W.T.D.W. – Character Meet and Greets

DSC00269Most Disney lovers have a favorite character or two. I have favorite characters like I have favorite attractions. In other words, I have a lot of them. I’ve always loved the all of the VIP characters (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale), but of those I particularly enjoy Pluto and Donald. I love Donald’s cranky nature. Then of course there’s the Toy Story gang. Who doesn’t love Buzz Lightyear? And the princesses… Seeing Cinderella in Magic Kingdom is sure to make anyone’s day. A chance happening with the Peter Pan gang? Yes, please. Alice and The Mad Hatter? The Mad Hatter’s funny accent and off-center comments always makes me laugh. What about Whinnie the Pooh and friends? Eeyore tugs at your heart while Tigger brings out the bounce in everyone.

DSC_0977Characters can be found all over Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all have multiple locations for character meet and greets. And there are parades and shows where you can catch characters in action dancing and waving to guests. Catching a character’s eye as a child, and seeing them wave to you, or blow you a kiss can mean the world.

As we’ve discussed before, everyone has different priorities when visiting the parks. I tend to be an attraction junkie. Bring on the rides! My favorite attractions take priority in my time when visiting a park and I love planning and scheming so I can get in as many as possible on a given day. Bonus points are granted if I manage to visit my favorites multiple times in a day. Other people tend to enjoy the shows and entertainment – they never miss a 3:00 parade. Yet still are the people who love to go character hopping. They begin their day with a Guidemap and Times Guide with the listing of character appearances and times and they plan out who they want to see and when they want to visit them.

DSC_0173 DSC_0161DSC_0157You are never too old or too small to make friends with a Disney Character or two. Above, my mom grins with Chip and Dale – who have always been favorites of hers. My cousin, though just a little one, is just as thrilled to meet them. He loved to rub noses with the characters he met, which you can see him doing with Chip on the left. For anyone who can’t keep Chip and Dale straight I will tell you how I remember: Dale has the red nose while Chip has the black nose – like a chocolate chip.

RichandRafiki3RichandRafikiOn our last trip to WDW my hubby and I didn’t take any time to visit with characters. We were there in August, it was hot, we were far from well rested, and waiting to see characters just didn’t seem important to us at the time. I confess now it’s something I regret not making time for on our trip. Character visits make great photo opportunities, which are wonderful for sharing with family and friends. But it’s more than that – visiting a character is an experience. Characters are just that, characters – full of fun and personality. They grant you an experience to interact with them and have a moment of charm or silliness. Most characters like to clown around with guests and you’re sure to find a smile and a great memory in taking the time to say hello to them.

In my last post we met my buddy Rich, who told us the story about dancing with Princess Tiana. Rich’s character antics also included meditating with Rafiki (above) and goofing around with Chip and Dale with his brother. Rich give Chip quite the pick up/spin around hug (below).

So my advice is to take some time to meet a character or two and create a memory.

Rich Miller ExperienceCharacter Meet and Greet Tips:

  • Consult your Guidemap and Times Guide. To make sure you don’t miss out check your guides to get the times and places you can find characters, especially if you are looking to meet someone specifically.
  • Leave enough time in your schedule. Don’t get in line to meet Mickey Mouse on Main Street U.S.A. at 11:00 AM when you have a Fastpass for Splash Mountain in Frontierland on the opposite side of the park at 11:30. Know that you may have to wait in line to visit characters, especially the popular ones such as good ol’ Mickey. Just leave enough room in your schedule to not feel rushed.
  • Have your camera and autograph book ready. Being ready for pictures and autographs will make your visit run smoother.
  • Keep and eye out.  While most of the time characters are in predesignated locations at specific times, you never know when a character will pop up. I’ve seen Goofy water-skiing outside of Magic Kingdom and Peter Pan skipping through Fantasyland. Surprises are everywhere at WDW.

Christmas time is here!

MK Tables Christmas DecorChristmas day is only TWO WEEKS AWAY! Our tree is up and decorated, the stockings are hung, our front door boasts a wreath, and lights trim the house, inside and out, giving a delightful, warming glow to the night. Now, if only the last of our gifts were purchased and wrapped… There’s still time though!

