We frogs love hopping from ride, to experience, to character meet-and-greet, which is why we highly recommend taking advantage FastPass+ during your Walt Disney World vacation. FastPass+ is a service that allows guests to pre-book rides, shows and other experiences. Used strategically, you and your family can save hours in line by getting FastPass+ reservations for the most popular rides. While we've got a whole post devoted to the basics of how FastPass+ works, today we're talking about using FastPass+ for shows at Disney World. More specifically, we're outlining when it makes sense to use FastPass+ for Disney World shows and nighttime spectaculars such as Epcot Forever, Rivers of Light and Fantasmic! to make the most of your Disney World vacation.
It's important to note you are not required to have a FastPass+ reservation to see any of the shows. Having FastPass+ guarantees seating, but it does not guarantee better seating. To get the best viewing locations — with or without FastPass+ — you need to arrive early.
With all of this in mind, using FastPass+ for shows largely depends on you and your family. It's a great option for the shows your frog squad absolutely can't miss (for us, it's Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom), especially during busy seasons. Otherwise, our general rule is to arrive about 30 minutes ahead of show time rather than use a precious FastPass+ (which will still require you to arrive 15 to 30 minutes ahead of time).
Factors to Consider Before Using FastPass+ for Shows at Disney World
- How crowded are the parks? This is a primary consideration. During the busiest times, you may find you get more benefit from using your FastPass+ selections on top attractions, such as Frozen Ever After or Soarin' in Epcot, which see higher wait times. That said, there are bigger crowds to contend with for nighttime shows during busier times. Take a peek at our Crowd Calendar to get a sense for the crowd level at each park for each day of your vacation.
- What time of day are you touring? If you follow our advice and start in the morning hours when crowds are at their lowest, and then take a break in the afternoon when crowds are at their highest, you might not need FastPass+ until the evening anyway. So using FastPass+ for Epcot Forever and Rivers of Light makes more sense.
- Do you want the option of getting extra FastPasses? Guests can obtain additional FastPasses in the parks after they have used their first three. If you want to obtain more than the three advance reservations, then we recommend not booking shows. Keep in mind that in the parks with fewer attractions, and during busier times, there is more limited day-of FastPass+ availability.
- Are you park hopping? If you are, we suggest making your FastPass+ reservations for the second park. Depending on your arrival time in the afternoon or evening, or if you are park hopping just to experience a show in a particular park, using the FP+ reservations for shows makes more sense.
- How many days will you spend at each theme park? If you are spending two or more days in a park, then we think it makes sense to use FastPass+ for shows on at least one park day.
Major Shows by Park (and When to Use FastPass+ for Them)
- Epcot Forever - World Showcase Plaza Viewing Area - The location is between the tower gifts shops at World Showcase. This is a prime viewing spot for the newest nighttime spectacular, making it a good choice for FastPass+ if it's a must-see from one of the best spots. That said, there are many, many good viewing locations around World Showcase, and you should be able to find one about 20 to 30 minutes in advance of the show. If you've got tadpoles under 40 inches that won't be tall enough for Soarin' Around the World, using FastPass+ for Frozen Ever After is probably the best option.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Fantasmic! - The FastPass seating area for Fantasmic! is a section of the seating just left of center of the stage, extending all the way down to the front row. You still have to arrive early to get a really good seat, just not as early as you would without the FP+. With recent tier changes for Toy Story Land rides, Fantasmic! is no longer a Tier 1 choice, making it a much better FastPass+ pick (especially because there is limited seating in the theater). During busy seasons, there is sometimes a second Fantasmic! show, and it's generally easier to get a seat for it.
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration - Just like any other show, the main perk of using a FastPass+ is guaranteed seating. However, you still have to arrive about 20 minutes ahead of time to make it to your FastPass+ window. Since this show takes place frequently throughout the day, we recommend doing standby and simply arriving 30 minutes early, as there truly isn't a bad seat in the house. Only use a FastPass+ if you're on a strict schedule during peak season and can't miss this show.
