Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Strategy Guide and Itineraries
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First, I want to review what’s in this guide and what’s not. This guide will focus on strategies and sample itineraries to help you get an idea of how to hit the main entertainment events of the party (Boo to You parade, fireworks, and Villains Hocus Pocus show) while also weaving in attractions, character greetings, and trick or treating.
There are plenty of great blogs covering the details of everything that is open, character greetings, party events, etc., so I won’t reinvent the wheel on this post. A good comprehensive guide can be found at Undercover Tourist. The only blogs I personally follow also have good coverage, check out EasyWDW and DisneyTouristBlog. Disney’s official website is always a good one to hit for reference and times information.
I have created two itineraries to follow that are general and will require some manipulation for real-time happenings and what you want to do personally, which varies considerably between people. Rides going down, inclement weather, and lower or higher than average wait times are all a reality each night of the event. These itineraries are not designed to be exact step by step plans, but they should help give you an idea of what your general plan of attack can be going into the party, and how much you can expect to get done.
Time goes quicker than one would like or imagine at these parties. The character greetings, in particular, can take up incredible amounts of time. A good strategy can also help cut out some backtracking, which isn’t a horrible thing at Magic Kingdom since it’s a smaller park, but why not avoid it if you can?
Photo courtesy of Flickr
While I recommend reading through the entire post, feel free to scroll down to any section you may have come here for:
General Overview of MNSSHP Strategies
Strategies for 4 PM – 8 PM
Itinerary #1: Early shows
Itinerary #2: Later shows
My personal MNSSHP Times Report
Wait Times Table for all attractions during MNSSHP (data nerds only)
Costume Recommendations & Ideas
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Here is my personal priority of party events in order that I’m writing with bias towards:
#1 Attending all three main events at least once: Boo to You Parade, Villains Hocus Pocus Show, Fireworks.
#2 Hitting attractions with special overlays or theming.
#3 Trick or treating and character greetings.
You can see that character greetings are not a priority for me, due to how much party time they eat up with their long waits. If your priority is characters, check out one of the guides at the beginning of the post for tips. You should know that character waits can be excessive (some are 2+ hours) and will take up most of your party time if this is the priority. Your best bet for popular characters such as Jack Skellington is to get to the party as early as possible (4 pm) and line up. Hit them early, and then hit events and everything else at the end of the night when you have the time. If you want to see more than one or two popular characters, save another greeting for the very end of the night.
And if I can give you one piece of advice if you’re a character person – just make sure you get in at least one viewing of the Boo to You Parade at 9:15 PM or 11:15 PM. It is hands down the best part of the event.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
General Halloween Party Strategies
Trick or treating strategies
Lines will be longer during the first few hours of the event and while they’re usually not over 10 minutes, I say wait until they’re a bit shorter. They are often almost walkthrough by around 9:15 PM, sometimes earlier – try and hold off until then. I myself am a candy addict so I do empathize with anyone who has difficulty doing this. But it can be done! If the kids must trick or treat, go through a couple of lines and then hold off til later. Cast Members will also give out much more candy near the end of the night, and you can just loop through lines on repeat if you’d like. Kids will likely get even more of a thrill out of this, so just give them promises of how much more redeeming it’ll be to trick or treat later in the evening.
My preferred strategy is doing most of my trick or treating right after viewing the 11:15 PM parade in Frontierland. Last year, I made around six stops between Frontierland and Adventureland in less than 20 minutes. And I still made it and got a great spot up front at the midnight Villains Hocus Pocus show. I highly recommend this strategy if you’re planning on doing the later parade and Villains viewing.
While there are definitely awkward surges in lines for headliners some nights and big lines at the beginning of the night, lines do tend to lower as the night goes. Generally speaking, the shortest lines will be the last hour of the party.
Some lines will also drop a little bit during the parade and firework times which are 9:15 pm, 10:15 pm, and 11:15 pm. This year Space Mountain dropped in half almost instantly at the start of the fireworks, and I was on and off the ride in 17 minutes.
