By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Review: The 2016 Edition of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“MVMCP”)

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY: A REVIEW

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“MVMCP”) is a special event that takes place during the Christmas season at Walt Disney World.

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It requires its own ticket, which is entirely separate from regular Disney World tickets, and is only shown on certain nights from early November through mid-December.

(For more on MVMCP tickets and show nights, see this.)

Even though it is expensive (tickets for a family of four will cost over $200) it’s been part of this site’s Basic December Itinerary since the site opened, for a couple of reasons:

Going to it lets people save a lot of time. 

Disney limits the amount of tickets it sells to each show of MVMCP.  As a result, waits for the rides are low–most typically 10 minutes, although you’ll find longer waits at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan, and Jingle Cruise.  Going to it and seeing some really popular rides with hardly a wait saves a ton of time that can instead be spent sleeping in or at the pool.

Waits Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

For example, above is the Space Mountain wait at a little after 9p.

The Castle Transfigured Frozen Holiday Wish from yourfirstvisit.net

Going to it guarantees seeing an evening parade and fireworks. 

The regular evening parade at the Magic Kingdom is now gone, and at the time of year the Basic Itinerary covers, the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom may happen just a couple of times a week on non-MVMCP nights.  Sending people to MVMCP guarantees your family will have the opportunity to see an evening parade and fireworks.

Moreover, the parade and fireworks are unique. The fireworks are tied with those of the Halloween party as best of the year, and the parade has a fun Christmas theme!

I recommend people go to Walt Disney World in the early part of the Christmas season…so how can I not send them to this show?

It’s silly and fun!

In mid-November 2016 I had a chance to see it again on Tuesday the 15th and Friday the 18th, my ninth and tenth visits to this party. The rest of this entry is the review of that visit. (Note that some of the photos are from my earlier visits, where they turned out better those nights…)

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY

There’s a couple of components to MVMCP.

Noted already are the parade and fireworks, both in special Christmas versions.

Parade Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade, called Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, happens twice each night, at 8.30 and 11p (both later than last year).

Saving a Spot for the Parade Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

I strongly suggest you go on rides from the beginning of the party through the first parade and until about 3o minutes before the fireworks, and watch the second parade–crowds for the second parade will be much lower, and you won’t have to save a spot like the little guy above.

Characters Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade begins with a bunch of characters…

Mickey and Minnie Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Mickey and Minnie Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Minnie and Mickey.

Anna and Elsa Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

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Frozen comes next with three floats, beginning with Anna and Elsa…

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…then Olaf…

Kristoff Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…and then Kristoff.

Wreck It Ralph Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Next is Wreck-It Ralph…

Clarabelle Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Clarabelle Cow and Christmas cookies–I wonder why no resort is themed to Clarabelle?…

Goofy Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

…then Goofy and Christmas candy.

Next up is a sequence of princess-themed floats.

Snow White Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Snow White Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

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Snow White and Cinderella get their own floats.

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A closer shot of Cinderella.

Princesses Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

One large float is fronted by the Beast and holds a passel of princesses.

Woody Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

The parade then shifts to a toy theme, including Woody and Jess…

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…and toy soldiers.

Santa Claus is on the last float.

Santa Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at MVMCP from yourfirstvisit.net

Santa Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

 

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The fireworks, called Holiday Wishes, happen between the parades at 10p.

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More fireworks:

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Also noted already are the rides.

  • Not all rides are open, but all of the most popular ones are (there’s a list of what’s open on the brochure below).
  • Because of the limit on tickets sold, the rides are pretty easy to get on to without major waits. The park will feel very crowded on Main Street and near the Castle, but this is because of all the people lining for the castle shows and the parade route.  Away from Main Street and Frontierland the park opens up and ride waits are quite short.

There’s some shows, some unique to this event.

Elsa Making Snow Frozen Holdiay Wish from yourfirstvisit.net

A Frozen Holiday Wish is the same as on regular MK evenings. It’s OK but the 8.15 show will be mobbed and cut into your ride time.

Totally Tomorrowland Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Only shown during the party are the skippable A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas in Tomorrowland…

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…a skippable dance party in Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland.

Voiceplay Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Also available is “Voiceplay,” showing on the same stage as A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas at 8.05, 8.55, 10.15 and 11.35p.  This will please you in direct proportion to the joy you take in slightly thuggish boy band a Capella gestures towards Christmas songs.

New for 2016 is the Castle stage show “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.” Showing at 7.40, 9.25, and 10.30p, and 12MN, this utterly skippable show includes dancing and character appearances to (mostly) second rate Christmas standards and (mostly) third rate original songs (all powerfully sung, however).

Oddities include a song about texting and keeping your phone charged which also features Daisy’s rarely expressed longing for Donald, and a torch song by Clarabelle that will chill any potential target of her affections. But wait, there’s less, as the Three Amigos also are a focal point.

