Guide to Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party at Disneyland

Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party is a holiday hard ticket event at Disneyland on select dates in November and December 2021! This guide offers info & tips, how to save time during the event, dates & details, strategy for meeting rare characters, and our commentary. (Updated November 12, 2021.)

This is a new separate ticket, limited-capacity Christmas party at Disneyland held on one of five select nights throughout the holiday season, from November 11 through December 9, 2021. This Christmas Party takes place from 8:00 pm until midnight, with admission to Disneyland with the event tickets as early as 5:00 pm. We attended the first Disney Merriest Nites and share our tips & tricks in the strategy section below.

Before that, let’s begin with the basics of Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party. As the host of the party, Mickey Mouse has invited many of his friends to host 6 themed parties throughout Disneyland on select evenings. The big cheese himself will welcome you to the party on Main Street, U.S.A. with Victorian flair, and Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and their friends join in the fun, traveling in a special coach with Christmas carol sing-alongs, Muppet antics, and a few chickens!

Over in New Orleans Square, Princess Tiana plans to ring in Noel with guests at her bayou-inspired celebration. In Frontierland, Miguel from the Disney and Pixar film “Coco” will be wishing everyone Feliz Navidad while you kick up your heels during a jolly dance-filled fiesta.

Three more character-hosted holiday parties await you with a tropical party hosted by Lilo & Stitch in Adventureland, a wintertime celebration with Elsa in Fantasyland, and Buzz Lightyear taking the holidays to new heights over in Tomorrowland. Your friends and family will enjoy enhanced entertainment such as themed photo backdrops and character sightings, and themed specialty food and beverage offerings within the event.

Here are the highlights of Disney Merriest Nights Christmas Party at Disneyland:

  • Holiday Experiences – Join the fun at 6 uniquely themed parties with some favorite Disney Characters–including Mickey Mouse, Miguel, Tiana, Elsa, Lilo, Stitch, Buzz Lightyear–plus snow moments on Main Street, U.S.A. and even an appearance from Santa Claus himself!
  • Early Admission to Disneyland – Arrive ahead beginning at 5:00 PM and explore the park before the party, no theme park reservation required.
  • Merry Entertainment – Get into the festive spirit with a special performance of “A Christmas Fantasy Parade.”
  • After-Hours Access to Attractions – Ride some of the park’s classic attractions–including holiday favorites like “it’s a small world” Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday–throughout the event, usually with shorter wait times. (Access to Mickey’s Toontown, Critter Country and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will not be available during event hours.)
  • Character Appearances – Be on the lookout! You may see both rare and classic Disney Characters dressed in their holiday best who will stop by to join the festivities.
  • Festive Photo Ops with Themed Backdrops – Let Disney PhotoPass photographers capture shots–with unlimited downloads of photos taken during the event–against memorable event-themed backdrops.
  • Holiday and Event Merchandise – You’ll have the opportunity to purchase holiday merchandise, including special Disney Merriest Nites-themed merchandise available during the event.
  • Specialty Holiday Treats and Eats – Feast on holiday treats with a twist! Enjoy event-inspired menu options like hot chocolate and cookies at select Disneyland Park locations.

Disney Merriest Nites tickets will be sold for the following dates:

  • November 11, 2021 – $175 (blogger/vlogger/thirst for first surcharge)
  • November 16, 2021 – $165
  • November 30, 2021 – $165
  • December 7, 2021 – $165
  • December 9, 2021 – $165

UPDATE: All five of the Disney Merriest Nites events at Disneyland Park are now sold out. This separately ticketed, limited-capacity Christmas party took nearly a month to totally sell out, which is a lot longer than we expected–even at its relatively high price point. (We were so worried they’d sell out within a day that we both joined the virtual queue.)

As with other Disneyland events, it is possible more tickets will be released at a later date, or that day-of purchases will be possible at Guest Services for on-site hotel guests.

Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party Strategy

We’ve attended the Christmas Party, and share full details of the experience in Photos & Review: Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party. If you’re doing the event this year and want to avoid making mistakes, or are on the fence about attending in 2022 and are wondering if it’s worth the money, we’d recommend reading that.