chocolate carousel 2white horsechocolate carouselLast week we talked about how elaborately Disney decorates for Christmas, from 65 foot tall trees to constructing carousels of gingerbread and chocolate. Yum. While you can spend many hours just enjoying the decorations in the resort hotels as well as the parks, Disney offers special events that give that extra touch of holiday magic. We delved into a couple of those already last week, including The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Jingle Jungle Parade at Animal Kingdom. But perhaps the two largest special Christmas events are Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party happens at the Magic Kingdom on select nights, beginning at 7:00 PM, running until midnight. This is a special ticketed event, so there is an additional cost to attend this event. The tickets averages about $65 a piece, which is certainly not by any means cheap. But a lot happens during the party, and I think it’s a great special occasion treat. For those of you who followed along with Mickey’s Not So Scarey Halloween Party back in the fall, you’ll find the set-up of Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party familiar. So what goes on during the pricey, festive 5 hours? Lots of special entertainment and tasty treats. Here’s a Mickey’s Very Merry rundown:

  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Parade: The parade features all of your favorite Disney characters, joined by elves, gingerbread men, and the like with plenty of festive music and lights. Santa even joins in! The parade runs twice during the party, usually at 8:15 and 10:30. Tip** The second showing of the parade is often less crowded.
  • Holiday Wishes: Wishes is Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks spectacular over Cinderella Castle. During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the fireworks take on a holiday flare with holiday music and colors with amazing fireworks.
  • Celebrate the Magic: Cinderella Castle is lit, bringing well loved Disney stories to life with a holiday touch.
  • Totally Tomorrowland Christmas: This fun show takes place in Tomorrowland featuring Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wizowski, and Stitch with plenty of music and dancing.
  • Celebrate the Season Show: Mickey and his pals gather to give gifts, and present their own special version of The Nutcracker.
  • Character Dance Party
  • Holiday Treats: There is plenty of complimentary hot chocolate and cookies to be had around Magic Kingdom Your taste buds will dance with these sweet delights. Also, Sleepy Hollow offers seasonally flavored waffles, Main Street Bakery has Mocha cocoa cupcakes, and Westward Ho tempts you with a peppermint brownies.

Christmas Cinderella CastleIn addition to the list above, there is a magical snowfall on Main Street U.S.A. and opportunities for character meet and greets all throughout Magic Kingdom. You can also visit your favorite attractions. Be sure not to miss the seasonal Jingle Cruise that has taken over the Jungle Cruise for the first time this holiday season.

Epcot celebrates the season with the Candlelight Processional. This music filled event happens nightly at the American Gardens Theater in the World Showcase. Each night the story of Christmas is read by a celebrity narrator, interspersed with music from a full orchestra and choir. In addition to the candle-bearing sizable choir, is a 50 piece orchestra, trumpeters, and a small caroling group. The celebrity narrators are exceptional. The list this year includes Neil Patrick Harris, Ashley Judd, Whoppi Goldberg, and Amy Grant to name a few. The full show runs just under an hour. The Candlelight Processional is not a special ticketed event, so there is no additional cost to attend beyond your park admission. Seating is limited though, and is available at a first come, first served basis. However, Disney does offer a Candlelight Dinner Package. In the package you get a 3-course meal or full buffet (depending on location) at a participating Epcot restaurant, guaranteed seating at the Candlelight Processional, as well as access to a special viewing location for IllumiNations, Epcot’s nightly fireworks and laser show spectacular. In my opinion, this is the way to go – you get a full tummy and a stress free experience for attending the Candlelight Processional. The list of participating restaurants is extensive, with plenty of flavor choices. And with your seating guaranteed, you are free to enjoy the park instead of get in line early for a seat. The event is extremely popular (deservedly so), and the American Gardens Theater is not huge. The Illuminations viewing area is an added bonus too!

Well telling you all about these festive happenings this morning has certainly put me in the holiday spirit! I hope it has brought you a bit as well. See ya real soon!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

Halloween MKBoo to you! I am really excited to share a little of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party with you today. I love Halloween and this special event is packed full of entertainment that makes it a spectacular time for all.

DSC_0007Starting in September, Magic Kingdom undergoes a transformation where pumpkins, scarecrows, and festive banners deck the entrance and Main Street, U.S.A. for all guests to enjoy. On select nights, Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party from 7:00 PM to midnight. The party is a special ticketed event, requiring a separate ticket for admission. Even though Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party begins in mid-September, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it until October when Halloween is closer. (It’s like seeing Christmas decorations before November has even started… Ugh.)

DSC00335So what happens between 7:00 PM at 12:00 AM that makes Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party so awesome? The sun sets, Magic Kingdom comes a’glow, and guests will find lots of extra, elaborate Halloween themed entertainment. Organized events and random touches come together to bring Halloween magic to guests.