Due to the parties getting busier, wait times can also be long. If you have a strong understanding of the FastPass system and usually only use this during regular hours, you may be annoyed (like me) at the 25-30+ minute waits for many of the bigger headliners during the party.
Attractions are generally not a great use of party time. Events and special characters are the priority for most because they can’t be done during regular hours – attractions can. However, there are attractions with special overlays for the parties that people will want to see.
If you must do attractions, my advice is to be choosy about which ones and keep an eye on times so you don’t miss any of the three main events.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Popular attractions during the party typically fall into three categories:
Attractions/rides with special overlays for the event: Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Mad Tea Party, and Monsters Laugh Floor (new in 2019). I tried all this year, see below.
Attractions for the ambiance/nighttime: Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Dumbo or Magic Carpets for young kids.
Attractions you didn’t get a FastPass for or want to take advantage of for shorter lines: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is also open during the party with a special party card to collect if that’s your thing.
I tried all of these this year and was most impressed with Space Mountain. Riding it in the complete darkness will add even more to the thrilling anxiety of the “holy crap I think this thing is going to come off the tracks but it’s so fun” feeling more than usual (is it just me?). If you like thrill rides or are a Space Mountain fan, I vote yes to this. The lowest waits of the night will usually be during the fireworks, and then again the last 20 minutes of the night.
Pirates of the Caribbean receives a ride overlay with live actors for the party. While fun, it’s not over the top exciting. But if you’re a Pirates fan, it should be on the list. Lines can go slightly up and down, but generally speaking I’d just get in line when you have the time and plan on about 30 minutes.
The Mad Tea Party is fun with it’s crazy light effect, but you’ll get the same vibes of just simply walking past the attraction and looking at it. Lines are typically walk on most of the evening, so get in line when you find time.
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was cute, but just an ongoing little show of them joking about Halloween in the “human world”. You’ll get to hit two trick or treat stops here, so IMO if you’re looking for candy, it’s worth walking through for the five minutes.
Haunted Mansion isn’t considered a ride with a special overlay, but it’s a must-do for me because it’s the Halloween party! There’s also special interactions going on outside in front of the Mansion, so I vote yes on making the stop. Lines tend to be the longest for Haunted Mansion in the middle of the party, so hit it early or late in the evening.
Big Thunder Mountain is on some people’s list because any regular Disney goer knows this ride is different i.e. more fun at night, and it’s nice to take advantage of the shorter line. If you love coasters or this ride and can’t get to it another night on your vacation, I say go for it as long as the posted wait is 20 minutes or less.
Other attractions I haven’t listed aren’t themed and I feel are best to do before the official party start which is 4 pm – 7pm.
If you want to hit an attraction that will likely have a long wait such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Space Mountain, be thinking about how you can get in it towards the end of the night or have the time so it won’t interfere with other mandatory party activities.
Lines can also drop a bit right at the start of the two parade times – although not substantially. Consider getting in line during the parade that you won’t be attending.
Another strategy, if your top priority is attractions, is to plan on seeing the 2nd to last showing of Villains Hocus Pocus (usually 10:45 pm), and then use the final hour of the night for attractions. Hit the shortest waits and then jump in line at the last minute for the attraction with the longest posted wait time (likely Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Space Mountain). You’ll usually have time to fit in two rides, maybe three using this plan.
Special Halloween party snacks and treats
DisneyFoodBlog does excellent full reviews of all specialty food items at the party, so check it out if that’s your thing! I personally am not interested in some of the over the top with the flavors with some of these treats (but seriously Disney…why can’t the wedding cake just taste like wedding cake which we all love?), but if treats are your thing, there are fun ones. Many are also a good use of dining plan snack credits.
The MNSSHP Itineraries
We’re starting with general advice from 4 PM-8:15 PM for everyone attending the party:
From 4 PM – 7 PM: many people have verified that they can book FastPasses during these hours with their party tickets. Take advantage of this and use FastPasses to knock out any “non-themed” attractions that are a must-do.
