Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Parade and Fireworks Viewing Tips and Observations

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FastPass+ parade and fireworks viewing tips

Get a VIP view with FastPass+ parade and fireworks viewing areas at the Magic Kingdom (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Welcome to the future of fireworks and parades at Walt Disney World! In recent weeks, as the final rollout of FastPass+ has concluded in the Disney World parks, I’ve been sharing my experiences using the system as an Annual Passholder at Epcot, as well as at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since my last post, FastPass+ has been fully implemented for all Disney World guests, including day-guests not staying on Disney property, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to experience one of the most controversial aspects of the new system. Without further ado, here are my FastPass+ parade and fireworks viewing tips, based on my personal observations at the Magic Kingdom.

 

Festival of Fantasy FastPass+ Parade Viewing

When the features of FastPass+ were first announced, the private reserved viewing areas for parades and other spectaculars were the aspect I was most skeptical (even cynical) about. Personally, such performances are usually very low on my priority list during a park visit for several reasons. Most of the parades had grown quite stale to me from years of over-exposure, I have an aversion to spending valuable touring time staking out a spot of asphalt just to get a good view, and I can’t abide being crammed like sardines in the crowd that accompanies the procession. So I would normally use that time to take advantage of marginally shorter queues at my favorite attractions. If I did want to see a parade, I’d typically walk up a minute or so before it started, and make do with a partial view blocked by the sea of shoulder-sitting small-fries in front of me. With a limit (soon to be lifted) of only 3 FastPass+ reservations per day, I couldn’t see myself “wasting” one on something like a parade when Space and Splash are beckoning.

This is currently the closest you can get to Anna and Elsa from Frozen without a mult-hour wait for their meet & greet.

 

But with the debut of Festival of Fantasy, Disney has turned my thinking around. As we’ve previously said, the Magic Kingdom’s new parade is one of the best they’ve done in decades, and it’s a welcome replacement for the previous mothball-worthy daytime production. My first viewing of Festival of Fantasy on opening day was from in front of The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, and while I was duly impressed by the costumes and floats, I found the cramped quarters just as frustratingly claustrophobic as always.

This was my view the first time I saw Festival of Fantasy without FastPass+. Note the sea of sweaty bodies on all sides.

Then, a few weeks later, I returned to the Magic Kingdom, this time with a FastPass+ for Festival of Fantasy securely attached to my shiny new MagicBand.

A panoramic picture of the FastPass+ parade viewing area.

 

Despite my previous skepticism, the experience was vastly more enjoyable this time around. The parade viewing area is on the inner north side of the central hub, directly facing Cinderella’s castle, and extends approximately from the Liberty Square bridge to the passage towards Tomorrowland. That’s about 150 degrees worth prime real estate, reserved exclusively for a maximum of 350 people (according to cast members staffing the area).

Plenty of room to move around in the hub’s FastPass+ section.

Entering the viewing area was fairly painless, thanks to a small army of tablet-wielding FastPass+ parade facilitators, and once inside I found all the elbow room I could wish for. The typical Disney World parade experience involves standing in a 1-foot-square spot of asphalt for at least a half-hour, unable to shift more than a few inches in any direction without nudging your neighbors. Inside the FastPass+ parade viewing area, the opposite is true; I could walk freely around the viewing area without restriction, or even sit on the ground and stretch out my legs along the curb.

I’ve heard some people report that the FastPass+ parade section is “too close” to get good photographs, which may be true if you are trying to get a wide-angle shot encompasing multiple floats. But I found it to be a fantastic location for capturing details of the cavalcade’s characters, thanks to the freedom to follow the floats as they cross in front of the castle.

 

Several signature moments, including the steampunk-styled dragon’s dramatic fire breathing, appeared to be timed for optimal viewing from the FastPass+ parade area.

 

 

Main Street Electrical Parade FastPass+ Viewing

A few days later, I was back at the Magic Kingdom to relive one of my childhood favorites, the Main Street Electrical Parade. The FastPass+ viewing procedures for MSEP are identical to those for Festival of Fantasy, and I found the experience equally enjoyable. The vintage float designs do tend to look a little better with some distance, but I felt that was outweighed by the lack of crowding, and the ability to walk up only minutes before the parade arrived, which permitted me to take a couple laps on the PeopleMover prior to the parade.

