Disney with Special Needs: That’s a Lot of Dessert

If you take even a brief tour of the Disney website you’ll find that there is something special that pops up fairly frequently — dessert parties. When I was first planning an adventure to Disney I only noticed two — what was then the Tomorrowland Terrace Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party and an Illuminations party. Since then, the number of parties available has exploded and virtually anywhere you are in the evening, there is a party getting ready to go.

So what are these parties and do they work for a family with special needs? Would a vegan, two super small eaters, two super big eaters, crowd-haters, and even a service dog find enough reasons to shell out the extra cash for these added experiences?

Let’s take a little trip through the looking glass, shall we?…cue mystical music…

Alright, so we can’t really go backwards, but I can give you a big old spoiler and tell you that my family has done a couple of these dessert parties and we have found that they are not only an accessible option for Disney-goers with special needs, but are actually a perfect way to enhance a trip whether it is your first trip or your fiftieth. Full disclosure…we love to do special things. You’ve probably figured that out by now, but it’s kind of become a tradition that each trip we do at least one “extra”. We just love the VIP feeling and having a little extra boost in our trip that makes it stand out from the other trips. It can get pricey, though, so that’s something that you’re going to have to debate with yourself when it comes to planning. We’ll talk about that in a minute, though. First, I’ll let you know why these parties, which included an old-school Wishes party during our very first trip (welcome to Disney World, indeed) and a party right in the middle of the Streets of America to say goodbye to the Osborne Dancing LIghts (there might have been a few tears).

Location, location, location. One of the biggest elements of the dessert parties is their location. The parties are strategically located depending on the park and the entertainment that is going on during the party. This means that you are going to get a special view of what’s going on — and not have to fight for position. Score. The Streets of America are no more, but Tomorrowland Terrace is still going strong and it makes a great spot for a party. When we went, there was only one option– you ate and you watched the fireworks from the terrace. There are two options now, but I haven’t experienced the other. Watching my very first Wishes from the terrace was spectacular. It is a very different view from standing anywhere in the park, and it was gorgeous. The fact that I wasn’t jockeying for position or feeling swarmed by people was truly incredible. When it came to the holiday party, the position was also amazing. We were able to see the lights all around us, sit and relax, and venture out to explore whenever we wanted, knowing our spot wouldn’t be taken. That, to me, is priceless

Treats galore. It is a dessert party, after all. You’re going to get treats. But don’t think that you’re just going to be sitting down to a cupcake and a bottle of water. The spread at both parties was amazing. There were definitely cupcakes, but there were also cookies, mousses, krispie treats, cobbler, ice cream, cheesecake, and more. The best part? There were non-treat options at both as well. Cheese, crackers, and fruit rounded out the options. That was perfect for my little one who is not the biggest sweets child in the world, though she did put away some treats, and also the rest of the group that was indulging in the sweets to get a little of a break in the sugar. Now, I’ll admit, my options were limited. Fruit is vegan. Got that. A couple of the crackers. But other than that, I was pretty much treatless. That’s fine. That was my choice. I could have requested special treats provided just for me and I’ve read some reviews that say that they are amazing, but I didn’t go to that extent. I plan on doing it next year, so check back with me after and I’ll let you know how it goes

Drinky drinks. Of course if you are eating something, you’re going to have a beverage along with it. During our Wishes party we could have our fill of water, hot tea, lemonade, coffee, and canned sodas. Depending on the party you choose, though, you might get another extra, like we did at the Christmas party — alcohol. I do not drink alcohol. However, hubby does. He’s a craft beer fan, but he also enjoys the occasional cocktail. At the Christmas party, as is the case with many other parties, particularly in EPCOT, the cocktails and bottled beer are included and unlimited — but remember that Mickey is watching and would want you to be responsible. The fact that I don’t drink, though, doesn’t make this perk useless to me. If they have cocktails, they are going to have a mocktail, too. That’s just a fancy drink that doesn’t have alcohol, but it has a fun name like cocktails do. Sometimes I feel left out when I can’t order something with a fun name, so being able to do that and have something tasty is a great bonus. My Elf Warmer, which was hot apple cider, still has a place in my heart

Special surprises. Now, this is one of those things that’s not guaranteed. You might go to a party and walk away with your memories and a sugar rush, but you might also get a special surprise. When we went to the Christmas party, we each got a fleece blanket with the Osborne lights logo. We still treasure those. Just being in a special environment also means that you are going to get special pictures, views that you weren’t able to before, and moments to cherish that are unlike anything else. This is my favorite thing about having extras each trip

So, let’s talk money. I know. I know. It’s not my very favorite thing to think about, either, but it’s part of planning a trip and making a decision like adding a party to your experience. Something that you’re going to hear a lot when it comes to these parties is “is it worth it?” One thing that really bothers me about many of the reviews is when the reviewer says “I just can’t eat enough dessert or drink enough to make up that cost.” In my mind that’s like saying that a baseball fan wouldn’t buy seats close to the field because they wouldn’t eat enough hot dogs and drink enough beer to cover the cost if those were included in the ticket cost. Here’s the thing. You aren’t paying for the dessert and the drinks alone. You’re paying for the experience, the VIP treatment, the special location, the guaranteed view of the entertainment….the list goes on. These dessert parties are not just about filling up on treats. They are about a celebration with your family, and for me, they are about not being around too many people, knowing that I have a relaxing but fun event waiting for me at the end of the day, and the joy in my family’s faces as we get to snack, sip, and be amazed by our favorite place. That is well worth the cost.

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop It’s Better in Vinyl.

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