If you can score a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight or Space Mountain FastPass before the party start time, I vote to use it and knock it out. Seven Dwarfs will still sees close to 30-minute lines until the last hour of the party on many nights. Ride them before the party starts, or during the last hour of the night.
Other rides I’d try and hit before the party starts includes any other non-themed rides: most Fantasyland attractions, Splash Mountain, Magic Carpets, etc. Most of these rides will see lines of 30 minutes or less come around 6 pm.
If kids (or grown-up kids!) must do characters, it’s wise to start by choosing the priority 2-3 and then strategize these based on the popularity.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
For the popular characters, attempt to line up as early as possible (sometimes as early as 4-5pm), and then hit the second most popular at the very end of the night. See the least popular ones when you have “free time” during the rest of the party. Undercover Tourist covers strategies and popular characters in their guide.
Once the party starts, I recommend a general strategy until 8:15 PM, and then use one of the two itineraries based on your personal preference.
From 7 PM – 8:15 PM: it’s the Halloween party, and the theming, costume watching and general vibes of the event are the best part outside of the parade, fireworks, and Villain Hocus Pocus shows. Take time to enjoy it all at the beginning of the evening.
That said, I know the Cadaver Dans open up the party in Frontierland by the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade right at 7 pm or so. I like to kick off my night watching them because they’re epic, so I plan on being here.
This is a highly underrated way to start the party, IMO. If you’re a Haunted Mansion or vocals fan, hearing these guys harmonize Grim Grinning Ghosts is almost worth the price of admission…
They perform for about 10 minutes.
If you’re planning on character greetings, you’ll likely still be using your time doing that. If you have younger kids who like the dance parties, this is a good time of night to do since it doesn’t require waiting in a line. There’s pretty epic character interaction at these dance parties too, without the long line.
Walking around and doing whatever you feel like or makes sense time-wise is also a totally acceptable and recommended option – we just highly recommend making sure you hit one of the parades and Hocus Pocus Villain shows.
After watching the Cadaver Dans, I’d then hit any must-do attractions with posted waits of 25 minutes or less during this time. On this side of the park, it’s a good time to knock out Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder, or Haunted Mansion if you plan on doing any of these. If you feel like reading the entire post, I have my personal trip report with these attractions a bit further down.
For the rest of the party time, you’ll want to pick a strategy based on whether you want to hit the party events earlier or later.
Know that you will see higher crowds during the first parade and Villains Hocus Pocus show, so if you plan on staying the whole time, I would opt for the latter itinerary.
Itinerary #1: early shows
This plan revolves around seeing the first Villains Hocus Pocus at 8:30 pm, the first parade at 9:15 pm, and then the firework show at 10:15 pm.
Who should use this? This is a good strategy if you don’t think you’ll make it until midnight, or you want to hit a lot of attractions or popular character greetings. Seeing the shows/parades first will leave you to do attractions and any popular character greetings the last 90 minutes of the night, which is when waits will usually drop a bit.
Roughly, your itinerary will look like this:
4 pm – 8:20 pm – Character greetings and attractions as early as you can starting as early as 4 PM arrival time
8:30 pm – Villains Hocus Pocus show
9:15 pm – Boo to You Parade
9:35 pm – 10:15 pm – Trick or treating or an attraction (quickly!)
10:15 pm – Fireworks
10:30 pm – midnight – leftover character greetings, attractions, and all other party events
Photo courtesy of Flickr
What to know for Itinerary #1
You’ll need to keep an eye on the clock and get to the Villains Hocus Pocus show at least 10-15 minutes before the show and grab a spot, earlier if you want to be close to the stage. Be mindful of the spot you pick, as you’re going to be setting yourself up for the parade next.
I prefer Frontierland for parade viewing because I think the ambiance is better and spookier than seeing a Headless Horseman with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. But there is the argument that Main Street and the Castle in the background makes for better pictures, which is valid. In Frontierland, I like to grab a spot around Diamond Horseshoe.
Enjoy the parade, and then you’ll have a small window of time to attempt to get in an attraction, a round of trick or treating, or snack before the fireworks start at 10:15 pm.
