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.
Tips for Celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland
Because this year is a bit different from past years, it is hard to predict exactly what New Year's Eve at Disneyland will be like in 2021. The parks will be fully decked out for the holidays with all the holiday entertainment returning (except for World of Color and other large shows such as Fantasmic! Frozen and Mickey's Magical Map). With parades, fireworks and snowfall, it will feel just like old times. You can usually encounter DJs around the parks and special entertainment as well as countdowns to the new year. We are taking a look at what you need to know about ringing in the new year at the happiest place on earth this year.
From what we know, what's to come and how 2021 has gone so far, here is our best advice for celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland.
1. Purchase tickets and reserve early.
New Year's Eve at Disneyland is one of those days in which the parks hit capacity in a normal year. Now that there is reduced capacity and a reservation system in place, the park will sell out well in advance. So it's hard to predict crowds levels this year, but we can say with confidence that people should purchase tickets and make park reservations ASAP.
2. Choose one park to visit.
Do you need a park hopper or a 1-Park ticket? Normally, New Year's Eve at Disneyland is not a great day to park hop. If you leave one park and it hits capacity, you may not be able to get back into the park you want to visit later. 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 around all day. While we have not run into problems park hopping yet in 2021, the holiday time is when we could see parks hit capacity and pause letting park hoppers in. Disneyland Park is more likely to pause in letting guests in, but it has also been known to happen at Disney California Adventure too. Crowds can vary year by year, so staying put is one way to avoid unknown complications.
3. Arrive early.
We cannot stress this enough. Arrive early, preferably in the morning. Come before park opening to prevent a long wait getting in later. Expect longer-than-usual wait times for traffic, parking and going through bag check and turnstiles on New Year's Eve.
Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park usually open at 8 a.m., but they usually let guests filter in a little early before rope drop at 8 a.m. You cannot access the rides and most of the park before rope drop. Right now, there is no early park entry with Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning. These perks have not returned yet. In normal years, both parks offer an Extra Magic Hour for registered hotel guests beginning at 7 a.m. Disneyland Park usually 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.
4. 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 umbrellas/ponchos) or rent a locker. If you have a backpack, we recommend bringing refillable water bottles or snacks to avoid long food and beverage lines. Use Mobile Order to skip food lines, but be sure to order a few hours early because long waits can still happen when there are many orders being processed.
5. Utilize the new Disney Genie and Genie+ to save time and plan your day.
This will be the first New Year's Eve at Disneyland since FASTPASS and MaxPass have been retired. A new free planning service through the Disneyland app, called Disney Genie, has officially launched in its place. Disney Genie can help you plan out your itinerary in real-time, making suggestions for things you tell it you want to do and letting you know when wait times are shorter.
In addition, as a replacement for MaxPass, Genie+ is a new paid service. For $20 per guest, per day, Genie+ allows park-goers to skip standby lines and use the Lightning Lane entrance for select rides. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day may be worth paying the extra money for Genie+, as long as you will be there early in the day to start making selections. You may only select one ride at a time. Another perk is that the Genie+ option includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day. We love PhotoPass, as we enjoy preserving hoppy memories and posting our froggerrific photos. Hop over to our Disney Genie and Genie+ FAQ for answers to common questions.
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! And bring those portable phone chargers to keep your phones going all day.
Pirates of the Caribbean and the Incredicoaster usually have fast-moving lines. Try to get a Lightning Lane reservation for "it’s a small world" and Haunted Mansion Holiday on New Year’s Eve instead. These rides both have longer-than-usual lines during the holidays because of their seasonal overlays. Splash Mountain could have a shorter line due to cooler weather. Wear a poncho or sit near the back if you don't want to get wet. Being wet and cold is no fun.
Most large shows have not yet returned to Disneyland Resort, so you'll want to look for other opportunities to sit down and rest throughout the day. Take advantage of smaller musical acts and other park entertainment options that don't have a line this day. The entertainment calendar lists a lot of great choices.
6. 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! Plus, if capacity is still lower by New Year's Eve, this may be the least crowded year yet!
Check the entertainment calendar for the Christmas Fantasy Parade, fireworks and other entertainment. The entertainment calendar is updated six weeks in advance. However, more specific details tend to appear in the week ahead of time, so keep checking as New Year's Eve approaches. You will have to camp out sooner than usual for parades and the fireworks. 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 on Main Street U.S.A., at 6:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve 2021.
There are New Year's Eve Countdown Celebrations in both parks. In Disneyland Park, you can find them at Rivers of America, Tomorrowland, "it's a small world" at Sleeping Beauty Castle for much of the evening. At Disney California Adventure, there are New Year's Eve Countdown Celebrations in Paradise Gardens Park and in Hollywood Land at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m.
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 are “Fantasy in the Sky” Fireworks Spectacular). Showtimes are 9 p.m. (earlier than usual!) and 11:59 p.m. The New Year's Eve fireworks combine 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. Rivers of America is a less hectic location.
