It’s safe to say that this year, the main stars of the holidays at the parks were Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which celebrated its first-ever park-wide Christmas, and of course, the Magic Kingdom, where Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party debuted not only new attraction holiday overlays, but an all-new fireworks show as well. But over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the holidays at Tinseltown brought a few surprises of their own, most notably a new location for the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party, now held at Echo Lake. We first reviewed the party back in 2016 when the show first premiered, and since then, the Great Movie Ride has closed, prices have gone up, and finding the prolonged value of these upcharge events has become overall more and more difficult.
Here’s how Disney describes this event on its reservations page:
Delight in holiday-inspired snacks, delicious desserts, wine, beer, and specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Menu favorites include the classic Yule log, cheese fondue with pretzel bread, and Gingerbread martinis. Enjoy our new location along Echo Lake, offering a beautiful view of the Christmas Tree while you eat!
While you sip and savor, you can mingle with a VIP Disney Character!
The event started on Friday, November 8th and runs through January 5th. Here’s the pricing schedule:
- November 8 to December 21, 2019: $89 per adult; $53 per child ages 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity included)
- December 22, 2019 to January 1, 2020: $99 per adult; $59 per child ages 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity included)
- January 2 to January 5, 2020: $89 per adult; $53 per child ages 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity included)
So overall, you’re looking at anywhere from $89 to $99 per adult, and $53 to $59 per child. For a cookie cutter family of four, that’s almost $300 for 2.5 hours of desserts, reserved fireworks viewing, and a character meet and greet experience. If you’re a childless millennial like me, I realize treating yourself seems less daunting at “just” $90 dollars, but it’s also worth noting that for the same amount of money, you could possibly extend your stay at a Value Resort, indulge in a lavish brunch at California Grill, purchase a Disney After Hours ticket, or attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. So, is the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party still worth it in its new iteration? Let’s head on in and find out.
Despite Magic Kingdom being lauded as the classic Christmas park, I’m actually partial to Hollywood Studios. The Art Deco accents (or what’s left of them, anyway) pair beautifully with the vintage holiday decor.
Check-in is supposed to take place across from 50’s Prime Time Cafe near Echo Lake according to the instructions online, so you’ll want to make a left at Keystone Clothiers and head over that way. It was drizzling by the time we arrived, which as you’ll come to see, threw somewhat of a wrench in our plans. As we headed over in the direction of the supposed check-in location, I noticed there wasn’t anyone stationed, so we kept looping our way over past Indiana Jones until we saw Cast Members sporting Christmas vests.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – New Echo Lake Location
Due to the inclement weather, the first Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party of the year was relocated to a new venue: PizzeRizzo. I half-expected the indoor rain location to be Star Wars Launch Bay, so I was somewhat shocked and strangely relieved to hear it. In any case, here’s a look at where the party would normally take place, barring rain.
The Echo Lake dessert party location would normally include nighttime views of the park’s Christmas tree, as well as Santa Gertie. There are also those cute green umbrellas decorated to look like Christmas trees. The area seems wide enough to accommodate a party, but we’ll be coming back during a non-rained out party night to fully assess it.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Check-In at PizzeRizzo
That being said, we continued our loop through Hollywood Studios over to PizzeRizzo for the party. A number of Christmas-clad Cast Members are stationed on your way there to help with directions.
Check-in for the event starts 15 minutes prior to the actual event starting time (7:30 PM), but you can certainly show up earlier to collect your lanyards. If your entire party isn’t there, you can also send a runner to check in and get all of the lanyards ahead of everyone else.
A sign off to the side of PizzeRizzo welcomes guests inside.
At check-in, you receive a lanyard, as well as a return time for the new Chip ‘N’ Dale meet and greet for the party. We actually never ended up needing this due to short lines all night, but it’s a cute paper souvenir.
The back of the lanyard gives you a bit of a rundown on all of the party offerings, from reserved viewing at the fireworks, to the various holiday treats, and even a special holiday ornament. We checked in at around 7:15 PM and were basically then looped around and into the restaurant for the party immediately after. The very first guests are funneled to the second floor of the event, with the other half of the party guests seated at the first floor.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Desserts, Snacks, and Beverages
As soon as we arrived at the second floor of the restaurant, we scoped out all of the desserts.
The dessert lineup started off with some warm baked goods.
It started out with Pumpkin Pie Spiced Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Scented Vanilla Anglaise. (Try not to get distracted by the cute desserts laid out further down the line. This is what you want to get.)
Followed by a Holiday Blondie with Cream Cheese Icing. There’s also Chocolate Fondue with strawberries, cake bits, and marshmallows for dipping.
These Gingerbread Cookie Sticks are essentially the same ones we reviewed earlier at BaseLine Tap House.
These Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting were fairly standard, but if you’re a weirdo like me who loves minty desserts, the frosting on these is fairly good.
I’m not big on mousse or panna cotta-style desserts, but these Prep and Landing mini desserts were cute and well presented.
If you were in the mood for store-bought mini cheesecake bites, you’ve come to the right place. The tiny cheesecakes came in classic, pumpkin, raspberry swirl, chocolate, and strawberry flavors and tasted as you would expect.
The real showstopper was this giant Yule Log. Truth be told, we didn’t notice that it was ever cut into all night. This might have to do with the whirlwind aspect of trying to take in all of the food and beverage offerings in the span of an hour, which we’ll get to later.
One Yule Log we did get to try was this dark chocolate ganache one. I’m a huge fan of dark chocolate anything, and the dense, deep chocolate flavors of this yule log were amazing. There’s a reason these are cut into such small pieces, and you might want to stick to just one or two slices of this given how rich it is.
Also featured on the dessert lineup were generic chocolate chip, oatmeal, and sugar cookies. Don’t waste your time on any of these as you’re better served just buying a package of tastier Publix cookies.
I always appreciate when a dessert party adds in some savory elements to the lineup, especially since I’m not a gorge-on-sweets kind of person, but more of a funnel-melted-cheese-into-my-mouth kind of person.
The hot foods table featured Spinach and Artichoke dip, which was rich and cheesy and not gritty at all.
Next up was a tub of warm Cheese Fondue, Pretzel Bread, and Spiced Flatbread. These are probably some of the items that have me considering a second dessert party. The bread was buttery and flecked with large grains of kosher salt, and the warm cheese fondue was perfectly pungent and had a slight black pepper spice to it, making it slightly elevated than you usual melted cheese. Unlike most plastic cheese you get at the parks, this definitely tasted from scratch.
My only complaint is that there were no bowls to ladle the cheese into, just shallow tiny plastic plates. I got two plates to keep the cheese and carbs separate because I’m not an animal. The flatbread was far from Sanaa-worthy, but still tasty.
There were also some Kettle Chips and Roasted Onion Dip. If you wanted something other than bread to dip into the cheese and other savory spreads, the chips were a good alternative.
If you’re feeling peckish, there’s also this Winter Spiced Trail Mix.
I’m not a huge fan of these liquid nitrogen desserts, mainly because I hate mousse, but it’s always nice to have a chef station at a $100 dessert party. The milk chocolate mousse gets scooped up and plopped into the vat of liquid nitrogen before quickly hardening.
The mousse is then cracked open with the back of the ladle and you get your choice of Salted Caramel Sauce or Raspberry Glitter Sauce to top it with. If you’re a fan of mousse, you’ll probably like this take on it, and the whole spectacle is especially fascinating to kids.
My only other experience with dessert parties is the Happily Ever After dessert party, which is notoriously void of any alcohol. (Guests are given sparkling apple juice in lieu of any actual spirits.) That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to see not one, but four specialty drinks on offer, plus wines, beer, and hard cider.
As far as specialty drinks are concerned, there’s a Hot Chocolate Martini, a Black Cherry Bourbon Hot Cocoa, and the Jingle Bell Holiday Punch. Don’t be deterred by the pre-mixed vats, as those are just the mixers. You get a hearty pour of whatever liquor goes into your drink, followed by some of the mixer, and then any toppings, if applicable.
The only holdover from parties past is the Gingerbread Martini, which is so good, you should aim to at least enjoy two or three before the night is over.
The food and beverage stations don’t stop there. If you want some Hot Chocolate (and with the last two nights being in the 60s, most Floridians will), there’s a station with the hot beverage and a slew of toppings.
There are large bowls with whipped cream, mini marshmallows, and packaged tiny candy canes to customize your hot chocolate creation.
As always, there’s an assortment of sodas, teas, coffee, and juices also available, with lots of to-go cups available in case you realize you’re late for the fireworks and need to rush out. (Which will happen.)
I liked the addition of a themed specialty beverage for kids, aptly named Elf Juice.
Not like they’d be needing more sugar at a dessert party, but this was a fun, tart drink that isn’t your usual apple juice or punch.
Since we were immediately ushered upstairs upon entering, it didn’t occur to me that there was an entire second set of buffets set up downstairs as well. That’s one of the main things we really liked about the dessert party, at least at this location. With the exception of the initial rush upon arrival, there was never any issue with crowding or items running out at the buffets. It seems PizzeRizzo is the unlikely hero of dessert party spaces, as it made for a very pleasant experience crowd-wise.
The one complaint about this second set of buffets is that these seemed somewhat far from the first floor seating area. On the second floor, you were never more than a few steps away from a buffet, but down here, you have to venture past the stairs and over to where the registers for the restaurant are.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Venue/Seating Options
Speaking of seating, I assumed that seating would be limited to particular areas around the restaurant, but the whole place was open for guests to pick out where they wanted to sit, and there were more than enough tables to choose from.
We opted for the wedding reception room, which is where Chip ‘N’ Dale were meeting guests. As always, the music in here is awesome, and the characters wouldn’t stop dancing all night, making for fun interactions.
