Don’t anticipate Disney Jollywood Nights, the latest holiday offering from Walt Disney World, to be a mere transplant of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party into a different setting. From the thematic elements to the target audience and exclusive offerings, these after-hours events diverge significantly, as I discovered during their inaugural evenings.
Tom Vazzana, the executive creative director for Disney live entertainment at Disney World, clarified, “Jollywood Nights isn’t designed to be in competition. It’s intended to elevate the experience. I believe the same guests would enjoy both events, but now there’s a choice to be made.”
Here’s what travelers should be aware of regarding the distinctive features of the new holiday event hosted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Jollywood Nights embraces the nostalgic Tinseltown atmosphere of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and encourages attendees to don their finest attire for an evening on the town.
“Join us with your closest friends. Consider leaving the kids behind if you prefer, as the atmosphere is tailored more towards young adults and adults,” remarked Vazzana. “However, if you decide to bring the kids along, rest assured that we’ve ensured there’s something special for them as well.”
On the other hand, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party creates an enchanting atmosphere that rejuvenates guests of all ages, evoking a childlike wonder. The event features a parade teeming with characters, captivating shows, timeless Disney Christmas decorations, and complimentary cookies and cocoa. It’s not uncommon for families to don matching pajamas when attending the festivities.
Jollywood Nights debuts two exclusive shows for the event, along with numerous live music venues that attracted enthusiastic crowds on the inaugural night.
“As someone who appreciates the charm of song-and-dance Broadway shows, I envisioned utilizing the Theater of the Stars post-‘Beauty and the Beast’ performances. Let’s create a classic variety special,” suggested Vazzana.
Disney Holidays in Hollywood showcases entertaining performances by characters such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, Mickey and Minnie, and Tiana and Belle. Despite having four showtimes throughout the night, seating is restricted, unlike the open seating available for stage shows in front of Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle.
Arriving just before the 10:45 p.m. Disney Holidays in Hollywood show, I observed a queue stretching down Sunset Boulevard reminiscent of the return of Fantasmic! during the pandemic. Uncertain if I would secure a seat, I ended up finding one in the farthest back row.
For guests seeking an improved vantage point, it’s advisable to arrive early. This advice holds true for the What’s This? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-Along at the Hyperion Theater. While it offers four showtimes, seating is more restricted, and, in line with anything associated with “Nightmare Before Christmas,” there’s considerable demand.
“Our guests have consistently expressed their desire for more Tim Burton,” noted Vazzana.
Personally not a fan of “Nightmare Before Christmas,” I opted out of the show to open up space for those who prioritize it. Additionally, I skipped Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, a festive fireworks, laser, and projections show making a return for the holidays. Unfortunately, it started raining, and I neglected to bring a poncho or umbrella, despite always recommending packing one for the parks.
Nevertheless, I managed to catch a glimpse inside the Hollywood Brown Derby, transformed into a piano bar with special event food and drinks, sporting an hours-long waitlist on opening night. Although the jazz musician was on a break during my visit, the live bands were in full swing at the Tip Top Club in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror courtyard and the vibrant Holiday Fiesta en la Calle along Commissary Lane.
Food and Drinks
In contrast to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Jollywood Nights doesn’t offer complimentary snacks, but there’s a plethora of special food and drink options for purchase if you’re willing to wait.
“The Food and Beverage team really stepped up, creating new delicacies and crafting some unique cocktails—something not typically offered at Magic Kingdom due to brand considerations,” explained Vazzana. “Here, we’re able to provide fantastic food and distinctive beverages.”
The line extended out the door at ABC Commissary, and queues were lengthy at almost every venue offering event-exclusive snacks. Adjustments may be made after the opening night, but time-limited treats inevitably attract crowds. Unlike daytime visits, mobile ordering is not available at either Jollywood Nights or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. In fact, I had eaten before arriving at Hollywood Studios for this very reason.
Anticipating lengthy queues for exclusive character meet-ups, I was already aware of the potential wait times, especially upon witnessing people lining up an hour in advance to meet Phineas and Ferb at Echo Lake. It’s a common occurrence for lines for rare characters like Jack Skellington and Sally to exceed an hour at Magic Kingdom’s parties.
However, when I visited Animation Courtyard around 11 p.m. on Saturday, the lines to meet Mickey and his friends were relatively modest. Although not as brief as my 5-minute wait for Mickey at Town Square Theater during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, they were considerably shorter than daytime waits.
A notable distinction from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is that Jollywood Nights tickets include unlimited PhotoPass downloads.
The remarkable aspect with minimal wait times was the rides.
During Jollywood Nights, nearly every ride was a breeze to access, including The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway—rides that typically have standby waits exceeding an hour. Surprisingly, my lengthiest wait was only 20 minutes for Slinky Dog Dash, renowned for its consistently lengthy queues, a ride I typically skip due to the usual wait times. Even Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which implements a virtual queue that guests can join at 8 p.m. for Jollywood Nights, was a smooth experience, although it reportedly encountered issues later that night.
Wait times were notably lengthier for comparable attractions on the inaugural night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, although still shorter than during regular daytime hours. Attractions like Space Mountain and Jingle Cruise, featuring holiday overlays, had approximately a 45-minute wait when I checked. Even the line for Peter Pan’s Flight, one of Magic Kingdom’s most popular rides, took about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I missed the chance to join the virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run at 6 p.m. because I lost track of time during dinner.
Similar to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, it’s important for guests to be aware that certain experiences are unavailable during Jollywood Nights. Shows like Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, Disney Junior Play and Dance!, and Vacation Fun – An Original Animated Short with Mickey & Minnie conclude before guests are allowed in for Jollywood Nights at 7 p.m.
The official timeframe for the after-hours event is from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., making it shorter than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which extends from 7 p.m. to midnight. Party guests are permitted to enter Magic Kingdom starting at 4 p.m.
Is Disney Jollywood Nights worth it?
Admission to Disney Jollywood Nights comes with a significant price tag, ranging from $159 to $179 for guests aged 3 and above. This cost is comparable to the standard admission to Hollywood Studios on the same dates when the event takes place.
In contrast, tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are priced between $159 and $199 for guests aged 10 and up, and between $149 and $189 for children aged 3 through 9.
Despite the higher cost, the time allotted in the parks is considerably shorter. Nevertheless, due to minimal or nonexistent wait times, you can comfortably experience as many or even more attractions than you would on a typical day within those limited hours. If your primary goal is to enjoy rides, both events are unquestionably worthwhile. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that there may be queues for other event features during Jollywood Nights.