Happily Ever After is the fireworks and projection show extravaganza that replaced Wishes at Magic Kingdom back in the middle of May. We’ll compare and contrast seeing the show from Main Street, across Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian Village Resort, and from the Plaza Garden as part of the Dessert Party.
The Happily Ever After Dessert Party is sort of two parties in one. The less-expensive option starts at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant:
Guests are then invited to head out to the reserved Plaza Garden viewing location on the Tomorrowland side of Main Street.
Here, to be exact. You might recognize it as half of the old FastPass+ viewing area.
The more-expensive option includes viewing at Tomorrowland Terrace itself.
I’m less enthusiastic about this option as there are relatively few spots within the viewing section that offer an unobstructed view of Cinderella Castle.
And because the Terrace is off to the side and a good distance away from the Castle, it’s a much more off-center view of the fireworks with trees blocking a lot of the projections. I’m not sure if anybody will disagree with me, but I think the Plaza Garden viewing is superior. And it’s less expensive. On the plus side, the Tomorrowland Terrace viewing is mostly covered.
Officially, check-in for Plaza Viewing begins 75 minutes before the start of Happily Ever After with Tomorrowland Terrace seating beginning 60 minutes before the start of the fireworks. In practice, seating for both should begin 90 minutes before the show and it would benefit you to arrive about 100 minutes before Happily Ever After is set to start. For Tomorrowland Terrace viewing, it will allow you to secure better seats at the railing. For the Plaza Viewing, it allows more time with the desserts as people will begin heading to the reserved section more than 30 minutes before the fireworks begin.
If you arrive later for Tomorrowland Terrace seating, you’ll end up on the top deck, further away from the desserts. I don’t have to tell you that this is the saddest possible timeline.
Otherwise, check-in for Plaza Viewing is located at the second podium inside Tomorrowland Terrace.
Disney closes the thoroughfare that passes through the Terrace long before the Dessert Party begins, so commoners won’t infiltrate your dessert palace.
A host will walk your group to an open table and offer you a flute of non-alcoholic sparkling cider on the way. Grab one early as these aren’t replenished throughout the evening. Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider is $2.99 a bottle after all. Disney isn’t made of money.
There are two identical sides to the dessert buffet with cheese and fruit to the rear and a drink station in between the two areas. It’s not a huge spread, but I had no trouble taking buffet pictures at the buffet throughout the evening.
Cold-drink-wise, you’ve got Water, Passion/Orange/Guava Juice (known as POG, Jungle Juice, etc. at the various Disney breakfast buffets), Strawberry Lemonade, Lemonade, a very thin Milk, and Unsweetened Iced Tea.
On the hot side of things, Hot Cocoa, Hot Water, Decaf Coffee, and Coffee are available. I’ve found that the classier the joint, the more plastic beverage dispensers you see with initials carved into them with a knife.
Twinings Teas are available in a variety of flavors, in addition to packaged creamer and sweetener packets. It’s a bit of a bummer that canned or bottled beverages aren’t available, but what can you really expect for “just” $60-$80 per person. If only Walt Disney World was profitable.
About ten different items make up the main dessert buffet.
The Cheesecake Brownie Bites were my favorite.
I thought these had a really nice, bold chocolate cake base with a refreshing, cool cheesecake center. The cream on top added some sweetness and the chocolate pieces on top added some crunch, in addition to the chocolate drizzle. I might have had two.
The Chocolate Marshmallow Tarts were another winner. Bonus points if you yell “MAWWWWSHMAWWWWLOW TAAWWWWWWWWWWWTS” as you pick one up.
The toasty chew of the graham cracker crust contrasted nicely with the fluffiness of the marshmallow that balanced sugar and spice nicely. The bite-size chocolate chunks on top added a concentrated flavor of cocoa that helped the 2-bite dessert come full circle. Very good.
You’ll also have the opportunity to load up on Disney Macarons, which would run you two bucks a pop at the likes of Gaston’s Tavern, so you can make a bit of a dent in that $60 ticket price if you add a handful (or two) to your plate.
Pistachio, Raspberry, Lemon, Vanilla, Coffee, and Chocolate are the flavors with the first two being my personal favorites. You might stuff your pockets with a few for the road. I am not speaking from experience, but I bet they would make for a nice breakfast-in-bed alongside a bottle of Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee from your resort gift shop. But I am just guessing here and I reiterate that I have no idea if that is true.
The Dark Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries are another good opportunity to find some value.
Disney charges an arm and a leg for these things and they’re “worth” around $3 a pop. I was impressed by the quality – the fruit was ripe and juicy and the chocolate was thick, crunchy, and flavorful along with the pretty drizzle of white chocolate. We’re not in Ganachery territory here, but getting your daily intake of fruit can be a hassle when you spend most of your day at Casey’s Corner chugging Corn Dog Nuggets, so this is a good opportunity to try a healthy alternative. I might have had two.
The Strawberry Tarts were another worthy selection with a nice crunchy shortbread bottom topped with a flavorful cream, strawberry pearls, and a fresh slice of fruit.
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. It’s a bingo.
Another dessert that nicely married chocolate with fruit, the Chocolate Almond Cake is a bit denser than you might expect with a bit of a marzipan flavor made all the more delightful with the small, but plump raspberry on top of each piece.
I still had two.
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 Villains Chocolate Cupcake wasn’t a standout for me, but it should do the job for anyone looking for a soft chocolate cake topped with a pretty swirl of vanilla frosting and a few miniature chocolate chips.
Red Velvet Cupcakes are also available if you’re short a few hundred milliliters of red food coloring for the day. This wasn’t as complex as you might hope with the cocoa undertones and tang from the cream cheese dressing replaced with a chemical-y flavor of fake butter and over-processed flour. But one potential miss out of ten ain’t so bad.
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.
It’s important to take a moment to learn something new every day, and on this particular occasion I learned that watermelons with seeds still exist. And seedless or not, it was pretty gross, slimy stuff, as fruit that was cut and left out long ago often is. The grapes and pineapple were better.
If you’d like some ice cream, a cast member is on-hand to scoop some Edy’s Vanilla into a cup along with a few sprinkle and cherry options.
As pedestrian as Dreyer’s might be when you pull it out of your own freezer, it’s a little thicker and a little creamier when it’s served this cold (or you pay this much for it) and the sprinkles add a bit of whimsy. There’s some fudge sauce underneath as well. Don’t mind if I do.
To the left of the sundae station, kids have the opportunity to decorate their own vanilla cupcakes, sugar cookies, or chocolate chip cookies with three different colors of icing.
I’m not sure where the kabob comes into play here, but kids (or adults) can pick up a plate of goodies and dip whatever they like into the chocolate sauce. For those keeping score, that straw, while completely useless, is “worth” 59 cents.
Overall, I thought it was a nice assortment of options that exceeded my admittedly low expectations. It had been a while since I attended the Wishes Dessert Party, but Erin experienced the Tomorrowland Terrace Viewing version back in December, and thought that the desserts had improved considerably since then. I thought the same given my last experience with the Wishes version.
While there is plenty of room in the fireworks viewing area, tables are close together at the Terrace. It wasn’t “uncomfortable” but there’s only going to be a couple of inches between you and your neighbors. To replenish our plates, there was exactly one way out of the jungle of tables of chairs. Tough times indeed.
It’s also an early-to-arrive, early-to-leave crowd. While the seating area was completely full at 8pm, by 8:30pm at least half of the partygoers had moved on to the viewing area.
Here’s the viewing area taken from the back of Tomorrowland Terrace. It’s just a few steps away.
Here at 8:30pm, about 2/3 of the partygoers had migrated over to the Plaza Garden, so you can get a pretty good idea about just how much room there is to spread out.
At the same time of night, this is the mass of humanity outside of our protected gates.
Here we are ten minutes later.
In our viewing area, some are sitting comfortably while others perch themselves up against the fence. We’re two or three deep at most at this point with some people hanging out in the very back of the area.
Six minutes before the fireworks.
Happily Ever After has much more of an emphasis on the projections on Cinderella Castle, which is part of the reason why the Hub and Main Street areas are so much more crowded than Wishes. The other reason is that just about everyone that visits Magic Kingdom on a given day would like to see the new fireworks show and hasn’t yet had an opportunity. Wishes was going on 14 years old, so it’s possible that the majority of people visiting on a Tuesday in June last year had already seen A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams and didn’t care all that much if they saw it again.
The good news is that Plaza Garden viewing is very good – the only problem is really the various lamp posts and light fixtures that get in the way.
