Thousands are known to gather at Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland for an un-frog-gettable New Year's Eve celebration. Some frogs may even say it's the Golden State's version of New York's 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 the Holidays at Disneyland Resort, which means 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 full 2019 New Year's Eve schedule has not yet been announced — it seems that some details appear on the Entertainment calendar much closer to the event. But a few show times are available up to six weeks in advance. We share what we know, but be sure to keep hopping back as New Year's Eve approaches for new announcement for this year’s entertainment.
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 wait times for traffic, parking and going through bag check and turnstiles.
Luckily, you can get a head start on Dec. 31. Both Disneyland Park and Disney 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. Crowds can vary year by year, so staying put is one way to avoid unknown complications.
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 FASTPASS 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 $15 for MaxPass, as long as you will be there early in the day to start reserving early. 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 earlier 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. We set alarms on our phones to remind us of the next time we can book another ride.
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. Wear a poncho or sit near the back if you do not like to get wet. Being wet and cold is no fun.
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 2019, there are three show times on New Year’s Eve at noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. At Disneyland, use Storytelling at the Royal Theatre or Showdown at The Golden Horseshoe as a chance to sit and rest while being entertained. Take advantage of smaller musical acts and other park entertainment throughout the park that doesn't have a line this day.
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 will be held at 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m on Dec. 31, 2019. For future years, be sure to check the entertainment calendar for New Year's Eve up to six weeks in advance. 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 falls during the Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty 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 New Year’s Eve will be Mickey's Mix Magic show. (In past years, it has been “Fantasy in the Sky” Fireworks Spectacular). Show times are 9 p.m. (earlier than usual!) and 11:59 p.m. The New Year's Eve fireworks combines festive and explosive fireworks with a rockin' party playlist spun by DJ Mickey 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 many hours before the show, possibly as early as noon. Mickey and Minnie have been known to 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.
There are two fireworks packages for New Year's Eve at Disneyland in 2019. Plaza Inn has a fireworks dining package (more below). You can also ring in the New Year at the New Year's Eve Enchantment at the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience that will put you above the crowd (more below).
You can see the full show well from "it's a small world" and Rivers of America. Other great spots to watch them include Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge 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 in some of these locations. If you choose to view the fireworks elsewhere, it will save you time from camping out; 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! Guests can enjoy two showings at 9:10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. in 2019. Collect a FASTPASS near the Mark Twain Riverboat dock first thing in the morning, or better yet, use MaxPass to reserve a FASTPASS as soon as you enter a park. If you do not get a FASTPASS, plan to get in place for a standby location, possibly hours in advance. The 9:10 p.m. show will be starting as the first fireworks show finishes, whereas the 11:35 p.m. show will be ending as the midnight fireworks start. There are also Fantasmic! dining packages that can get you preferred viewing locations. We still see availability for the Fantasmic! On-the-Go Package at Hungry Bear on Dec 31, 2019.
Be on the lookout for dance parties, which may pop up (hop up?) on the calendar.
When celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland, you might choose to party the night away at Disney California Adventure Park. The celebration heats up up in the World of Color viewing area with a DJ and New Year’s party. You'll find a New Year’s Eve countdown and a fireworks show that includes water, fire, lasers and light. The World of Color show on the calendar for 2019 is World of Color — Season of Light. Showings are at 8:30 and 9:45 p.m.
A number of bands will entertain you throughout the day as part of the Disney Festival of Holidays. The festival food and beverage booths are usually open until from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. One advantage to celebrating at Disney California Adventure is that you may enjoy adult beverages if that's important to you. 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, such as the Disney Viva Navidad! Street Party and Mickey's Happy Holidays (at 12:30 and 4:00 p.m.).
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 are open as of early November and fill up quickly. If you have missed the reservation windows, consider using Mobile Order to skip the food lines.
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.
If you love a good view of fireworks, but really would rather do anything else than stay in place for hours, then you might consider the New Year's Eve Fireworks Spectacular Dining Package. Enjoy a special meal that comes with reserved viewing of the show at the Plaza Inn with reservations made from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Dinner is braised short rib, sautéed shrimp, au gratin potatoes, asparagus, chocolate dessert, a mocktail and a choice of beverage. The package is $125 for adults and $100 for kids (plus tax and gratuity).
Another in-park option is to reserve the New Year's Eve Enchantment at the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience. This event takes place on the covered area above Star Wars Launch Bay. You can come and go throughout the night, but the event is from 8:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Check-in is 30 minutes early. The attendees enjoy a boxed treat of seasonal fruits, cheese and assorted sweets. A choice of cold or hot beverages and a light-up event credential come with it. At midnight, light up the new year with non-alcoholic beverage with a glow cube in it. This gives you a pretty good view of fireworks above the crowds.
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 characters, as well as a New Year's Eve buffet at the PCH Grill. The buffet is usually served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The New Year’s Character Celebration usually takes place in the Pacific Ballroom from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with countdowns at 9 p.m. and midnight. 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 on your lily pad in the afternoon.
No matter whether you decide to celebrate New Year's Eve at Disneyland Park or California Adventure, be sure to check the Entertainment Schedule in advance (even up to that same week for last-minute additions). You can also check the Disneyland mobile app inside the park to find entertainment and possible surprises. That way, you won’t miss anything, including 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!