Christmas cheer is here. Only a week after Halloween season ended, Walt Disney World decked its theme park halls with the spirit of the season as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party kicked off last Friday, the first in many nights of extra festive entertainment at the Magic Kingdom.
This year’s event follows the same basic format as previous years, with holiday fireworks, a special parade, and lots of treats being handed out. But there are quite a few changes and additions too, keeping the event feeling fresh as well as leaving plenty of familiarity.
Snow seems to fall more than ever during this year’s party all down Main Street USA throughout the evening, a sight extra magical when it’s not even cold in Florida.
The ultimate annual sight to see is the lighting of Cinderella Castle with thousands of white lights seemingly dripping off of its many towers. Each evening just before the Very Merry party starts a short lighting moment takes place, viewable by day guests and party goers alike.
But this year the view up and down Main Street USA has changed due to the introduction of Glow with the Show Mickey ear hats to Walt Disney World. Though they’re not nearly on every head, their presence is unavoidable, lighting up darkened areas of the parks wherever they’re seen.
During the Very Merry event, the Glow with the Show ears synchronize with Holiday Wishes fireworks as well as the Celebrate the Magic projection show, complete with a special Christmas finale at the end - the same one that was part of The Magic, the Memories, and You last year. The glowing ears can be a terrible distraction during the projection show, creating unnecessary visual noise between the viewer and the castle as the only focal point. But while the fireworks erupt in the sky, the ears do add extra colorful touches on the ground below.
Video: Christmas projections on Cinderella Castle during Celebrate the Magic finale
Video: Holiday Wishes fireworks show from 2012
While at Cinderella Castle, the “Celebrate the Season” stage show brings the most character entertainment at once, featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Chip, Dale and other famous Disney faces along with lots of dancers bringing together nearly 20 minutes of non-stop music and laughs. It’s not a new show, but it is a good one to catch early in the night to kick off the event. (It’s also a rare opportunity to hear a Disney character exclaim “Happy Kwanzaa!”)
Video: Full “Celebrate the Season” Cinderella Castle stage show
While the Holiday Wishes fireworks are most enjoyable within eyeshot of Cinderella Castle, they’re fun in different ways when witnessed elsewhere in the park. Over by the entrance of Storybook Circus, the perimeter launch locations are extra loud and close by, providing an impressively surrounding experience.
And it’s a great time to get in line for popular character meet-and-greets. Scrooge McDuck usually only appears during the Very Merry Christmas Party, this year joined by Donald Duck and Daisy Duck for a group photo op with a consistently long line throughout the night.
Video: Scrooge McDuck, Donald and Daisy Duck meet-and-greet
Sadly, this is Scrooge’s only appearance at the party as he has mysteriously vanished from the Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, which has a few noteworthy changes this year. The parade feels a bit shorter than usual, though still rather long as far as Disney parades go. Near the beginning, Scrooge’s former home (literally a house float) is now occupied by Donald and Daisy instead, leaving McDuck left out and one less horse-drawn carriage that used to carry the two other ducks. New LED lighting adorns other floats, providing an extra-bright view. But the classic experience remains true all the way to Santa Claus concluding the parade.
For comparison, here is video of the 2012 version of the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, as seen during the day just before Christmas:
Those looking for a bit more Scrooge shouldn’t miss the animated Emporium windows on Main Street USA, returning to a “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” theme once again this year.
Other new decorations this year include an oversized ornament near Cinderella Castle as well as Gaston’s Tavern adorned with a bit of garland. The Be Our Guest restaurant also has Christmas decorations inside, but that’s only open for a limited time near the beginning of the party as diners finish up their meals.
The Jingle Cruise has debuted as a holiday overlay to the Jungle Cruise for Christmas season, not exclusive to the Very Merry party but certainly available throughout the night.
Video: FULL Jingle Cruise ride at night
Those looking for a few takeaways shouldn’t miss the cookies, hot chocolate, apple slices, and apple juice available throughout the park or the party-exclusive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card featuring Huey, Dewey, and Louie, handed out with a few bonuses from holidays past.
There’s easily enough entertainment to fill an entire night at the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, not to mention the availability of most of the park’s regular attractions as well. A party ticket also admits guests as early as 4pm into the park, offering up to 8 hours of enjoyment.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party continues on select nights through December 20, after which the parade and fireworks are performed for all Magic Kingdom guests through the rest of the busiest time of year.
More photos from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2013: