whole entry process was much quicker and smoother than I expected and we were actually inside the park before 4pm.

The next part was a bit different than what I expected. As soon as we got to the town square, they funneled all party guests to the right down a road not typically open to park guests. It went back behind the shops on the right side of Main Street and came out right around the Plaza Ice Cream parlor. There wasn’t much going on on this path, except some photo ops with photographers and more cast members handing out the first treats for everyone’s bags. My guess is they just wanted to keep Main Street clear for the regular visitors who may be trying to exit at that time.

The entrance procedure worked fine, but it is worth mentioning that you don’t get to walk down Main Street upon entering. For those of us (myself included) who love the joyful feeling you get when you’ve just entered Magic Kingdom and you’re walking down that iconic street with the exhilarating view of the castle… you might feel like you’re missing something.

The 4-7pm “overlap” hours

Here is another reason to enter the park as soon as possible! During the party, there is no FP+. I’m unsure of the reason for this except that with the limited number of tickets sold plus a myriad of special party events going on, there isn’t a huge need for it. But with your party ticket, you ARE able to book three fast passes from 4 to 7. This is a great way to “guarantee” you get to hit your most popular rides without wasting valuable party time.

Tiana and I had made our FP selections 60 days in advance and we chose Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion (the only ride that actually might have longer than typical wait times during the party) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. So as soon as we got through the entry procedure we made a beeline for Big Thunder Mountain.

Tiana had to take off her wig and I took off my horns because we were concerned about them flying off on the ride.

On the walk from Frontierland to Liberty Square, I was already starting to notice how sparse the crowds were.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Before we knew it we were walking into Haunted Mansion. This is one that Tiana has never been brave enough to get on before, but she was excited to ride now. She may have been squeezing all the blood out of my arm and closing her eyes for most of it, but she made it through.

When we got off Haunted Mansion we were starting to get hungry and it looked like it might rain, so we made our way to Columbia Harbor House for dinner. It worked out perfectly because the restaurant was practically empty so we enjoyed a quiet, peaceful sit down dinner without taking up too much time. There was also a brief downpour outside that we completely missed.

After dinner we hopped right on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That ride is easily one of my favorites in all of Walt Disney World and it’s one of Tiana’s favorites as well so we definitely enjoyed our ride.

We were on a roller coaster kick at this point so we hopped over to Barnstormer, which was a walk-on (one of many we experienced that night!) Barnstormer is on my list of 5 most underrated Disney attractions so obviously I’m a fan of this short-but-sweet little coaster.

Now for a couple of minor disappointments. It was about 6:30 at this point, and I realized I had to hustle to a couple other of my favorite attractions that don’t stay open for the party (most of the rides stay open, but not all, so you have to research beforehand). We went over to Storybook Circus hoping to catch Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy before that spot closed but when we got there they were already gone and the spot was being set up the trick-or-treat stop.

We realized the non-party attractions were actually closing before 7 so we booked it over to Mickey’s Philharmagic, but that was also closed already. It was a slight bummer to miss that one but we couldn’t stay down with all the awesome energy going on in Magic Kingdom. Tiana was especially loving checking out everyone’s costumes.

I realized our sunlight was starting to wind down so we thought we better get a picture in front of the castle. There were Photopass photographers everywhere.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

After this photo was taken, we made our way to Adventureland to see how long the line was for Moana. The line turned out to be VERY long, so we decided to skip it. We were about to go ride Pirates of the Caribbean when we noticed a new line beginning to form that wasn’t long at all. We jumped in it and were the 5th group to meet Aladdin and Abu.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party

Not surprisingly, Abu did lots of “monkeying” around. He tried to rifle through our bag and looked for bugs in Tiana’s hair which she thought was pretty funny!

Official party time

One thing lots of people are curious about is how they change over from regular park guests to party ticket holders only. They do it by checking for the wristband they put on us when we entered using our Halloween party ticket. Right at 7:00, we noticed cast members asking to see people’s wristband (especially when going from one land to another). Anyone without a wristband was escorted to the gates while people with wristbands were allowed to keep walking.

