Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: 2018 Photo Report
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.
Question regarding cameras…this will be our first year going, and for lots of reasons, may be our only opportunity. I am only just learning my DSLR. I struggle with wanting good pics, but also not wanting to be behind the camera fighting settings all night long. Do you have a post you’d recommend that has photos you have taken with your phone by chance? I’ve been pretty happy with my iPhone photos. Thanks for a great blog! I look forward to getting to read the latest each week!
Speaking of the cookies, just found two left over from MVMCP last year in a popcorn bucket. The look exactly like they did the night I got them.
Now that the cookies are individually wrapped, have you noticed a reduction in quality? We enjoyed the cookies served at the last couple parties we attended. I like that there are a variety of cookies being served now but I’d prefer to pay for fresh. At $100+ per ticket, I’d like Disney quality cookies vs grocery store. Thoughts?
Apparently (and I had this rude awakening last year), the cookies always have been individually wrapped and purchased in bulk from a third party vendor. This is just the first year that Disney is not unwrapping them before serving them.
At one point, maybe they were made in-house, but since switching over to multiple varieties, the cookies have been individually wrapped.
We attended the party for the first time on Nov 12. The crowds were so much better than the night before and we timed our visit to the seven dwarfs for after the fireworks and waited maybe 10 minutes. We appreciated your tips – they were spot-on!
We also attended the 11/15/18 party and didn’t think the crowds were that bad. We arrived at MK shortly after 4pm and loved waiting 10-15min for rides and seeing all the decorations. This was our first MVMCP so I have no comparison to gauge it against but we really enjoyed it. The snack line at Pinocchio was long but it moved fast and we were out of line in less than 10 min and got the peppermint crunch cookie -sorry Tom 😉 I love that cookie now. Glad I brought a ziplock to bring home our extras. For the four of us I don’t think I’d do it every year based on cost but I’d like to definitely go back again. Maybe MNSSHP
Hi! Our photopass photographer bumped into you sometime while you “raced up and down Main Street, trying to figure out from where I should shoot Holiday Wishes.” I tried to say hi and thanks (for your informative blog) after our photo but you had already “raced” away! This was my family’s first MVMCP (your precious posts made me nostalgic for an experience I’ve never had) and I love being festive but it did seem quite crowded and almost hard to enjoy. I was one of the last boats on it’s a small world bc I wanted to take a bunch of empty park photos as we exited through Main Street. It was still so crowded as we were leaving. We couldn’t even watch the first parade bc people were lining up so early. We actually enjoyed the lower park crowds during the day up until 4pm on the earlier party night Tuesday. We got so many things done that we only rode Jingle Cruise at the party. That being said, I’m already on the fence about going back next year. Sorry this got so long winded. Mostly wanted to say hi I saw you while you were busy taking your 2,000 photos and thanks for the blog!
I think part of the problem of the raising prices is that it has become an increasingly well-known “Disney Hack” that people can buy this ticket and attend the MK from 4PM-1AM for a special event which is “less crowded” than an additional day to their ticket which costs almost as much.
For those visiting WDW with a 2 or 3-day base ticket and who add on a day (possibly even their day of arrival) via this method, the party continues to represent great value even with a $100 price tag. For everyone else with park admission covering all days, the value is really poor.
It seems to me that the right thing to do would be to offer a very generous discount – say 50% – to annual passholders. This group is the one getting ripped off here. There’s no reason this couldn’t be a revenue-neutral change.
Of course, with people like Tom willing to pay $95 despite owning an AP, they might have limited motivation to do something so generous – in fact, AP-owning locals and frequent visitors are probably extra-likely to pay, due to becoming “bored” with the parks and being interested in seeing a “new” Magic Kingdom. And I’m sure Disney would argue that by discounting your ticket by $5, they are refunding far more than 1/365th of your A/P cost!
Try being a none resident visitor who has to pay top wack to enter the park and has to try and squeeze in what they can in 2 weeks. We have to pay a lot more for that 2 weeks than an resident pays for a year.
Hello!! I just went to the party last week, and it was so crowded it was not enjoyable. I was devastated. We just wanted to get away from the crowds and we didn’t even ride rides. We should have though as the lines weren’t too bad according to the app. We skipped most food lines of snacks due to their length and I can honestly say I don’t think we will go back. I am obsessed with Christmas, and loved the stage show, but the crowds did me in. Also, Magic Kingdom the day before (non-party day) was so crowded I would have thought it was June. I was under the impression that November before Thanksgiving was slower, but I was so wrong. I could see why you love the party for sure, but I wish disney would have kept the lower number of tickets to make it feel more special.
One of your funnier posts – thanks so much! And my take away is that your absolute happiness depends on Sarah (and maybe peppermint cookies) which is super cute.
My boyfriend is a reindeer Wrangler and I showed him your story! Thanks a million. They do not get alot of recognition none in the program. This is their 2nd year. They do not do Halloween. Different guys. They were Pirates at a different year. He loves Disney and is excited to perform there. A dream come true. Love Acapella group in Tomorrowland and of course the Country Beats. I was single also on my visit. Not too crowded on Veterans Day. Great photos and read
I would really love to take my family to MVMCP. I went in 1996, 2001, 2009,all before I met my husband and had a kid. We plan to foster to adopt in 2 years, so that would make us a family of 4 by then. We so get a military discount, but it still just seems incredibly out of reach to addthat cost to a vacation… and in 3 years, it will likely be over $100/person w/discounts, I’msure.. for sentimental reasons, I’d love to make it happen. But for financial reasons, I doubt it’s possible for most families.
I feel the same about the party. We used to go every year but with the price increases, as a party of 4, it’s too steep for us. We have AP, so it’s hard to justify. I remember way back when we used to get a free family pic included along with the cookies and hot cocoa. These were taken in the area that is now Monsters Inc.
I think the pics of the parade came out great!
Hi Tom, my husband and me attended several of the Christmas parties and at first, it was nice with not too many crowds and the price was manageable. But year after year, it began getting much too crowded, which sort of took away from the magical experience, plus the prices are starting to go through the roof. (It still doesn’t stop the crowds ha ha ha) But now that we have a young toddler girl, it is nice to see the look on her face when she sees all of the characters and the special attractions. Thank you for mentioning visiting The Country Bears because alot of those other characters (Pooh and Tigger) have enormous lines, and many times they will leave before you get a chance to have your picture taken with them. If and when we go this year, we will make sure to visit Frontierland to see those bears with our little one. I know about those Faux Coca Cola bears in Cosmic Rays because during the 2017 MVMCP we ate there and watched them on the dance floor. I think it would be great to just use Olaf and Sven on that dance floor if they want to use the Disney characters that are from cold climates.
I find the faux-lar bears weird, too. I got the opportunity to hear the designer of Coke’s Disney Springs store speak a couple of years ago and he said the arrangement they made to allow their bear to do meet & greets at the store was a first – the only non-Disney character ever to be allowed to do so on property. Seems they could extend that to these party appearances.
We love Disney and MVMCP. We too were there on Nov. 15th. That being said we were not very happy when trying to get a photo with Santa Goofy at the end of the evening and they just got up and left leaving us and and another couple without photos. I could see if it were 12 or after but there was 10 minutes to go. We paid a lot of money for tickets and they could at least stay until midnight. I even tried to get a picture of him but they kept walking and turning around so you could not get a picture.
As an occasional solo traveler, I found your commentary of Sarah being the ‘friendly conversationalist’ hilarious. Hope to see you in the parks in a few weeks!