Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is now underway for 2023 in Magic Kingdom! This Walt Disney World event recap shares photos of the new parade additions, characters, Hocus Pocus stage show, fireworks, and more. I’ll also share thoughts on MNSSHP, review the good, bad & ugly of the experience, and more.
If you’re looking for step-by-step strategy for the event, consult our Guide to the 2023 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party instead. Basically, this is a trip report…but for just the Halloween Party. Similar to our rope drop and Early Entry reports, and speaking of which, we’ll have more recaps soon covering days at Magic Kingdom and DHS on party and non-party days.
The MNSSHP I attended was sold out…just like every other party in August 2023. If you think about it, that makes complete sense. Everyone knows August is the heart and soul of spooky season! Nothing makes me want to wear a thick costume, elaborate hat, and face paint like the prospect of summer storm season coupled with high heat and humidity in Central Florida…
The good news is that there was not a single storm cloud in sight on this particular day. The bad-to-ugly news is that this was the single hottest Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party I’ve ever attended, and I’ve done this annually since 2007.
After leaving Magic Kingdom for a meal outside the park and returning, the temperature was 100° with a “feels like” of 115 degrees. This wasn’t even as bad as it got this particular day–the actual temperature hit 102° and the “feels like” reached 118 degrees. I’m no stranger to hot summers in Central Florida, and the past couple weeks were the worst weather I’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World.
Since Sarah was unable to attend this year’s MNSSHP–the first she’s missed in over a decade–I had been sending her periodic updates on the weather. When I first bought my ticket, she was disappointed to be missing out. Pretty sure that wore off by the time the party rolled around.
Regardless of the weather, I wanted to take advantage of the ridiculously low crowds in Magic Kingdom on party days. Minus the afternoon meal break, I had already been in the park since before the start of Early Entry at 7:30 am. Honestly, despite my complaints about weather, it was pretty great. Crowds were incredibly low and wait times were so short that I did a ton of attractions, getting just enough exposure to indoors and air-conditioning to keep comfortable, for the most part.
Anyway, I returned to Magic Kingdom around 3:45 pm. This was easily the worst crowd I’ve ever seen for any hard ticket party at Magic Kingdom. And on one of the hottest days of the year on an otherwise uncrowded day.
There’s always an initial rush of guests at 4 pm, but many people don’t know they can enter Magic Kingdom early. This has changed in recent years as Walt Disney World better advertises the perk, presumably to help justify the price increases.
My strong suspicion is that an increasing number of guests are purchasing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween instead of day tickets, rather than in addition to regular admission. This could be playing out in a ways big and small, from tourists buying shorter duration tickets (3 days instead of 4) to locals skipping out on Annual Passes and getting their “Disney fix” during Party Season.
That latter example might sound far-fetched or like I’m jumping to conclusions, but it’s based on experience.
When Disneyland really started increasing prices on Annual Passes several years ago and reduced options for locals, many Californians started skipping APs and instead doing Mickey’s Halloween Party (now Oogie Boogie Bash). These priced-out locals wanting to get their fix would also explain why MNSSHP is selling even faster than last year, despite pent-up demand otherwise slowing.
It also explains the larger crowd prior to 4 pm. These are higher-knowledge guests who also want to get as much value out of the party ticket as possible. This is a contrast to tourists with multi-day tickets that may include a park day prior to the start of MNSSHP, who have no incentive to arrive right at 4 pm.
If this theory is even partially correct, you can expect both Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to continue selling out faster. This 4 pm crowd will also continue to grow, as a higher percentage of guests don’t have alternative admission on party days.
You can also expect price increases to continue. So long as single-day tickets for Magic Kingdom aren’t significantly cheaper (and they aren’t) than the parties, many guests will opt for MNSSHP and MVMCP instead. Again, we’ve already seen all of these things happen at Disneyland Resort, so these are hardly bold predictions.
This “mix-in” time between 4 pm and 7 pm continues to get busier and busier, which is part of why we recommend that day guests in Magic Kingdom with Park Hopper tickets head to another park by around 5 pm or 6 pm. If you don’t have Park Hopper tickets or you’re arriving and want to avoid the crowds, head as deep into the park as possible.
If you’re a MNSSHP guest, the upsides to arriving early are obvious–extending your time in Magic Kingdom and accomplishing things you might want to do during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Getting a meal out of the way, doing a few rides, buying seasonal snacks, or getting photos in costume during the daytime hours.
Rather than getting my wristband at the party turnstiles, I re-entered Magic Kingdom through the normal entrance for day guests, and went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party distribution point in Tomorrowland. This is our recommended approach for those already in Magic Kingdom, and can offer a strategic advantage for the high priority meet & greets.
There were more than enough Cast Members scanning tickets, distributing wristbands, and handing out candy bags. After this, I doubled back to Main Street in order to go through the Main Street bypass corridor that’s used as a ‘welcome’ area for MNSSHP.
One less obvious upside to arriving early for MNSSHP is lining up for characters. The most popular option for this is Sally and Jack Skellington in Town Square Theater, which starts at 4 pm. Typically, the characters come out between then and 5 pm. The line at this time is about the longest it’ll be–between 2 and 3 hours, typically. But it’s also before MNSSHP officially starts, so at least you aren’t wasting party time, I guess?
I took one look at that line and walked away. Even though it was entirely indoors–and thus air-conditioned–I questioned whether I’d be done before 7 pm, which was my goal. Instead, I headed back to Storybook Circus to meet the Seven Dwarfs. See How to Waste the Least Time Meeting the Seven Dwarfs at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for a recap of how that went. Suffice to say, I waited 1 hour 42 minutes, which is very good for that meet & greet. Only 14.57 minutes per dwarf!!!
Starting with the Seven Dwarfs also makes it easier to hit one of the Fantasyland meet & greets second. Our go-to pick here is nearby at Dumbo, which is our most highly recommended MNSSHP meet & greet for one simple reason: it’s two for the price of one. You get Daisy and Donald Duck, and then (separately) Minnie Mouse immediately thereafter. Like the Seven Dwarfs, it’s more bang for your buck. Unlike them, this is also a nice hedge in case photos from the first one don’t turn out as expected, are oddly composed, etc.
We also really like Winnie the Pooh and friends in their Halloween costumes over by the attraction. That’s a single meet & greet and entirely outdoors, so not exactly ideal for the hotter months of MNSSHP.
While in line for the Seven Dwarfs, I had joined the TRON Lightcycle Run virtual queue at 6 pm.
My boarding group was called back at 6:24 pm, and I headed over to Tomorrowland shortly thereafter. Suffice to say, using the “speed strategy” discussed in our TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue Strategy Guide is definitely the right approach if this a must-do during MNSSHP.
I also did as many of the Magic Shots as were available prior to the official start of the party at 7 pm. This is always hit or miss, with some photographers doing the exclusive shots at 4 pm, others at 6 pm, and most at 7 pm. Then the are the ones who aren’t out until a random time. This year, I also discovered that some Magic Shots don’t start until dusk, or so I was told.
One of my goals for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party had been to try a few exclusive entrees and desserts. Unfortunately, everywhere I looked deeper in the park between 6:30 and 7 pm already had really long lines, and I had no interest in hassling with that.
I was already on Main Street for the PhotoPass shots, and noticed that Plaza Ice Cream Parlor didn’t have a line. Between the oppressive heat and that this is home to a glorious Apple Fritter Ice Cream Sundae for MNSSHP, I assumed that there must be some sort of issue. So naturally, I incredulously asked a Cast Member: “…you’re not open, are you?” Kind of a weird inquiry after entering the establishment, which was fully staffed, but I’ve grown accustomed to various issues getting between me and ice cream over the years. To my (irrational) surprise, they were open and did have the sundae.
Much is made of how everything at Walt Disney World is overpriced these days. But dear reader, at the risk of inadvertently ‘causing’ a future price increase, let me tell you that I would have paid $[redacted] for a Lightning Lane to that ice cream sundae. In actuality, I received a free FastPass in the form of an empty queue, and only paid $8.
That might be the best $8 that I’ve ever spent at Walt Disney World. It’s impossible for me to give an unbiased review of this ice cream sundae. In that moment, after being outside in triple-digit “feels like” temperatures, it was the best dessert I had ever eaten at Walt Disney World. Even trying to set that aside, it was still really good and highly recommended; pumpkin ice cream plus apple fritters is a perfect pairing for fall…or a hot and humid August day!
After eating that Apple Fritter Sundae, I was re-energized. The timing was perfect, as Main Street was relatively empty at this point and a gorgeous sunset was brewing. Ice cream might as well be a performance enhancing drug for photographers–I was like Lance Armstrong, ready to race the Tour de Magic Kingdom.
I ran around for a bit, capturing photos of the decorations and the sublime sunset and dusk. One of my favorite things about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the ambiance–lighting, music, and overall mood–on Main Street. So many of my favorite memories from MNSSHP are simply being there, taking photos and soaking up the atmosphere while my shirt soaks up my sweat. With that, the heat melts away and it feels like the heart of Halloween.
Over the course of the night, I caught Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular a couple times in full and once more in part. I always make a point of seeing the Sanderson Sisters come on stage for the first time, as the crowd always goes wild for them.
One thing that’s sometimes overlooked when it comes to this spectacular stage show is the audience’s energy. The performers and the diehards in the crowd definitely feed off of one another.
As always, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is just flat-out awesome. From the production value to the script to the caliber of the performers, the show is top notch. Like the movie itself, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is a good example of Disney capturing lightning in a bottle.
I will never get tired of this stage show. Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular is truly one of Disney’s best-ever in-park productions anywhere. It has one of those qualities about it that’s difficult to articulate, but just makes it really enjoyable to watch…and rewatch again and again. There’s just a certain undeniable appeal–it’s a vibe. A mix of charm and mild edge, both of which are undoubtedly carried by the three main characters.
I also caught Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks from directly in front of Cinderella Castle. This is not a great location for the pyro. You’re too close to the castle, which ends up blocking your view of the pyro launched from directly behind the park. The low level perimeter bursts are visible, but aren’t as impressive.
If it’s your first time, you’ll probably want to stand farther back. Thanks to the Party Pass, we saw Not-So-Spooky Spectacular over a dozen times in the first year it was shown, from just about every perspective in the park. See our Guide to Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular for recommendations based on our experiences (the first half is a review, so scroll a little over halfway down for fireworks viewing recommendations).
Having seen the show many times before, I had the luxury of choosing an objectively “okay” spot overall. With that said, it’s exceptional for a very specific view: an up-close look at the Jack Skellington puppet.
If this is your priority–and the puppet is so cool that maybe it should be–the idea spot is going to be between the south position on the compass rose and the parade route. That’s where I stood for all of these photos (wide views @14mm on tripod-mounted camera; close-up @85mm handheld) and it was about perfect for my purposes.
This is the spot I’ve picked both of the last two years for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Even though it’s objectively only okay for the pyro, it’s my personal go-to pick, so I suppose you can draw your own conclusions from that ‘voting with my feet,’ so to speak.
After the fireworks, I headed over to Frontierland to check on the Country Bears. As always, they’re one of the highlights of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. They engage in hijinks with guests and do an impromptu dance party, albeit in about the harshest lighting possible. It’s a ton of fun, requires literally no waiting around, and is always different and memorable.
More of all this please, Disney. (Not the harsh lighting part.) Dedicated meet & greets are great and have their place at these events. So too do these spontaneous, atmospheric encounters–they give such a great vibe and allow guests and characters to play. Seriously, Walt Disney World could really benefit from more playfulness.
Even if you’re unsophisticated and don’t appreciate the high-brow humor of the Country Bears, they’re a good option for character photos during MNSSHP. Since most people don’t know who they are, it’s easy to snag selfies or photos with them all in a matter of minutes. I speak for everyone when I say I’d rather receive a Christmas card featuring family photos with the Country Bears than the Seven Dwarfs!
I caught both performances of Mickey’s Boo to You Parade. The first one I watched from Town Square, which is my go-to spot at the last minute. The lighting is fairly good, the parade comes directly towards you (if you stand in front of Town Square Theater) or you can watch with Cinderella Castle and the Not So Scary Scarecrows in the background (if you stand in front of the MSUSA Train Station).
For the second Boo to You, I watched from my favorite spot, behind the flagpole facing Cinderella Castle. I have a lot of thoughts about the redone Boo to You–so many that I plan on doing a separate parade viewing post. There’s a non-zero chance that I won’t get around to writing that, so here are some parade photos in the meantime:
Suffice to say, I’m a big fan of the changes made to Mickey’s Boo to You Parade.
