The transition from one year to the next can be such a refreshing and peaceful idea, ripe with the promise of new beginnings, and what better place to kick off that start than the place where dreams come true, Walt Disney World?
Now, if you’ve never experienced a New Year’s Eve celebration at Walt Disney World, we’ll tell you straight up: it is not a day for first-time visitors, or for those that get nervous in a crowd. It is most often the busiest day of the entire year for the resort, with several of the parks closing due to reaching capacity very early in the day, especially Magic Kingdom. If ringing in the New Year at Disney is a goal for you, plan for a very long day and get to the park as early as you can to ensure your entry, especially if you are not staying on Disney property and are planning on driving. It’s not unusual to see the toll plazas at the entrance of the park backed up with traffic, sometimes as far as a mile at Magic Kingdom
There’s a reason so many people flock to Disney for the start of the new year; the most magical place on earth knows how to throw a good party. There is something and somewhere for every guest that visits the parks on New Year’s Eve. We’ll start with the most popular destination: Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom’s Fireworks
Magic Kingdom has traditionally been a dry park, meaning alcohol is not regularly and freely served. You can find beers and wines at the table service restaurants, but if (responsibly!) indulging in alcoholic beverages is one of your goals for the evening, Magic Kingdom is not the place for you. What Magic Kingdom does have to offer is a family friendly party atmosphere, with a live DJ playing contemporary pop music on the Cinderella Castle stage, in Frontierland near the Country Bear Jamboree and also on the Tomorrowland stage. The music is pumped throughout the park, replacing the normal background music and ambiance to create the celebratory party atmosphere no matter where you roam.
But what really sets Magic Kingdom apart, and makes it such a special place to turn over the new year, is the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Fantasy in the Sky is by far the most magnificent fireworks that Disney World offers. If you’ve been to a Halloween or Christmas party, you’ve seen just how awe-inspiring the perimeter fireworks are. On New Year’s Eve, Magic Kingdom takes the show even further, with a full 360-degree firework display. If you are standing anywhere inside the Magic Kingdom, you will be fully encircled in fireworks right as the clock strikes midnight. Cinderella wishes she got this sendoff as she left the ball.
If you’re interested in catching this fireworks display with slightly less of a crowd, Disney also puts on the same display at midnight on Dec. 30th.
Drinking and Dancing at Epcot
If you’re looking for more of an adult-oriented experience and environment, Epcot is where the real party is. There are dance floors set up with live DJs playing dance and pop music in future world, the Italy pavilion, on the main stage in the America pavilion and the China pavilion. Italy puts on a cool laser show, with more of a techno/electronica feel to the music selection, while future world plays a lot of traditional crowd dance songs (think “Cha-Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle”). The America pavilion and the China pavilion both focus on contemporary pop songs, but the China pavilion features a dragon with fire effects, and is definitely where you’ll want to spend most of your time.
In addition to the dance parties, there are also extra bars set up around the world showcase, which take the concept of “drinking around the world” to an extra level, and keep the lines short(er) for your next glass of champagne. If you choose to indulge in a few beverages, make sure you’re prepared for the lines to the restroom. It’s the busiest day of the year, and you can’t book a FastPass for the bathroom (yet).
Epcot will also do fireworks at midnight, with the normal Illuminations show starting around 11:40 p.m., followed by a special countdown to midnight.
Hollywood Studios is open until midnight, and will host a smaller presentation of fireworks. If Magic Kingdom and Epcot are already at capacity when you arrive, Studios is still a better party than most. Animal Kingdom has regular hours on New Year’s Eve, and will close at 9 p.m.
Spending New Year’s Eve at Disney is certainly an unforgettable experience that any Disney Park fan should do at least once. Just make sure you go into it with realistic expectations for crowd levels, decide you’re going to have the time of your life before you get there, and you will. Happy New Year!