Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Plan

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Plan

Our 1-night itinerary for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party offers a step-by-step plan-of-attack for minimizing time waiting in lines for character meet & greets, seeing Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, stage shows at Cinderella Castle and in Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, and avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World’s hard ticket holiday season event.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) is held at Magic Kingdom on two-dozen evenings during the holiday season at Walt Disney World; it starts in early November and runs until the week before Christmas. MVMCP is a limited-capacity, separately ticketed event that occurs after hours, and features family-friendly fun for guests of all ages.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party offers an opportunity to enjoy Magic Kingdom attractions, character meet & greets, and unlimited Christmas cookies and hot cocoa. There’s also excellent entertainment: Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Stage Show, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Stage Show, and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. If you want the event info and our review of whether it’s worth the money, see our Ultimate Guide to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is an itinerary, focused solely on maximizing time at the event for attendees.

We’ve attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a ton over the years, including two different nights in December 2022. Due to a scheduling conflict, we couldn’t go together…which was a lot less fun for us, but allowed us to test “competing” strategies for approaching the 2022 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. (So our ‘pain’ is your ‘gain,’ to embellish a bit!)

From that, we discovered a couple of tips & tricks that worked better than others…and some that didn’t work well at all. With that said, our approaches didn’t vary considerably. We had already refined our Christmas party plan based on experiences over the course of the past decade.

To that point, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party doesn’t change much from year to year, and this year’s incarnation of the event is almost identical to the previous version of the event that was last held in 2019 (MVMCP didn’t happen in 2020-2021). Accordingly, it’s highly likely that the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be substantially similar to this year’s event.

That’s doubly true since every date this year sold out quickly, so Walt Disney World won’t have much incentive to improve or add new things to the 2023 MVMCP to encourage longtime fans to buy tickets again. Suffice to say, we’ve put this MVMCP plan through its paces, and the itinerary holds up. With that out of the way, let’s start the evening at Magic Kingdom!

Eat Before You Arrive – Walt Disney World’s most popular park is arguably the weakest for food. While there are some Magic Kingdom restaurants we love, they’re mostly table service–and often difficult to do at the last minute. By contrast, there are countless excellent options along the monorail loop and nearby resort area. If you’re doing the Self-Guided Yuletide Tour to fill the half-day before MVMCP, consider eating a large late lunch at one of these hotels.

Prior to the party, I was in Magic Kingdom all morning, making for slightly different circumstances. I opted to walk over to Disney’s Contemporary Resort at about 2:30 pm. I went to Steakhouse 71 and was immediately seated at the bar, where I ordered the Stack Burger. (One of the Best Burgers at Walt Disney World.) My goal was a relatively quick meal, and I was in and out of the Contemporary in under an hour. The same could be accomplished at most lounges in the area, including Geyser Point (another personal favorite).

Arrive Early – Purchasing an event ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party gives you access to Magic Kingdom for up to 3 hours before the party starts. MVMCP itself runs for 5 hours, with special holiday-themed entertainment, attractions, character greetings, and more.

With this in mind, we recommend planning to get to Magic Kingdom by 3:45 pm. If you already have admission for this day in the park, enter even earlier through the non-event turnstiles and get your wristband in Tomorrowland rather than the front of the park. This is critical, as you’ll bypass a huge crowd outside the park and will have a head-start on getting to the first (potential) stop.

We cannot overstate how important it is to make every minute count before, during, and after the official start of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Even with this Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party plan-of-attack, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do everything there during the event. There’s a lot happening during MVMCP, and pretty much everything has a line or wait time.

If you’ve only attended the After Hours events, it’s also worth understanding that MVMCP is fundamentally different than those. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is not a true “low crowds” event. While that used to be the case, Walt Disney World raised the capacity cap two years ago when the party was last held.

To be sure, some areas of Magic Kingdom will have low crowds and most rides will have short wait times during the heart of the event, but other areas of the park will be packed, most characters have lengthy lines, and entertainment viewing areas can be congested and chaotic. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! 

Line Up For First Characters – Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws and Sally meet in Town Square Theater starting sometime between 4 and 5 pm, so line up for them by 4:30 pm for them (you’ll need a party wristband). This is the most sound strategy unless you want to wait until later in the evening.

The downside of doing this first is that you will likely encounter the longest wait time of the night (potentially 90+ minutes) unless your timing is excellent and you’re among the first guests in line. If that lengthy wait isn’t worth it to you, enjoy some free time until about 6:15 pm. Consider doing Jingle Cruise or the photo ops around Magic Kingdom (if you’re in the park all day, you definitely should do these before 4 pm).

If you didn’t heed our earlier advice, you’ll also want to eat an early dinner. Alternatively, consider subsisting on cookies and cocoa during the event (A+ approach that I highly recommend and embrace!).

