We highly recommend everyone making a trip to Disney World use FastPass+. This service that allows guests to pre-book rides, shows and other experiences in the parks is key, especially during the busiest times of year. 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 IllumiNations, Rivers of Light and Fantasmic! and when it doesn't, so you can make a good decision for your family.
The decision to use FastPass+ for shows has become less difficult in the past couple years, especially because there is no longer a nighttime parade at Magic Kingdom (farewell, Main Street Electrical Parade). Disney also stopped offering FastPass+ for its evening Magic Kingdom fireworks show Happily Ever After. 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, except in the case of IllumiNations. 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+ (and still need 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.
- 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 IllumiNations 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 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 at least one day.
A Look at the Major Shows by Park and Our Recommendations on Whether to Use FastPass+
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth - World Showcase Plaza Viewing Area. The location is between the tower gifts shops at World Showcase. This is a prime viewing spot for IllumiNations, 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! - Reserved Seating Area. The FP+ 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 because of the new 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 - Reserved Seating Area. 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, and the seats are to the far left of the theater. Since this show takes place frequently throughout the day, we recommend doing stand-by 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 - Live on Stage! As a show aimed toward the littlest of tadpoles, the seating in this puppet-filled stage 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. 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 the FP+.
- Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage - Reserved Seating Area. As we mention in our Guide to Hollywood Studios Shows, 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.
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid - Reserved Seating Area. As we're sure you've caught on to by now, FastPass+ guests get pushed through to the left side of the theater before stand-by 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 stand-by 20 minutes ahead of showtime!
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Rivers of Light - Reserved Seating Area. 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 stand-by 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 - Reserved Seating Area. 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 - Reserved Seating Area. 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.
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!