Thousands are known to gather at Main Street, U.S.A. Disneyland for an un-frog-gettable New Year's Eve. Some frogs may even say it's the golden state's version of New York Times Square. Planning on celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland? Here are our best tips to manage the big crowd and even bigger entertainment. Bring out the noisemakers. Ribbit!
Expect to be surrounded by your new best friends, because this is Disneyland’s most crowded night of the year. New Year's Eve is part of holidays at Disneyland which mean you can expect regular holiday entertainment, plus special events held just for the New Year's celebration. That’s a lot to keep track of, but we’ve broken it down by what you need to know. Follow our frog family tips below for celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland.
The 2018 New Year's Eve schedule has been announced, so we’ve updated this post with this year’s entertainment. There may be more specific information to come, so keep hopping back.
Tips for Celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland
1. Arrive early
Pre-purchase your admission tickets and arrive early, preferably in the morning. Disneyland does not release admissions numbers, but if the park gets too crowded, they could stop selling tickets and letting guests in as early as mid-morning. Come in the morning to prevent a long wait getting in later. Expect longer than usual times for traffic, parking and going through the bag check and gates.
Luckily, you can get a head start on Dec. 31. Both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park open at 8 a.m., and both parks offer an Extra Magic Hour for registered hotel guests beginning at 7 a.m. Disneyland Park also has Magic Morning at 7 a.m. for guests with a CityPASS or valid 3+ day ticket. Disneyland is open until 2 a.m. and California Adventure closes at 1 a.m. Check out park hours and events on our Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
2. Choose one park
New Year's Eve at Disneyland is not a good day to park-hop because if you leave one park and it hits capacity, you may not be able to get back in. We recommend making your choice based on where you’d like to be for the special evening entertainment. Once you choose a park, bring everything you need for the day and plan to stay. Get a locker to store sweatshirts and items you do not want to carry all day. Disneyland Park is more likely to pause in letting guests in but it has also been known to happen at Disney California Adventure.
3. Dress in layers
No matter which park you visit, be prepared for cooler weather. There is sunshine during the day, but Southern California winter nights are chilly. Layers are your best bet, as crowds do keep Disneyland slightly warmer than it is outside of the gates. Bring a backpack for jackets and hats or rent a locker. If you have a backpack, we recommend bringing refillable water bottles or snacks to avoid long food and beverage lines.
4. Utilize FastPasses or MaxPass for rides and shows
Make use of the FastPass system early in the day for rides and also for shows such as World of Color and Fantasmic!. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are definitely worth paying the extra $10 for MaxPass. MaxPass is an optional paid service that allows you to reserve FastPasses from your phone. This is very helpful in avoiding lines and walking across a crowded park to collect a FastPass. If you’re park hopping, you can make reservations in either park. A bonus benefit of MaxPass over the free FastPass system is that MaxPass users usually have access to sooner return windows.
Another perk is that the MaxPass includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day. We love PhotoPass as we enjoy printing and posting our froggerrific photos. Expect the FastPass distribution to run out much earlier than usual for both the paper ticket FastPass distribution and through MaxPass. Reserve rides as soon as you enter the park and keep reserving your next rides as soon as you can.
Always check the time you can acquire your next FastPass — it may be before you use your first one! Knowing when your FastPasses can be used can help you make a plan (remember you can arrive 5 minutes early and up to 10 minutes late, so you really have a 75-minute window). It is always a good idea to have a touring plan in mind, but with large crowds it can be hard to predict which attractions will have the biggest lines or just how hard it will be to walk around. Hit your must-do rides first and be flexible. Think of longer wait times as quality time spent with your friends and family. Play games to pass the time and make being more patient part of your New Year’s resolution!
Pirates of the Caribbean and the Incredicoaster usually have fast moving lines. Try to get a FastPass for it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion Holiday on New Year’s Eve instead. They both have longer than usual lines during the holidays because of their seasonal overlays. Splash Mountain often has a much shorter line in cooler weather and you don’t get as wet when it’s cold out. We frogs (who don’t mind getting a little wet) stayed completely dry on Splash Mountain this December but when we visited on a 100-degree day last fall, we got soaked. Splash control must be part of the Disney magic. If you’re looking for a place to rest and break up your day in California Adventure, we suggest seeing Frozen — Live at the Hyperion. In 2018, there are three show times on New Year’s Eve at noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. At Disneyland, use Mickey and the Magical Map or Storytelling at the Royal Theatre as a chance to sit and rest while being entertained.
5. Be entertained
Just have fun during New Year's Eve at Disneyland! If you find yourself leering at the massive crowd, just think of it this way: you could be home on the couch (or on your lily pad) watching the ball drop on TV instead of spending memorable time with your loved ones at Disneyland. So relax and let the good times roll!
