5 “tricks” to make Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party experience a treat

The 2016 Mickey’s No So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) began last week.

Yes, I know it’s only September, but the Magic Kingdom likes to get its spooky side on a touch early every year.

 ©Disney (Charlie Champagne, photographer)
©Disney (Charlie Champagne, photographer)

This special, hard ticket event runs on select nights through October 31 (which is already sold out, btw.)

Visit the official Walt Disney World site for ticket prices and dates.

REMINDER: This ticket has a separate admission price from a normal park ticket. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re a Halloween lover, then it’s worth doing at least once, in my opinion.

MNSSHP is fun for the entire family and isn’t truly scary — which the party name makes pretty clear.

There’s trick-or-treating, special live shows, dance parties, the Boo to You night parade and the exclusive HalloWishes fireworks show is probably the best pyrotechnics extravaganza at Walt Disney World.

Get a sneak peek at the 2016 MNSSHP map, courtesy of WDWInfo.com!

There is so much to do and so little time on party nights. Here are my top 5 tips to help you get the best party experience possible!

  1. Get plenty of rest before the party. My advice: do NOT go to a park before your party night. There’s a lot of partying to do and spending hours at another park earlier in the day will wear you out. If you have little ones, make sure they get nap time or down time before heading over to the Magic Kingdom. A rested kiddo is more likely to be a happy kiddo, even as the party runs late into the evening.
  2. Your ticket gets you in at 4 p.m. The party may officially start at 7 p.m., but anyone holding a MNSSHP ticket can enter the park at three hours earlier to get a jump start on the fun. The holiday-themed entertainment (including trick or treats) doesn’t start until 7 p.m., which is when the general public must exit the park. But, with that extra time, you can maybe book a few FastPass+ reservations (only until 5:30 p.m. — there are no FP+ reservations during the party), grab an early dinner so you don’t miss out on party time in a restaurant or just catch a few of your favorite things to do before the party gets going.
  3. Don’t forget to get your wristband and treat bag. If you decide to enter early, you won’t be able to get your party wristband and treat bag until closer to 7 p.m. You MUST be wearing the wristband to remain in the park during party hours. City Hall is one distribution point for the bands, but there are usually others. Check the 2015 Party Guide Map for more information.
  4. Line up early for special character meet and greets. When I attending MNSSHP, there were two character meets that had LONG lines: Jack Skellington and The 7 Dwarfs. These rarely seen characters traditionally make special appearances during the annual Halloween party, so if you want to take advantage of that, make sure to get in line early. Jack usually does his meet and greet near City Hall on Main Street U.S.A. and the 7 Dwarfs meeting in New Fantasyland. Based on my experience, you might want to start lining up for Jack around 5:30 p.m. and the Dwarfs by 6:15 p.m. For a full list of character M&G, plus their locations, check out the Party Map/Guide.
  5. Do NOT miss the Boo to You Parade and Happy HalloWishes! Party guests will find a variety of live entertainment, including the new Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular in front of Cinderella Castle. However, I cannot stress this enough. The Boo to You Parade and Happy HalloWishes fireworks are MUST DOs for the Halloween Party. The soundtrack to the parade is catchy, the characters and cast members look fantastic and there are plenty of special characters to see, including the Headless Horseman who rides down Main Street U.S.A. to kick off the parade. And, Happy HalloWishes was breathtaking. Again, another catchy soundtrack, an entertaining “ghost host” and pyrotechnics that make the regular Wishes Fireworks Spectacular look “ordinary.” (it’s true!)

**BONUS TIP! If you intend to stay until the park closes, take your time leaving!

First of all, there will be a mass exodus of people pushing their way to the buses, ferries and monorails.

Second, many of the shops stay open and this is a good time to look for special party merchandise or just do a little window shopping as the crowds thin.

Eventually, you’ll be pretty much on your own on Main Street U.S.A.! Oh, the pictures you can capture on a nearly empty street!!! We even found a Disney photographer near the entrance who snapped some pictures of my husband and me.

