There’s one time of year when the Magic Kingdom becomes even more magical: Christmas. Throughout the months of November and December, Walt Disney World hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, an after-hours, hard-ticketed event that provides guests with a night filled with holiday cheer, including a special parade, fireworks, entertainment, and free treats.
Though the party changes very little from year to year, it is still one of my favorite ways to get into the Christmas spirit and the highlights below show you why it’s so easy to get in the mood to deck the halls after a visit there.
There's no doubt Disney celebrates Christmas here (not just Happy Holidays!), with decorations greeting guests just beyond the entrance turnstiles.
Town Square is lined with giant toy soldiers. We'll see more of them later in the night.
And here a first glimpse at the beautiful Cinderella Castle Dream Lights down a wreath-adorned Main Street USA.
But before even reaching Main Street, Town Square offers a chance to meet and greet with the big man himself, Santa Claus, in a picture-perfect setting. We'll see much more of him later too.
Despite the relatively warm Florida temperatures, even in December, it still snows throughout the night on Main Street USA, with thousands of twinkling lights.
Yep, it's snowing in Florida! Disney magic at its finest.
Main Street is a popular spot throughout Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, often packed with excited guests. It's one of the best places to watch the night's special parade and fireworks, if you don't mind the company.
Cast members add extra cheer to the night with impromptu street games, like hopscotch.
The always-entertaining Dapper Dans regularly perform up and down Main Street to guests waiting for the parade to begin. They are one of the party's best highlights, singing a variety of Christmas songs, many with a humorous twist. Enjoy a few of their songs in the video below.
Video: Dapper Dans sing Christmas songs during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2011
Guests line Main Street early to get a perfect spot to enjoy Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. It's performed twice during the night, with the second less crowded than the first.
Let's take a photo journey through the parade, beginning with its opening title float.
The Alice in Wonderland group joins Peter Pan's gang along with Pinocchio to kick off the parade.
The Tweedles aren't far behind.
Then Winnie the Pooh and friends are joined by Mary Poppins. I suppose the British characters like to stick together.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse wave to smiling faces on their own float - accompanied by Duffy the Disney Bear this year.
If you want to see Mickey, be sure to be on the left side of the parade. Minnie likes to wave her arms around to his right, often blocking the view.
Between character floats, a variety of wintery street entertainment fills the gaps, such as these skaters and dancers.
Not long after, my favorite character arrives: Scrooge McDuck! Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is one of the only times each year he can be found in the parks.
Here's another view of Scrooge and his house, taken from Liberty Square earlier in the night.
And since he is my favorite, and a somewhat rare character, here's one more closer look at the richest duck in Duckburg.
Scrooge's nephew Donald Duck rides in a horse-drawn carriage along with Daisy.
Chip and Dale are up to a bit of mischief as always, throwing snow around on their float.
The Seven Dwarfs aren't far behind, walking the street between floats.
Even Grumpy has a bit of Christmas cheer, giving out handshakes and high fives.
And where there are dwarfs, there's Snow White!
Cinderella arrives in style with her fancy pumpkin-turned-carriage, pulled by tiny horses.
She does her best to wave to both sides of the street.
The Princess portion of the parade continues with Belle and Sleeping Beauty.
Belle is wearing her best Christmas outfit.
Aurora dances with Prince Philip.
Also on the Princess float are Beast, Ariel, Eric, Jasmine, Aladdin, Tiana, and Naveen, but it's tough to capture them all in one pass. The Fairy Godmother oversees all at the tail end of the float.
Candy dancers with hula hoops precede Goofy in the parade.
Goofy's float should be familiar to those who attended Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, though candy handouts aren't happening here.
Sticking with the theme, Horace Horsecollar rides in on a giant gingerbread house.
Following Horace is a group of smiling gingerbread men. They must not know that they're destined to be eaten.
Clarabelle Cow follows behind in her kitchen, baking even more Christmas cookies.
Clarabelle's cooking team is certainly excited!
What's Christmas without toys? This parade has plenty, like this toy car.
A few more classic dancing toys follow next.
But the ultimate toys have their own float: the gang from Toy Story.
Woody is everyone's pal.
And Bullseye is Woody's best friend.
Remember those toy soldiers from Town Square? They've come to life, marching in unison down Main Street.
With trumpets trumpeting and drums drumming in unison, the soldiers are a parade highlight.
But young eyes are fixed on the reindeer that lead the way to the parade's big finale.
They each have name tags!
And then it's time for jolly ol' Saint Nick to ride his sleigh.
