Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade is held twice per night exclusively during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World. This post covers tips for the best places to view the parade, as well as taking photos. Along the way, I’ll also share some of the photos I captured during my 2016 viewings of the Boo to You Parade.
Please note that we already have a separate post consisting of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Tips, so here we are only focusing on the Boo to You Parade. If you have other questions or want to know more about the rest of the Halloween Party, refer to that post.
Before we get to the tips & tricks, let’s start with an overview of Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade. There are several units in Boo to You, with the first being Mickey’s Trick-or-Treat Bash. This one has a lot of costumed characters, skewing towards those found in Fantasyland attractions and classic animated films (and, of course, Mickey and friends).
Next comes the Yo-Ho Pirate-Palooza. This unit of Boo to You contains the pirate floats, including those from Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan. There are also flag-twirling pirate performers in this unit.
Following that is the Haunted Mansion Cemetery Soiree. Without question, this is our favorite unit in the parade, with its excellent ballroom dancer performers, hitchhiking ghosts, and gravediggers.
Next is the Halloween Hooten-Nanny Hoedown, which is the Frontierland section of the parade. If it weren’t for the Country Bears saving the day, this might be considered one of the Boo to You Parade’s weaker units.
The villains come next, in the Villains Groove-A-Go-Go. The Trick-or-Treat Candy Hop (now featuring Wreck-It Ralph characters instead of Goofy) concludes the parade with another lighter unit focused on candy.
These units are all great, and the music soundtrack for the Boo To You Parade is VERY catchy. It’s available on the Disney Magic Kingdom Event Party Music CD. We play ours almost daily during the Halloween season!
Alright, now for some tips in terms of the best places for watching the Boo to You Parade…
Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade Viewing Tips
Running twice nightly during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Boo to You Parade always steps off in Frontierland and heads through Liberty Square, then down Main Street. (The route does not run in reverse for the second parade–same direction both times.)
You’ll find a lot of advice online that recommends grabbing a spot in Frontierland as a way to avoid the crowds of Main Street. Unless you attending on a really crowded evening AND don’t care much about the Boo to You Parade AND don’t care at all about taking photos of the parade, we do not recommend following this advice.
For starters, on most nights the difference between crowds in Frontierland for the parade and in less-crowded spots on Main Street are negligible. On busier nights, there is a bit of a difference, and you might be able to arrive to your spot 15 minutes later.
If you’re really concerned about crowds for the Boo to You Parade, you’re going to save a lot more time by just focusing on the second parade, which is always less crowded (although we highly recommend watching both runnings of the parade–it’s that good).
When it comes to photography, most of Frontierland and Liberty Square pose challenges because they are typically darker than Main Street. The one exception to this is if you position yourself behind a floodlight (in other words, the light is pointed at the parade route).
For this reason, we always recommend somewhere on Main Street for viewing the Boo to You Parade. The end of Main Street is my favorite location, but really, any location–again, particularly those with floodlights at your back–is going to be good. In my opinion, these are also much better for photos.
Another spot that is strategically savvy is in the Central Plaza (Hub) on the curb facing Cinderella Castle. This spot tends to fill up the earliest of any, and although I don’t think it’s the best spot for photos or view (the lighting here is incredibly harsh and contrasting), the big upside is that you can watch Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular before and/or after the parade from your parade spot. However, you do not want to stay in this spot for the fireworks–you’ll be too close to Cinderella Castle.
Boo to You Parade is the single most frustrating “thing” to photograph at Walt Disney World. It makes Peter Pan’s Flight seem like a walk in the park, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade like a real gift to photographers. Suffice to say, it really is so scary. (Note: this section is for the photo-geeks out there…if you think ISO means ‘International Organization for Standardization’ this section might not be for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)
If you’ve had trouble taking photos during Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, you are not alone. Moreover, it’s not your fault. This is one situation where gear really does matter, and unless you have a Sony RX100, you’re probably out of luck if taking photos with your phone or point & shoot camera.
If you don’t have a DSLR, it’s probably best to either go for video or just set your camera down and enjoy the parade.