- Disney Junior Dance Party! - As a show aimed toward the littlest of tadpoles, the seating in this show is unconventional. There is no reserved seating — or even seats! Parents and kids alike are welcomed to get comfy on the floor to enjoy the performance and get the wiggles out while getting their boogie on (in the AC, we might add!). This means that you are guaranteed entry to the show if you make a FastPass+ reservation, but not promised a particular area to watch from. With these shows taking place frequently throughout the day, we don't feel the need to use FastPass.
- Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage - Beauty and the Beast is one of our Disney favorite performances. However, using a FastPass+ for this show doesn't necessarily offer better seating, but simply guaranteed seating. FastPass+ guests are typically ushered in toward the stage, facing left side of the outdoor auditorium, while the center and right side are open for handicapped and non-FastPass+ guests. If Beauty and the Beast is one of your must-sees and you don't want to arrive 30 or so minutes early, FastPass+ is a great option.
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - Much like the other shows in our guide, FastPass+ for this attraction simply guarantees you a seat (and first entry) to the show. Save your FastPass+ reservations for rides on this one, as well, unless this is on your must-do list or you're hoping to be chosen as an extra in the show ... in which case, hop in line early and put on your best smile! Good luck!
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid - As we're sure you've caught on to by now, FastPass+ guests get pushed through to the left side of the theater before standby guests are filtered in. If we're being honest, this show has lost popularity over the years (not in Lily's book, though!) so a FastPass+ isn't a necessity. We typically can show up last minute without a FastPass+. Rather than having to arrive 20 minutes early for your FastPass+ window, just line up in standby 20 minutes ahead of showtime!
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Rivers of Light: We Are One - Certain segments of the Rivers of Light outdoor "auditorium" are saved for those with a FastPass+ reservation. You must arrive toward the beginning of the seating window (typically 30 minutes ahead of showtime) in order to specify your preference (for example, if you'd like to sit in a closer row). Otherwise, you will be seated at random. The reserved seating is great, but the quality of your seat compared to arriving 30 minutes early for standby depends on how busy the park is. If it's a night when there are two shows, you can usually get a better spot with less waiting at the second show. Securing a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light requires weighing pros and cons, since it takes place around park closing and limits your ability to get day-of additional FastPasses. Unless Rivers of Light is a top priority for your family, we recommend saving that FastPass+ for other rides and simply arriving 45 to 60 minutes ahead of showtime for a good seat. Even better — try using your first three FastPasses+ elsewhere and attempting to reload later in the day for Rivers of Light!
- Festival of the Lion King - This show is one of our top FastPass+ recommendations in Animal Kingdom. It's nice to book a FastPass reservation and show up 20 minutes ahead of time rather than scouting out crowds throughout the day ... especially since this show is wildly popular. FastPass+ guests are usually directed toward the Elephant and Lion sections (our favorites!) and spread out between the front and back of the arena.
- Finding Nemo - The Musical - Since it's a longer performance, Nemo takes place less frequently throughout the day and may be a good use of a FastPass+ if it's a must-do for your frog family, especially during busy seasons.
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure - Join Russell and Dug for an up-close look at over 15 species of birds. If you want a close seat, it may be worth grabbing a FastPass+ to catch a better view of the action (and free-flying friends above your head!). Otherwise, hop in the standby line in advance and use your FastPass for Avatar Flight of Passage or Everest.
- Mickey's PhilharMagic - We definitely think it's a show worth seeing, but we don't recommend getting a FastPass+ for it. The wait times are typically low, and the show is only 10 minutes so you wouldn't have to wait long without one. It's a big theater that fits in a lot of frogs, so you're mainly waiting for the next show to start.
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor - Once again, this is another show that's not worth a FastPass+. Unless it's crazy busy, you're usually just waiting in line for the next show.
As you can see, using FastPass+ for shows at Disney World really comes down to your priorities. For those of you who have already been to Disney World, which shows do you think are worth getting FastPass+ for? Share in comments below!