Pooh’s Posse – Our favorite characters are in Storybook Circus, and we consider that to be the #1 must-do meet & greet during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. There you’ll meet which are Scrooge McDuck & Donald Duck plus Daisy Duck & Minnie Mouse. This line forms opposite the queue for Dumbo, with the meet & greet taking place inside the indoor queue.

However, this meet & greet does not seem to be starting early, and we both noticed a long line already at 6 pm. That means an hour-plus wait when all is said and done. Accordingly, we recommend queueing up for Winnie the Pooh and friends at around 6:00 pm. From what we experienced and observed, these characters do start meeting early–between around 6:20 and 6:40 pm. You should be in and out by 7:00 pm, give or take.

First Showtime – If you’re quick, you might have time for one more character meet & greet in Fantasyland. Regardless, head to the front of Cinderella Castle by around 7:30 pm for to the 7:40 pm showtime of Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration. It’s not necessary to arrive far in advance–a perfect front and center spot is not necessary, as we’ll be watching the show again at the end of the night.

If you arrive much earlier and are taking a slower pace to the party, consider getting a spot along the parade route behind the Partners (Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse) statue. You’ll be able to identify this circle where the light pavement ends. (Also, a lot of other guests will be camped out along it.) If you show up at 7:30 pm as we recommend, this will not be an option.

NOTE: Camping out in the same spot for the first stage show through the fireworks (or even the stage show thereafter) is incredibly popular among MVMCP guests. However, we do NOT recommend this approach, for reasons discussed below…

Cookie or Character Time – If you were able to get a spot along the parade route up by Cinderella Castle during the first Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, you’ll skip this step. Don’t feel bad–there are a couple of reasons why this isn’t our recommendation. Frist, the area directly in front of Cinderella Castle isn’t the best Christmas parade spot, especially for photos or video. The lighting is rough, and spotlights flanking the castle can create some hellacious flare and color-cast. Second, camping out here also means wasting valuable party time.

Between the stage show ending and Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade starting, you’ll have some time to grab cookies from Cosmic Ray’s (maybe enjoying the dance party for a bit, too) or meet another character. Our recommendation for this is actually heading to Town Square Theater, where you can knock out Mickey Mouse (figuratively), if you so desire. Note that his wait time will still be elevated, but it’s a convenient location.

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade Time (x1) – Given the excellent lighting, ambiance, and SNOW on Main Street, it is the best place from which to view the parade. Seriously, do not bother with Frontierland or Liberty Square.

The downside to viewing from Main Street is that almost everyone has the exact same idea. The parade route along Main Street is packed an hour in advance many nights. So…why did we recommend killing more time with cookies and characters?

Because Town Square is a totally different story for whatever reason. See the photo above? Stand in front of Town Square Theater and that’ll be your view. You’ll see Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade come around the corner and it’ll be essentially coming straight towards you. The downside is no Cinderella Castle in the background, but the Christmas tree is a great consolation prize.

Character or Cookie Time (x2) – In addition to this being the last section of the parade route to fill up, the other huge advantage you’ll have is easy and immediate access to Town Square Theater where Mickey Mouse and Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws & Sally meet.

In our experience, this is a great time to meet Mickey Mouse–it’ll be a 10-15 minute wait. It’s a very good time to meet Sandy Claws & co–it’ll be a 30-45 minute wait, most likely. However, these wait times assume you can be among the first people into the line following the parade. That should be relatively easy given your location, but if you’re slow to get ‘packed up’ after the parade, it won’t be possible. People flood into these meet & greet lines about 5 minutes after the parade passes.

Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks – This is the recently-added fireworks spectacular shown only during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties. It runs only once per night, and is not to be missed. Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks thematically incorporates fireworks so they fit the accompanying song lyrics.

In terms of viewing the Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, you’ll probably want to pick a location with an unobstructed 180-degree view of Cinderella Castle. This means anywhere in the middle of Main Street is out, as the buildings to each side of you will obstruct your view.

We’ve seen the Christmas fireworks several times now, and I’m “over” being in the sea of people just to have a great view of the perimeter pyro. As such, I do watch towards the end of Main Street, which is blissfully uncrowded by comparison. However, this is one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ situations.

For Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, we’d highly recommend the green areas in our Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Locations. Additionally, the yellow areas that are closer to Cinderella Castle also work, but are slightly less desirable.

See the Stage Show After Fireworks – If you managed a front and center spot for the Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, you might want to stick around for the next performance of Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, which begins shortly thereafter.

You can also head over to see A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas, which would be our recommendation. There will be one more chance to see the Cinderella Castle stage show, so don’t fret if you skip this showtime. If you’re not concerned with A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas might be good to explore somewhere beyond Main Street.

