We’ll check out yet another Happily Ever After Dessert Party option at Magic Kingdom.
Just last month, I reviewed “Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Party” in this post. I came away feeling less than enthusiastic about the offering, which puts you on a boat quite a ways back from the action, given the $99/person price tag.
Last July, I reviewed the original offering, which Disney now refers to as “Dessert – First Party – Standing.” That doesn’t seem to have much of a ring to it. Basically, you now have the option of enjoying the buffet of treats before or after the fireworks. I’ll compare and contrast both opportunities as there are some pros and cons to either choice.
Here’s how Disney describes the After Party:
The cost is the same to attend the Dessert Party before or after the fireworks – $69 per adult and $41 per child ages three to nine, which includes tax.
When I initially reviewed the Plaza Garden Viewing Dessert Party about eleven months ago, it was $10 less for adults and $6 less for children, so we have seen a ~17% price increase year over year.
Initial check-in for the Before and After Dessert Parties with Plaza Garden Viewing, in addition to the seated terrace viewing, is in the same location at the entrance to Tomorrowland Terrace. You can read up on the Terrace option here – note that it costs $15/adult and $9 more per child and includes the same food and drink options as the Before Fireworks Party.
According to the literature, guests have the opportunity to “first, join us at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant starting 90 minutes prior to Happily Ever After—the most spectacular fireworks showcase in Magic Kingdom history. As showtime nears, Cast Members will escort you to a prime location in the Plaza Garden for priority fireworks viewing.”
90 minutes is a bit excessive and the stated reservation time is actually 60 minutes before the fireworks show begins. In this case, that’s 8:15pm with Happily Ever After slated to start at 9:15pm.
On this particular evening, the blue wristbands were for those with After Fireworks reservations while those hitting the buffet before the fireworks were given green.
That brings us to our first issue. The viewing location for both the Before and After Dessert Parties is the same. Above is the scene at 8:17pm, which is just two minutes after we were supposed to arrive for the After Dessert Party and 32 minutes into the Before Dessert Party, which begins at 7:45pm with the 9:15pm start time for Happily Ever After.
If you’re doing the Before Dessert Party, you’re at a distinct disadvantage as those with After Dessert Party reservations are going to arrive and find their spots earlier than you probably want to leave the dessert buffet. To see how things progressed, we arrived right at 8:15pm and proceeded near the front of the reserved viewing area. But even an hour before the fireworks begin, there’s already a row of people in front of us. If you’re willing to wait an hour for the fireworks to start, then you can find a spot on Main Street without difficulty and we could have actually found very similar spots just ahead of us in the “open viewing” section at no additional cost. There was also a gentleman on an ECV that sat there for an hour next to me that could have found a similar or better spot in the disabled viewing section just a few feet ahead of where he ended up being.
If you’re doing the Before Dessert Party, then the After Dessert Party makes you worse off just about any way you look at it. There’s going to be more people in the reserved section and there’s going to be more pressure to find spots earlier into the evening before the area fills. That seems to defeat a lot of the purpose of paying so much extra for a reserved view. On the other hand, Main Street viewing is a lot wilder with a lot more people vying for the space. This is the view outside of the reserved area at 8:25pm, or 50 minutes before Happily Ever After. There’s room, of course, but it can be pretty uncomfortable trying to hold spots for that long and it can be incredibly frustrating when you do so only to have someone come up at the last minute and block the view. That’s far less likely to happen in the reserved area.
8:33pm or about 45 minutes before fireworks time.
8:47pm – at this point, it’s definitely filling in, but there’s also plenty of space and nobody is on top of each other, which is what you’d likely be starting to experience on Main Street.
9pm or 15 minutes before start time. It’s certainly not empty, but there’s plenty of room.
If you’d like, you’ll also have the opportunity to sit up until the start of the show, which isn’t something that’s typically realistic on Main Street. Note that just about everyone is going to stand for the fireworks once they begin. Above is 9:11pm and is a good representation of what the reserved viewing area is going to “feel” like once Happily Ever After begins.
The good news is that the Plaza viewing area is quite good.
We’re close enough to see the projections on Cinderella Castle, which is a big part of the show, and also far enough away that we can take in a panoramic view of all the fireworks overhead.
My view this time around was virtually identical to what I experienced during my last Dessert Party back in July of last year.
But that’s also at the cost of my time.