With that said, here are some quick tips for making the most of the Christmas party. Our first piece of advice is to arrive early for the pre-party mix-in. As noted above, Disney Merriest Nites takes place from 8 pm until midnight, with admission to Disneyland with the event tickets as early as 5 pm.

We’d strongly recommend arriving well before 5 pm, as the lines for the turnstiles are quite lengthy. Expect it to take at least an hour to park, go through security, walk or take the shuttle to the park, and enter Disneyland.

If you’re already inside Disneyland for the day, you can pick up your event lanyard and wristband at Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland. If you do this, go early. We waited until closer to party time and waited just over an hour. (Hopefully this is addressed for subsequent events, because the line was ridiculous and understaffed.) You might be better off leaving the park and entering through the turnstiles again.

At 7 pm, Disneyland closes to day guests and event attendees can take advantage of the specialty food and drinks available for purchase.

We checked out a few of the options, but the prices were absurd for the small portion sizes. Consider eating before the event starts, as we saw no special menu items that were worthwhile.

Instead, consider using that time to do an attraction or two with a short wait. Haunted Mansion Holiday and ‘it’s a small world’ holiday (if it’s back up and running) will be the most popular choices.

Nothing else begins until 8 pm. You can’t even take photos with the special backdrops. About the only other option is joining a virtual queue to buy merchandise, which looked fairly unpleasant. (The souvenirs themselves look fine, but the crowd gathered around the virtual queue made it unappealing to us.)

About 30 minutes before Disney Merriest Nites officially begins, we’d recommend lining up for your first stop of the event. There are several rare characters at the event, and we’d strongly recommend starting with one of those if they’re of interest to you.

Without question, Minnie and Mickey Mouse costumed as Emily and Bob Cratchit from Mickey’s Christmas Carol are the most popular characters. They’re located on Main Street in Town Square. This was our approach, and we were done with them shortly after the Christmas party began–just in time for the first performance of the Muppets Christmas Caroling Coach!

Speaking of which, the Muppets Christmas Caroling Coach is the highlight of Disneyland’s holiday event. This is performed four times during the Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party: at 8:10 pm, 9 pm, 10:30 pm, and 11:30 pm.

The first and last showings will be the least crowded–we’d recommend seeing both. Perhaps one up close and the other a bit farther back.

Since the Omnibus comes down Main Street, you can’t simply camp out for a spot. You’ll need to wait on the curb and make a dash for the show stop line once the Omnibus passes.

The second show is shortly before “A Christmas Fantasy” parade steps off, making that by far the most popular of the bunch. You’ll want to skip that performance and instead prioritize picking a parade viewing location.

As for “A Christmas Fantasy” parade, there’s only one performance of that. Consequently, this is the most congested aspect of the event, and you’ll need to camp out for a spot at least 30 minutes in advance if you plan on watching from Main Street.

If you’ve seen it before or have the option of watching during the day, consider skipping “A Christmas Fantasy.” If not, we’d recommend watching from Town Square to avoid crowds.

This is both a low-crowds and a strategic recommendation. Once “A Christmas Fantasy” parade passes you, head over to the character greeting location in Town Square where you (hopefully) met the rare characters from Mickey’s Christmas Carol at the start of the event.

Since Minnie and Mickey are in the parade, Ebenezer Scrooge and Goofy Marley will be out meeting this time. Right after (or during, for most guests viewing it deeper into the park) the parade is when their line will be shortest.

By and large, everything else during Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party can be enjoyed at your leisure. The atmospheric entertainment acts are easy to see and don’t require camping out for a spot. Most of the characters are quick selfie stations that can be breezed through.

The other big exceptions to this are Donald’s Snow Fight in Fantasyland (almost back by Toontown) and Pluto’s Christmas Tree along the parade route (near Pixie Hollow). If you’re done with the prior characters quickly, consider chasing Pluto and Donald up the parade route. Otherwise, jump in line for either or both towards the end of the night.