The part that I liked least was, ironically, the addition of the Sanderson Sisters. Nothing against those characters–to the contrary, I think they’re fantastic. I hate that float and the way that the characters were staged on it. I was really hoping the Sanderson Sisters would get a new purpose-built float that allowed them to have some great choreography, but it wasn’t to be. Thankfully, every other change was fantastic, and breathed new life into Boo to You!
The final Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular starts at midnight, which gives you a “bonus” 20 minutes at the end of the party. This is a nice way to extend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but even this final showing is crowded. As someone who stays until the bitter end, seeing this show is a no-brainer for me, as it takes forever for Main Street to clear out, anyway.
After the final Hocus Pocus, I chatted with some friends and then headed to the Emporium to buy the MNSSHP Tervis. Not that you care, but we’ve started collecting these–mostly the resort-specific designs. I had been foiled at attempts to acquire the ones for Caribbean Beach, BoardWalk, and Beach Club, so this was a nice consolation prize.
I lingered around Main Street for as long as possible. Magic Kingdom was still pretty busy until about 12:45 a.m. With a slow trickle of guests still exiting meet & greets long after the party ended, security is in no rush to push people towards the exit.
By 1:05 am, Main Street was finally clear of guests. And at this point, the feels like temperature had dropped below 100 degrees, which was a small victory.
I didn’t stay until the bitter end, but was among the last dozen or so guests left on Main Street and managed to snag photos with no one in them. For me, this “bonus” hour-plus is as much a chance to capture photos with unique lighting as it is an opportunity to embrace the ominous party ambiance.
I love the background music, fog effects, lighting, and Magic Kingdom’s dramatically different of a vibe. As someone who likes the experience of “being there” as much as any of the substantive offerings of the theme parks, this is my favorite part of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Ultimately, the 2023 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is a good event and one we’ll continue to attend annually. The changes made to Mickey’s Boo to You Parade were almost all positive, and breathed new life into that iconic piece of Walt Disney World entertainment. Personally, I wouldn’t mind this sticking around forever, preserving the clear classics and adding fresh floats and characters elsewhere. Likewise, the Hocus Pocus stage show is one of the best things Disney Live Entertainment has ever produced, and is no need to replacement (or even reimagining) anytime soon.
As for the rest of the event…it’s starting to get a bit tired. It’s too bad there’s no incentive for Walt Disney World to look at Oogie Boogie Bash and import some of the incredible treat trails or characters from that. I still think Magic Kingdom has the objectively better party, but DCA’s is undeniably fresher. Walt Disney World sees plenty of repeat and annual guests, and it’d be nice to give them/us new reasons to return to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
We love the event and it’s still “worth it” to us, but a big part of that is nostalgia, ambiance, and the trips down memory lane. If we were “normal” Walt Disney World fans, we would probably start doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party every other year. Unlike Oogie Boogie Bash, which gives us compelling reasons to attend annually, there simply isn’t enough that changes at MNSSHP to justify it every single year.
Finally, it’s worth circling back to the brutally hot weather. Even though this MNSSHP saw record heat and humidity, high temperatures are hardly unheard of for August in Central Florida. In fact, I looked back through my past party reports for the last several years, and the weather was mentioned in all of them except one (an unseasonably cool night!).
Between that expectation of high heat and that August is over two months before Halloween, the atmosphere is not as good at these early MNSSHPs. The big thing is far fewer guests in costume as compared to the late September and October parties–we noticed a huge difference with this back when we had the Party Pass in 2019.
If you’re local or have flexible travel dates and don’t mind paying a tad more, perhaps consider planning a trip to do Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in September 2024. (Our list of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2023 to 2025 can help you pick the perfect time!) Again, if we were “normal” Walt Disney World fans, we’d definitely pay a slight premium for one of the September parties that have improved odds of better weather and more guests getting into the spirit of spook season.
Have you attended the 2023 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom? What did you think of the crowds, weather, lines, or anything else? Think MNSSHP is worth the high ticket price? Thoughts on the updated Mickey’s Boo to You Parade, Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Fireworks, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, or any other entertainment? Any other tips, likes or dislikes? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!