Disney Merriest Nites is a hard ticket event at Disneyland. On just a few select nights, Disneyland closes for the regular park day and opens up their gates for a Christmas Party. We recently had the chance to experience this party and this post will review, give tips and discuss the value of Disney Merriest Nites.
The fairest place to start this review is by revisiting my thoughts on these types of events. I’ve been to both the Halloween and Christmas Parties at Magic Kingdom, when they were running in full force pre-2020, and had mixed feelings. Like most theme park crazed fans, I loved the special entertainment whether that be the Hocus Pocus stage show or the specialty fireworks at both events. In the end, I preferred Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party but thought both had a hard time to live up to their price tag.
Fast forward to this year, as Wandering in Disney has visited Oogie Boogie Bash, Universal Hollywood Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm. While our reviews were a little mixed, the consensus seemed to be the more unique theme park features offered the better. Our favorite of the three, Knott’s Scary Farm, felt organically like a theme park by telling original stories with a mix of live characters and animatronics. There was a lot of character involved. Oh, and the price tag was significantly less than the other two or Magic Kingdom’s parties for that matter.
That brings us to Merriest Nites, which unfortunately did have the highest price tag of them all at $165 per ticket (all tickets are now sold out). Disney describes the event as six parties in one (more on that later) that runs from 8 PM to midnight. Guests with tickets can enter Disneyland starting at 5 PM. Parking ($30) is not included in the price and Critter Country, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Mickey’s Toon Town are closed during the event.
Frankly, I don’t always enjoy reviewing these hard ticket events because the experience can be so different. I am lucky and go to Disneyland often. There were times during September where the park was largely empty and I could get on to most rides. An empty Disneyland isn’t entirely unique to me, although no less wonderful. To someone who is only able to go during a busier season, it is unique. Therein lies one of the Merriest Nites’ biggest draws. The lack of crowds throughout the park is noticeable and pleasant. Yes, there will be lines for specialty entertainment and meet & greets but there will never be a better time to stake out a spot for the parade or ride a few attractions.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a great value to go do attractions that you can during regular park hours but the point stands, Disneyland with lower crowds is blissful. For some, I think they’ll experience that and find that the party is worth it. I don’t fall into that category but I certainly understand the sentiment.
What interested me far more was the specialty entertainment that couldn’t be seen during a normal park day. This included a number of special character meets, live music and The Muppets Christmas Caroling Coach. There also is a showing of A Christmas Fantasy Parade, which does show during regular park days but seeing it with less people is a nice feature.
Main Street hosts a good share of the action, including the parade. A Christmas Fantasy is getting a little tired but it does have some charm. Frankly, it’s just nice to see any parade going down Disneyland’s streets. We love the Santa float and the toy soldiers. Ultimately, I don’t think this is much of a draw to the party because, again, it’s not unique to it. Having said that, many people do treat it as a highlight.
The other hallmark of the Main Street festivities is The Muppet Christmas Caroling Coach. Kermit and the gang hop aboard a bus and glide down Main Street before stopping in the hub to lead guests in a few Christmas songs. I’ll be honest, this was the main reason I wanted to go to the party. Don’t judge me! I love the Muppets and, for whatever reason that likely has to do with a champion Imagineer, the theme parks have gotten their tone right lately.
I’m pleased to say that The Muppet Christmas Caroling Coach continues that. The script is snappy and fun, all of the characters get a fun turn and there are some funny surprises along the way. More than anything, the show gets the heartwarming yet self-aware vibe the Muppets do best. Between this and the recent Muppets Haunted Mansion on Disney+, it’s been a good few months. Is this worth the price of admission alone? No, but it’s easily the best entertainment offered and it did seem that the entire crowd was into the show. Maybe I just have my Kermit-green colored glasses on though.
