Walt Disney World Fall Fun
Summer is over, and the weather’s about to grow cooler. Floridians and those who visit during this time of the year are extremely thankful for that fact. Summers in the Sunshine State are no joke, with temperatures frequently reaching 100 degrees. Of course, the arrival of September means more than just better weather to Walt Disney World fanatics.
Fall is also the time when Disney guests can fill their bellies, celebrate a holiday in costume, and get super-drunk. This strange concoction of options is what makes September and October so wonderful for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Members. Let’s talk about what all you can do at Walt Disney World this fall.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
A September or October visit to Orlando is always a wonderful getaway for Disney fanatics. DVC members in particular have historically gravitated toward Walt Disney World at this time. Since the 1990s, they’ve enjoyed a special event that takes place at the most popular theme park in the world, Magic Kingdom.
That joyous celebration of the macabre is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a Disney tradition that began in 1995. Yes, this year is the 23rd edition of one of the most enjoyable events in Disney theme park history, which speaks to the lasting appeal of the premise. More impressively, the popularity of this exhibition has exploded in recent years, which is why Disney has stretched the length all the way into August for the first time ever.
Whether you were ready to think about Halloween before Labor Day is irrelevant. People were willing to pay for the privilege anyway because this party offers a couple of things that people covet during a Walt Disney World visit. It has delicious candies that cast members give out to Trick-or-Treaters, and it has relaxed costume rules for park guests.
Yes, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is the rare opportunity for visitors to celebrate the look and style of their favorite Disney characters without violating Walt Disney World’s dress codes. And guests take full advantage of this ability. Even if you cannot make a park visit to the party this year, you should monitor Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to see the wildly creative outfits on display during the event. When my family attends the party, we spend as much time gawking at costumes as we do snacking on chocolate.
The Plan for the Party
The origins of the party were humble. It started as a one-day after-hours party that cost $16.95 per person. This year’s event…costs more. Disney now charges between $74 and $115 per ticket, and guests happily pay for what they know will be a great time.
Still, the basic premise has remained the same since the beginning when tickets were a fraction of the price. This exhibition takes place after Magic Kingdom closes, as guests pay for the privilege of getting special access to the Most Magical Place on Earth. From the beginning, Disney had a plan to expand the drawing appeal of their Orlando gates. They wanted to alter the perception of fall at the parks as the off-season. And park planners can definitely take a bow on accomplishing that particular mission.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was a one-day event in 1995. By 1999, Disney had bumped it up to three nights, and less than two decades later, it stretches all the way into August AND November. If that sounds like something else that takes place in the fall, it’s not coincidental.
Walt Disney originally had a vision for a permanent World’s Fair at Epcot, and the people who have since run the park that bears his name have tried to honor that premise. This party is a draw that has greatly increased park attendance in the fall, and the recent ascension of Halloween as a two-month celebration of the silly and supernatural has only added to the tremendous growth.
Why You Will Love This Party
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has several key elements. I’ve already mentioned the candy, which is AMAZING. Disney has the Mars Company as a corporate sponsor who foots the bill for many of the giveaway treats, and so Mars bars, M&Ms, and Milky Way bars are in ample supply across the park.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you simply get in line at one of the kiosks, and a cast member gives you more candy than you ever knew was possible back when you were a kid at Halloween. Disney’s chefs also have a few holiday-related dessert treats available for consumption. Suffice to say that you will eat well at this party. You may want to skip the entrees on this particular night. I mean, Halloween’s the time for dessert for dinner and a night of tummy aches, right?
During the party, you’ll also enjoy rare photo ops with several Disney characters. Jack Skellington and Sally are the unofficial hosts of the event, but Mickey and Minnie Mouse are also in holiday costumes. In total, more than 30 Disney characters are available in meet-and-greets. Anyone with Memory Maker access will have professional Disney photographs to commemorate the event, and guests will also take dozens (if not hundreds) of cellphone pictures, too. Disney even offers special Magic Shots exclusive for the event!
Another strong selling point of this ticketed event is ride access. Since people have to pay to get in Magic Kingdom for the party, you won’t fight the crowds to ride your favorite Disney attractions. You can see the full list of open attractions here. The only downside of enjoying the rides is that you may miss a few photo ops as the opportunity cost. Budget your time wisely at this party! You only have a few hours, and time seems to pass quickly during such a thrilling event.
To wit, you’ll have a few events that you HAVE to do during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. The crux of the entire party is the Boo to You Parade, which has a series of happy Disney characters followed by malevolent ones include dancing gravediggers from The Haunted Mansion and several Disney villains/villainesses. More importantly, it’s a joyous singalong that puts a smile on anybody’s face. You can watch video of it here. I apologize in advance for the Boo to You earworm.
Disney also puts on three other shows during the party. The Cadaver Dans Barbershop Quartet aren’t singers that you’ll ever describe as dapper, but these undead musicians are oddly entertaining, assuming you like Jungle Cruise-esque puns and melodic singing. If that’s not your thing, you can watch the Happy HalloWishes Fireworks Show, which starts like a regular (but now extinct) version of Wishes before morphing into something darker. Finally, fans of Hocus Pocus the movie (which seems to be virtually everyone under 35) can watch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular, which reunites the Sanderson Sisters in another ill-conceived performance that quickly spirals out of control. That’s four (!) special performances for a single ticket, which reinforces the tremendous value of a ticket to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. You NEED to attend this event each fall.
