We move on to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to take a look at the 2018 version of the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party.
Pricing depends on the date you’re planning to attend, but it will either run you $79 or $89 per adult and $45 or $49 per child ages three to nine, including tax and gratuity. That’s in line with other dessert parties; the Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot is the same $79/adult, while the Fireworks Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom comes in at $69 or $84 for adults depending on your desired view. You can check availability for the Jingle BAM! Dessert Party and see Disney’s official word here.
Check-in for the event is located to the right of the courtyard in front of the Chinese Theater as early as about an hour before the event is scheduled to begin. Upon check-in, you’ll receive a lanyard that will identify you as a dessert party guest and be told to return to the area around 6:40pm with the official 7pm start of the party. From December 23rd through December 31st, the party officially starts at 8pm, so those times will likely be pushed back an hour on those dates.
At the bottom of the lanyard is a tearaway ticket that you’ll exchange for this ornament with the show logo. A cast member will come by the table to collect the tickets and distribute the ornaments. I was happy to bring home something a little more unique than what I’ve received from other dessert parties, whether it be a “crisped rice treat” with an expiration date ten years in the future or another item that can be purchased for a few dollars elsewhere in the Park.
The Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party is typically held outdoors here in front of the future Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway building. Under threat of rain or lightning, the Party is moved indoors at PizzeRizzo. Personally, I prefer a climate-controlled area as you can never really be sure what you’re going to get. We attended the November 12th, 2018 Party and it was still 75 degrees out at 7pm. Today’s low is under 50 degrees.
The 60+ tables each seat four guests and parties smaller than that will likely be seated with other “elves.” Your small party can request to be seated alone when you check in and if there’s room, they should be able to assign you a table to yourselves. On our date, at least five or six of the tables remained empty for the duration of the event, perhaps because it was a dessert party featuring Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
Santa Goofy meets in the corner of the courtyard throughout the event. We were originally told to return to the side opposite of the check-in area at 6:40pm to be among the first to meet the festive character, but that ended up falling through and nobody ever came to let us in.
To minimize the line for Goofy, your table will be assigned a time to head over, but this isn’t really enforced and you can head over at your leisure. We were able to get our photos taken around 7pm with only one group waiting in front of us. Earlier in the day, Santa Goofy meets on Grand Avenue to the right of Tatooine Traders from 1pm to 3:30pm and 4:45pm to 6:10pm.
We’ll begin with a handful of savory items, here with Kettle Chips and Roasted Onion Dip. While neither is anything particularly special, we appreciated seeing them on the buffet to add a little bit of a salty start in front of all of the sugary desserts that we’ll see momentarily.
A sweet Winter Spiced Trail Mix, mostly containing chocolate pieces and dried fruit, was offered.
“Flatbreads” or pita are also available – most of it tasted burned to us. You can see how dark the undersides of the pieces are.
Better were the plump Pretzel Rolls with their salty brown exterior and tender, chewy, doughy bite.
The Flatbread dips nicely into the creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip that was a little bland for our tastes.
While it might not look like much, the Cheese Fondue was deliciously rich and paired beautifully with the pretzel bread.
Moving on with a terrible picture of the dessert line, you’ll find two identical stations positioned next to each other.
First up, we’ve got Cheesecake Bites with Whipped Cream in an assortment of flavors – vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and what is probably raspberry. Each is rich and satisfying with luscious cheesecake and a little dollop of sweet whipped cream.
Next up is Chocolate Verrine with Cinnamon Marshmallows. “Verrine” is a fancy way of saying jar and here it’s basically layers of chocolate pudding and mousse with the marshmallows that might have a hint of spicy cinnamon placed on top.
Next up is the ubiquitous chocolate Yule Log, thick and dense with an incredibly bold chocolate flavor. It’s worth trying a little slice here as a precursor to what may be a more serious yule log purchase over at Magic Kingdom.
Christmas-y Macaroons are offered, each with the appropriate layer of chocolate underneath and a lot of toasted shredded coconut piled on top.
The Gingerbread Spiced Cupcakes were precious, topped with gingerbread men, candy canes, and Prep and Landing characters. They’re a smaller version of what’s served around the Park with a strong-tasting gingerbread cupcake underneath buttercream frosting.