Elsewhere in the park, there’s plenty of other excellent live entertainment. This included a jazz band performing on the Mark Twain, a Mariachi band in Frontierland, Brass Band in Fantasyland, an Island Duo in Adventureland, Handbell Carolers in Town Square and a DJ in Tomorrowland. We were able to hear all of these, although some were in passing. My favorite was the jazz band on the Mark Twain, as it felt like a nice nod to park history while also sounding wonderful. I would have happily watched another set or two from them aboard the riverboat if time allowed.
The other source of specialty entertainment comes in the way of character meet & greets. Photopass is included with the price of admission and there are Disney photographers at most of these interactions. Here’s a list of the characters at Disney Merriest Nites:
- Friends from Frozen (Elsa, Oken, Wandering Oaken, and Duke of Weselton) – Fantasyland
- Belle & Beast – Fantasyland
- Donald’s Snow Fight – Fantasyland (in Fantasyland Theater)
- Pluto’s Christmas Tree – Fantasyland (outside of Pixie Hallow)
- Fantasia’s Frozen Fairy Wings – Fantasyland
- Santa Claus – Fantasyland (in Fantasy Faire)
- Friends from Mickey’s Christmas Carol – Main Street, U.S.A. (near Mad Hatter shop)
- Princess Tiana – New Orleans Square (on the balcony above Royal Street Veranda)
- Jack and Sally – Near Orleans Square (on the Haunted Mansion balcony)
- Buzz Lightyear – Tomorrowland (second level of Star Wars Launch Bay building)
- Miguel – Frontierland
- Lilo and Stitch – Adventureland (outside of Enchanted Tiki Room)
As you can see, it’s a nice group of unique characters. Our favorites were the Mickey’s Christmas Carol characters, Lilo and Stitch and Friends from Frozen. Ghost Goofy and Scrooge McDuck were spectacular! I’m not a huge character person but some of these meet & greets were very fun and definitely worthy of guest’s time. A special shout out to Buzz who was going pretty hard with the DJ in Tomorrowland!
There is some specialty food offered at cost but no complimentary cookies like Magic Kingdom’s Christmas Parties. We’ve enjoyed some of Disneyland’s specialty holiday food but didn’t try anything specific to the party.
That is essentially everything that is offered at the party. While it’s termed as 6 parties in the different lands, that is not really what’s going on. More just there are a few characters in each land and generally live music playing nearby at one time or another. We did grow slightly frustrated at how the times on the different live bands weren’t staggered. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much as there’s too much to do in four hours regardless but starting some bands at the 15 minute mark of the hour would have been helpful.
We’d absolutely recommend seeing the Muppets, the Christmas Carol and Frozen characters and the live music on the Mark Twain. After that, I would suit the night’s itinerary to what you like the most as we found the lines to all be fairly even in terms of wait. We did enjoy Main Street more than the other areas as it seemed like there was always something going on. Plan to do what you’re most excited for first and then backfill the night with whatever is left!
As far as value, I think Merriest Nites is definitely missing something. The characters and live entertainment are great but there’s not a big moment to knock your socks off. Maybe that could come in the way of a special fireworks show or a big stage show. Honestly, it should probably be both of those. For now, the party feels like it’s missing a climactic moment or two. For some, that will be the parade but since that’s not unique to the party it’s hard to give it much credit.
The price is ridiculously high for this party and, no, I don’t think it’s worth that. When considering what’s offered compared to the price it just doesn’t measure up. That said, I would rather Disney charge a ridiculous amount and have this party only happen five times a year than drop the price a bit and make it twenty. It remains to be seen if that will happen but I like the exclusivity of the part if that means Disneyland can stay open late on regular park days more often. Likewise, if the party added a few more exclusive things then the price would be more palatable.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed the party. There were some clear highlights and the Muppets alone were enough to consider the event a success. Unfortunately, I don’t think the price matches what is actually offered but these hard ticket events always have a certain amount of sticker shock. If you’re willing to swallow the high fee, I think you’ll have a good time at Disney Merriest Nites.
What do you think of Disney Merriest Nites? Let us know, along with any questions you might have in the comments below! Interested in a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide to help you along the way! If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!