So, we had just monkeyed around with Abu and then we went right to Pirates. Just outside the ride was a trick-or-treat stop, so we went through to add to our candy collection. All the trick-or-treat stops are easy to find because they have a big blow up marker that looks like this:

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

We never actually set out looking for candy during party, just stopped to grab some whenever it happened to be right in front of us. Our bags were still full by the end of the night so it doesn’t take much effort to amass some serious candy.

Tiana was eager to see the Sanderson sisters in the Villains Spelltacular, having recently seeing Hocus Pocus for the first time, so we decided to head over to the castle to catch the first show. (There are three shows times: 8:15, 10:45, and 12:00). We decided to grab a snack on the way. Even though there are tons of special holiday themed treats during the party, I felt like I couldn’t visit Magic Kingdom without a Dole Whip so that’s what I chose. Tiana must have had enough sweet treats so she went for popcorn.

The Sanderson sisters were fantastic and we loved seeing all the other villains as well.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

The first of the Boo to You parades was coming up at 9:15, but we decided to take advantage of everyone else watching that and go on as many rides as we could! We were on a mission to stay for the whole party so we knew we could watch the 11:15 parade which is known to be less crowded.

First we covered Tomorrowland with Buzz (walk on), Space Mountain (15 min wait) and the Peoplemover (always a walk on).

Here are the obligatory ride pics:

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Tiana thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever to be able to open her treat bag and stuff her face with candy while riding the Peoplemover! We were also able to see the Monsters Inc dance party which was cool because we are both too shy to dance at it but enjoyed seeing it.

Next on the docket was Fantasyland to hit everything we missed the first time around. Every ride was a walk on except for Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which were 20 minutes and 30 minutes. It was crazy how fast we were hopping from ride to ride!

There were lots of special characters to meet during all of this, but I was letting Tiana take the reigns on how we spent our time and she preferred to do rides. But we did see Lotso Hugging Bear, Cruella Deville, Jack Skellington, Mickey and Minnie in their Halloween attire, and Winnie the Pooh in their Halloween costumes while we were making our rounds. We were happy enough to see them from a distance instead of waiting in line to meet them.

I told Tiana to pick one last ride before heading over to see the parade and she decided she wanted to do Haunted Mansion again, this time with her eyes open 😆. She also felt like a tough guy being brave enough to ride it when it was dark out.

Haunted Mansion was marked as a 20 minute wait but we were on the ride after waiting 10.

This time she kept her eyes open the whole time and I think she actually enjoyed it! Her famous line is now “is that a hologram?!” anytime she sees anything spooky.

Hallowishes

The special Halloween fireworks begin at 10:15 and they are even bigger and better than the normal Magic Kingdom fireworks. Of course the music and ambience set the mood as well.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

We were watching on the bridge to Frontierland, a spot we grabbed at the last second, so it’s not a perfect view. There is a bit of tree hanging down which you can see in this photo, but it didn’t take anything away from the experience.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

All the explosions and effects were breathtaking. I don’t think Tiana enjoyed it as much as I did though, because she tends to be sensitive to loud noises and I saw her covering her ears at the end.

Boo to You Parade

After getting another snack from the Main Street bakery we found an empty spot on the curb right outside that we decided was perfect for parade viewing.

In fact we were so close, when the Headless Horseman galloped by, it seemed he was practically running over our feet!

Then they had some of the Zootopia characters come out and dance with kids to warm up the crowd.

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Then finally, the parade. I had heard great things about this parade, and it did not disappoint.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party

The gravediggers were a major highlight of the parade, as well as these guys:

Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Being seated so close made the whole experience pretty eerie for a “not so scary” Halloween party!