I literally stood here for just under an hour.
I certainly didn’t have to do that.
But the later you arrive, the more people that are going to be in front of you.
Plaza Viewing does afford one of the better views of Tinker Bell flying overhead.
There are a couple of potential downsides to the After Dessert Party.
First, it’s awfully late at night to be downing a bunch of miniature cupcakes. With Happily Ever After scheduled at 9:15pm, the After Party runs from about 9:35pm through 10:45pm. That may be too late with kids and may be a recipe for some serious heartburn for the rest of us.
Here’s a look at wait times from the day of this Dessert Party, Tuesday May 29th:
Second, the late night typically sees lower waits than any other time of day outside of the first half hour of Park operation. If you’re spending 9:30pm to 10:15pm chugging cupcakes at the Dessert Party, then that’s 45 minutes away from the attractions when waits are less than a third of what they were during the afternoon. That doesn’t seem to make a tremendous amount of sense.
Let’s see how the dessert buffet portion of the Party ended up looking:
After the fireworks, we headed back over to Tomorrowland Terrace where we flashed our wristbands and confirmed our party size. A cast member then walked us to an available table.
And there were a ton of empty tables. I didn’t count how many people had After Dessert Party reservations, but it must have been under 50. Obviously with more people, the reserved fireworks viewing is going to be even busier.
But it was certainly nice to have the seating section basically to ourselves. Above is from my sold out Dessert Party last year. My estimation is that the After Dessert Party will be less popular than the Before version, but may prove to fill close to capacity during the fall when Happily Ever After is only shown three or four times a week with Magic Kingdom closing at 6pm for so many Mickey’s Halloween and Christmas Parties. You can probably expect both versions of the Party to sell out on July 4th and around Christmas as well, which reduces the benefit of attending as the reserved section will also be so much busier.
The Dessert Party selections are the same regardless of which Dessert Party you attend.
Strawberry Tarts, which enjoy a crunchy shortbread bottom topped with creamy icing, strawberry pearls, and a fresh slice of fruit.
Red Velvet Cupcakes, just in case you’re short a few hundred milliliters of red food coloring for the day. These weren’t as complex as you might hope with the cocoa undertones and tang from the cream cheese icing replaced with a chemical-y flavor of fake butter and over-processed flour.
The Mickey Oreo Treats were a fun take on the usual cookie with the cream on top adding even more sugar and the chocolate ears providing even more chocolate.
The Cheesecake Brownie Bites were among my favorite items with a really nice, bold chocolate cake base with a refreshing, cool cheesecake center. The sugary icing on top added some sweetness and the chocolate pieces on top added some crunch, in addition to the chocolate drizzle.
The Dark Chocolate-dipped Strawberries were another highlight – juicy berries and quite a bit of chocolate with the fun Disney Happily Ever After art.
The other half of the basic dessert setup.
I feel like I’m alone on this, but I “literally’ can’t believe that Disney doesn’t spring for seedless watermelon, at a cost that I would guess is around 10 cents more per pound, if that. You’d think the overall cost increase over both Dessert Parties would be to the tune of three bucks. I will continue to provide melon updates. The cantaloupe and honeydew weren’t particularly ripe and the grapes were on the soft side.
The Pineapple Delight was fresher than we were expecting with little chunks of sweet tropical fruit underneath the light cream on top. The fresh piece of pineapple sticking out of each little cup was a nice touch.
The Macaron selection was a little disappointing with just chocolate, coffee, and vanilla flavors represented as far as I can tell. I prefer the pistachio and raspberry myself, both of which were present last July.
Four types of cheese are available for your perusal. Rogue River Blue or White Stilton Gold this is not, but the pepper jack had a nice spice to it and the other flavors were similarly satisfying. It’s worth picking up a few pieces to enjoy alongside all of the sugary sweetness.
You’ll also find this assortment of crackers alongside Spinach and Artichoke Dip.
While I typically enjoy this sort of thing well enough, the consistency was that of glue – and not even the brand name stuff – while the flavor was largely cream cheese and sour cream. Not nearly as much of a highlight as you’d probably hope.
Here’s another “savory item” in the “House-made Mini Taco Egg Rolls,” which were on the greasy side of things without the satisfying crunch of a good spring roll. They had obviously been fried long ago. The flavor was largely generic taco spice.
Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake.