 

 

Wishes and Celebrate the Magic FastPass+ Fireworks Viewing

Finally, the experience of watching Wishes — the Magic Kingdom’s signature fireworks show — from the FastPass+ viewing area was perhaps my most magical moment of all. The Wishes FastPass+ area is located on the northeast side of the central hub, near an area known as the “rose garden.” While everyone else is standing on cement, you will be able to stretch out on a grassy lawn, which can feel like your own personal patch of heaven after a day of plodding around the park. One young guest in the crowd I attended with said it was like “a picnic with fireworks,” and I heartily concur.

Guests relaxing in the grass at the Wishes FastPass+ fireworks viewing area.

As a two-for-one bonus, the FastPass+ fireworks viewing area opens early enough for you to catch Celebrate the Magic, the video projection show staged on the surface of Cinderella Castle fifteen minutes before each fireworks performance.

The one disadvantage of the Magic Kingdom’s FastPass+ fireworks area is that it is off-center, so the fireworks don’t appear directly above the iconic landmark like you see in television commercials. But I still thought it looked quite beautiful even from an angle, and managed to capture some surprisingly good shots of the spectacle with my iPhone.

Hey, where did the castle go?

If you can’t secure a FastPass+ for Wishes, be aware that (at least on the night I attended) a nearby section of pathway leading to the former Swan Boat docks was accessible to anyone, providing almost the same view — minus the grass to sit on.

With all the construction currently occurring on the hub, this area may well be closed off, but it’s worth asking a FastPass+ cast member if you are allowed to watch from there.

 

Final FastPass+ Parade and Fireworks Tips and Observations

Most of the buzz about FastPass+ has revolved around using it for attractions, but I think parade and fireworks viewing may turn out to be the program’s “killer app,” or at least a “sleeper hit.” Using FastPass+ for E-Ticket rides is certainly a great convenience, but by arriving at rope drop and following a good touring plan, you can have nearly the same experience without it. FastPass+ parade and fireworks viewing areas, on the other hand, afford a luxurious VIP-style treatment that ordinary guests can’t have (at least without dropping a boatload of money on an exclusive party). If you are only visiting the Magic Kingdom for one day, and want to experience as many of the “mountains” and other classic rides as possible, I would not necessarily recommend using one of your 3 advance reservations on a viewing area. But if you are here for an extended vacation (or are a local passholder like myself) and don’t need to cram every roller-coaster into a single day, then I strongly suggest you try spending one of your FastPass+ slots on an exclusive viewing area.

A few final tips:

  • On-site resort guests can book FastPass+ reservations 60 days before their hotel stay begins, and Annual Passholders and day-guests with pre-purchased tickets can book 30 days out. But viewing areas for the parades and fireworks often don’t become available through My Disney Experience until a month or less in advance. For example, at the time of this writing, FastPass+ reservations for Festival of Fantasy are offered through April 30, but not in May or June. I recommend making your FastPass+ reservations for your preferred attractions as soon as you are allowed. Then keep checking back with the app or website, and switch to a parade or firework viewing area as soon as that option becomes available.
  • There is often only one daily performance of Festival of Fantasy, and it is very popular due to its newness. Wishes and Main Street Electrical Parade more often have multiple showings nightly, with lower attendance for the later performances. Therefore, if you must pick only one FastPass+ viewing expereince, Festival of Fantasy is probably your best value.
  • Your FastPass+ return window for the parade will begin 15 minutes before step-off time, but the parade won’t actually arrive at the viewing area until ten minutes or so after the scheduled start time. There’s no need to stake out a spot in advance, so feel free to stroll into the FastPass+ parade viewing area just as the parade officially begins.
  • On the other hand, viewing Celebrate the Magic is an unadvertised bonus included with Wishes FastPass+ reservations, so you will want to arrive at least 15 minutes before the fireworks start.

Now about that FastPass+ viewing area for Kiss Goodnight…

 

Have you had a chance to try FastPass+ parade or fireworks viewing at Walt Disney World yet? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

 

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Posted on April 17, 2014

48 Responses to “Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Parade and Fireworks Viewing Tips and Observations”

  • Do you think these FastPass+ reservations will be available for parades at hard ticket events such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party?

  • We did FPP Wishes viewing in October and loved it. Being able to sit and relax during the fireworks was great. We also waited a bit afterwards to let the crowds disperse. It was wonderful not to worry about the crowds and staking out a spot.

  • by Mary Virginia on April 17, 2014, at 12:35 pm EST

    So much “YES!” I’ve been (im)patienly checking every day for FP+ for the parades. This solidifies my resolve! Whoop!

  • by MichelleLeedsUK on April 17, 2014, at 1:45 pm EST

    Hi, If we book FPP for MSEP at 8pm will we be able to stay in the same spot for Wishes at 9pm, do they just remove the ropes and then everyone can move forward taking the space around you. Was going to book TTDP for wishes but don’t want to miss the MSEP, would we be able to see the parade from the tomorrowland terrace ? Going on 29th October and want first time Disney sister to see both with a good view. Thanks for your advice.

    • Michelle – I used FPP+ for the MSEP and after the parade ended the ropes were removed but we stayed in the same spot for the light show and wishes. I thought it was a great spot for everything.

    • Hi Michelle! If there are 2 parades and you see the first, you may be swept out of the area to make room for the next group of FP+ holders. If not, you should be able to stay put and let the crowd move in around you, but you won’t be able to sit or move around like you can in the reserved area.

      • by MichelleLeedsUK on April 18, 2014, at 12:52 pm EST

        Thanks Kara. Seth we are planning on the 29th October which only has an 8pm MSEP and 9pm Wishes. Do you think if I book TTDP for wishes that we would be able to see the parade from Tomorrowland Terrace or will the view be obscured too much by the crowds around the hub watching the parade ?
        I had the same thought about FPP as Kevin re not being able to get a fourth FPP until after the third was used. I am debating FPP for parade or TTDP for wishes, which way would you go ?

        • Holding a FP+ for wishes will prevent you from getting a 4th FP during the day, so the dessert party would be a better option there. You can see the parade from Tomorrowland Terrace but the view is distant and semi-obscured.

  • Similar question to the above— do you think they will institute FP+ for Wishes and the evening parades at the holiday events? We are doing MVMCP this year– wondering if they will have a VIP FP+ viewing area?

  • I understand that the former Swan Boat loading area was dismantled a few nights ago. I wonder what will be left of the Rose Garden when the new hub area is completed.

  • Hi! You mention that the fastpass+ limit will soon be lifted…can you please share what you mean by that? Thanks! And thanks for the AMAZING pictures in this post too!

    • by David Davies on April 17, 2014, at 10:45 pm EST

      See a previous blog post: New FastPass+ Changes Coming Soon to Walt Disney World.

      Basically Disney said that (at some unknown point in the future) guests will be able to book a fourth FastPass+ reservation once their first three have been used. And once that fourth has been used, you’ll be able to book a fifth. And once that fifth has been used, you’ll be able to book a sixth. Etc.

      • Great- thanks!!

      • Here is the problem… assuming we take everything literal, then you might get a 4th FPP after the first 3 are used. However if your 3rd one is Wishes, then you might be eliminating yourself from getting that 4th (or more FPP) because your third one won’t get used until late in the evening. No so much a problem with the earlier parade. Would it reduce the value of using the FPP for the MSEP or Wishes? Maybe unless the park was open fairly late.

        • Great observation Kevin, we at TouringPlans have been wondering the same thing. If having a Wishes (or Illumination, Fantasmic, etc) FP+ prevents guests from getting more than 3 FPs, that certainly may reduce demand for them! which may in turn make it easier to get them same-day. This is my biggest question mark on how the revised system will work. We will let you know when we do!

      • Hi
        We (family of 4 from the UK) have booked tickets for Disneyworld (7 day Magic your way pass plus waterparks) for May/ June via Viator. We have a paper coupon we need to show on day 1 of our visit (presumably to get tickets from Disney itself?). Can we somehow book out Fastpass plus selections before then or will we have to wait until we get the actual tickets from Disney before we are able to do that? Thanks for your help- we love your very informative book!

  • Why don’t I see an option to choose the viewing for the parades when I am choosing my fastpasses? I am going to Disney on May 2nd.

    • by David Davies on April 17, 2014, at 10:49 pm EST

      As for “why,” you’ll need to ask Disney–you’re not doing anything wrong. However frustrating it is for planners, for some reason Disney does not release FastPass+ reservations for the Magic Kingdom parades and fireworks very far out. Basically you’ve got to keep checking every day until you see them for your desired date. Seth addresses this above, noting that reservations were only available through April 30 when he wrote this piece:

      But viewing areas for the parades and fireworks often don’t become available through My Disney Experience until a month or less in advance. For example, at the time of this writing, FastPass+ reservations for Festival of Fantasy are offered through April 30, but not in May or June. I recommend making your FastPass+ reservations for your preferred attractions as soon as you are allowed. Then keep checking back with the app or website, and switch to a parade or firework viewing area as soon as that option becomes available.

      • Thank you David… I hope they become available as I leave 2 weeks from tomorrow!Have you heard any new news on Mine Train fastpasses by any chance?

        • Iris, parade FP+ hasn’t been released yet for May, so keep checking My Disney Experience daily until your trip. Mine Train FP+ will hopefully be released before the opening media event on May 2.

  • Great info. This idea is very appealing to us, since we are traveling with 3 small children. Staking out a viewing spot for parades and fireworks is really difficult when you have impatient children and their strollers, bags, etc. Thanks for sharing the positive side of using FP+ on parades/fireworks. However, I do wonder if we will only be allowed to use the 3 FP+, since Wishes will likely be at park closing when we visit…I assume we wouldn’t be able to reserve a 4th and so on, until we technically used the 3rd at Wishes.

  • by Michael Weinmayr on April 18, 2014, at 4:45 pm EST

    I had made my 3 FP+ reservations, one of them was a split where my son and I were at one attraction, and my wife at another. A week before our visit, I was checking the FP+ list again, and saw that Wishes was available. I switched my wife to the fireworks, but couldn’t move my son or I to it. I divided our FPes, and kept checking. One day later I got my son it, and the next day, I finally added myself to Wishes.

    I suspect that there are often stray single spots available, if a group of 4 cancels then a group of 3 books. So, if you really want to get in, make sure you have single disposable FPes for each member, and keep trying.

    We thought it was fantastic to sit on very nice comfortable grass after 12 hours running through the park.

  • Hmm are they only available on the weekend or something? We will be there on a Thursday (May 15) and I didn’t have the option to choose a parade :( I ended up going for Anna/Elsa on one of ours because there’s no way my kids would wait 3+ hrs just for that (and when I first made my choices they were on standby and I heard booked till June… so I jumped when i saw it available). Still bummed it wouldn’t let me do one for wishes! :(

    *note… just real Michael’s tip about trying one at a time… great idea!! Thanks for the heads up on that :D it would be nice for my husband and I traveling to WDW for the first time -and with a 4 & 2y.o no less- to have the breathing room for the parade :)*

  • Still haven’t seen any fastpasses for the parades. I continue to look faithfully every day. We are going on May 2nd. Can’t believe that there aren’t any yet…..no Mine Train either! Very frustrating!

    • Mine Train hasn’t started soft opening yet. FP+ won’t be offered until after the official public grand opening! which could be as much as a month away still.
      May parade & fireworks might not be available until the start of the month. As we suggested, make FP+ now for rides you like, and try to switch later if the parade becomes available.

  • Anyone have any luck yet booking fastpasses for the parade??????????????

    • It looks like Wishes & parades are sold out thru the end of April, & not yet available for May.

    • I just booked my Fastpasses for both the Fantasy and night time parades (on two separate dates) today for our trip in early May. I had also checked yesterday and nothing came up, so they must have just been released today.

      • THANK YOU SETH AND STEPHANIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just booked my fastpasses for the Fantasy parade and for Wishes!!! Now if they would release fastpasses for the Mine Train…keep me posted if you hear anything please….THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Great news! I just checked and FP+ for fireworks & parades have been released through at least May 25.

  • Just tried to get Fantasy Parade fast passes and they don’t show up as an option for May 15th. Does that mean they are all gone?

    • Found my own answer…the system won’t show it as an option because I have a Meet Anna & Elsa fast pass time of 2:05-3:05. The parade report time is 2:50, so I can’t get two conflicting times.

      • Thanks for this tip! I wasn’t seeing the Electrical parade due to a conflicting existing FP. I wish they would just show the parades but make them disabled (greyed out) so that you would have a visual indication of the conflict. I know it’s still early in the FP+ evolution but their messaging needs help.

  • Thank you for this extremely helpful blog entry. We are traveling to WDW in two weeks for the first time with our six and four year old boys. Early in the year I chose our parks days based on your crowd calendars, and have been wondering about FP and how best to use them. The parade and fireworks is a brilliant idea. My boys love these things and I was dreading the shoulder to shoulder, hours of waiting piece. I just reserved both the Fantasy parade and fireworks and am so excited! Thank you.

  • We have secured FPP for both the Electrical parade and wishes the last week of May. Are there any tips you have on getting from one fast pass location (MSEP) to the other (Wishes) without fighting the crowds too much?

  • Can you stay and watch wishes from the MSEP fastpass spot?

    • by FunkHouse9 on May 14, 2014, at 3:58 pm EST

      I want to know the same thing. I’m actually most interested in a good spot for Celebrate the Magic. Assuming you can stay in the MSEP Fastpass spot through CTM and Wishes, is there any reason that wouldn’t be an optimal spot for them? Seems like it would be PERFECT for CTM at least.