Some photos from this new show:

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There’s some fun other business: free cookies, free hot chocolate or other drinks (locations on the map), and snow!

Snow on Main Street Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Bear Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s also character encounters, some very rare. My first reaction to the bear was “that scarf must be warm.” Yes, my first reactions are often stupid.

Aladdin Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

Reindeer Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 from yourfirstvisit.net

You can spend a lot of time waiting in lines for characters–go for it if that’s your thing, but for most there’s much better ways to spend your time given the cost of this party…

New for 2016 are Judy and Nick:

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…and the Seven Dwarfs have moved into Storybook Circus:

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More characters:

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My co-author Josh has  a lot more on the MVMCP characters–locations, scheduled, strategy, much better pix–here.

Both sides of the 2016 MVMCP brochure are below–as always, click them to enlarge them.

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Even though the party starts at 7p, Disney traditionally lets people holding tickets for it through the turnstiles beginning at 4p or 3.45p. Show up early, see some of the lower wait rides, and have dinner.  If you show up around party time, Main Street will be mobbed.  If the train is still running–the last run will be 6.45p or so–take the train to Frontierland or Fantasyland to avoid the crowds on Main Street and in front of the Castle.

FastPass+ is not available during the party–but it’s also not needed, as only Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan and the Jingle Cruise see major waits. If you want to see these at the party, do them as late as you can stay up.

WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE NOT FOLLOWING THE BASIC ITINERARY?

Fireworks Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

As noted, this show is expensive, but worth considering if one or more of the following apply to you:

  • You otherwise won’t see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
  • Your plans otherwise leave you short on Magic Kingdom time, and/or
  • You are really a fan of Christmas

With kids old enough to be focused on rides, the right plan for MVMCP is to

  • Show up early, and eat before the party
  • Do rides until around 9.30p, and then
  • Position yourselves near the Castle for Holiday Wishes, and the second showing of the evening parade.
  • After the parade, do more rides or see the shows!

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November 19, 2016   No Comments

Review: Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

JINGLE BELL, JINGLE BAM! AT DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a new holiday show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that debuted November 14th. This overlapped with my latest trip to Disney World, and I had a chance to see it Tuesday and Friday.

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A fun combination of projections of Disney characters, lasers, pyrotechnics, Christmas songs, and fireworks, I’d rate it as a don’t miss if not for the fact that most nights (except the busy weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) you can see it or Fantasmic, but not both.

Fantasmic is both a little better and has much more capacity (you need to get close to where BAM is projected, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, to get much value from the projections), so on nights when you can see only one, for most Fantasmic will the better choice. On nights where you could see either—or of you have more than one evening in the Studios—see both.

(In quieter weeks, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is typically on at 6.45p, and Fantasmic at 7p. Busier weeks see it at 9p and Fantasmic at 7 and 9.30p, so those weeks on a single day you could see both the 7p Fantasmic show and the 9p BAM—though crowds for both will be massive, and you will need to arrive seriously early for each.)

BAM replaces in general the old Studios holiday show the Osborne Lights, and specifically replaces the new Star Wars show from November 14 to December 31. The replacement of the Star Wars show was sudden, and threw off people who had hoped to see it on their holiday season visits.

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The new show begins with snow…

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…that gradually accumulates.

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Soon the crew from “Prep and Landing” show up. (If you know nothing about “Prep and Landing,” don’t worry—it matters not.)

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They can’t find Santa at his desk, and thus a search for him begins, accompanied by Christmas songs and multiple character vignettes (on all the projection areas, and they go by very quickly, so keep your eyes peeled)…

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…and lasers:

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The final battle for Santa is with some folk from A Nightmare Before Christmas:

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Yet somehow Santa is saved.

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Santa saved, the show ends with a pile of fireworks (other fireworks punctuate earlier moments):

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Like the Star Wars show, this is more “projections with fireworks” than “fireworks with projections,” so a spot close to the theater (and center or left) really pays off. But—frankly—the projections are so, umm, random, and brief, and scattered, that with the music and fireworks you can enjoy it from Hollywood Boulevard much more than you can the Star Wars show.

 

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November 19, 2016   No Comments

Magic Kingdom Day 2 Disney World 2016 FastPass+ Basic December Itinerary

MAGIC KINGDOM DAY 2: THURSDAY AGENDA

Today you have the early morning off, and then in the late morning continue your visit the Magic Kingdom.

You should have FastPass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

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You should have breakfast or lunch scheduled with the princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

(Note: this is from the 2016 Basic December Itinerary. The itinerary works only for the three weeks after Thanksgiving. See this for other itineraries.)

MORNING

  • Sleep in and eat breakfast in your room
  • Arrive at Magic Kingdom in time for your Cinderella booking–or if it is later, by 11a

AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

At Magic Kingdom today your goal is to complete seeing Adventureland and Frontierland while fitting in your meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and the afternoon parade.