A couple of cookies were available. The Gingersnaps in particular were soft and chewy with a nice gingerbread flavor. The sugar cookie on the other hand was crumbly and virtually flavorless.
Chocolate Fondue with Fresh Strawberries, Marshmallows, and Cake Pieces was available – it was a little on the thin side and not particularly rich, but the strawberries were ripe and sweet, at least.
The last two desserts were our favorites, here with the warm Candy Cane Brownie with Peppermint Ganache, which was rich, decadent, and satisfying.
This is Pumpkin Pie Spiced Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Icing, another warm, comforting dish.
While this is your standard vanilla ice cream, we appreciated its refreshing quality when combined with some of the warm desserts like the Candy Cane Brownie and Pumpkin Pie Spiced Bread Pudding. You could also add some of the Chocolate Fondue and come away with a little sundae.
There’s a separate area with the Liquid Nitrogen Freeze-fried Milk Chocolate Mousse.
I may be biased coming off of the Food and Wine Festival with the delicious Chocolate Almond Truffle, but I remember this being tastier. It also doesn’t look particularly attractive.
During the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, they were freeze-frying Nutella. The version for Jingle Bell just tasted like a melted Hershey’s chocolate bar, which was a little disappointing.
On the hot non-alcoholic drinks front, we’ve got Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, Hot Water, and Hot Chocolate accompanied by Half and Half.
A variety of Twinings Tea is available with Marshmallows, Candy Canes, and Whipped Cream that might go better with the Hot Chocolate than Early Grey. Three DaVinci syrups are also offered.
Elf Juice is the signature non-alcoholic drink with Lemonade, Granny Smith Apple Syrup, and Sprite.
Cans of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Sprite were also readily available, which is something that you don’t often see at these sorts of events.
There were two bartending stations, which kept waits to a minimum – I don’t think I ever stood there for more than two minutes and more often than not, it was possible to march right up for a couple of wines, beers, or cocktails.
Hogue Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon were offered – two good budget selections. You could also go with a can of Bud Light or Yuengling.
The Jingle Bell Holiday Punch was Raspberry Lemonade and Bacardi Limon Rum. While there wasn’t any of the spice that’s typical in a holiday punch, the drink was refreshing and not-too-sweet, which was nice. The bartender was happy to tip the bottle of rum over the non-alcoholic lemonade for another moment if you requested a stronger cocktail, which was also appreciated.
The Gingerbread Martini with Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka and Gingerbread Flavored Cream was our favorite.
That’s a lousy picture of it back there, finished with gingerbread sprinkles with the Holiday Punch and one of the Cocoas up front. Typically I am not a fan of these sorts of heavy, creamy drinks, but this one was really tasty – lighter than you might expect with the marshmallow flavor from the vodka helping to cut a little bit of the spice and heft. Definitely try one.
Speaking of Cocoas, there are two options. The first is the “Hot Chocolate Martini,” which is a mixture of Hot Chocolate and the Smirnoff Toasted Marshmallow. This one would definitely help warm you up on a cooler night.
There’s also the Black Cherry Bourbon Hot Cocoa, which is Hot Chocolate mixed with Jim Beam Red Stag Bourbon. It’s probably a personal preference, but I’m not a big fan of Red Stag’s artificial, medicinal cherry flavor or its syrupy quality. But I also used to drink the stuff relatively frequently a few years ago and I may just be tired of it. But it’s here if you want to give it a go and if you don’t like it, you can always try something else, which is a benefit of these sorts of events.
As is typical of a Disney Dessert Party with a boozy component, those that go a little heavier on the alcohol are going to come away with more “value.” Disney serves a Hot Cocoa Flight for $12 and one of those three cocoas is the same Red Stag version that’s served here, so each one of those drinks is worth about $5, considering the pour is a bit larger at the Dessert Party
. It would be easy to put seven or eight of those back, I would think, as each is just about four sips. The beer and wine would set you back about $7 each if you purchased them from a cart or quick service and the other cocktails are worth about the same given their smaller size.