Then, at about 12:45, we made our way to the now deserted bus area and a bus driver pulled up as we walked to our stop and offered to take us “wherever” we needed to go. If we weren’t so tired, we might have headed to Downtown Disney, but we enjoyed our private ride back to the Pop Century!

Have you ever attended MNSSHP? What are some of your best tips to enjoy the party? Share the in the comments section below!

Classic recipe, new spin: Strawberry pretzel cheesecake

Dessert is a beautiful thing and I don’t believe I have to say goodbye just because I’m eating healthier.

Jon found this classic recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad and shared it with me.

Ok, first…why this is called a salad, I don’t know. If you do, explain it to me.

It looked like a variation on cheesecake, so that’s what I decided to call my version. The original version used full-fat cream cheese, whipped topping and strawberries in syrup. All told, it added up to about 255 calories per slice (1/24th of the sheet).

The only thing I did not change up was the pretzels, butter and sugar. Next time, I might use a little less butter and try Splenda or something. Even without those changes,  I got the calories down to about 145 calories per serving .

The family enjoyed it, so I thought I’d share. I’m trying to cook more, so it feels awesome to know something I made turned out pretty well.

Strawberry pretzel 'cheesecake' made by me
Strawberry pretzel ‘cheesecake’ made by me

Here’s what you need:

8 oz Neufchatel Cheese, softened
3 cup Whipped topping, frozen, low fat (like Cool Whip)
2 cups pretzels, crushed
1 cup granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1.5 stick butter, unsalted
2 cup, unthawed strawberries, frozen, unsweetened
2 – 3 oz boxes Sugar Free Jello Strawberry
2 cups boiling water


DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Crushed pretzels and put into mixing bowl.
Add melted butter and 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Combine and press into a 13×9 pan.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until set.
Allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and the cream cheese.
Spread cream cheese mixture on top of crust.

Boil 2 cups water
Mix in Jello and stir completely
Add in frozen strawberries and allow to set for about 5 minutes

Then, pour Jello mixture on top of cream cheese layer.

Immediately refrigerate. Allow to chill for at least 3-4 hours.
Fold in whipped topping.

Serving Size: Cut into 24 squares

9 Walt Disney World freebies

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Finding free things and activities at Walt Disney World is not a fairy tale. In fact, Walt Disney World offers its guests many opportunities to enjoy something for nothing. And, while many of these things may seem like small potatoes compared to the price of a family vacation, all of them are priceless in their own way.

Free ice water: Many people don’t know that you can go to any counter service restaurant in the Walt Disney World Parks and ask for a cup of ice water. They may not be huge, but you can get them as often as you like and it’s often just enough to satisfy your thirsty crowd!Water bottles cost at least $2.50 each at Walt Disney World. Even in the cooler months, your family needs to stay hydrated and for a family of four, 2 bottles of water a day for each person will run you $20. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be on vacation and that takes a big bite out of your budget.

Celebration Pins: Is it your birthday? Anniversary? Honeymoon? 1st time visiting? Family Reunion? Graduation? If you are celebrating anything at Walt Disney World, the parks have free, special buttons for you to wear and show off proudly during your vacation. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can ask for one when you check in. You can also pick up your buttons at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom or Guest Relations at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You get to keep the buttons as a souvenir and sometimes, a WDW Cast Member may provide a little extra magic if he or she sees it’s a special day for you.

Sweet treats: If the family is in the mood for a little snack, you have a couple of options to satisfy your sweet tooth at no cost. In the Magic Kingdom, stop by the MK Confectionary where not only can you watch Cast Members make yummy treats like fudge and caramel apples, you can also get some free samples to try and enjoy. If you’re over at Epcot’s World Showcase, stop by Karamell Kuche in the Germany Pavilion where you can watch Cast Members make fresh caramel popcorn and offer small bags for guests to sample. The only downside, you will likely be compelled to buy something after the sampling because it’s all so good!

Monorail/Resort Tour: Do you need a break from the crowded parks in the middle of a hot day? Hop on board the Resort Monorail to take a tour of the Magic Kingdom hotels. I love riding on the monorail because you get some great views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake and it is so cool to actually ride through the Contemporary Hotel lobby!

You can get off and on the monorail at your leisure to explore Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Feel like a longer ride? Switch monorail trains at the Transportation Ticket Center stop and climb aboard the monorail to Epcot.

During the ride, you’ll get a quick, but cool tour around Epcot’s Future World. If you’re too busy at the parks during the day, but want something a little more low key to do in the evening, a monorail ride and resort tour is a wonderful way for the family (or a couple) to get some down time while still enjoying the sights.

Kidcot Fun Spots: Epcot’s World Showcase may not wow the younger travelers as much as the rides, but Disney created some kid-friendly activity stops around World Showcase for the younger travelers to enjoy and learn from during their stop at each country. The free activities usually include some sort of craft that the kids create and then can carry with them as a souvenir of the day.

Interactive Games: Walt Disney World moves past the classic ride and attraction offerings with a number of interactive games at select theme parks. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can become Wilderness Explorers and tour animal exhibits and get their activity book stamped as they move trough the game.

Over at Epcot, kids can play Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure where they pick up a handheld device and follow clues all around the World Showcase to help find and defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

Magic Kingdom guests have two game options. First, Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom involves picking up a packet of game cards at Main Street U.S.A.’s Firehouse and use them with magic mirror portals to defeat notorious Disney villains. For those looking for a pirate experience, head over to Adventureland for Pirate’s Adventure, where players join Captain Jack Sparrow and navigate the waters of the Seven Seas.

Stickers: Seriously, who doesn’t love stickers? Even grownups get a little giddy if given one, right? Around the WDW Theme Parks, Cast Members love going around to kids and families to give them some stickers featuring popular Disney characters.

Park Maps: Sometimes I think the park maps are almost too pretty to use to guide us around the parks. The colorful pictures and maps capture the magic of each park and they can be used as souvenirs in a scrapbook or even framed as a piece of art and hung up on the wall. So, grab a couple of extra copies to and see how you can bring a little piece of Walt Disney World into your home.

Photos: Pictures really are worth a thousand words. If you bring your own camera, you can capture countless magical memories at the parks that you can use to look back on your vacation. In addition to taking your own pictures, any of the Walt Disney World Photopass photographers will happily use your camera to snap some pictures of you and the entire family together. Note: If you’re interested in the photos taken on the PhotoPass photographer’s camera, you can purchase those copies on your way out of the park.

Enjoying the Magic Takeaway

You really can get something for nothing at the parks. Yes, for most of these, you still need to pay park admission to get access to the activities, but it’s nice to know that there is so much to do that is not an extra hit on your wallet once your inside the gates for the day.

QUESTION: What is your favorite WDW freebie? 

A blank page

I look at a blank page with a blend of anticipation and dread.

So much potential of what I can put there.

So much fear that what I write won’t be good enough.

The first step is just getting some words on paper — or in the case of this blog, on the screen.

I’ve spent years wondering what I should write and wondering…will people like it? What will they think?

I believe most writers worry about those things, too.

They simply decide to get out of their own head and write anyway.

And, that’s where I am.

This is my space and I’m opening it up to the vast virtual world.

This is me.  My life as a wife, a mother, a professional writer who’s looking to shape her voice into something meaningful.

Sometimes (ok, many times) it will often come from nothing.

That’s where the magic of writing comes from. You take a blank page and create stories and people with life and purpose.

I welcome you into my world with considerable fear. Putting myself out there is not an easy thing.

But, I also welcome you with much gratitude and appreciation. I hope some of my stories resonate with you along the way. And, I hope you share your thoughts, because I love a great conversation!

And, this all started with a blank page.

Thanks for reading!