We’ve eaten countless snacks, we’ve stayed up way too late, and we probably have permanent dots behind our eyelids from staring at Christmas lights in the dark…but we’re finally ready to declare a winner in the holiday battle royale at Disney World!
The holiday season kicked off just a few days ago with the start of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom. Then, just two days later, Hollywood Studios hosted the first-ever Disney Jollywood Nights event. Our team attended BOTH parties this week and experienced nearly everything they have to offer, and after plenty of reflection, we’ve got a hot take to share.
As a theme park reporter and avid Disney fan, I’ve spent several holiday seasons in the parks, and I’ve been to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party multiple times now. It has historically been my favorite event of the year! But Hollywood Studios at Christmas is just absolutely stunning (have you SEEN the Echo Lake tree?!), so when Disney announced the new Jollywood Nights event for 2023, I — like many people on our team — was very hyped to check it out. After going to both parties just two days apart and discussing everything that happened with our team, I’m ready to share our verdict on which party is the winner!
To fairly compare the two, I’m breaking this down into categories. Let’s get into it!
Starting out with the atmosphere, these parties bring two different vibes to the table. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) is a bit more laid-back and casual. Visitors often show up in Christmas pajamas and families bring their little ones for a night of fun and festive cheer.
But at Jollywood Nights, people were REALLY getting into the whole dressing-up thing! I saw fans wearing everything from glittery red formal gowns to 1920s flapper costumes to retro holiday outfits. Some of the men were wearing tuxes and a select few women were even in HEELS. (Seriously, that’s very impressive for a theme park visit.) Seeing other people in costumes and fully decked out for the event really helped set the tone for the evening, and it was one of my favorite parts of the night!
Both parks are absolutely stunning at night, and they were both covered in festive decor for the occasion. So as far as atmosphere goes, this one is probably a draw — they’re both amazing for different reasons!
As far as crowds go, the first night of both events was completely sold out. I’ve been to a sold-out MVMCP multiple times, but this year felt significantly busier than usual — something our entire team agreed on. It was most noticeable with the entertainment offerings like the parade, fireworks, and castle stage show. We had to stake out spots for the entertainment much further in advance than we usually do, and even the second parade showing was absolutely packed.
But even though there were heavy crowds for entertainment at MVMCP, the crowds overall felt worse at Jollywood Nights. Lines to get food were filling the streets outside of restaurants, character queues were zigzagging through Echo Lake, and the line to pick up party wristbands for those already in the park stretched from the Mickey Shorts Theater all the way back toward Galaxy’s Edge at one point. (We waited in that line for half an hour before the party started because it was the only place to pick up wristbands inside!)
Ultimately, the crowds were a bit more suffocating at Jollywood Nights. It felt a little bit oversold, and like everything was taking twice as long as it should. So…we have to hand this one over to MVMCP.
Entertainment is where things get tricky to name a winner! For this category, it’s probably a lot more about your personal preference and what you’re looking for in your party experience.
Very Merry had several of the popular entertainment offerings return this year — Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show. There were also two different dance parties, a band in Frontierland, and a boy band performing intermittently in Tomorrowland. For this particular party, we think there’s a great variety of entertainment for the whole family!
But if you’re with a party of adults, you might end up enjoying the offerings at Jollywood Nights more. There were several bands and singers spread throughout the park, DJs in Animation Courtyard and on Hollywood Boulevard, and a couple of shows. The Holidays in Hollywood show on Sunset Boulevard with The Muppets, Mickey Mouse, Belle, and Tiana was a big hit with our team. And the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed sing-along at the Hyperion Theater is a must-see for fans of that movie. At the end of the night, you can watch the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! fireworks show in front of the Chinese Theater.
Even though Jollywood Nights doesn’t get a parade, it does get two shows where you can actually sit down in a theater to watch, which is a big pro if you’ve been hustling around the park all day. Since this one is down to personal preference, we’ll call it a tie!
Both parties offer exclusive snacks that you can only purchase during the party, and we tried a BUNCH of them last week. Our thoughts were varied across the board but each party had some winners and some losers. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has a few savory treats you can try throughout the night, but most of the offerings are on the sweet end of the spectrum. Very Merry also offers complimentary cookies and beverages, but more on that in a minute.