We thought the event “felt” a little short. With the 8:30pm Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! start time, the Dessert Party officially began at 7pm, but you could enter as early as 6:45pm. At 7:45pm, they begin actively trying to get people to head to the reserved viewing area for the show and by 8pm, everybody is out as the courtyard area is officially part of the fireworks fallout area. So your $79 or $89 only buys you about an hour. Granted, that’s as long as several of the other Dessert Parties, but having to get up and traipse across the entire courtyard to grab desserts or a drink cut into the time and there wasn’t much of an opportunity to sit back and relax at the tiny tables with the little chairs. That feeling of being rushed may have also been impacted by how close the tables were together, which seemed to create more of a chaotic feel than some of the other Parties that I’ve attended recently, like Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party, which lasted three hours and we basically had the restaurant to ourselves. At the Rivers of Light Dessert Party, 90% of the tables are “literally” within two dozen steps of both the bar and buffet line and with far fewer options available, it’s a lot easier to try one of everything in a short amount of time. Leave it to easywdw.com to complain about better variety.
The reserved viewing area is (arguably?) a step in the wrong direction this year as you’ll find yourself as close to the theater as you can get.
Here’s what an $80/person view of jingle bell jingle BAM looks like pic.twitter.com/thTtcIDp3c
— josh (@easywdw) November 13, 2018
Here’s a video of the first couple of minutes of the show from the reserved viewing location.
I’m not sure why they elected to move it – perhaps because it’s easier for cast members to police or because it’s closer to the location of the dessert party and easier to get people over there.
But this is what you’re going to see.
I watched the show from the old reserved viewing area on the first night this year and here’s how that looks using the same 35mm lens. You can take in a lot more of what’s going on from further back.
Versus this big ‘ol hedge and garbage can right in front of your face if you’re sitting closer to the front of the reserved area.
With cast moving guests into the dessert party viewing area 30+ minutes before the start of Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam, you’ll also have an opportunity to watch Disney Movie Magic, the projection show that begins 20 minutes before Jingle Bell.
The view of the projections themselves is good, but you’re only going to be able to take in what’s happening in the middle of the Chinese Theater without turning your head all over the place to try to take in everything else that’s going on.
You won’t be able to watch the projections and the (limited number of) fireworks that are predominantly shot off to the right from such close range.
As far as the quality of the show itself, saying that it has received “mixed reviews” is probably the nicest way to put it. The storyline is largely incoherent and it stars two relatively obscure characters from a 2009 short in Lanny and Wayne from Prep & Landing. From there, it’s a random hodgepodge of scenes from a variety of Disney movies that either have snow or took place vaguely around the holidays.
The fact that the reserved viewing area is below average is a pretty big deterrent in my estimation, since the dessert parties are typically aimed at providing a great view of the show with much less stress than trying to see it on your own. The viewing area is also on the cramped side as it’s shared not only with everyone attending the dessert party, but also VIP guests and those partaking in the Star Wars tour, among others. Furthermore, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! isn’t a show that’s typically difficult to see. The majority of those attending the dessert party were in position in front of the Chinese Theater at 7:45pm for the 8:30pm show. Anyone that arrives that early will be able to see it just fine from the general viewing area further back. On the potential plus side, 98% of the people in the reserved viewing area were sitting, which makes it a little easier for the kids to see the show – or at least what’s projected onto the middle of the theater.
As far as the dessert party portion, the bar is the strongest component with several very good cocktails available, in addition to a couple of macro beers and decent-enough wines. You’ve got a maximum of 75 minutes at the Party and you are welcome to take a beverage or two with you to the viewing area, along with a plate or two of food, if you’d like. Food-wise, the desserts ranged from okay to pretty good, which is par for the course at these sorts of things. We liked the Bread Pudding and Candy Cane Brownie quite a bit, but with so many goodies available around the Park, you could easily get your fill for about $15 per person by snacking on a few items from the various quick services and kiosks. The bread and dips were a nice touch, but from a cost perspective, the value of a couple of pretzel rolls and some cheese sauce isn’t astronomical. Meeting Santa Goofy without much of a wait was fun, but he does meet throughout the afternoon with waits that are typically in the 15 to 20 minute range.
Overall, the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party isn’t something that I would book again, but it did provide a comfortable space to wait for the show with a nice selection of drinks and enough food options to leave us satisfied. If you do choose to attend, I don’t think that you’ll regret it and you may enjoy the overall experience more than we did. But I don’t think there’s an overwhelming amount of value here given the shoddy viewing area, the quality of the show, and the fact that it isn’t a monumental hassle to see it on your own most nights.