Firework viewing still gets surprisingly busy during the party. If you want an entire view of the Castle/projection show, you’ll need to get to a spot around 20-30 minutes in advanced, or just grab your spot right after the first parade. If you don’t need a perfect spot and just want the ambiance and fireworks, grab a spot on the bridge to Tomorrowland about 5-10 minutes in advanced. There will be trees blocking part of the castle, but you’ll still get to see all of the fireworks and not have to waste party time standing around.
Here’s a pic of the view from the Tomorrowland bridge spot to give you an idea.
After you catch the fireworks show, you’ll now have done all major party events and still have roughly 90 minutes to do any final attractions, character greetings, and trick or treating. Note that Space Mountain gets a huge surge in line right after the fireworks, so avoid riding then.
My most efficient trick or treating recommendation is to hit all of the locations on the left side of the park (Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland) in one swoop. Most nights there are six stops, and if you go after 10 pm, you can knock them all out very quickly and get a ton of candy. You can also continue to loop in line as many times as you want, filling up your bag very efficiently with this strategy.
Make sure to push the longest attraction or character greeting you want to do until later in the night to see the shortest wait times.
Itinerary #2: Later shows
Who should use this itinerary? Night owls, people who want to arrive for shows as late as possible and still get a spot. If you can hang the whole time, plan on seeing the 2nd parade and the final midnight Villains Hocus Pocus show for the crowds. Seeing that last Villains Hocus Pocus show also means that you’ll be maxing out your time since the rest of the park will now be closed. Good on ya, smarty.
Follow our general 4 PM – 8:15 PM advice above, using that time for your personal priorities.
Roughly, your itinerary will look like this:
4 pm – 10 pm – Character greetings, attractions, and all other party events
10:15 pm – Fireworks
10:30 pm – 11pm – Small window of time for trick or treating, food, possibly one attraction
11:15 pm – Boo to You Parade
11:35 pm – 11:55 pm – trick or treating round, or one short attraction
Midnight – Hocus Pocus show
What to know for Itinerary #2
Starting at 8:15 PM, you’ll still have a little more than 90 minutes to knock things out before the first major event which is the fireworks.
If there is a possibility of bad weather canceling later shows, you may want to hurry over and catch the first Villains Hocus Pocus show. Otherwise, maximize your time and save the Villains show for midnight.
Now is also a good time to get in a must-do attraction or character greeting if the line is not over 45+ minutes. Plan to get in line just a few minutes before 9:15 pm – this is in the hope that the wait may dip a bit for a chunk of time due to a lot of people heading for the parade.
It will help to choose your #1 priority of these three things: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, or a character greeting. Any one of these attractions will still likely take a total of 45 minutes, and a character greeting will be potentially much longer. Heads up to factor this in for your fireworks timing.
Alternatively, skip rides and trick or treat as some of these lines should be a bit shorter by now. Walk around, enjoy all the costumes, or hit a dance party if you have little ones.
Plan to grab a fireworks viewing spot about 5-10 minutes before the show at 10:15 pm.
Immediately after the fireworks show, you’ll have another short window of time until the next event which is the parade at 11:15 pm. Use this to do trick or treating or hit an attraction. If you want to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, heading over after the fireworks to ride and then getting a spot for the 11:15 pm parade is a great idea as far as timing. It typically works out very well.
Again, I love Frontierland for parade viewing because it just the ambiance is better and spookier than the Headless Horseman with Cinderella’s Castle in the background…but do what you please, of course.
After the parade ends around 11:35 PM, I usually have enough time to hit all trick or treating spots in Adventureland a few on repeat. If you’re trying to max out your candy quota and have the time, sometimes you can even hit the additional two in Frontierland before heading back to the Castle to watch the final Villains show at midnight.
After the final Villains show, note that Main Street shops are usually still open for a bit. If you’re a shopper and you’re not completely worn out yet, this is the most efficient time to pick up your goods!