Once people started realizing that the wedding reception area wasn’t off-limits, it filled out a bit more, but there were plenty of open tables still available all night.
I’d say if you want some entertainment, extra character interaction, and top-notch people watching, sit in the wedding reception area. Yes, you’re slightly farther from the food, but it’s definitely a more lively environment.
If you’re looking to be closer to the food, or want to enjoy your meal without dance hits blaring, the second floor offers the second best option for seating. Even if you arrive later in the night and are directed over to the first floor, while there may not be any booths left, there were still plenty of open tables.
Downstairs was far more quiet and low-key, which is also good if you’ve been in the parks all day and need a respite from the hustle and bustle.
I’m not sure what the bathroom situation will be like at the Echo Lake party location, but having a bathroom inside the party premises was extremely convenient for guests.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Character Meet and Greet
Originally the character meet and greet for these was Santa Goofy, and the page for the party never listed what character would be appearing, so we were surprised to find out that it was actually Chip and Dale in their winter attire. Each wore a set of contrasting knitted hats and scarves and stood against a backdrop of mid-century modern style trees and Mickey-shaped ornaments.
Actually meeting them was the least of it. Since we sat in one of the tables just off the stage, we were entertained all night long by the two rambunctious chipmunks. If you want to maximize your character time, we highly recommend sitting near them. If you have kids, it’ll also be endlessly entertaining, so long as they understand that they can’t come up to the characters while they are meeting other people.
While there was an initial rush of people who lined up at the start of the party, there was a solid 10 minutes where no one was meeting with the characters, and they basically just gave everyone in the room a small dance show.
Meanwhile at the Jingle Bell Jingle BAM! dessert party… pic.twitter.com/dXExYuNjAw
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) November 9, 2019
The characters would go on a five-minute break after a few sets, but overall, lines were fairly short throughout the night, and you could potentially meet them multiple times if you really wanted to. Don’t make the mistake that we did and wait till the end of the party to meet them, though, because that’s when the lines were the longest.
Again, the music of the wedding reception room was very conducive to mini dance parties, and one definitely ensued once we got up to meet them. Since there were such short lines, the characters really took their time with each guest, offering more than just a quick, cut-and-dry photo opportunity.
I’m not sure how many dancing opportunities there will be at the Echo Lake party location. I’m sure Tom will let us know.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Gift Ornament
If you notice at the bottom of your lanyard tag, there’s a small, tear-off coupon for a free ornament. Around 8:00 PM, cast members will begin making rounds making sure everyone has redeemed their coupons. If you never manage to catch one in the hustle and bustle of the last half hour of the party, you can ask as you’re leaving PizzeRizzo. As you leave, you’re handed your 3-D HoloSpex glasses for the show. You can ask that same cast member for your ornament.
At first, I thought this was going to be a generic Disney Parks holiday ornament, but it turned out to be a heavy, embossed metal Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! ornament with actual jingle bells on top. It’s a hefty ornament, and a nice gift for the party.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Fireworks Viewing
Around 8:30 PM, cast members will begin ushering people out towards the Chinese Theatre for the Wonderful World of Animation and of course, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Herding guests over from PizzeRizzo proved to be somewhat chaotic, and most of the dessert party group basically missed the first half of the Wonderful World of Animation show. You’re stationed really close to the Theatre up on a roped-off upper stage platform, which makes for great views in person, but less than stellar views if you’re planning on recording the show, due to how close up it is. You can check out our view of the show in the video below.
Tom’s recommendation is to stand off to the right of the viewing area if you want to see most of the impressive fireworks bursts.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party – Overall
I usually gauge how good any of these specially ticketed add-on events by how badly I want to return to them. For example, the Happily Ever After Dessert Party was a one-and-done thing for me. On the other hand, I’m constantly pining to do more Disney After Hours events, just because they’re that enjoyable. After experiencing the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party, I kind of do want to go back again, and I honestly wouldn’t mind getting rained out and sent to PizzeRizzo again.
For $90, you get to relax in air conditioning and eat as much pretzels and cheese dip, gingerbread martinis, and dark chocolate yule log as you want, all while dancing around with characters, plus an ornament and reserved fireworks viewing. It’s expensive, but most special events start at that price as a new set standard, and while the show isn’t new, the dessert party has vastly improved over the years. (The first JB,JB! dessert parties didn’t have nitro desserts or gift ornaments.) The only real complaint I have is the limited amount of time one has to enjoy all of the offerings, though this is a perennial issue with all dessert parties, and not exclusive to this one.
Of course, we’ve yet to cover the actual new Echo Lake location for this dessert party, though we will soon. In any case, I’m willing to bet that while the Echo Lake location will be more festive, it’ll still have its drawbacks by way of poor outdoor lighting, more crowding (that same number of guests won’t have a massive, two-story restaurant complex to sprawl out in), and fewer amenities (at PizzeRizzo, you were never far away from napkins, utensils, or bathrooms.) We’ll just have to wait and see, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to give this dessert party a try, and hope for rain.