There were two fireworks packages for New Year's Eve at Disneyland in 2019. Plaza Inn had 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 on that below, too). Plaza Inn does not offer its parade package on New Year's Eve, but keep checking back in case there is a different offering that night.
You can see the full show well from "it's a small world" and can see the burst and hear the music at Rivers of America. Other great spots to watch them include Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and near the exit of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or by Dumbo. 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. The line back to the Toy Story Shuttle can get long!
In a normal year, another great show to catch is Fantasmic! It has not returned yet and is not expected to during this holiday season. Guests can usually enjoy two showings. Next year, plan to get in place for a standby location, possibly hours in advance. The first 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.
Be on the lookout for dance parties, which may pop up (hop up?) on the calendar. There are New Year's Eve Countdown Celebrations at "it's a small world," Rivers of America and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
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 in the World of Color viewing area with a DJ and New Year’s party. You'll find a New Year’s Eve Countdown Celebration from 10:45 p.m. until 1 a.m. The World of Color show has not yet returned. For the holidays, the normal show is World of Color — Season of Light. We hope it returns next year! The Hollywood Land Dance Party is hoppin' from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. In the past, there has been a New Year's Eve Countdown in Hollywood Land, as well. Be sure to ask about it in the park!
A number of bands will entertain you throughout the day as part of Disney Festival of Holidays. The festival food and beverage booths are usually open 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 until 1 a.m., to your classic Disney pals on Buena Vista Street until 11:30 p.m. Check the Entertainment Schedule for more holiday entertainment, such as the Disney Viva Navidad! Street Party and Mickey's Happy Holidays.
7. 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 New Year’s Eve (if available), reservations are open as of early November and fill up quickly. If you have missed the reservation window, consider using Mobile Order to skip the food lines.
The normal Plaza Inn dining package with parade viewing for A Christmas Fantasy Parade is not available on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. However, a special New Year's Even Fireworks Dining Package is available. It's a surf and turf meal with a credential for access to the dining area and fireworks viewing area of Plaza Inn. The meal is a slow-roasted prime rib and shrimp scampi with side dishes, a dessert and a mocktail.
The package costs $125 per adult and $100 per child (ages 3 to 9). Magic Key Holder and Cast Member discounts apply. Tax is not included. Gratuity is not included or required. Character Dining is not offered during this experience. Reservations times are available between 6:00 and 8:30 p.m.
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.
Two locations now serve alcohol at Disneyland Park. Blue Bayou offers beer, wine and Hurricanes (as well as alcoholic-free themed drinks with festive glow cubes). Oga's Cantina has out-of-this-world themed drinks in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
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.
Another in-park option in the past was to reserve the New Year's Eve Enchantment at the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience. It is temporarily unavailable. This event took place on the covered area above Star Wars Launch Bay. You could come and go throughout the night, but the event was from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Check-in was 30 minutes prior to reservation time. Attendees could enjoy a boxed treat of seasonal fruits, cheese and assorted sweets, as well as a choice of cold or hot beverages and a light-up event credential. At midnight, you could light up the new year with a nonalcoholic beverage with a glow cube in it. This gives you a pretty good view of fireworks above the crowds. We do not expect it to return for 2021. The Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience has not returned on other nights this year, so it may not be coming back.
Napa Rose has a New Year's Eve Gala with dinner and dancing at 7:30 p.m. It's $300 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reserve through the app or visit Disneyland.com/dining.
8. Consider paying to skip the line.
You may have heard that the rides with virtual queues are testing standby lines. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland Park and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure in the new Avengers Campus land at Disney California Adventure may open a virtual queue if necessary. But these rides have been testing out a standby queue this holiday season. If you want to be sure you get to ride these rides this day, there is another way, but it will cost you.
Now that Disney Genie has launched, the two newest rides, Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS, plus Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure, have a new buy-in option called individual Lightning Lane selections. No, these rides are not included with Genie+. But you can purchase up to two of these rides individually per day. The price varies per ride and day, and you can only purchase each ride once per person per day.
We always opt to save money where we can, so if you don't want to pay to ride, we recommend riding early via the still-free virtual queue (or utilizing the Single Rider line for Radiator Springs Racers if your party is willing to split up and each guest is at least 7 years old).
9. Make use of the attractions and entertainment without long lines.
Any holiday visit can come with long lines. But a few attractions are our favorites to visit on busy days. At Disneyland, hop over to Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island to escape the crowds. Look for characters around the park, catch the cavalcade near "it's a small world," watch musical acts such as the Disneyland Band and Dapper Dans or take time to enjoy Flag Retreat. There is so much to do at Disneyland besides the rides. The Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes always have a short line and will help you burn off that holiday eating!
At Disney California Adventure, we enjoy good food and drink. We take an art class at Disney Animation or rest our flippers during Mickey's PhilharMagic. We watch the many musical acts available in the park and catch heroic adventures taking place in Avenger's Campus.
10. 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 of the late-night partiers sleep in. Take advantage of short 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. The parks open at 8 a.m. on New Year's Day, with no Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning.
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.
What questions do you have about celebrating New Year's Eve at Disneyland? Share them in the 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!