The To-Do List did not give specific times for today’s FastPass+ (Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain), because of the need to fit them around your dining reservation.

So you will need to adjust the sequence below based on your actual meal and FastPass+ times, and also interrupt it to be in position for the afternoon parade near Pecos Bill’s by 15 minutes before it starts–typically at 2.45p

  • Enter the park, grab a times guide, and confirm the time of the afternoon parade (usually 3p)
  • Have your meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Go to Adventureland and ride Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Walk through the Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Do Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • See the Enchanted Tiki Room show
  • Ride Splash Mountain (FastPass+)
  • See the Country Bears
  • Ride Big Thunder Mountain (FastPass+)
  • Look for a fourth FastPass+ on your phone if you’d like to return to a ride from today or earlier this week.
  • Fit into the above seeing the afternoon parade (find a spot near Pecos Bill’s by 15 minutes before it starts–3p starts are typical)
  • Revisit rides from today or earlier this week
  • Return to your hotel–to get to the exit, take the Walt Disney World Railroad from the station between Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain to the Main Street station for a bit of a treat and some time off your feet.

PREVIEW OF TOMORROW

Tomorrow you have the early morning off, then complete your visit to the Epcot.

MATERIAL IN THIS DISNEY WORLD ITINERARY

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October 13, 2016   No Comments

Win a Free Copy of The easy Guide 2017!

My buddy Steve Bell of Military Disney Tips is running a giveaway of a signed copy of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017–the 2017 edition of the best reviewed Disney World guide book series, ever.

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For your chance to win a copy, go to Steve’s site here and follow the instructions!

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October 7, 2016   No Comments

Win a 2017 easy Guide Signed by Carl Trent of Dad’s Guide

My buddy Carl Trent, of Dad’s Guide to WDW, WDW Magazine, the WDW Discount Club, and probably a host of other publications, is giving away a free copy of my and Josh’s The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney Visit 2017.

The book is signed by both me and Carl, which makes this giveaway a bit unique!

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If you win, once you get past the excitement of the signatures, you’ll then have your hands on the 2017 edition of the best-reviewed Disney World guide book series, ever.

To enter the giveaway, go to this page.

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September 23, 2016   2 Comments

Update on Wilderness Lodge Refurb

During my Disney World visit earlier this month I dropped by the Wilderness Lodge to do a status check on the current refurbishment.

There’s been a lot of progress since my July stop by, but not enough to make me believe that this will be done in 2016, as some have indicated it will.

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Half of the upper walkways surrounding the lobby continue to be walled off–this is the principal aesthetic issue with the refurb.

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Along the shores, the eastern set of “bungalows” and buildings is well under way.

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The replacement pool is also a little clearer, and the larger new building in the back left is also walled in. Many expect this to be restaurant, but I’m not seeing the venting that I’d associate with a restaurant. Maybe the venting comes in later, or maybe this will be a community room for DVC folks.

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Another view of the pool area (peer through the trees to spot the pool formers)…

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…and another view of the larger new building, from the water.

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The western set of bungalows is still largely piles of dirt. (Click any of these photos to enlarge them.)

As you can also see in this shot of the western end, a lot of trees are gone.  This is yielding some nice Wishes views from many of the rooms on this side of this half of the Lodge. There’s a link here in the comments in co-author Josh’s Wilderness Lodge update to a great (zoomed) view of Wishes.

The other half of the Lodge remains closed during conversion into Disney Vacation Club spaces. (This has resulted in low crowds in the lobby, restaurants, pool, bus stops, etc.)

I find it interesting that the entire interior of this wing has been gutted.

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In the image, note how you can see through the window all the way to the window on the far side of the floor–the corridor walls and interior walls are gone.

It’s unclear what Disney is building in this wing of the Lodge. The footprints of the old rooms were pretty small, but Disney put studios and one bedroom villas in equivalently small spots at the Animal Kingdom, in its “value” studios and villas there.

Micah, great contributor to the easyWDW forums and author of MousePerks, just stayed in an Animal Kingdom value and regular studio on consecutive nights, and emailed me these observations:

– The bed and couch are in opposite locations (bed closer to the balcony).
– The small table with a lamp on it is missing from the Value room.
– The small padded bench is missing from the Value room (location where the connecting door can be in some rooms). The wardrobe/closet is immediately after the kitchenette (with only 6″ or so for the thermostat).

Otherwise it really does feel the same, and everything else matches exactly, but they just removed those two pieces of furniture to make it work in the smaller space.

The Studio as Disney has traditionally laid it out is the space that’s hardest to fit into the footprint of the old Wilderness Lodge rooms, so if those can work, one and two bedroom villas can work too–and the spaces at the corridor ends that used to contain two deluxe rooms and two regular rooms would make for an interesting location for Grand Villas.

But why gut everything? Could something more interesting be being planned here?

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September 14, 2016   No Comments