Photo courtesy of WDW | Photo Credit: Steven Diaz

Halloween and Disney. Sounds like the perfect combination for someone like me who finds a ride like The Haunted Mansion, her home away from home. So why not attend a popular holiday event like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party? (MNSSHP) Well, I actually may have a few reasons and it kind of breaks my little Ghoulish heart.

I arrived at Walt Disney World the first week of October, assuming that would be the perfect time to get my already existing Halloween obsessed self into high gear. This is a little hard to do when Florida is still at an average temperature of 90 degrees but we trekked on! I stayed at Port Orleans-French Quarter resort, which is one of my all time favorites for a number of reasons. The smaller yet intimate setting with a backdrop of New Orleans, puts you in an environment that you couldn’t help but assume Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog would appear. I mean, they serve Mickey shaped beignets! Come on! How can you not love this place? Blasting jazz and not having the overwhelming feeling more WDW resorts have, this place is a trip within a trip for me.

During this particular tour, my bigger goal was to experience Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN); which makes me a traitor. Boo! Hiss! But I can’t be in Florida and not visit WDW. That’s just ludicrous. I planned to have the best of both worlds and attend both popular night events. The trips first night event was HHN (Halloween Horror Nights) and I will say this; it set the bar extremely high. Which, in retrospect, probably set a tone for what MNSSHP had in store for me. So let’s fast forward to the day of the hauntingly fun Disney event and discover what was fantastic and what left a few things to be desired.

Photo courtesy of WDW | Photo Credit: Matt Stroshane

October 1st, what a way to start my month of spookiness right? The event started by noticing the “Tonight’s event is sold out!”, which of course made me wonder if this meant I should expect a larger crowd than predicted – I would be right. Because I decided to go to the event a little earlier, I was allowed into the park which worked out for me to grab an early dinner at “Tony’s Town Square” right on Main Street. The wait was minimal which was the only selling point for me since, well, I don’t really think of “good Italian food” at the park. Luckily, the food was pretty good for what it was. And no, my husband and I did not have a bowl of spaghetti so we can meet in the middle of a noodle. Because this chubby girl does not share her food – it’s mine! All mine!

Upon leaving, we got our wristbands and made our way to the special entrance located at the right side of the park since they were slowly sweeping the park of it’s day pass holders. There, you had an array of photo opportunities to take! With the hot Florida sun beaming down on me and the congestion in that pathway, I opted out of that experience and made my way to the inflatable arches where a candy bag awaited me for my first experience of “Trick or treating” this holiday season. We got a selection of m&m candy to start our journey which was encouraging. From there, the park seemed to be pretty light. Was I going to experience this particular vibe all night? Time would only tell. The one issue I hit along this way, was the “limbo period” of when the event started from when we were allowed to enter. This meant that while yes, I was inside of the park, the lines for the candy or character meet and greets were not set up. However, I did see the tent to meet all the Seven dwarfs and was told at 5:45pm, that it would be a 3 hour wait by then. Nope, sorry – couldn’t do it. We decided to take the time to get on some rides during this particular period and it was the best decision. Since we were in Fantasyland, we tried to fill in the time with anything we could see there. By the time the event officially started, that’s when I noticed a shift that would partially disappoint my trip.

I noticed the crowds REALLY started to gather by 8pm, which meant that the best time of this had already passed because at this point, the lines to do anything – rides, candy, meets, etc, were on the deja vu element of if I would have went on a weekend. Because there are no fast passes available during events, most of the rides were hitting 50 minute marks and you had no choice but to wait. We took this opportunity to check out the ‘Monsters Inc Laugh Floor’ which was hosting an improv-type experience that allowed people to either get their candy here or sit and watch an on-going show. It was probably one of the best things of the night. The voice actors ability to practice their improv and keep it Disney friendly, would be an absolute challenge for someone as morbid as me. But the laughs kept coming – clearly, Disney World was being run on the laughter of adults and children that night. From there, we slowly made our way over to ‘The Haunted Mansion’ because it’s technically my summer timeshare and I just had to visit. Assuming this wait would be one of the longest since it is partial to the theme, the wait was at 45 minutes and worth it for me but I’m clearly biased.

Photo courtesy of WDW | Photo Credit: Matt Stroshane

From this point of the night and on, I did notice an influx of people that really does make me believe that Disney is pushing their special event quotas higher and higher. It seemed extremely obvious that this event was not just sold out, but possibly oversold than in times before. I went on a Tuesday, thinking that should be fine but I was completely wrong. We walked over to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which was at a 30 minute wait and seemed to have moved pretty fast. I got to people-watch and see all the interesting outfits that families put together and I must say, I clearly needed to step up my costume game. As we were inching closer to the front of the ride, I spotted a live character. Before attending this event, I read that they were adding live actors to the ride to enhance the experience. So here we are, getting on the boat and I’m waiting to see some pirates. In total, there were only 4 live actors in the entire ride, including the waiting queue area. We experienced one a few moments after the drop in the beginning of the ride, and witnessed 2 more in the bridge area. It seemed a little lackluster in terms of it enhancement but it was a nice change of pace for someone who has been on this ride as many times as I have throughout my childhood. Overall, it really didn’t make an impact as a “must do” in my personal opinion. It’s cool to experience but just don’t feel like you missed out on anything if you happen to skip this.

From this point, the fireworks, live shows and parades were in mass effect and while I would have loved to have seen more of the live shows, I just personally wasn’t feeling that enthusiastic about the night thus far. The severe crowding morphed my opinion pretty early on. It was hard to enjoy almost anything as the night went on because you could hear the tired children who wanted to go to bed, or adults who came to drink and party – so at this point, I felt like I did everything I could do within the limits of time and patience that I had. Then again, I’m a New Yorker so what the hell do I know about patience? In retrospect, I did accomplish what I wanted to – I just had limitations due to this particular sold out night – which may not reflect a night that is NOT sold out.

Overall, I’m glad I got to experience it. While I did have a challenging time of having the same fun I had at HHN, those first few hours before the bulk of people came into the event was a spooky and magical time. I plan on doing more research, should I ever want to try this event again, to see if there is a better day of the week/time to maybe gauge my experience with more ease of the money I spent to attend. I think everyone should give this event a shot because at the end of the day, this is still celebrating one of the best holidays in a park that I love. And yes, while it’s been reported that this year’s MNSSHP has reported a record in ‘sold out’ nights, this does NOT mean your experience will be similar to mine – it just may increase the ratio of possibility.  Whether you spent most of your night sitting on the ‘People Mover’ ride to enjoy the breeze and capturing a panoramic view of the park, dancing with the Monsters, Inc characters (you know I did), or even going trick or treating as an adult with little to no judgment; this is the event to experience. My only wish is that Disney learns of the balance between it’s financial greed and the customer satisfaction for why someone like me would opt to do a special event instead of going during a busy day. At least us spooky kids get Halloween every day at Magic Kingdom when they make a pit stop at The Haunted Mansion so maybe we are fortunate to have that option regardless of any event. I’m just happy to have had the experience of celebrating the best time of year, in the best place in the world. Bags of chocolate aren’t half bad either.

Photo courtesy of WDW | Photo Credit: David Roark
Tisha Draven
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