Our first Boo to You parade was majorly pixie dusted, because not 1, not 2, but 3 characters talked to us during it! First Snow White told me she liked my horns, so my day was made. Then Cruella Deville came up and rubbed Tiana’s wig saying “ohh dahling you need to foof it up more, and next time half-white half-black, ok now?” (I could kick myself for not getting that one on video!) While Tiana’s jaw was still on the floor from that, Dr. Facilier waltzed over and pointed out her purple jacket, saying he likes it because it matches his jacket. We pretty much felt like we were the stars of the parade 💖 That’s the kind of Disney magic that has me coming back again and again!

After the parade ended, we got swept up in the current of people heading for the exit and decided we better go catch our bus before waits started to build. We were ahead of the pack when we got to the buses so it was no problem and we made it back to our room quickly. Just in time to wash our faces and collapse in bed!

Was it worth it?

Based on our experience, the cost of the party ticket was 100% worth it. Honestly, even if you didn’t like Halloween at all, just having access to Magic Kingdom with such short lines for all the rides would make it worth the price in my book. And all the Halloween extras are icing on the cake.

The park has a totally different vibe with everyone in costume, special characters, shows, parades, etc. The energy is super exciting! Had I been traveling with my whole family however, the experience would probably been very different. So these would be my guidelines for families trying to decide whether or not to do the party:

1. Will you be able to stay for the whole thing? And I don’t mean with the kids falling asleep and miserable at 9 o’clock and parents forcing them to stay for the whole thing.

2. What would the rest of the your day look like? We took it easy the day of the party- sleeping in, doing a bike ride and relaxing by the pool. I would not recommend trying to “squeeze in” MNSSHP after a full day touring the park.

3. Would your children be scared? My daughter is 9 and she was spooked by some things. My younger children might have been too afraid to enjoy themselves (one of them in particular who is extremely sensitive to scary things). Even though the party isn’t a “Halloween horrors” type of event, Disney knows how to set the mood to make even Disney villains seem pretty terrifying.

4. What night can you go? Our party was on a Sunday, which tend to be less crowded. The Tuesday parties are also recommended. I don’t know if it makes a huge difference, but I’ve heard the Friday night parties close to Halloween are more packed (and sell out).

5. Are you there for the characters? If you want to do the party to meet some of the rare characters, you’d need to do some serious prioritizing and strategizing. Some of the most popular characters there (like the Seven Dwarfs and Jack Skellington) attract wait times of 2 or more hours. If meeting lots of characters is your number one priority, then go for it! Just do it knowing you might get to do little else. You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to meet all the characters and take part in all the other party fun.

For us this party was a magical night and the highlight of our trip! I will be recapping the other parks we visited as well, including the new Avatar rides at Animal Kingdom, so be on the lookout for that.

What other questions do you have about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party?

 

Why I’m Only Bringing One Of My Kids to Disney World

Two weeks from today, my oldest child (nine year old Tiana) and I will be headed to the most magical place on earth! My other three kids will be staying home with Daddy.

Why am I only bringing one of my kids to Disney? Because I only like this kid and can’t stand those other ones.

Just kidding.

Here are the real reasons 😄

bring one kid to disney

With 4 kids, it is rare to have one on one time.

Yes, I know, I wrote a post about how great it is to have a large family. On the whole I think it’s a great gift to my children to give them a bunch of siblings. But just like any family size, there are negatives too.

Like how they don’t even get to eat a whole apple because inevitably after getting two bites in, some sibling will cry that they want it too and we end up slicing it and sharing it.

And, it’s really hard to get one on one time with Mom or Dad.

We know individual time is important, it’s just hard to work into the schedule of activities, homework, birthday parties, housework, etc, etc, etc. Oh and Mom and Dad like to have date nights too.

So yeah, I’m sure Tiana doesn’t get as much one on one attention as most kids do. Being alone with Mom for three days will be a pretty huge deal for her.

There’s always been a baby in our family.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized my oldest has really never *not* had a baby in her life. She was a mere 16 months old when Zari was born, and then every few years after that she’s gained a new sibling. So there has never really been a time in her life without babies.

bring one kid to disney
Tiana became a big sister at only 16 months

Because our family has been stuck in this eternal baby stage, there have been limitations on what we can do. With the exception of Christmas Eve, our kids have never stayed out anywhere past 7pm. We almost never go places that aren’t baby-friendly, like plays, movies, trampoline parks, and pottery painting. If we do take her to one of these places, it is for her special one on one “date” which doesn’t happen too often. So Tiana doesn’t get to do a ton of older kid activities.

She has her own interests and I want something to be all about her.

Ever since she heard about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, Tiana wanted to be there! She has a fascination with villains and all things creepy. Her siblings on the other hand have an intense fear of creepy things (especially Zari), which is why we’ve never gone to WDW at Halloween before.

Tiana also is my only kiddo that likes thrill rides, so a one on one trip means we’ll be doing ALL the fast rides this trip! Everest, Rockin Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will all be firsts for her on this trip and she could not be more excited.

It will be a total change of pace for Tiana to have this time that’s all about HER. Not having to balance her wishes with everyone else’s. She picked the itinerary, the rides, the restaurants we’re going to eat at, and the shows she wants to see. When she feels like ice cream, we’ll eat an ice cream. If she wants to swim, we’ll swim. Kind of the like the concept of “Yes Day“.

This kid helps out a lot, and she deserves something special.

As the oldest child, Tiana is the one who most often gets asked to “keep an eye on the baby for a minute” or “go grab me the box of wipes”. I realize she is a child so we try not to ask too much of her, but when we do need a hand she is quick to help.

bring one kid to Disney
A truly loving (and helpful) big sister!

She is not a kid that’s overly entitled or expects to get something in return for helping out. She’s just a good kid and I want to reward her with something special that she’ll really love.

We could use the bonding.

My relationship with Tiana hasn’t always been as effortless and solid as it has with my other children. She came to us at a year and a half old, and attachment doesn’t always come easily when adopting a child past infancy. (If you’re interested in our adoption story, I’ve written about it here.)

I’m happy to report that our relationship has grown much stronger through the years and is pretty solid at this point. But I still feel like, of all the kids, Tiana would benefit the most from a little extra bonding.

I wish I had a chance to take a trip like this with my Mom.

Having lost my Mom when I was 20, I’m always aware of how short life is. I have a few special memories with her from my childhood that I think about often. I never did get to take a trip with just me and my Mom, but if I had I know I’d be looking at the pictures and reminiscing about it during the tough days when I really miss her.

It is super important to me that I make memories like this with my kids that they can hold onto for life, no matter how long we have together. I don’t want to wait until they are adults to do special things with my kids, because who knows if we’ll ever have that time.

Next year she’ll be a tween, then she’ll be a teen.

I hate thinking this way, but at 9 years old, my time to enjoy Tiana as a kid is dwindling! Next year she will be a “tween”, a thought that overjoys her and terrifies me. While I am a big believer that any age is a great age for Disney, quite honestly I think 8-9 is the perfect age.

At her age, there is still plenty of magic for Tiana. She is still a true believer in all the unbelievable wonders. She loves the characters and wants to meet them and talk to them. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the last trip she’ll be a “believer”.

bring one kid to Disney
Meeting Princess Tiana was a magical moment for this Disney fan!

I also know there’s a good chance my daughter won’t want to spend time with me in a few years. Right now at 9, she still thinks Mom and Dad are cool and wants to be with us all the time. Soon we know the pendulum will swing and she’ll want to be with peers instead of us.

The other kids will have their turn.

Right now it’s Tiana’s turn, but each of my kids will get a one on one trip with Mom when they’re 8 or 9. They understand this, and it helps them to not feel slighted. Their trip can be Disney if that’s what they choose, or somewhere else depending on their interests.

I’m ok with them having to wait for their turn. It’s a nice lesson in delayed gratification and patience. They’ll also enjoy their special Daddy time while we’re away too.

Those are the reasons why I chose to bring one kid to Disney! I’m sure many will still not agree with my decision. What do you think? Would you take just one of your children on a special trip?

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