You also might want to meet the “Friends from Frozen” near ‘it’s a small world.’ There are several rare characters from the movies that we had previously never seen before, and Elsa is wearing a unique gown. This spot is also popular, but this line moves pretty quickly. Just be mindful that the lines for characters do get cut prior to midnight. That’s really all the strategy you should need–otherwise, it’s a pretty laid back night at Disneyland. Have fun!

Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party Commentary

In terms of commentary, the big surprise for us is that Disneyland is finally dipping its toes in the water of a hard ticket Christmas party. Longtime readers of this blog–or even anyone who has been with us since September–has undoubtedly heard the explanation as to why Disneyland historically has not done Christmas parties.

If not, we’ll rehash what we’ve said before. Higher holiday season crowds are the reason why Disneyland has never done a hard ticket Christmas party in the past. They’ve toyed with the idea many times over the years, with a holiday party being credibly rumored almost every year for the past decade.

Despite Disneyland seriously considering Christmas parties in the past, they’ve never followed through on the idea. It’s likely that this long-running rumor has never come to fruition due to the operational issues with displacing crowds from Disneyland during its busiest two months of the year.

Including the parade and fireworks with regular admission is not done because Disneyland embraces the spirit of the season more than Walt Disney World. It’s a simple matter of logistics and problems with crowd displacement that occur with 2 parks versus 4 parks.

This is the same reason Mickey’s Halloween Party (now Oogie Boogie Bash) moved over to Disney California Adventure once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge debuted.

The rationale for that was to take some of the burden off of Disneyland, which has struggled with crowds in October in recent years. With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expected to draw colossal crowds upon its debut, Disneyland simply was not equipped to both host Mickey’s Halloween Party and deal with normal daily operations. At least, not without incredibly unpleasant results.

So, what has changed now? Well, for one thing, there are only 5 dates of Disney Merriest Nites scattered throughout November and December 2021. Every single one of them is a weeknight, with no dates during the week of Thanksgiving and all Disney Merriest Nights ending well before peak travel season begins in mid-December.

That suggests Disneyland has purposefully chosen a scattering of dates when its internal attendance forecasts are the lowest for a trial run of Disney Merriest Nites. The idea is presumably to see how well DCA can absorb the crowds by doing a stress-test of sorts on the lightest dates of the holiday season. If it goes well, expand in 2022. If it goes poorly, Disney Merriest Nites is a one and done.

The other thing that has changed is the new Magic Key program, which requires reservations for every tier of Passholders, rather than offering open admission. This allows Disneyland to better manage attendance, and restrict the number of Keymasters on select dates.

It’s safe to assume those 5 dates will be ones where Magic Keyholders are either pushed towards DCA or see the pool of available reservations limited.

Finally, there’s the matter of attendance. Projecting attendance this year is a fool’s errand, but right now, things are looking low for Disneyland after pent-up demand from the summer has burned off. With that said, September is always the off-season and low crowds one month turn into colossal crowds the next, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves with that–the parks could be bonkers again by October.

UPDATE: It’s now the holiday season and the parks are, in fact, bonkers. On top of that, Magic Key reservations are largely sold out for the next three months, meaning actual demand is even higher than what’s reflected in current crowds. Perhaps with all of the pent-up demand, it was the wrong year for Disneyland to test the Christmas party concept.

Ultimately, it should be interesting to see what happens with Disney Merriest Nights. On the one hand, we like the idea of a Christmas party at Disneyland, especially one that features anything Muppet Christmas Carol. We really enjoy Oogie Boogie Bash and think Disneyland Resort does a good job of balancing free-with-admission Halloween entertainment alongside special event offerings.

On the other hand, it has been great having everything included with regular admission during the Christmas season at Disneyland and not having to pay extra for certain entertainment. So long as that continues to be the case, and existing offerings don’t move behind a “paywall” in future years, we’re more or less on board with Disneyland doing a scattering of Christmas parties in November and December.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

Are you excited for the debut of the Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party at Disneyland? Disappointed about the addition or another special event, or think it’ll be a worthwhile “value add” of entertainment? Surprised that this long-running rumor is finally coming to fruition, or did you think it was an inevitability at some point? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!

29 Responses to “Guide to Disney Merriest Nites Christmas Party at Disneyland”
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