With a sack full of presents, Santa Claus wishes all a Merry Christmas.
It's amazing he has time to be in this parade and get ready for Christmas. I guess that's what his elves are for.
The parade isn't the only place guests find characters in their Christmas best. Celebrate the Season is performed several times each night on the Cinderella Castle stage.
The show is filled with Disney favorites, dancing and singing familiar Christmas songs.
Goofy has some foot-flying fun.
Pluto takes to the air in an exuberant entrance.
Those toy soldiers are back, this time joined by bandleader Mickey Mouse.
Minnie offers Mickey a Christmas kiss.
Donald hams it up while learning a few dance steps.
And Chip tries to copy this Asian-inspired routine.
Pluto stands in for Rudolph in this Christmas classic.
Minnie sings along with a softer song.
And in the end, everyone is filled with even more of the Christmas spirit.
But all this parade and show watching works up an appetite. Fortunately, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party includes unlimited free treats: hot chocolate, cookies, apple juice, and apple slices.
Hot chocolate is great on party nights when it's actually cold out.
The cookies are different this year from those offered in 2010. Last year's flavor was a standard sugar cookie. This year's tastes like it's dusted with a bit of cinnamon and other spices.
Unfortunately Aloha Isle was inexplicably closed this year, so no red and green swirled Dole Whips were available. Bummer.
Outside the Columbia Harbor House, this group of cast members got together to sing Christmas carols. They're not quite the Dapper Dans (and not quite in tune) but fun to watch nonetheless.
Character meet-and-greets are common throughout the party, like Jasmine and the Genie, dressed with a winter scarf.
In Fantasyland, Peter Pan told this girl a secret, which she quickly ran to another girl to share.
Meanwhile Wendy was offering autographs nearby.
Donald Duck signs in Fantasyland, though for the second year in a row Scrooge McDuck is not around for greeting guests. (I am told he's back at the Contemporary Resort again this year though.)
In front of their attraction, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet gather for group photos with guests.
Cinderella poses with guests along with her step sisters, step mother, and Prince Charming (not visible here).
And apparently hopscotch is the popular game this year, also set up in Fantasyland.
Over in Tomorrowland, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe is turned into a Jingle Dance and Play where young ones can burn off extra energy from drinking too much hot chocolate and eating far too many cookies.
Santa Goofy dances along in the very crowded area.
New to the party for 2011 are Phineas and Ferb, with their own meet-and-greet in Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland is also home to another stage show, A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas, which debuted in 2009.
Despite it's totally ridiculous name, the music-filled show is not all that bad. Even the host is shocked.
But the stage show definitely draws a hefty crowd.
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas includes characters not seen elsewhere in the park during the party, like Buzz Lightyear.
Buzz offers a Christmas kiss, no mistletoe required.
Mike Wazowski makes a glorious entrance.
The Christmas-themed Monsters, Inc. logo displayed is amusing.
Stitch shows up for the show's finale while the host is over-the-top surprised at everything.
It all ends with a few fireworks launching overhead, as any good Disney stage show does.
Surprised expressions aside, the host is actually a good entertainer, not only chatting with characters but also singing a few songs of her own. Live singing is always welcome in the parks.
Back on Main Street USA, guests get ready for fireworks. But first, Disney offers a Christmas variation of their Cinderella Castle projection show, which you can enjoy in the video below.
Video: Christmas version of “The Magic, the Memories, and You!” on Cinderella Castle
Then Holiday Wishes erupts over the castle in shades of red and green. And other colors too.
But mostly red and green.
Cinderella Castle relights the Dream Lights for the show's big finale.
And all is right with the world.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party not only offers Christmastime entertainment but also a chance to enjoy most of the park's rides with little to no wait. Some guests choose to skip all Christmas entertainment completely and just go for the rides, with party tickets granting park entrance as early as 4 p.m. It's an open-ended schedule that allows each guest to enjoy one of the most magical nights around.
Eleven dates remain for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, including tonight, Dec. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, and 18. After that, you can still enjoy the Once Upon a Christmastime parade and Holiday Wishes, as Disney includes them daily with regular admission to the Magic Kingdom during the week leading up to Christmas and through December 31.
But the best bet to enjoy the special Christmas additions is to go to the after-hours party, as the two weeks surrounding Christmas are filled with some of the most crowded of the year. Tickets range from $56.95 – $62.95 for adults, depending on the date, and $51.95 – $57.95 for children, and are available on
Disney’s web site.
More photos from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2011: