Hoppin’ Good News: We’re selling tickets to the Disneyland Resort! Take a look at our discounts on Disneyland tickets, including Park Hoppers for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Ribbit!
Paint the Night Parade is one of our all-time favorite Disney parades. It combines all the nostalgia of the Main Street Electrical Parade with modern technology and upbeat music. It also features more than one million sparkling lights, giving the audience an exciting and electrifying light show. So we're very hoppy to report that it's sticking around just a little longer. The parade was a hit at Disneyland in 2015 and 2016 when it debuted for the Diamond Anniversary Celebration. Then in April 2018, Paint the Night returned for the Pixar Fest at Disney California Adventure. Our frog family have been singing the song from the parade ever since! We were all ready to say goodbye to the parade once more as Pixar Fest wrapped up, but news came that it's staying at Disney California Adventure through Nov. 7, 2018.
If you haven't yet, there's still time to catch the parade. Plus, you won't want to miss the new Incredibles float that just joined this year. As always, we're here to give you some hopful tips to get the most of your experience. Read on to find the best viewing of Paint the Night Parade at Disney California Adventure.
Since its move to Disney California Adventure, we came up with new strategies for tackling this nighttime parade. We learned about the new route, new dining plans and special VIP viewing plans that debuted this fall. We selflessly experimented, watching the parade from many spots, to deliver some solid strategies for your viewing pleasure. We hit the park for opening weekend and many other nights singing our little frog hearts out:
When can we do this again?
I never want this to end
Tips for the Best Viewing of Paint the Night at Disney California Adventure
Plan Ahead and Consult the Schedule
This parade is a popular attraction for tourists and annual pass holders alike. It’s like a rock concert on wheels, and groupies of all ages come for it. Make sure to check the Entertainment Schedule for show times before visiting. The parade time can vary each night.
Know the Parade Route and Viewing Locations
It’s always a good idea to know which direction the parade is flowing and where. There is usually only one parade each night. The parade travels the Performance Corridor from the Silly Symphony Swings toward Carthay Circle, where it makes a right turn into Hollywood Land, ending just before Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! Then, if there happens to be a second show, the route reverses for the next show. Depending on crowd levels, people will line up one to two hours before parade time. The curbs and benches in Hollywood Land fill quickly. Some families lay out picnic blankets along the parade route and eat as they wait. We’ve done the same and patiently waited as we gnawed on giant turkey legs and delicious Mickey sourdough bread.
Assess the crowds during your visit to make a plan for getting your spot. A less-crowded day makes it easier to get a good spot. Knowing where to sit and when to claim your spot can be the most anxiety-provoking part of the night. The best viewing of Paint the Night Parade at Disney California Adventure 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.
Choose a spot with a nice view since you will be there awhile. Pixar Pier is beautifully lit up at night, so choosing a spot where you can see Pixar Pier is especially worthwhile. Plus, that puts you in a location where you can easily hop in line (one last time) on the Incredicoaster after the parade ends — this is highly recommended.
Cast members will start preparing about two hours before the parade (you’ll see them coming out with white ropes), and they may discourage you from camping out too early. If you want a front-row view, start keeping your eye on the situation about two to two-and-a-half hours before show time. In fall 2018, it looks like the parade can begin any time between 7:45 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. It varies per night.
Location location location … You can sit along the entire parade route with the exception of pedestrian crossings/walkways and reserved areas. Avoid sitting in a spot that may not be a viewing location. You may think its a front row spot only for a cast member to come by and ask you to move because it's a walkway. Avoid the frustration by confirming your viewing spot with a cast member. For example, we learned that the curb in front of Award Wieners is a walking zone for the parade — which means there is no parade viewing — but the sidewalk/curb on either side of the restaurant and ramps for the nearby crosswalk in front of Disney Junior Dance Party is a viewing area. We liked viewing the parade from this general area for several reasons:
- There are curbs and benches
- There are no pedestrian crossings distracting us from the action
- There is easy access to the park exit after the parade
Avoid sitting behind a crossing area. People walking between you and the oncoming parade could be distracting. They could also get in the way of your photos and videos. Tad, our family videographer, always makes sure to position us for better photos and videos away from crossings and blind corners. Of course, there are many more locations along the route. We've had a chance to hop around the parade route and have found that the area near Goofy's Sky School filled in much later than Hollywood Land and was the best spot to hop in place closer to parade time. That area also makes for an easy exit. Most of the parade route is ground seating — so no curbs. If you can find a spot to sit that allows you to lean against a light pole or wall, your back will thank you.
Consider a Reserved Viewing Area
If you are not one to camp out on a curb or the cement for a few hours — hey, we toadally get the desire to maximize your time — you might consider an option that gives you a reserved viewing area. You can reserve Paint the Night dining packages through Disneyland Dining Reservations up to 60 days in advance.
Here are the reserved dining package areas for viewing Paint the Night parade at Disney California Adventure:
- Carthay Circle — Four-course prix fixed dinner with reserved viewing in chairs on the Hollywood Land side of the building.
- Wine Country Trattoria — Three-course lunch or dinner with reserved ground seating/standing with a few benches in front of the winery vines and Blue Sky Cellar.
- Paint the Night Parade VIP Viewing Package — Wine Country Trattoria and Boudin Bakery with balcony parade viewing from Pacific Wharf area. This is available for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for a 6:00 p.m. seating. You will need to call (714) 817-5700. This is a newer option that was not there for all of Pixar Fest.
- Sonoma Terrace Reception — Snacks, drinks and truffles at tables and chairs along the parade route in front of Sonoma Terrace. First row of tables is low top, second row is high top.
Plan Your Parade Viewing Around Other Nighttime Entertainment
One of the biggest differences between Paint the Night in Disney California Adventure vs. Disneyland is that the fireworks and parade are now separated. No more hopping off the curb after the parade to watch the fireworks show. If seeing Paint the Night, Fantasmic! and the Disneyland fireworks are on your must-do list, it will take some planning to pull this off. Both parks offer amazing nighttime entertainment, but it can be challenging and even impossible to get it all in on the same night, so we recommend taking at least two nights to enjoy the shows — one night in each park. Any of these shows offer a great way to put a grand finale on your day, but many of the shows overlap or are scheduled pretty tightly together. It becomes extremely challenging to move before, during and after the nighttime entertainment due to crowds.
If you're a quick walker who is not laden down by strollers, you just may be able to pull off seeing more than one show. Remember that a plan that looks good on paper may not play out in reality. The parks are moving large masses of people in the evening, so any movement takes much longer than usual.
If you have a Park Hopper ticket and only one night to do it all, we have advice. Our frog family loves park hopping. We do this many times in a single day because the entrances are right across from each other. However nighttime movement slows us down. You can catch two or three nighttime shows on a night where the show times work out — that means seeing Paint the Night followed by the fireworks and maybe even the second Fantasmic! show. Fantasmic usually has two shows, but there is almost never more than one fireworks show. The fireworks and Fantasmic! won’t be running every night during the fall. They may only be available on weekends, so check the entertainment calendar. Another thing to look out for is Mickey’s Halloween Party, which is a party at Disneyland on certain nights that requires a separate ticket. You won’t be able to park hop, unless you have a party ticket.
If visiting on a night with all the nighttime entertainment, view Paint the Night first and then park hop to Disneyland and catch some or even all of the shows from Main Street U.S.A. If you can't move quickly enough to catch the fireworks, you might be able to catch some of the larger bursts from the Esplanade between the parks before hopping into place for the later Fantasmic! show. There is a standby viewing section down near the water below French Market. You may find a place there or another standby area just above it. You can pick up a FastPass for Fantasmic! earlier in the day to have a reserved spot but we prefer the standby areas.
If you are seeing Paint the Night first, knowing the best place to view the parade and the parade direction is key for a smooth exit strategy. Since the parade generally starts by Silly Symphony swings, choose a viewing location closer to the start of the parade on the Goofy's Sky School side of the street. While it seems like you would want to sit closer to the park entrance, we found a faster way out of the park that allows more time before fireworks. If you are a fast walker, try this: View Paint the Night near Goofy's Sky School. When the last parade float passes, walk behind the parade viewers following the direction of the parade. Make a left at Ariel's Undersea Adventures and follow the road past Grizzly River Run to the park entrance. You'll see that the parade is still going strong as you pass Carthay Circle. We found that we were able to exit the park by 9:20 p.m. (after an 8:50 p.m. parade) just in time to be in Main Street U.SA. Disneyland for fireworks. A 7:45 p.m. Paint the Night Parade will give you more time to get in place.
Parent Tips for Waiting
Many young children may find it difficult to sit still and wait for a parade. Parents must plan ahead by bringing a blanket or lily pad to sit on, and provide food and maybe some activities. For us, we like to enjoy snacks from our favorite quick-service restaurants and stands nearby. One parent might take Tad and Lily to do some souvenir shopping at the light-up toy souvenir kiosks. We also entertain the kiddos with the Buzz Lightyear Bubble Blower and light-up toys. We still have our magical wands and paintbrushes that interact with the parade from last time, so the tadpoles enjoy bringing those out to play with other guests’ light-up ears and bows or light-up toys. That makes the time fly quickly. Just before the parade, the crowd is usually very entertaining and excited. Other ideas include people watching or napping. One parent can even take kids on some rides while the other holds the spot.
Cast members might play some crowd games to get people excited or even teach people the Paint the Night dance. Photographers might come by to take some fun shots. This is always a great opportunity to ask for Magic Shots, especially if you have MaxPass, which includes unlimited photo downloads for the day.
After experiencing Paint the Night parade, your entire family will be asking, “When can we do this again?” Our frog family just can't get enough of this awesome parade!
We're always happy to give you advice for the best viewing of Paint the Night Parade. We'll continue to share as we discover more tips. Have a tip of your own? Share them below. If you have questions about the parade, let us know those too.