Jollywood Nights seemed to have more exclusive snacks overall, and there was a better mix of sweet and savory. You could also check out special menu items at places like Hollywood Brown Derby, so that’s an added bonus. Make sure to read the reviews of the treats before you go though, because like I said, our food reviews were a mixed bag for both events.
Now let’s talk about some of the things included with your ticket price. For MVMCP, ticket prices range between $159-$199 depending on the date of your visit. Your ticket gets you into the park starting at 4PM and the party runs from 7PM-midnight. Along with the included entertainment, you get a commemorative ornament as you enter the party, as well as complimentary cookies and beverages at treat stops around the park. You’ll find the treat stops listed on the map, and you can visit them as many times as you’d like, picking up multiple different flavors of cookies as well as cocoa, cider, and eggnog.
Jollywood Nights ranges between $159-$179 per ticket and you can enter the park with your ticket starting at 7PM. The event runs from 8:30PM-12:30AM, so it’s an hour shorter than Very Merry and you get less time pre-party in the park. With your ticket, you’ll get a commemorative lanyard and an exit gift of a small coaster set. There aren’t any included snacks/treats with this party, but you get all of your PhotoPass pictures from the night included with your purchase.
When it comes down to it, Very Merry is probably getting you more bang for your buck. Having the extra 2.5 hours in the park is a big deal, and the included cookies are a really great touch that many Disney fans love. While the PhotoPass could be a big draw for Jollywood, there were long lines for most of the photo stops throughout the night…so that eats up a chunk of your limited time at the party. This one goes to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
When it comes to characters, there’s a pretty big gap in value. MVMCP is known for having a wide variety of rare characters, and it’s one of the biggest draws of the party! This past week, we saw Jack & Sally, the Seven Dwarfs, multiple princesses WITH their princes, Genie, Santa Goofy, Scrooge McDuck, Santa Claus, and more. You could legitimately spend the whole night meeting characters.
Jollywood Nights had a couple of cool character meets, but there simply weren’t enough of them to handle the crowds. Powerline Max and Chip ‘n’ Dale as the Rescue Rangers all met in Echo Lake, but we’ve seen those characters in the park during the daytime in the past. The biggest draw was meeting Phineas and Ferb from the Disney Channel series, but their line was LONG throughout the night. Santa Claus wasn’t available during the party — only during the daytime. And unfortunately, almost all of the character meets were outside and had to close down when it rained.
So this category goes to Very Merry by a pretty wide margin!
Our last category is rides, and this one is another that wasn’t much of a contest! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party had five attraction overlays — Space Mountain, Jingle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Tomorrowland Speedway. In addition to the specially themed rides, the wait times were pretty low for the regular attractions throughout the night.
At Jollywood Nights, there were exactly ZERO ride overlays. Sometimes during the holiday season, they play Christmas music on Alien Swirling Saucers, but we even went back there to check and that wasn’t happening. However, the wait times were nice and short for most of the night, so you could probably get a lot done!
We’ll have to hand this one to MVMCP. We’d love if Disney would add overlays to Jollywood Nights in the future — it would really level up the event!
And the Winner Is…
After tallying up the categories and looking at our overall experiences both nights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the clear winner. It has a distinct advantage of being an event that has existed for YEARS, so most of the kinks have been worked out…but I really feel like you get more bang for your buck at Magic Kingdom’s party overall.
During my night at Very Merry, I got to do a wide variety of things. I watched all three major entertainment offerings, met several characters, grabbed lots of free cookies, checked out the merchandise, reviewed multiple snacks, and much more. I got a really thorough experience, even as someone who was taking pictures and videos and notes the whole time.
But at Jollywood Nights, you really feel the tighter schedule, ESPECIALLY with the heavier crowds. I got to eat several snacks, watch one of the shows, and watch the fireworks. I could’ve probably squeezed in a character meet or two if I were a regular guest, but you’ll definitely have to prioritize your time if you’re going to this party.
Ultimately, our team pretty strongly agrees that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party reigns supreme. Jollywood Nights has a lot of great potential, and could be made better by adding more time, introducing some ride/attraction overlays, and/or just adding more things to do in general. Hopefully Disney will work out the kinks with time and we’ll get to experience it again in the future!
Which party would you choose? Tell us in the comments!
The post I Went to TWO Disney World Holiday Parties This Week — and One Is the CLEAR Winner first appeared on the disney food blog.