The Christmas Fantasy Parade is held at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m in 2018. You will have to camp out sooner than usual for parades. Keep your eye on the parade route to gauge when to get your spot. We estimate about an hour and a half to two hours is effective. Just keep your eye on it as crowds can be unpredictable. Use that time to sit down and relax — It’s a long day, so use your wait time as a welcomed rest. If the forecast is chilly, bring a thin blanket to stay warm while you hold your spot. During the holiday season, you can enjoy nightly snowfall. Snow usually falls during the Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. You can also catch snowfall by "it's a small world" and sometimes in Frontierland. Be sure to ask cast members about snowfall in those locations since they are not on the calendar yet.
On New Year's Eve at Disneyland, park guests are treated to not one, but two fireworks shows. How Frogtastic! The fireworks that ring in the new year on the east coast and west coast are part of Disneyland’s own special New Year’s Eve “Fantasy in the Sky” Fireworks Spectacular. Show times are 9 p.m. (earlier than usual!) and 11:55 p.m. The New Year's Eve fireworks combines festive and explosive fireworks with classic music and a countdown to midnight for both east coast and west coast times.
If you want to watch fireworks near the castle or Main Street, talk to cast members early in the day for advice on when to get your spot. Expect to see people getting into position hours before the show, possibly as early as noon. Mickey and Minnie may make an appearance for the midnight show. Unless you are absolutely determined to see the fireworks at the castle or along Main Street, this is perhaps the one time we'd recommend watching them from alternate locations in the park. You can see them well from "it's a small world", Rivers of America and near the exit of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. However you may not hear the accompanying music or see the bursts closer to the castle. If you choose to view the fireworks elsewhere, it will save you time from camping out and use that time for more rides. Cast members usually have the best advice and will know where you can and cannot stand. This prevents you from claiming a great spot only to find out too late that it is a designated walkway. Finally, when the fireworks are over, let the crowds thin out before you exit the park. Go on another ride or two, or get a snack while traffic dies down.
Another great show to catch is Fantasmic! This year, guests can enjoy two showings at 9:05 p.m., and 11:35 p.m. Collect a FastPass near the Mark Twain Riverboat dock first thing in the morning, or plan to get in place for a stand-by location possibly hours in advance. The 9:05 p.m. show may be starting as the first fireworks show is running, whereas the 11:35 show will be ending as the fireworks start. There are also Fantasmic! dining packages that can get you preferred viewing locations.
The Royal Swing Big Band Ball with live music from The Swing Cats Big Band is not listed on the entertainment calendar for 2018.
When celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland, you might choose to party the night away at Disney California Adventure Park. In 2017, the celebration heated up up in the World of Color viewing area with a DJ and New Year’s party. That’s where they did the New Year’s countdown and a fireworks show that included water, fire, lasers and light.With World of Color still under refurbishment, they have not announced the countdown plans for 2018. We’ll hop on that as soon as it’s announced.
A number of bands will entertain you throughout the day as part of the Disney Festival of Holidays. The festival food and beverage booths will be open until from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Enjoy meeting characters, from the residents of Radiator Springs to your classic Disney pals, on Buena Vista Street until 1 a.m. Check the entertainment schedule for more holiday entertainment like the Disney Viva Navidad! Street Party and Princess Elena’s Musical Grand Arrival.
6. Enjoy special New Year’s Eve dining
With long lines and crowded walkways, taking a break for dinner is a necessary step. A festive meal is also a frogtastic way to get into the New Year’s Eve spirit! Inside Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, we recommend making dining reservations up to 60 days in advance to avoid long restaurant lines. If you want to make a reservation at a table-service restaurant or purchase a dining package for World of Color or Fantasmic! for New Year’s Eve, reservations opened on Nov. 1.
You'll also find special dining at the Disneyland Resort hotels when celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland. As we mentioned before, we don’t recommend leaving the parks on this day. If you do depart for a meal, there’s no guarantee you’ll be let back in. However, for those of you that want a little Disney magic without stepping into the parks, then you might consider the family-friendly New Year's celebration at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The event includes Disney characters as well as a New Year's Eve buffet at the PCH Grill. The buffet is served from 5 to 10 p.m. The New Year’s Character Celebration takes place in the Pacific Ballroom from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Napa Rose has a family-friendly early dinner from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A later dinner without the kids begins at 8:15 p.m., followed by a Gala that will keep you dancing until 1 a.m. Call 714-718-DINE for reservations or visit Disneyland.com/dining.
7. Visit early on New Year's Day
If you have more energy, come back early on the morning of New Year's Day. The park is usually quiet in the morning on Jan. 1 while all the late-night partiers sleep in. Take advantage of short to nonexistent ride lines. Catch the rides you missed the night before and make the most of the morning. Then, take a nice frog nap in the afternoon.
No matter if you decide to celebrate New Year's Eve at Disneyland Park or California Adventure, be sure to check the entertainment schedule in advance and the Disneyland Mobile App inside the park to find entertainment and possible surprises. That way you won’t miss anything like a potential surprise snow flurry or exciting live entertainment.
Related: Guide to Disneyland FastPass Service
What questions do you have about celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland? Share them in comments below! If you've visited on New Year's Eve before, tell us about your experience! Don't forget, you can view park hours, key showtimes and events on the Disneyland Crowd Calendar!
Hoppy New Year!