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Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade at Disneyland

Disneyland is celebrating 60 years through September 5, 2016, and one of the most anticipated celebrations remains the Paint the Night Parade. If you are visiting Disneyland you don’t want to miss this parade, which combines all the nostalgia of the Electrical Light Parade with modern technology and over one million sparkling lights to bring guests unique and exciting entertainment. It is sure to thrill every member of your family. The Frog Family has watched this parade several times, and we have some advice for you so that you can find the best viewing of Paint the Night Parade to make it a magical and unforgettable experience.

Tips for the Best Viewing of Paint the Night

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade Disneyland

Step 1: Plan Ahead

This parade is one of the most popular attractions for tourists and season pass holders alike. The first day we watched the parade there was an 8:50 p.m. parade and an 11:00 p.m. parade. People started reserving their spots for the first parade before 5:00 p.m. All benches and curbs were taken first. Families laid out blankets and ate picnics while they waited. The parade times do vary based on the time of year and park hours, so check the calendar and show times ahead of time. Assess the crowds during your visit to make a plan for getting your spot. A less-crowded day is easier to get a good spot. As time has gone on it has gotten easier to find a great spot without having to camp out, but you still need to pay attention about two hours before the parade or plan to watch the later parade, which is much less crowded.

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade Disneyland

If you do decide to put down a blanket to save your parade-viewing spot, be aware that about 30 minutes prior to the show a cast member may ask you pick up your belongings and stand up so that other guests can squeeze in behind you. Your whole party should be present by this time. Main Street curbs and benches along the route fill up quickly. The raised areas across from Small World offer a great view and do not start to fill up until the 30 minutes before the parade.

If you are traveling with a guest in a wheelchair, there are a few mobility disability parade-viewing areas. One is near the Disney Showcase near the entrance to the park. Another is across from It’s a Small World. There is one near Pixie Hollow, but the ground is not perfectly flat there, and we have heard from guests that it is not ideal. If you want to stay in place for both Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever Fireworks, the It’s a Small World location might be the best bet.

Step 2: Know the Parade Route

Paint the Night “lives” by It’s a Small World. The first parade of the night begins near It’s a Small World and travels toward the castle, then down Main Street, ending near the Mad Hatter by the entrance to the park. The second show reverses the route and heads back home to It’s a Small World. If you are facing the castle on Main Street, be aware that the parade travels only on the right-hand side (the Tomorrowland side) of the circle. You do not want to be stuck on a curb on the Frontierland side of the circle, or you will be further from the action.

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade Disneyland

The best viewing of Paint the Night Parade at Disneyland is a spot in which you can see the parade coming for a while. That will give you the best viewing pleasure and a chance to watch the many dancers and sparkling floats for the longest amount of time. So know which direction the parade is coming toward you. You can always ask a cast member for advice if you forget.

Step 3: Choose a Spot That Also Allows You to Watch Fireworks

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade Disneyland

Are you watching the Disneyland Forever fireworks? The Parade and Fireworks are a great way to put a grand finale on your day at Disneyland, and depending on the show schedule, they are often scheduled near each other. The first parade often ends shortly before the fireworks show. The parade (if you are stationary) lasts about 20 minutes, but the last float reaches the end of the route about 40 minutes after the parade begins. The fireworks usually begin about 5 to 10 minutes after that first parade ends (again, check the schedule for possible variations). That does not give you a lot of time to move, and navigating is difficult as many viewing areas are roped off and crowds are very thick at that time.

Most people stay in their same spot to watch fireworks, so choose a parade-viewing location that is also a good fireworks location. This is much easier on you, too. The fireworks appear to go off behind the castle but also behind Toontown, so viewing locations that look toward the castle on Main Street or at It’s a Small World (facing Toontown) will allow you to see both the projection and the fireworks show. Try to avoid being directly behind or under the many trees in the park. Many of the central viewing locations in front of the castle are reserved for VIP guests (people who paid for tours or dining plans).

If you are viewing Paint the Night from a curb or sidewalk on Main Street, immediately following the parade you will be asked to take your belongings and move into the street for fireworks and projection. The Disneyland Forever fireworks begin only about 5 to 10 minutes after the parade ends there and people will move in quickly.

One of the advantages of staying in place (or nearby) for both Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever is that it becomes extremely difficult to move within the crowds of people in between the shows. Disneyland Cast members control the direction of foot traffic. Plus, they close the area between Alice in Wonderland and the castle before the Fireworks. You cannot simply follow the parade from Small World or the Matterhorn onto Main Street. You cannot make a left from Tomorrowland onto Main Street. You will want to just stay in place.

If you are watching the parade near It’s a Small World, you will have plenty of time between parade end and when the fireworks start. We like to move to the fence in front of the It’s a Small World line (and slightly to the right of the entrance) after the parade goes by. It is uncrowded and offers a first-row view of the projection. The fireworks are very close by. You have plenty of room. Yes, there is a bit of a longer wait between shows there, but much less stress.

Step 4: Decide How Late You Can Stay Up

The Frog Family does not enjoy spending several hours waiting for the first parade. (You know we frogs are always trying to save time.) We choose to go on rides up until about 15 minutes before the fireworks, because Tad likes taking advantage of the significantly shorter ride lines during the first parade. If we simply cannot stay up late we’ll find a great last-minute parade spot about 15 to 20 minutes before the show in the raised areas across from It’s a Small World.

If we are watching the late parade, we like to watch the castle view of fireworks show from Main Street and then after all of those people make for the exit, we find a great spot to watch Paint the Night on Main Street on a curb across from Jolly Holiday, which happens to be one of the best quick-service restaurants in Disneyland. We get some baked goods to snack on while we wait an hour for the parade, and Tad and Lily do some shopping at the light-up toy souvenir kiosks. The first time we watched the late parade, the froglets bought some magical wands and paintbrushes that interacted with the parade as well as other guests’ light-up ears and bows or toys nearby. That made the time fly quickly. Before the parade, the crowd is usually very entertaining and excited.

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade DisneylandThe late parade is definitely past Lily’s bedtime, but it is worth it to have a good seat to see the parade coming down Main Street, and Lily literally hopping up and down to see Tinkerbell, Woody, Buzz, Lightning McQueen, Sulley, Belle, Ariel, Anna, Elsa and other favorite movie characters, as well as Mickey and all of his friends all lighting up the night. The music is upbeat and even includes a little bit of the original Electrical Light Parade music, which brings back many happy childhood memories for Mommy Frog and me. Tad recorded the parade so he can relive it over and over. We all sleep in the next day. If you have an early morning the next day, the late parade may not be a good choice.

You will need to decide which parade time is right for your family. If you have young children or find that an earlier parade is the only one that will do for you, then plan ahead, bring a blanket or lily pad to sit on, and provide food and maybe some activities to occupy the kids. Think up some games, people watch or encourage them to take a nap — we know that spending a day in the park is exhausting. One parent can even take kids on some rides while the other holds the spot. If you can stay up late, then the later show is definitely easier to catch and you will be part of a much thinner crowd as you exit the park. As time goes on those crowds are thinning a bit and forming later, so just keep an eye on when people start claiming spots.

Skip the Steps and Make Paint the Night Dining Plans

If you really want to make finding your parade location stress-free, you might consider reserving a Paint the Night Dining Plan. One of the new dining options in 2016 is the addition of Paint the Night packages. They have meal-on-the go packages from Aladdin’s Oasis that give you a voucher for a reserved location to watch the parade near It’s a Small World. We have not had problems securing a good viewing area in that location, and we always strive to save money at Disneyland, so we have not tried that or the other more expensive option.

If you have always dreamed of eating at the romantic Blue Bayou restaurant located inside Pirates of the Caribbean, then perhaps the three-course prix fixe table-service meal that offers a voucher for a preferred parade viewing area on Main Street would work for you. Main Street is definitely the more challenging place to get a perfect viewing location. You can make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance.

No matter where and when you watch Paint the Night parade, you and your family members will be asking, “When can we do this again?”

We hope you'll find these tips help you find the best viewing of Paint the Night Parade. If you have more tips, be sure to share them below. And if you have questions about the parade, let us know those too.

Related: Best Places to View Disneyland Forever

Related: What to Expect at Disneyland's Diamond Celebration

Keep hopping!



Keep hopping, Leap!
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Bonnie Jun 15, 2015 at 8:47 p.m.

Thanks for the article. We saw Paint the Night last week and thought I'd just add that the wheelchair viewing area has moved. It used to be in the hub in front of the Partners statue but is now in front of Pixie Hollow. The new spot is terrible for wheelchairs. The area is on a slope so the chairs are leaning down hill and it's hard to park the chairs like this even with the brake on. The area is also much smaller, so not many wheelchairs can park here. There are two other spots, one in front of the Disney Showcase and another by it's a small world. I haven't tried out the other two spots but would recommend checking those areas out if you need them instead of the Pixie Hollow location. Also, you mentioned cast members will tell you to pick up blankets and stand up prior to parade time, well they never told anyone around us. It looked like a refugee camp for about 4 hours prior to the parade and no one ever moved or stood up. I suspect if this continues they may instigate a FP system for the parade like they did for Fantasmic. I certainly hope not though.

FrogBlog Jun 22, 2015 at 6:44 a.m.

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Keep hopping!


FrogBlog Jun 23, 2015 at 6:29 a.m.

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for sharing your feedback. There is a wheelchair accessibility area near Small World, another near the Matterhorn, and one more by the Mad Hatter near the entrance to the park. They are first come first serve, and the one near us at Small World was not filled up at all so they took the ropes down just before parade and let others (like Lily) move in as well.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

CMH Oct 25, 2015 at 10:31 p.m.

Thank you so much for this tip-we are taking our 7 year old soon (she uses a wheelchair) and we would be devastated if she were uncomfortable. Tipping forward would be very uncomfortable! We will try one of the other areas.

MellyMel Jun 15, 2015 at 9:55 p.m.

Thanks for the tips. Headed there tonight and trying to decide a plan of attack for both the parade and fireworks.

Nikki Jul 2, 2015 at 5:25 a.m.

I was just there with a girlfriend June 25-29th and would agree 1000% to catch the second parade. We did the same as you, waited for the first parade to pass, hopped to Main Street for the fireworks, then sat right down on the curb for the 11pm fireworks. A great strategy! If you have more than one night, head over to watch the fireworks from Small World. I'm still in awe of that show, especially when viewed from standing between the stores on Main Street!

Nikki Jul 2, 2015 at 5:27 a.m.

Whoops- I mean sat on the curb for the parade right after the fireworks

Hazel ross Jul 28, 2015 at 1:10 p.m.

Am travelling to Disney at Xmas alone with an 8 yr old. Any tips for getting good space for parade?

FrogBlog Aug 3, 2015 at 2:33 p.m.

Hi Hazel,

There is plenty of space, but if you want to be in the very front row with no one in front of you, you would need to line up likely about an hour and a half for the first parade during the week of Christmas. If you can wait until that second parade, wait times will be much lower. If being right in front isn't that important, you can probably figure half that time.

Keep hopping!


Amber Oct 18, 2015 at 10:07 p.m.

Where does the parade begin when there is only one showing? Does it begin by It's a Small World?

FrogBlog Oct 20, 2015 at 9:33 a.m.

Hi Amber,

Yes, if there is only one parade, it begins at It's A Small World.

Keep hopping!


Kathy Jul 2, 2016 at 12:27 a.m.

Thanks for all the info! Just trying to clarify... We are going July 12-14. Did you say that seating near the preferred area is easy enough to get without paying for the meal and special voucher (in your experience anyway)?

FrogBlog Jul 18, 2016 at 10:16 a.m.

Hi Kathy,

Sorry for the delay, but your comment ended up in our spam filter. We generally recommend FastPass as the free way to get seating for shows because the added expense is not worth it. For Paint the Night, you can get viewing near Small World easily and but you have to camp out for other spots.

Keep hopping!


FrogBlog Jul 18, 2016 at 10:16 a.m.

Hi Kathy,

Sorry for the delay, but your comment ended up in our spam filter. We generally recommend FastPass as the free way to get seating for shows because the added expense is not worth it. For Paint the Night, you can get viewing near Small World easily and but you have to camp out for other spots.

Keep hopping!


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