I attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on November 15, 2018, and thought I’d share a recap of Magic Kingdom’s hard ticket special event, covering my thoughts, observations, and experiences–plus over 50 new photos from this year’s holiday party at Walt Disney World.
If you’re looking for step-by-step strategy, consult our Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Tips post instead. Basically, this is a trip report…but for just the Christmas Party. Like our other trip reports, this won’t get down to the brass tacks those of you trying to quickly plan might be looking for. It’ll be rambling, anecdotal, and sometimes off-topic. Sort of like vicariously experiencing the event for those of you who are not attending this year, or who are going later and want more of a ‘real world’ take on how things happened.
In addition to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, we spent the weekend doing ‘holiday stuff’ at Walt Disney World (and will continue to do so this week), and should have a lot more new and updated Christmas posts in the near future, so stay tuned to the front page of the blog.
The biggest difference in my experience at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year was going without Sarah. We were debating between a handful of dates, half-procrastinating on buying tickets, half waiting to see if any of our dates sold out, when a very generous reader contacted us and offered to give us tickets that she and her husband couldn’t use.
We took her up on the offer, but since that party isn’t until a bit later in the season and I “need” new Christmas photos (heavy air quotes there), we decided it’d make sense for me to attend an earlier party. However, since a single ticket was $94 after discount, we both thought that maybe I should just go alone.
In previous years, we’ve attended (and paid for!) as many as 3 parties in a single calendar year. Those were the days when full price party tickets were under $50 each, and crowds were nonexistent. Unfortunately, those days are long gone, and it’s now pretty difficult to justify buying tickets for a single party.
I’m debating whether to do another of these Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party reports from the one we attend together. It’ll likely hinge on whether I have photos to share and anything new to say. To that end, if you have any questions, things you’d like to see us cover, etc., please mention it in the comments. We love Christmas and I’m all for any excuse to do more posts about it, so please help me help you.
Upon entering Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I headed down the parade crowd flow corridor, which had some photo ops, and the first of the evening’s free cookies.
The cookie was hard and didn’t taste very good, but I ate the entire thing on my way to Cosmic Ray’s “by accident” because I was so hungry.
The “plus” side (again, heavy air quotes) of attending MVMCP alone is that when you order something like the Holiday Burger at Cosmic Ray’s and spend 5 minutes photographing this culinary mutant from every angle right in front of Sonny Eclipse, everyone takes note of how cool you are.
Not that I don’t do plenty of the awkward things you see on the blog by myself, but a lot of times I make a point of having Sarah with me. With character dance party photos, for example, there’s a certain “safety in numbers” kinda deal. As a couple, we’re just a bumbling duo that can’t really dance, and is probably there for photos of characters. By myself, I’m a weirdo with a giant camera possibly trying to take photos of their kids because why would anyone want pictures of that Coca-Cola Polar Bear knock-off?! (But more on that later…)
But I digress. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party started fairly uneventfully. After eating the Holiday Burger (and living to tell about it), it was still only like 5:30 p.m., so I made the rounds and took some sunset photos. It was an exceptional sunset, but that’s not really relevant to the event.
Following that, it was Main Street Bakery time for some Starbucks and the Yule Log. This was probably the longest line I had seen in Magic Kingdom thus far, which was otherwise pretty quiet. (With regard to the Yule Log, we’ll have a full post on Christmas desserts soon.)
I mostly just wandered around from then until the official start of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I watched the lighting of the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights from a distance, took some photos in Tomorrowland, and checked out the character lines in Fantasyland.
Normally, we would line up for one of these meet & greets, but since it was just me, I opted to skip them. Thankfully, I might add, as the lines were really long.
Once the party officially kicked off at 7 p.m., I headed to Frontierland to see the Country Bears and watch the Reindeer Wranglers perform.
This live band, which performs during both the Halloween and Christmas parties, and the Country Bears are two of my favorite things about MVMCP.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party immediately got off to a great start, as I was able to experience both of those things simultaneously.
It was hilarious watching Shaker and Wendell really getting into the dancing, playing air guitar and really busting some moves. This also got the crowd into it, most of whom probably wondered which Disney movie those crazy bears are from.
I also managed to get some glamour shots of a few of the Country Bears. As we’ve mentioned countless times elsewhere, the Country Bears offer the best interactions of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
I know many of you will assume I’m biased, but I swear to you I’m setting that aside here. If you’re looking for character interactions, what you’ll find in Frontierland with 0 wait is 1000% better than what you’ll have with the Seven Dwarfs with a two-hour wait.
If you simply know the names of the Country Bears, they will shower you with attention. You may not get the best photos of it thanks to the lighting outside in Frontierland (I’d recommend doing video instead of photos if you’re using a phone), but it’s so much more fun–and again, with no wait.
After watching their set and goofing around with the bears for a bit, I headed to Main Street to camp out for the first parade. Unfortunately, my favorite spot for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade was reserved for media.
One of the other reasons we had waited to purchase MVMCP tickets was to avoid media day. It’s not that they add to the crowds or otherwise bother me, it’s that several of my favorite photo spots are roped off for the entire event on these days.
It’s bad enough that regular paying guests already have to work around the barrage of upcharge parties within the party and other reserved seating for the best views. Having even more of those unpredictably roped off is frustrating.
I completely understand and appreciate why Walt Disney World does it–media then have a glowing impression of the event because they didn’t encounter any of the friction encountered by regular guests like crowds, lines, or “paying for it.”
While standing in my alternate location, a family showed me the above picture of myself from our MVMCP Tips post and asked if it was me.
There’s a lot wrong with that goofy photo, but the worst thing is that I was wearing the exact same shirt for this party. As I was getting ready, I asked Sarah if she thought I had worn that shirt for the party before, and her response was, “I don’t think so, but maybe…it’s your Christmas shirt.”
So to that family, or anyone else aghast that I’d dare wear the same outfit to a subsequent Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (especially when seemingly everyone else makes a concerted effort to dress ‘cute’), you have my sincere apologies.
I also apologize to anyone I met if I was awkward or inept. “Friendly conversationalist” is one of the roles Sarah fills and the wheels can fall off fast if I’m forced to fend for myself.
After the parade (I’ve lumped all photos from both parades together on page 2), I headed to Club Tinsel, as one of my priorities for this party was getting photos of the dancing polar bears. I have no clue what, if anything, they’re based upon, but they remind me of bootleg Coca-Cola polar bears.
This really amuses me because Cosmic Ray’s is sponsored by Coca-Cola; why not make a deal with Coke to use the real thing? They might as well also add a vending cart selling half-price cans of Sam’s Cola while they’re at it.
My odd excitement about photographing these knock-off polar bears slowly subsided as they would never pose for me. Look, I get that this is a dance party and the concept is ineffective if everyone is just stopping for selfies and they do a prolonged photo shoot with some middle-aged dude brandishing a DSLR. However, there were double the number of characters on the dance floor that there were humans (none of whom were dancing, I might add).
These dumb bears were going out of their way to not have their photo taken, and while a rational person probably would’ve given up and moved along at that point, I did not. Already having passed the point of awkwardness, I dug in, waiting for a bear to turn and make unintentional eye contact with my camera. That never really happened, but at least I have 56 ‘candid’ photos of them. You may have won this round, bootleg Coke bears, but the war is far from over.
My series of unfortunate events continued, as I headed to Pinocchio Village Haus (the best spot for refreshments) only to find they were completely out of the Peppermint Crunch cookies.
If you read our Moonlight Magic Trip Report from earlier this year, you know that I’m a big fan of these cookies. Although I probably ate my weight in these cookies and didn’t ever need to consume another one after that event, I was nonetheless disappointed that Pinocchio Village Haus had run out.
Around this point, it was time for fireworks.
To be honest, photos of Holiday Wishes don’t look much different than “regular” fireworks, save for a couple of scenes–like the snowflakes projected on Cinderella Castle (above).
…or the ‘O Christmas Tree’ scene (above), which is one of my favorites.
This also demonstrates the extreme cropping powers of the Nikon D850. The first photo is cropped to a modest degree, with the second photo cropped significantly. Yet, in this version you definitely cannot tell, and even in the full size version, it’s not readily apparent.
Prior to settling on this spot, I had raced up and down Main Street, trying to figure out from where I should shoot Holiday Wishes. It was more crowded than I had anticipated, and spots farther up Main Street were taken, leaving me with something either off-center, or in the middle of Main Street.
Having a “brilliant” idea, I decided to double down on the poor location and go nearly to the end of Main Street. Almost no one was standing here…for good reason, as it’s a bad spot. It worked for me because I planned on shooting most of the show from here, and then racing back to the Christmas tree for the grand finale with perimeter bursts. It would’ve worked, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
…Err, meddling kicks. No one was also at this spot, and I got my camera/lens switched and tripod set up just in time for the perimeter bursts in the finale. All was going perfectly, until I stepped back and kicked my tripod over…
Luckily, I did catch it and was able to get everything back into position for a couple of shots after the above one. In retrospect, this was overzealous and a dumb idea.
Even if it had gone perfectly, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy Holiday Wishes’ finale, which is one of my favorite ‘moments’ of MVMCP. For the next party, I might just put down the camera completely; it’s not like I have a shortage of Walt Disney World fireworks photos.
WE HAVE PLENTY MORE GROUND TO COVER FROM MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY. ON PAGE 2, WE GET NOSTALGIC, SHARE PARADE PHOTOS, COVER WHETHER MVMCP IS WORTH $100/PERSON, TALK CROWDS, AND MORE! CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING.