Tackling Disney Special Events ‣ Use our fallback routine to get the most bang for your buck!
I get asked for tips on how to best tackle the parties all the time, but whether it’s during fall for Halloween or winter for Very Merry (this year, replaced by Merriest After Hours), our special event evening schedule shapes up looking somewhat like this:
We always try to capitalize on at least half of the mix-in time (even if we’re with all pass holders) and for the costumed-events, usually begin hair and makeup around 10 a.m. (I wish I was kidding).
Because of this, we always try to get our best photos right in the beginning and eat dinner before the parties “officially” start. No matter what, I book a sit-down indoor restaurant to give us a break from the heat, at a varied location depending on the theme and menu. For instance, when we did the Cinderella theme, I booked us at 1900 Park Fare for Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner — and when we’re mostly adults (we’re always mostly adults, sorry K) I try to book at places offering alcoholic beverages (ha), such as Tony’s Town Square or Be Our Guest.
Party Kick-off until First Parade Route:
This is when there is the greatest influx of visitors; but not necessarily the longest lines, as many day guests are heading out and many evening guests haven’t made it in yet. So we knock out the shortest attraction lines available and get in some trick-or-treating/cocoa.
First Parade Route:
The “little kid” lines tend to die down during this time, as families with younger children sit usually sit for the first parade. At Disney World, this tends to means we hit up Fantasyland and then Frontierland, if we have time. At Disneyland, we knock out Pixar Pier and most of Avengers Campus.
After First Parade Route until Second Parade Route:
This is prime time. Anything we feel we must do before the night is out - which means, for either coast at any party, we prioritize Haunted Mansion and Pirates, then whatever else is about 20 minutes or less.
Last Parade Route/Show/Fireworks:
When offered, we watch the trifecta, back-to-back, usually in accordance with one of the dessert parties or add on dining packages. If for whatever reason we opt out of our reserved viewing, we tend to make our way right up against the Castle then quickly move to the curb at the hub for the parade.
Time Between Last Parade and Fireworks:
We’re usually able to squeeze in some late-night (even post-closing-time rides) in after the last parade, and save this for the longest lines that aren’t our must do’s. Because we’ve been to both parks so many times, and don’t want to waste more than 20 minutes in a line during a special event, this usually is when we squeeze in Space Mountain, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, and other coveted lines - by the end of the night, you can just about walk on, and if you save the “longest” line for last, as long as you’re in before park close, they will let you stay until it’s your turn!