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Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade at Disney California Adventure

by Leap on October 10, 2018 23 Los Angeles   Video

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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

Best Viewing of Paint the Night Parade Disneyland

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.

Paint the Night at Disney California Adventure - Carthay Circle Reserved Seating

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.

Paint the Night at Disney California Adventure

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.

Related: Fantastic Tips for Viewing Fantasmic! at Disneyland

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
View Comments
<<  Newer Posts | Older Posts  >>
Aug 22, 2018 at 5:38 p.m. Andrew Says...

I'm very curious about the Paint the Night Parade VIP Viewing Package. It mentions a 5 course meal on the second floor of Golden Vine Winery’s Wine Country Trattoria and then Dessert and beverages on the balcony of Boudin Bakery and "reserved seating". It's expensive at $235/person but sounds like the most fancy dining package. Do you know if you actually watch the parade from balcony or second floor or anything? I haven't been able to find any other Disney blogs that have reviewed this package or even MENTION it....

Sep 5, 2018 at 9:11 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Andrew!

The Paint the Night parade is no longer running, but this package was toadally worth it!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Sep 5, 2018 at 4:06 p.m. Joshua Says...

The Paint The Night Parade is still running. Click the link and select the day on the left calendar to see the times.


May 19, 2018 at 2:08 a.m. Rebecca Says...

Any tips on which of the dining package options allows for the best view of the early parade?

May 22, 2018 at 7:55 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Rebecca!

It looks like there is only one nightly parade at 8:50 on the entertainment calendar into July. We have seen all the views and the Sonoma Terrace seating is right on the parade route. It has a great view. Carthay Circle seating in chairs is fine, but you won’t see the parade approaching for awhile because the parade comes from behind you around a corner. The Wine Country Trattoria would be our last choice only because the seating is mostly on the ground in a similar area and style to the nearby free seating.

Keep hopping!


Apr 27, 2018 at 4:55 p.m. Holly Says...

Can you still buy the paint brushes? And what do they do exactly? :)

May 3, 2018 at 12:44 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Holly!

We haven't seen these paint brushes for sale since Paint the Night returned. But you can learn more about what they do here!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 19, 2018 at 7:32 p.m. Julie Says...

Do the dining packages include tax and tip for PTN

May 3, 2018 at 1:23 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Julie!

We don't believe the Paint the Night dinner package prices include tax and tip.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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

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)?

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

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!


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

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!


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

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

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

Hi Amber,

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

Keep hopping!


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

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

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

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!


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

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

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

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!

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

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

Jun 15, 2015 at 8:47 p.m. Bonnie Says...

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Keep hopping!


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