Here are the big events that happen during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party:

Trick or Treating throughout Magic Kingdom – When you’re a kid you look forward to trick-or-treating for all of October. When you’re an adult, you delight in handing out candy to kids, but secretly I think we all just wish we could get out a pumpkin bucket or pillowcase and go around our neighborhoods to get free candy for ourselves. And of course, at Mickey’s Not Scary Halloween Party – you can! Kids and adults alike, costume or not, can go to several different locations throughout Magic Kingdom to trick-or-treat. Cast members are generous in the candy-giving, and you’ll be thrilled to leave Magic Kingdom with plenty of sweet treats in your bag.

DSC00430Disney Villains Dance Mix and Mingle – As you may expect, you can find villains a plenty during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. During the Villains Mix and Mingle, the villains kick off the festivities in front of the castle, then venture out to greet the guests. It’s a fantastic opportunity to visit with some of your favorite not-so-nice characters that aren’t always available for autographs and photos.

DSC00404 Halloween EeyoreDSC00411Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade – Personally, this is my favorite part of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The parade kicks off with the Headless Horseman riding down Main Street, U.S.A. on his beautiful, black stallion holding a lit jack-o-lantern. Swiftly following is a parade of Halloween floats and beloved Disney characters, many who are sporting costumes themselves. Goofy, assisted by Pluto brings the candy fun to the parade in a big way. The beloved spooky attraction The Haunted Mansion has its own segment in the parade as well. The Graveyard Caretaker leads the way with his faithful hound, followed by grave diggers dragging shovels that send sparks flying, dancing ghouls, and a float sporting the three Hitchhiking Ghosts.


DSC00426DSC_0089Happy HalloWishes – Centered over Cinderella Castle, which glows in Halloween colors, you will find this end of the evening firework spectacular. The Disney Villains are the star of the show, sending up a colorful variety fireworks to a medley of the villain’s musical themes.

Main Street, U.S.A. Entertainment – Roaming Main Street, U.S.A. guests can find a barbershop quartet of dead cowboys. They hold no shortage of barbershop tunes, puns, and jokes.

All of that alone makes for a marvelous night. But for me, it’s the small extra touches that fall into 5 categories really make Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party great:

DSC_00121. Costumes – Adults and kids alike come to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in costume. In fact, I was really surprised at the number of costumes we saw the night we went. People dressed to the nines. Many of the guests who weren’t wearing costumes were still wearing Halloween themed colors or t-shirts. I didn’t come prepared with a costume, but I scored a fun Mickey’s Not So Scary shirt from The Emporium that made me festive. I will note that Disney asks guests to make sure their costumes are tasteful. Most people seemed to comply without any problem.

HalloweenNot So Scary2. Decor – The extra decor goes a long way into making the night special. It creates a remarkable air of festivity. Everywhere you look there are pumpkins, cast members in special Halloween themed dress, ghosts, and Halloween colors.

3. Extras – Naturally spooky areas or attractions such as The Haunted Mansion are dressed up. Cast members at The Haunted Mansion are spooky enough on any normal day, but during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party you’ll find them looking extra gruesome, covered in spider webs. We also found Madam Leona sitting on the lawn, entertaining guests as they entered. We went back to The Haunted Mansion an extra time just to see her again.

DSC_0072DSC_00754. Characters – Keep your eyes open, you tend to find extra characters available for meet and greet during Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party. This little boy to the left had a rare photo-op with all seven dwarfs.

5. Attractions at Night – During the party you get to visit some of your favorite attractions in the dark. Some have an entirely different feel when you visit them after the sun goes down. I highly recommend heading to Frontierland to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain in the dark. Pirates of the Caribbean, though not outside is also great attraction to see during your Halloween-time Magic Kingdom visit.

Whew. That’s a lot to share! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is a jam-packed special event and we had a marvelous time when we went. Though it is costly (averaging around $60 per person), I feel you really get a lot for your money. Anyone else who has visited Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party have an opinion on price/value of the ticket?

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party:

  • Be well rested! As you can see, there is a lot to do and the party runs until midnight. Even adults can be completely wiped out at the end. Take time to rest, maybe even take a nap before attending the party.
  • Eat dinner early! With so much happening during this special event, you want to make sure you have plenty of time to experience all of it. Not only does eating dinner during the party limit your time to trick or treat or visit attractions, a late-running dinner reservation may mean you miss part (or all!) or the parade or fireworks show.
  • Be festive! As I mentioned, many people dress up in a costume or Halloween decor. It really makes the event more merry.
  • Be informed! It may seem like a silly reminder, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the night. Keep your eye on the time and make sure you know what events are happening when and where, so you don’t miss anything you want to see.
Specially themed Halloween treats

Specially themed Halloween treats!

Not So Scary