Finally, there’s another wildcard here, which is meeting Sandy Claws if you didn’t do that earlier and watching the fireworks from Main Street near the Christmas tree. If you’re quick to get in line, this will be the shortest wait of the entire night for Sandy Claws. We’ve waited 20-30 minutes. Don’t wait too long, or the wait time will spike–and the line will be closed for the night!

Fun on the Frontier – If you do opt against catching either stage show, we’d recommend heading over to Frontierland.

This is a good time to catch a performance of the Reindeer Wranglers, clown around with the Country Bears, and enjoy the moody ambiance along the Rivers of America. You might also consider cutting over to Adventureland for meet & greets, or more cookies now that those lines have died down.

Mickey’s TWICE Upon A Christmastime Parade – At this point, it’s probably time to secure a spot for the second Christmas parade, if you want to see it again.

There are two options here. Since you’re already in the neighborhood, you can simply stick to Frontierland, near where the parade steps off. This is going to be the less time intensive option, as you won’t need to wait as long for the parade to arrive and will be able to leave immediately after it’s over.

Being fixated on photos, we usually head back to Main Street. There’s something about the projections and moody lighting on Cinderella Castle that just sets the perfect tone of the parade. My favorite spot is between the Emporium and flagpole, to the left of the Christmas tree statue. Unfortunately, this viewing area is often crowded, but even standing back against the rail behind the Christmas tree can given you a good view. (I was in the 3rd or 4th “row” back when I took the above photo.)

Stage Show Send Off – Even though the second Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade steps off at 11 pm, it won’t get to you at the end of Main Street until 20 or so minutes later, and won’t conclude until a little after 11:30 pm.

With that in mind, option #1 is absolutely booking it over to catch the 11:35 pm showing of A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. This is what I did, and missed the first song as a result (I move very fast). If you’re going to do this, catching the second parade from the Central Plaza near Cinderella Castle (on the Tomorrowland side) is the easier approach.

Option #2 is slowly making your way up to Cinderella Castle and getting a spot for the 11:55 pm performance of Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration. You could even go grab more cookies before doing this. (The goal should be stockpiling enough cookies to survive until New Year’s Eve!)

Then there’s option #3, which is doing both. This is what I typically do, making it to Cinderella Castle before the clock strikes midnight. Again, this strategy requires moving quickly. Perhaps not the ideal way of ending a long evening at Magic Kingdom.

Get into the Spirit of the Season – You’ll be able to linger around Tomorrowland or Main Street for a while after Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party officially ends. This is a great time to savor the festive ambiance, take photos, or try to get some PhotoPass Christmas card photos. Just be aware that the crowds are not low at first–to the contrary, Main Street is packed with people for at least the first 30 minutes after the event ends.

Guests are typically cleared out of Tomorrowland before 12:30 am, but Main Street usually takes longer–often until 1 am. With a slow trickle of guests still exiting meet & greets long after the party ends (and more merch to be sold on Main Street), security is in no rush to push people towards the exit.

Ultimately, you should be able to have an efficient evening with plenty of fun and lots of entertainment (perhaps too much) by following this Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party plan. We really enjoy this special event and have had a blast every year we’ve done it thus far.

As you can probably tell by our preferences and recommendations, what we really love is the party-specific entertainment. There have been some nights when we’ve spent 4 out of 5 hours on Main Street, watching both Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parades, three performances of Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, and the Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime fireworks. For 95% of you, that is overkill. However, the entertainment is the heart of the party, and what you’re paying the big bucks for during the event.

Hopefully this Christmas Party plan presented a slightly more balanced evening, with time for character meet & greets, exploring the park, getting photos, doing seasonal ride overlays, and enjoying the atmosphere. Those of you who are really into rides might notice there’s not much of that here. If doing a few attractions are high-priority, we’d recommend skipping the first parade and only seeing the second. In fact, you could probably replace everything between the first stage show and parade with attractions and have an even better-balanced plan for those who don’t want to see any event entertainment more than once.

In the end, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is incredibly expensive, but can offer a lot of bang for your buck if you have a plan of attack. Go in with realistic expectations, but try to do as much as you can–characters, the parade, fireworks, both stage shows. This itinerary should also demonstrate why we don’t recommend doing regular attractions during the Christmas Party. You won’t have the time to do it all! However, we also implore you to slow down and enjoy the festive atmosphere, as it’s truly what makes the Christmas Party magical.

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Have you attended this year’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Which character meet & greets and other entertainment are your top priorities? Did you meet Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws, or was the line too long for you? Do you disagree with anything in our 1-night MVMCP plan? Planning on doing the party closer to Christmas, or in 2023? Favorite characters you hope to see? Have your costume ready for it? Already planning ahead for the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!