New Year’s Eve is one of the most amazing nights of the year at Walt Disney World. The fireworks are beyond any other party or event – even better than those on July 4! But even more than the fireworks, there is an amazing party atmosphere that you never see in the parks. Last year I saw the queue of Peter Pan’s Flight completely stopped while everyone in line danced to “Gangnam Style!” Whichever park you choose, there will be unforgettable entertainment and genuine Disney magic. That is the good news… the bad news is there will be crowds like most people never experience! But you have nothing to worry about, because I’m going to share with you my plan for a stress free New Year’s celebration! Here is the fine print: this is just what I would do this year. There are lots of ways to have a great time. and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.
Before leaving for a crazy busy day in the parks, I always pack a survival bag. If you haven’t experienced it, you might be surprised to find out that on a very busy day you could have to wait 30+ minutes for a drink or to use the bathroom. (Bathrooms aren’t as much of an issue at Epcot where they bring in portable toilets.) I always bring snacks, a water bottle, phone charger, and extra layers of clothing in case it gets cold. Rain gear is also a good idea if there are any showers in the forecast.
To start my day, I would sleep in on NYE. It goes without saying that you’re going to be staying up late, and that takes a lot of steam. In previous years I’ve gotten up early to open the Magic Kingdom then left for a nap after the crowds became unbearable. However, fighting traffic twice in one day doesn’t make for a stress free day! When planning your transit time I recommend at least doubling the amount of time it usually takes to get from one place to another. The roads are very, very crowded during holiday events, and this will impact you whether you are traveling by Disney transportation or your personal vehicle.
This year my plan is to head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in time for the 2pm Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special. I was a huge fan of Comedy Warehouse at at Pleasure Island, so I try to never miss a chance to see these improv artists in action again! Personally, I’ll be hanging out here for the 3pm and 4pm shows, too, before heading to Epcot. If the Comedy Warehouse shows were not going on, then I would likely head to Animal Kingdom. It seems to have the lowest crowds on what are historically very busy days. Not to mention there is never a wait for the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail or Maharajah Jungle Trek! 🙂
You’ll notice I’m avoiding rides, and this will be my plan for most of the night. Last year around 6pm the wait for Test Track was over 3 hours. With all the unique entertainment, there is no way I’m missing it to wait in crazy long lines! Keep this in mind when visiting during these types of events.
To avoid later logistical headaches, my plan is to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center to visit Epcot. I’m leaving myself 2 hours to get from the Comedy Warehouse Special back to World Showcase Lagoon for the first IllumiNations at 6:30pm. I’ve never had trouble making it in that time as long as I’m not too picky with my view for the fireworks. The past couple years I’ve had good luck finding a spot in the Adventure Outpost area between China and Germany in World Showcase. After the fireworks an amazing party will start all around the World Showcase, with DJs in different lands. This would be a great spot to ring in the New Year, but my plan is to head over to Magic Kingdom.
In previous years it has been very easy to navigate out of Epcot as backstage area are opened up to facilitate better crowd flow. From there, the wait has always been shockingly short to hop a monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center! Last year I took the ferry boat from here to the Magic Kingdom and made really good time. I was entering Magic Kingdom right at 7:30pm. When entering Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve, I always avoid Main Street. On such a busy night there will be a backstage entrance open on the right that leads right into Tomorrowland. This area will be decorated, and dancing is encouraged. Take your time and enjoy this spot, as it will be one of the less busy areas. Just be sure to make it to a viewing spot in time for the 8:30pm Holiday Wishes fireworks. I recommend the entrance to new Fantasyland for the best view without getting into the crowds. On such a busy night you can get there 15-20 minutes early and actually sit on the pavement. As the time approaches for fireworks, the walkways will be filled with people waiting for the show.
After the fireworks I normally walk around, people watch, and stop by rides that normally have little to no wait. Last year I was able to get on PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress with less than a 15 minute wait. I also saw The Country Bears while I waited for midnight to arrive. This plan will only work if you don’t plan to watch the fireworks from Main Street. If you have your heart set on this view, you should claim your spot when you arrive at the park. Last year as it got later in the evening, cast members weren’t letting anyone enter Main Street. Even when we rode the train, an announcement was made that we would not be allowed the exit at Main Street Station. (That was just fine with us – looking at the madness, we would never have gotten into that mess!) What I have done in the past is enjoy the midnight fireworks from Fontierland looking over the Rivers of America. We literally walked up last year with no wait and had a stunning view with the fireworks reflected in the water. It was so much more enjoyable than fighting the crowds for hours to claim a spot!
After the final fireworks display of the evening, it’s time to head to Cinderella Castle for an amazing dance party that lasts until 1am! We had so much fun at this party last year and the energy was electric! We decided to leave a little before closing in an attempt to beat the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowd was just everywhere! This is where creativity comes in handy. Last year we had planned to walk over to The Contemporary and catch a cab back to our car. Of course, as we were walking over we realized that this wasn’t a great idea as the traffic was jammed everywhere. On a whim we wondered up to the monorail station upstairs and were able to hop on when other guests exited the train. It was definitely a tight fit as they were running very, very full, but we didn’t have to wait in a mile long line to cram on the monorail! Make sure that you consider your exit strategy earlier in the day when you are parking your car. It will help you later in the day.
Following the above plan you should be able to see three fireworks extravaganzas in one night without even breaking a sweat! That is my idea of fun! What do you think? Do you have an idea to improve the above plan? Do you think it is worth waiting for hours in front of the castle? Will you be ringing in the new year in a Disney Park this year? Please let us know in the comments below, and – as always – thanks so much for reading!