Due to the low lighting and speed with which the performers move, you need to use a wide open aperture, fast shutter speed, and sky high ISO. This is just to get the settings right on paper.
In practice, the challenge is compounded by the difficulty of your camera nailing focus on the actual subject, instead of on something off in the distance, or not at all. Oh, and don’t worry, because even if the stars align and you achieve success in all of the above regards, there’s always the chance that harsh lighting will render a photo unusable.
On an average night, my keeper rate from the Boo to You Parade is maybe around 10%, and the threshold for a “keeper” of this parade is pretty low.
I’m not even expecting all of the performers to be facing the camera, with perfect expressions and the floats looking their best. I’m just hoping something is in focus and more or less looks okay.
The first thing to keep in mind when photographing the Boo to You Parade is positioning. My list of best places for watching the parade above was written with photography in mind, but there are a few other things to keep in mind. First, when evaluating a seat before you choose it, compose a photo from the approximate area, and see whether there’s a spotlight in your frame.
If so, this will be a challenge for both metering and focus. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but if you’re a novice, it can aggravate already challenging circumstances. (It’s much better to have the spotlight behind you, illuminating the performers and floats.)
Second, find a spot where the floats are moving straight towards you rather than crossing in front of you. The idea here is that things moving towards you change position slower than those crossing directly in front of you. Same idea as looking out the front wind-shield versus the side windows while driving. There’s probably some science behind this, but I don’t even begin to understand it.
In terms of general settings, I follow the exact same protocol for Boo to You as I do a difficult Disney dark ride. You can read about my settings in more depth in our Disney Dark Ride Photography Tips post.
Basically, I’m using Aperture Priority with auto ISO, a wide open aperture, (f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8 depending upon the lens), my shutter speed floor set to around 1/100th to 1/200th of a second, and my ISO ceiling set as high as it’ll go. Additionally, I’ll set exposure comp to around -1, with center-weighted metering.
(Good news–even if you aren’t attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, or already attended this year, these tips also apply to Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.)
I’ve come to really appreciate prime lenses for the Boo to You Parade, with my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lenses being go-to options. If you’re planning on photographing any Disney night parades, these are great lenses to own.
I also really like using my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, but its aperture is a problem, often leading me to slow down the shutter speed a bit and hope for the best. Quite often, that means being a little more accepting of some motion blur, but until Nikon releases a 180mm f/1.4 VR lens for under $1,000 (not holding my breath on that one), I’m sort of stuck.
The biggest “secret” I can offer when it comes to the Boo to You Parade is persistence. Every time I attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, I photograph the parade twice, and use two cameras each time (using my Doc Holliday “One For Each of Ya” Camera Strap™). For me, it comes down to playing the odds.
Well, it was until this year, when I decided to make it easier on the camera by shooting the parade with my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. My thought process here was that even if the camera missed focus slightly, with such a wide angle lens, you wouldn’t be able to tell.
This proved correct, and several of the photos here shot with the Nikon D810 and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 are…let’s just say “technically imperfect.”
Between using the 14-24mm and “fudging it” a bit and using the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 for the first time, this year was actually my most fruitful ever for the Boo to You Parade. It could be one of those “even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while” kind of things.
Or, it could be that I’ve finally honed my approach and am using the right equipment. The photos in this post were all photographed during the two Boo to You Parades I watched this year. In a normal year, this would be about the extent of my keepers, but this time I probably have another 40 decent-ish photos from the parade.
Either way, I still had more than 500 garbage shots, so it’s not exactly like I’m exacting boasting about my l33t skillz in mastering Boo to You Parade photography…
In the end, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade is incredibly frustrating to photograph. From totally missing focus when a performer hams it up for you to having a random person along the parade route enter your frame right when the gravediggers start sparking the pavement, there is always something to make you face-palm. It’s fighting through the perpetual failures and finally nailing a shot here or there that makes the whole process rewarding and fun. (I guess…maybe if you’re glutton for punishment or enjoy frustration?)
Do you agree or disagree with our Boo to You Parade Tips? Have any suggestions for Boo to You photography? Viewing locations you like? Any other opinions on the parade? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!