But that probably mars photos more than the experience in real life.
Otherwise, the Dessert Party takes about 90 percent of the stress away compared to finding a good in-Park fireworks spot yourself.
There’s much less of a chance that some 7-foot tall blogger with a 9-foot tall tripod is going to sneak in at the last moment and block the view from your spot that you’ve had on lock down for the last hour and a half.
On the downside, it’s somewhat unfortunate that people are in such a hurry to get out there.
So what it probably comes down to is how much value you put on a significantly less stressful fireworks viewing experience. If you load up on macarons and chocolate-covered strawberries, you can potentially do some damage compared to what Disney would charge you a la carte. But most people aren’t going to be able to plow through more than $10-$15 “worth” of desserts, particularly when you can pick up a waffle bowl sundae and a full size cupcake for around $12 from The Confectionery and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. That’s plenty of dessert for two people to share for just six dollars each.
Back on June 26th, this is what the crowd looked like on Main Street about three minutes prior to Happily Ever After starting. You’re basically stuck shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbors for the duration of the 18-minute show.
But it is possible to enjoy the show from Main Street provided you’re willing to arrive at least 45 minutes before the start of the show or have the ability to easily push your way through increasingly dense crowds.
If there’s any space between you and the person in front, to the side, and behind you, then you can be certain that it’s going to fill in by the time the fire explosion goes off.
On the plus side, if you’re tall and don’t have a shoulder kid in front of you, the straight-on view is virtually free of physical obstructions. And you’ll have “saved” $60/person.
Here’s the same scene from the Plaza Viewing area.
Then also from Main Street, you’re dealing with the aftermath of the fireworks as thousands of people head to the exit and thousands of others try to work their way in the opposite direction towards a Land.
From the Dessert Party, you’re just a handful of steps away from the Main Street Bypass. This is the backstage path that will take you from in between Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace to the area in between The Chapeau and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. It makes exiting the Park immediately after the fireworks 37.2 times easier. If you’d rather head deeper inside Magic Kingdom, it’s also much easier to get to Tomorrowland than it would be from Main Street.
From outside the Park, the experience is both better and worse than it was during the Wishes era. This is the chill scene at the Polynesian Village Resort beach about two minutes before the fireworks begin.
I say “better” because there’s actually more pyro in Happily Ever After than Wishes, which means you’ll see a lot more fireworks.
But the projections in Happily play a bigger role in the story than Wishes, which was moved along much more by spoken narration. So while the show is designed to be seen front and center, you can appreciate the size of the bursts and the beauty of the visible show from the same spots as Wishes, but you will miss out on more of the show elements. Still, after you’ve seen Happily Ever After in-park, you may be happy to view it in a much more serene atmosphere elsewhere. You may also want to bring your own soundtrack as the seemingly lone speaker on the Polynesian beach does not play the music very loud.
Overall, the Happily Ever After Dessert Party is not inexpensive. A family of two adults, a 12-year old, and a 6-year old are looking to pay $212 (with tax) for the privilege. And that family of four is looking at eating perhaps $60 worth of food and drink total, though if each person ate ten macarons, four chocolate strawberries, and an assortment of other goodies, the potential value would be higher. Still, it comes down to how much value you put on the ease of the overall experience. The Dessert Party makes seeing the show a lot easier and a lot less stressful. On the other hand, you could put that $212 to work at California Grill and enjoy the show from over there or take that same money and enjoy dinner at ‘Ohana and a view of the fireworks from the Polynesian beach. But as far as seeing the show from inside Magic Kingdom, there’s no easier way than booking the Plaza Garden Viewing Dessert Party. So while you may not want to spring for the extra cost every time, it may be worth booking it the first time.
If you do go for it, I’d arrive at the check-in desk 90 minutes prior to the start of the fireworks and head to the viewing area 30-40 minutes before Happily Ever After starts. That gives you a full hour of cupcakes and a modest wait in the garden with relatively few people around. I was happy to do the Dessert Party once, but you’ll probably see me battling the crowds next time. Unless they switch out some desserts or something. In which case I’ll go back. But only because I have to.
Feel free to chime in down below in the comments if you’ve experienced either of the Dessert Parties. I’m curious to hear what others think and it may help people that are on the fence about springing for the high cost.