As the smallest and most popular of the four Walt Disney World parks, Magic Kingdom is sure to be the most crowded park on New Year’s Eve. My family has never been to to Magic Kingdom for New Year’s Eve for two reasons: one being the overwhelming crowds.
We like to sleep in on New Year’s Eve day and take it easy. We learned our lesson on our first trip, when we arrived at EPCOT shortly after rope drop expecting to go on rides. We were sadly mistaken. Shortly after the bus approached the park and we saw the parking lots, we realized just how crowded EPCOT would be. A big sign sat in front of the monorail warning guests that Magic Kingdom was at a Phase 3 closure. Before then, we had only experienced the parks during July and that year’s Christmas. These crowds were unlike anything we had ever seen. We vowed from that year forward to avoid the parks and enjoy our day, then head to the parks at night. If we were turned away, we would find something different to do.
The second reason we choose to skip Magic Kingdom is because they do the same show and countdown on December 30th. It’s a “dress rehearsal” of sorts and the only thing that changes on 12/31 is the year. It’s an opportunity to see the same fireworks show and experience the celebration without fighting the overwhelming crowds. Believe me – it will be crowded on 12/30, but nowhere near as crowded as New Year’s Eve. And – it also gives guest the opportunity to experience two parks for New Year’s Eve. Guests can ring in the “New Year” at Magic Kingdom on 12/30, then head to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios for the real thing on New Year’s Eve.
If you choose to brave the crowds, I recommend getting to Magic Kingdom early. It’s pivotal that off-site guests arrive at rope drop, and recommended that on-site guests arrive early in the day. The park will see a Phase 2 or 3 closure by 10am. It can even reach a Phase 4 closure, but expect it to be lifted by 6 or 7pm and drop down to a 3.
As I mentioned in a previous post, don’t plan for an ordinary day at the park. Unless you have FP+’s reserved, chances are that you’ll be waiting a long, long time for some of your favorite attractions. Rides like Space Mountain will see a wait time of 2 hours or more. Even continuous-loading rides like Small World will see a wait time of an hour or longer. Seats at Quick Service restaurants will be hard to come by. Enjoy any opportunity you have to sit – you’ll be standing most of the day and night!
Disney does a great job of crowd control. The backstage area of Main Street will be open. You can enter the backstage area from Town Square and it will take you to Tomorrowland, right outside the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. It definitely helps to alleviate the traffic of Main Street a bit. They also have Cast Members directing pedestrian traffic and often line the roads with tape, directing guests to stay to their right.
There are a few spots to find a seat or take a break from the crowds. The Tomorrowland Terrace often has tables and seats available, but will most likely close if there is a dessert party. The Carousel of Progress has long been used as a break from inclement weather, offering guests a chance to nap. I enjoy it, personally. It’s no secret, however, so you may wait a bit longer than you’re accustomed to. Rounding out Tomorrowland is the People Mover. It’s a cult favorite, so expect a pretty long line, but you’ll be standing around anyway!
I’d recommend staying away from New Fantasyland on New Year’s Eve. It still has a bit of a novelty to it and will attract a large crowd. Without a FP+, guests will wait 2-3 hours to ride 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. The upstairs area of Pinocchio’s Village Haus can offer a quiet, intimate area to sit during the day. It overlooks the loading area for Small World, adding a cool effect if you can find a seat by the windows.
Liberty Square offers a few great spots to kick back and relax. Grab a waffle from Sleepy Hollow and sit in the small outdoor area behind the shop. There is also a forest gazebo tucked away. It often hosts Princess Tiana; but if she’s not there, it can be an overlooked, quiet area to get away. Last, I’d recommend heading to Tom Sawyer’s Island for a quick escape from the crowds.
As the most crowded park at Disney, I wouldn’t recommend Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve. Unless you get a spot on Main Street, there aren’t many memorable spots to view the fireworks at midnight. I’d definitely recommend heading there on 12/30, but going elsewhere on New Year’s Eve.