This is quite a bit different than what’s served at Liberty Tree Tavern – there’s far more chocolate involved and quite a bit less cake involved. It’s incredibly decadent and sugary and I’m not sure how you could eat more than a couple of bites with the intensity of the sweetness.
I’d recommend cutting a piece off from the sides of the pan, where there’s more cake to help set the stage for the bite. The center is a molten, melty mess.
A cast member is also on hand creating s’more-esque marshmallows.
They’re worth seeking out.
Here’s some more dessert options that you’ll see during both Parties.
The kids, and anyone else, have an opportunity to decorate cupcakes.
Some straightforward cookies and brownies.
Crisped Rice Treats.
Hand-scooped Vanilla Ice Cream is available to help in the aid of creating miniature sundaes. You might dress yours up a little further with the caramel and chocolate sauces.
On the drink front, a glass of Sparkling Apple Juice is served on your way to your table.
An assortment of Twinings Tea.
Hot Water and Hot Cocoa.
Coffee and Decaf Coffee.
Here we have Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava Juice; Strawberry Lemonade; Lemonade; Unsweetened Tea; and Milk. And slightly out of frame, small Dasani Waters, which I appreciated. On the downside, there’s no soda and the waters weren’t cold.
Overall, the After Fireworks Dessert Party is probably bad news for anyone that had already booked the original Dessert Party. It just means more people in the reserved area. And as demand for the After Party increases during busier times or around Mickey’s Party Season, the reserved area will be that much busier as more guests book the After Party. For the original Dessert Party, which almost always sold out, the reserved area could only be as crowded as the number of people that fit in the seating area for the buffet portion. The After Party opens up another 200+ spots for people.
As far as which Party to book if you decide to do it, then it’s a bit of a toss-up. The After Party is a better fit if you typically stay up later and don’t care much about riding the attractions after the fireworks. You’ll have a better opportunity to find spots in the reserved section and be able to enjoy a much calmer dessert party with fewer people around and an expanded selection of items. On the downside, you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time for that fireworks view and it’s a late night for a lot of people.
The Before Party is ideal if you can’t or don’t want to stay out later than you have to or would prefer to hit the attractions after the fireworks when waits are just about as short as they get. On the downside, the reserved section is going to be busier and you might feel some pressure to get going to find spots, taking away from relaxed time at the buffet.
One other thing – those that enjoy the desserts before Happily Ever After have the excitement of the show to look forward to. For us, the somewhat meager spread of desserts and such was a bit of a letdown after the awesomeness of Happily Ever After concluded. We just sat there eating a couple dollars worth of little cupcakes and mass-produced chocolate toffee glop then headed for the exit.
For me, the fact that the reserved area is going to be more congested each and every single night is a big deterrent in springing for the relatively-high cost of either Dessert Party. And the comfort of the viewing area is most of what I think people are paying the money to experience. Even if you gorge on cheese and cupcakes, you’re still only eating a couple dollars worth of food, at most. I could have waited an hour for the fireworks “for free” in a lot of different places on Main Street, including just 15 feet ahead of where I was standing. But the Plaza Garden Viewing is very good. There are some light posts and whatnot in the way, but your eyes quickly tune them out. Once the fireworks start, I don’t think anybody is lamenting the fact that their view is slightly obscured. And the likelihood that you’re going to have to battle shoulder kids or last-minute arrivals is much less. And even if the reserved section is filled with more people, I would reiterate that there was plenty of room for everyone. Add another 50 or 100 people and that would obviously be less true.
I was a little surprised that those attending the After Fireworks Party didn’t fill in the similar Plaza Viewing section on the other side of the Hub. But that area is a good distance away from Tomorrowland Terrace and would be a little more difficult for people to get over to the buffet after the fireworks conclude.
All things considered, the Happily Ever After Dessert Party may be worthwhile if you only have one shot to see the show, particularly on a first viewing and particularly with kids or those that might have trouble seeing from a prime location elsewhere. After seeing the show for the first time, it’s easier to enjoy the view from outside the Park or somewhere less congested than Main Street. The end of my first Dessert Party review offers some alternative viewing locations and tips.
Inside the Park, I’ve recommended the New Fantasyland area as described in this post. You won’t see any of the projections on Cinderella Castle, but the music is clear, the fireworks are big, and the lack of people is hard to beat.
We’ll see what Disney upcharge event Disney has us disparaging next.