And Then There’s the Other Thing
As much as I love the Halloween party at Walt Disney World, it’s not the first thing that springs to mind about fall at the parks. DVC members associate this time of year with singular festival, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
This event started in 1995, and it has gradually evolved into the seminal reason for a fall visit to Epcot. Every year, Disney expands the length of the festival. Every year, the festival sets a new attendance record. The demand for this exhibition is so strong that Disney has basically duplicated it at three other times during the year, effectively introducing that constant World’s Fair that the company’s founder had hoped for.
Explaining the Food & Wine Festival is easy since the crux of the conversation is in the wording. For 22 years and counting, Disney has added food kiosks at various locations throughout the World Showcase. Here, they serve – you guessed it – food and wine. While you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy the event, many of the dishes are designed to pair well with the potent potables.
Culinary experts from around the world have a hand in many of the dishes and pairings. Celebrity chefs also host seminars, tutorials, and other live events that are interactive in nature. Usually, these activities have a modest fee, but they’re generally worth the price since you’ll receive cooking advice from elite chefs.
Each of the last two years, The Chew, a popular daytime program on ABC, has hosted a week of episodes at this exhibition also. 2017 will be no different, as they plan to film episodes October 3rd through the 8th. You’ll have a chance to meet Mario Batali, Carla Hall, and Michael Symon if you attend.
The recurring presence of The Chew reinforces the growing mainstream popularity of the Food & Wine Festival. Walt Disney World was once a wasteland in the fall. Now, it’s one of the true tourist seasons on the calendar, and DVC members are well aware of this. In fact, we wince at the notion, as this timeframe was once the best-kept secret about ownership. DVC has cheaper points during the fall, and members can make annual pilgrimages to Epcot for this global cuisine buffet without blowing their entire points budget. Ah well, those days are gone.
Today, you’ll still have a blast visiting the Food & Wine Festival. How could you not? There are 27 booths based on international cuisine plus seven more that are predicated on distinct flavors such as almonds and cheeses. There’s even a grilled food booth, which is music to this carnivore’s ears.
Disney Food Blog has the full list of menus posted here. Suffice to say that you can nosh at the Food & Wine Festival like no other place in the country. It’s like a mall food court if it were run as a constant Top Chef competition. No matter your preferences in flavor profile, you can find at least 10 dishes that will make you salivate. The same is true of the beers and wines available for purchase. Finally, Disney fans know one other secret about the exhibition. Disney Dining Plan snack credits count for several entrees! You can eat entire meals using the same snack credits that would ordinarily pay for a bottle of water! It’s the best deal on the Walt Disney World campus! (I’m going to stop using exclamation marks now.)
Amazingly, the festival has more than just food. I previously chronicled the introduction of the Eat to the Beat concert series in last year’s article. Since this year’s event is a record-setting 75 days, more bands will perform than ever before. Unless you live in Florida, the selection’s unfortunately potluck (we always get Starship featuring Mickey Thomas for some reason), but you can see the list for the rest of the event here:
September 21 to September 22, 2017
Known for his song “Light On”
September 23 to September 24, 2017
Known for their song “Santa Monica”
September 25 to September 27, 2017
Known for their song “Every Morning”
September 28 to September 29, 2017
Known for their song “Hold On Loosely”
Mark Wills – NEW!
September 30 to October 1, 2017
Known for his song “19 Somethin’”
American Authors – NEW!
October 2 to October 3, 2017
Known for their song “Best Day of My Life”
October 4 to October 5, 2017
Known for his song “Sailing”
The Devon Allman Band – NEW!
October 6 to October 8, 2017
Known for his song “Ragged & Dirty”
Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX
October 9 to October 11, 2017
Known for their song “Come Sail Away”
October 12 to October 13, 2017
Known for her song “Tell It to My Heart”
October 14 to October 15, 2017
Known for his song “On the Wings of Love”
Postmodern Jukebox – NEW!
October 16 to October 17, 2017
10,000 Maniacs – NEW!
October 18 to October 20, 2017
Known for their song “Because the Night”
Toad the Wet Sprocket
October 21 to October 22, 2017
Known for their song “Walk on the Ocean”
Kenny G – NEW!
October 23 to October 24, 2017
Known for his song “Songbird”
October 25 to October 26, 2017
Known for his song “Get Outta My Dreams”
October 27 to October 29, 2017
Known for her song “I Think We’re Alone Now”
October 30 to November 1, 2017
Known for their song “MMMBop”
Blue October – NEW!
November 2 to November 3, 2017
Known for their song “Into the Ocean”
November 4 to November 5, 2017
Known for their song “Cult of Personality”
Boyz II Men
November 6 to November 8, 2017
Known for their song “End of the Road”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
November 9 to November 11, 2017
Known for their song “Go Daddy-O”
Squeeze – NEW!
November 12 to November 13, 2017
Known for their song “Black Coffee in Bed”
As you can see, most of these bands are either one-hit wonders or are long past their musical primes. Still, the shows are free, and each artist plays three of them a night. The seats are at the America Gardens Theater at the American Adventure Pavilion. If you’re a fan of any of the groups, I suggest that you show up about half an hour prior to the set. I look at the Eat to the Beat concert series as the free bread that restaurants offer prior to the meal. You may or may not want to partake, but it’s a thoughtful gesture to offer.
The latest iteration of The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is already being hailed as one of the best ever. And the best part is that you don’t have to choose between Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and it. By scheduling a DVC vacation, you get to enjoy both events.
You can spend the day walking around the World Showcase and sampling flavors. Then, you can end the day with some of the most magical moments that you’ll ever experience at Magic Kingdom. It’s a perfect day that’s easy to plan and schedule. It’s also the reason why Disney in the fall has become such an integral part of the DVC ownership experience in recent years.