By Susan and Simon Veness
Many of Orlando’s Halloween events are not for the faint of heart. What’s a family to do when they want all the fun and none of the fright? Walt Disney World and SeaWorld have got you covered, with the delightful Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom and the whimsical SeaWorld Spooktacular.
The kinder, gentler side of Halloween attracts families to Orlando from all over the world, and the stand-out event is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. As the name suggests, the scares are rare and the party atmosphere is at the forefront. The moment guests pass through the turnstiles they are greeted by happy jack-o-lanternsand clusters of autumnal leaves surrounding Mickey-shaped pumpkin heads, there is an undeniable air of excitement, and even the sign pointing to the special entrance for Party guests makes your heart beat just a little bit faster.
Inside the park, America’s love of All Hallows Eve takes over, and if you showed up without having made some small effort toward a costume you may regret it. Most guests get into the spirit of the event, with Princesses and Pirates of every size mingling with Ghostly Brides, ghastly witches, Sorcerer Mickeys, and this year, the inexplicably popular favouritesTweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Don’t want to go to that much trouble? A simple set of Mouse Ears will do the trick, and then it’s on to the treats!
Unlike the adult versions, this Halloween event includes trick-or-treating, with nine treat stations and two multi-station ‘treat trails’. Guests receive a bag to carry their lootupon entering the park, and by the end of the night they’re full to the top.Special Halloween themed treats such as Ghost Cupcakes, Candy Corn Soft Serve and Spiced Pumpkin Waffle Sundaes were available for purchase, as were event themed merchandise opportunities.
We strolled from station to station and while wait times for the attractions were non-existent, Haunted Mansion was our only must-do ride. The Ghostly Bride was on hand to greet her next victims, but the real treat were the Magic Shots. Guests queued up to have a Photopass picture taken next to the hearse outside the mansion, and when they received their photo they discovereda ghostly driver had appeared. No one does it better than Disney when it comes to those magical touches.
A similar startling apparition appears in Magic Shots taken on the bridge between Adventureland and Liberty Square. But perhaps the most coveted photo was with Magic Kingdom newcomers, Jack Skellington and Sally, who made their meet-n-greet debut this year.
Our wanderings were punctuated by the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball, the Disney Villains’ Dance Mix and Mingle, and Woody’s Happy Harvest character dance parties, and the ring of horse-hooves clattering along the parade route as the Headless Horseman kicked off the spectacular Mickey’s Boo To You Parade. Celebrate the Magic projection show on Cinderella Castle and the magnificent Happy HalloWishes fireworks show topped off the evening for most guests with younger children, though many stayed on until the midnight closing.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party isn’t an inexpensive option at over $300 for a family of four if you factor in drinks and a snack or a meal, but it is undeniably memorable, even without children in tow. Would we go again, just the two of us? Absolutely!
SeaWorld also caters to kids and kids-at-heart with their seasonal Halloween Spooktacular, but the only thing spooky is the name. The event itself is a delightful ‘journey under the sea’, where marine-inspired characters dance and sing and interact with youngsters, treat stations hand out sweets, and there are all sorts of games and crafts stations to keep little ones happy and engaged.
The heart of the action begins at the UnderwaterFantasea Path that wraps around the lagoon, starting near the Seafire Inn Restaurant and ending in Shamu’s Happy Harbor. Giant bubble machines create an underwater effect, while hammerhead sharks, sea princesses, and silly starfish and stingrays greet guests. Each visitor is given a treat bag, and while you won’t walk away with the quantity of loot you might get over at Mickey’s house, the treats are interesting changes from the ordinary, including Pop Chips, candy corn, Sugar Babies, and Welch’s gummy Fruit Snacks.
Halloween-themed crafts, storytelling, and a dance party can be found at Penelope’s Party Zone along the water front, while Ms. Mackrel’s Class—a school of fish who care more about lunch and recess than they do about arithmetic or science studies—pose for pictures between lessons. Edible crafting fun can be found at the Cookie Decorating station, but longer-lasting souvenirs such as Spooktaculart-shirts and Shamu bubble blowersare available too.
Treat stations move guests from one end of the Underwater Fantasea Path to the other, and while it is all centrally located, there is one show outside the boundaries of the pathway. Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween in the Seaport Theater holds preschoolers spellbound, as Count von Count decides what he wants to do on Halloween, with input from Elmo, Telly Monster, Abby Cadabby, and Zoe, accompanied by dancing skeletons. There is a lot of counting, lots of interactive singing, and just enough ‘spooky’ to make things fun, but not frightening.
To top it off, one special family is selected each day to be the Super Starfish of the Day family, receiving Quick Queue passes, All Day Dining, complimentary cookie decorating, reserved seating at shows, and a photograph to remember it all when they return home. To become the Super Starfish family, guests simply post a picture of themselves (in costume!) usinghashtag #SeaWorldSpooktacular and @Seaworld on Twitter; Facebook on SeaWorld’s timeline using #SeaWorldSpooktacular in the caption; or Instagram using #SeaWorldSpooktacular and @SeaWorldOrlando.
Most children dress up for the occasion, and while the event is geared toward elementary-aged kids, older kids and adults can (and do!) participate. Although there are paid-for elements to the party, such as cookie decorating and games of skill, the rest of the event is included with park admission. And we think that’s shockingly family friendly!
Favourite Quote of the Week: Overheard at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party: “If your treat bag doesn’t weigh eight pounds by the end of the night, you haven’t done the Party right!”