My Personal MNSSHP Report:
Many of you have requested to know how my night played out personally, and I’m happy to share. Just know that I did not attend a single character greeting, and prioritized hitting the overlay/themed attractions and seeing all three entertainment events (fireworks, parade, Villains). I also hit the parade twice this year, because I love the Haunted Mansion part this much. I attended the event on Tuesday, August 20th.
7 pm – watched Cadaver Dans perform in Frontierland
7:20 pm – 7:45 pm – rode Big Thunder Mountain railroad (time is from stepping in queue to off ride)
7:45 pm – 8:15 pm – grabbed a Dole Whip, people watched, waited for it to get darker to ride Haunted Mansion
8:15 pm – 8:45 pm – rode Haunted Mansion (time is from stepping in queue to off ride)
8:45 pm – 8:50 pm – hung out and took pictures in front of Haunted Mansion interactive area
8:50 pm – 9:05 pm – hit a trick or treat spot 2x
9:05 pm – grabbed a last minute parade spot on the upper walkway of Diamond Horseshoe. It was not a great spot as most spots were claimed, and there was just one of me. So note that you should absolutely get there earlier for the first parade.
My last minute spot up on the platform near Diamond Horseshoe.
9:35 pm – 10:10 pm – trick or treat at Diamond Horseshoe spot, walked on Mad Tea Party and rode, trick or treat at Cosmic Ray’s, walked around Tomorrowland and saw the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor for five minutes. Was surprised at how much I accomplished in this 30 minute time frame.
10:10 pm – 10:20 pm – watched fireworks from Tomorrowland bridge for 5 minutes and then got in line for Space Mountain.
10:20 pm – 10:37 pm – on and off Space Mountain, which I like to believe was one of the lowest waits of the night and will be if you don’t want to see the whole fireworks show. The actual wait in queue was only 6 minutes.
10:37 pm – 11:10 pm – backtracked to Adventureland to ride Pirates, around a 25 minute total time
11:20 pm – 11:25 pm – watched the first five minutes of the second Boo to You parade from Main Street. Note that the Main Street Viewing areas can lag 5-15 minutes behind the actual parade time since it starts back in Frontierland.
11:25 pm – midnight – hit all trick or treat spots in Adventureland multiple times.
Midnight – watched Hocus Pocus Villains show. While I suggest getting up towards the stage for this last show, I actually sat in one of those cute grassy areas that’s usually reserved for firework viewing and watched from afar because I wanted to sit down, lol.
MNSSHP Wait Times Table
I collected wait times from the very first night of the party, August 16th. While this was a more crowded event and these wait times will certainly fluctuate at each event for a variety of reasons, I do think it’s a good general reference to help guesstimate what you may run into during your party time.
Costume Ideas for MNSSHP
Costumes can be the most fun part of the party for many people, whether wearing them or watching people wear them. I remember the first time I was at the Magic Kingdom on a party afternoon and watching people slowly trickle in. It was a delight to watch!
I’m not into heavy costume as I’m incredibly fashion lazy and a comfort queen who finds most costumes, in general, uncomfortable or awkward. However, MNSSHP presents a great time to get away with fun accessories, make-up, outfits, or anything they desire, not just outfits.
Here is our look from last year:
Glow in the dark Mickey shirts from Etsy, super fun makeup, and comfortable everything else. We also got those creepy contact lenses and while we removed them due to discomfort after about two hours, they were a hit.
I do love getting just fun Halloween wear and accessories vs. entire costumes, and I shop from Etsy. Here are my ongoing Halloween bookmarks:
Disney Halloween Shirts, Outfits and Ears
Disney Costumes and Outfits for Kids
Easy and fun ideas for make-up
Sugar skull tattoos for quick application and awesome looks.
Unicorn Glitter – I love using this stuff just for simple adult fun.
UV light body paints since blacklights are around the park.
MNSSHP Event Map (click to enlarge)
A final note…
While some of this post can almost be overwhelming for those have never gone, fear not! The party is excellent and given that weather cooperates, just being in the park with all the costumes and general ambiance is a blast and worth the cost.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or need help on strategizing your MNSSHP plan! And join our fabulous Facebook group for any planning help.