Last year, most Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights sold out. We had a chance to visit Magic Kingdom during a few October event evenings. In this post, we’ll recap our most recent experiences with crowds at Walt Disney World’s hard ticket MNSSHP event and try to address whether it’s still worth attending this year.
You might recall that at the beginning of September, we shared “A Delightfully Dead Duo of Halloween Parties” rejoicing at the low crowds. These two Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights reminded us of the “good ole days of these events years ago” and we cautioned you against expecting the same, as these low crowds were likely due to Hurricane Dorian, the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, etc.
We’ve attended several partial Halloween Parties since then, most recently a sold out night in early October. We’ve had hit or miss experiences with crowds on those evenings. Some mid-September parties were fine, others were terrible. Now that October has arrived, crowds at Walt Disney World have spiked and several more upcoming Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party dates have sold out. If you have yet to purchase MNSSHP tickets this year and are on the fence, the question of whether Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is too crowded is worth answering…
In this post, we’ll address whether Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is too crowded, and also, what that even means. The second half is important, as ‘high crowds’ at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party mean different things to different people. This depends upon their past experiences, priorities, and even where in Magic Kingdom they spend most of their time.
If a family of first-timers to Walt Disney World attends an October Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party after visiting Magic Kingdom on a Saturday, and spends most of their party time in the back of the park doing attractions, their perception of the event will probably be positive. They’ll likely praise the short waits and wide open walkways.
Contrast that with a group who has attended several past Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties, but hasn’t been for the last two years. They are focused almost exclusively on the unique Halloween entertainment, and want to see it in the ‘best’ locations on Main Street. They also want photos with some characters–not all of them, but about as many as they managed to meet last time.
I cannot imagine this second group having many good things to say about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year. They are likely to encounter significantly more people waiting for the entertainment–and camping out earlier for it. Congestion on Main Street and around the Hub will be much worse than what they experienced three or more years ago. They’ll be lucky to meet more than a handful of characters thanks to lines that are rarely below 30 minutes.
One problem, and reason why different guests can have dramatically different feedback from the exact same event, is that too many Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party guests are congregating in a few limited areas of the park. Main Street can feel like it’s an 11/10 in terms of crowds.
Between the fireworks and second parade, the Hub can feel downright unsafely congested as people are attempting to leave and arrive simultaneously. I cannot imagine trying to navigate a stroller through this area–I’d truly be worried about my kids. (It’s unfathomable to me that this has been a known problem for the last two years, and Disney still has inadequate crowd control in this area.)
Meanwhile, over in New Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Frontierland, there are often wide open walkways at the exact same times, and wait times for most attractions of 5-10 minutes. Guests who use the party as a way to do rides with minimal waits are still likely to be satisfied with the event. Wait times have bumped up a tad, but they’re still minimal.
Guests who attend MNSSHP to see the parade, fireworks, stage show, and character meet & greets are likely to have a very different perception. All of these things have incredibly high “crowd density” throughout the evening. You’ll have to commit more time to each of these things, and are still likely to have a worse experience than in previous years due to increased crowds, and the unfortunate byproducts of that (more shoulder kids and people holding their phones high in the area to capture footage).
One thing I’ve seen Walt Disney World visitors blaming is the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Pass, which is essentially an annual pass for the event. I can assure you that this is not even remotely the case. On a nightly basis, the number of guests using the Party Pass can be measured in the hundreds–or even dozens–not in the thousands.
I’m not sure why there’s a perception that there are tens of thousands of Party Passholders, but that’s simply not true. It’s basically a handful of Halloween diehards and small army (we prefer “brigade”) of bloggers. For the vast majority of guests and even the social media crowd, MNSSHP is a once-annual event, at most. This doesn’t have a passionate and dedicated fanbase like Halloween Horror Nights.
The real issues are a combination of demand and, more problematically, Walt Disney World increasing the attendance cap for both the Halloween and Christmas parties. Demand seems pretty straightforward, but it’s actually a bit more nuanced than it appears at first blush–we’ll circle back to that.
As for the attendance cap, it has been increased upped over the course of the last few years. In and of itself, this isn’t a terrible thing. Magic Kingdom has had surplus capacity during the Halloween and Christmas parties for years, evidenced by the near walk-on status of most attractions and dearth of crowds in some areas of the park.
However, it’s a problem because guests don’t naturally distribute themselves to the uncrowded areas. Instead, people continue to disproportionately flock to areas of the park that are already congested. This might sound like illogical behavior, but it’s not.
As prices also increase, more people want to make sure they get commensurate value for money, which means seeing the entertainment for which they’re paying a premium. Fewer people approach Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party without strategy or even leave early. Everyone wants the most possible bang for their buck.
This isn’t the first time we’ve brought up this issue of disproportionate crowding. Previously, we’ve noted that the goal of the attraction overlays during these hard ticket seasonal parties is to help redistribute crowds, drawing people deeper into Magic Kingdom and spreading guests through the park. In so doing, that should ease theoretically ease some congestion.
Emphasis on theoretically. We have noticed longer waits for the rides with overlays and crowds spread out a bit better this year at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. However, that could just as easily be explained away by guests being frustrated by the chaos on Main Street and at meet & greets, and thus “settling” for those alternatives.
Those ride overlays would be effective at redistributing crowds if they were actually any good. The new Monster World Treat Trail is the best of the bunch, and even it is just okay. All of the other overlays are unambitious and not worth anyone’s limited time during the party.
Now let’s turn to demand. First, consumer confidence remains high yada yada yada more guests are willing to splurge on upcharge offerings like this. We don’t want to yada yada over the best explanation, but we’ve discussed Walt Disney World and the economy so many times that we’re becoming a broken record.
Another problem is that more people are discovering the “greatness” of the Halloween and Christmas parties thanks to social media. This isn’t to say these events were “undiscovered” or hidden gems before; both have been pretty well known for decades. It is to say past coverage of the parties has been handled with more nuance and depth, with guests making more calculated decisions about whether the events are right for them.
Instagram and other short-form social media don’t really allow for that. Photos presented without commentary showing Boo to You or Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular can go a long way in selling Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I know that if I had never been, all I’d need to see is a photo of the Haunted Mansion unit of Boo to You to convince me to buy a ticket.
Along these lines, there’s a lot of longer-form coverage generated exclusively via free media events, which often bear little resemblance to the actual guest experience. If your only MNSSHP is a low-crowds night in August and you have reserved viewing for both the parade and fireworks, plus your own private meet & greets and free refreshments, of course you’ll love it.
How much do you think that type of VIP evening resembles that of a normal paying guest attending in October? These glowing reviews help sell a ton tickets to regular tourists, who are then surprised that their experience is radically different from what they read or saw online.
Thus far, we’ve identified a lot of the causes and symptoms of the crowding problem at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but haven’t addressed whether it’s too crowded or still worth the money. In large part, that’s because these are tough questions, the answers to which are personal and will vary depending upon your priorities.
This year, we’ve dropped in numerous times thanks to the Party Pass. (The more we go, the less we’re effectively paying per visit; we’re incentivized to attend more, not less.) Even before the Party Pass, we’ve gone every year for the last decade-plus. Some years, we’ve bought tickets for multiple dates. To some degree, we justify this (mostly to ourselves) as being “for the sake of research.”
With that said, it’s a much closer call than it used to be, and we also don’t have the same sense of urgency as a first-timer would have to do everything. Even with the higher crowds and prices, we’re still sufficiently satisfied with the event because all we care about is the parade, fireworks, stage show, and doing a couple meet & greets.
Judging by reader comments this year, others vehemently disagree. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell where frustration ends from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party being significantly more crowded despite costing more, and where “it’s too crowded and we won’t go again because of that” begins.
Some people plainly say as much, so it’s clear that line has been crossed for many Walt Disney World guests. Without question, we’ve received far more negative feedback about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the last two years than ever before.
Ultimately, the crowds are an issue and one that will only going to get worse as Halloween approaches. (If past precedent is any indication, crowds will be a problem throughout most Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party dates, as well.) Whether the “too crowded” line has been crossed for you, personally, depends largely upon your priorities and where you’ll spend your time in Magic Kingdom during the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
The situation on Main Street is bad, and Walt Disney World definitely needs to more proactively address this. The ride overlays are fun, but they are not achieving the intended goal of effectively redistributing crowds throughout Magic Kingdom. Really, the only solutions are capping the attendance at a significantly lower number, or adding something compelling deeper in the park.
Otherwise, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is going to go from “tougher to recommend” to “not recommended.” That’d be really unfortunate, as it’s an event with great entertainment that used to be an unquestionably fun time and something we recommended without equivocation to all Walt Disney World guests.
Have you attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the last two years? If so, what was your experience with crowds? How did you feel they compared to 3 or more years ago? Will you attend MNSSHP again despite the crowds? Would you recommend it to others? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!