Surviving New Year’s Eve at Magic Kingdom

We’ve never been to Magic Kingdom for New Year’s Eve, yet we’ve experienced the celebratory show every year. How could this be, you ask? Magic Kingdom does the same show on December 30th. It’s a “dress rehearsal” of sorts. The only thing that changes on New Year’s Eve is the year!

For guests wishing to experience New Year’s Eve at Magic Kingdom without the overwhelming crowds; or if you can’t decide between Magic Kingdom and another park, December 30th may be your best bet.

Expect a crowd on December 30th, but nowhere near New Year’s Eve. My family will normally arrive at Magic Kingdom around 3pm. We’ll watch the parade, then redeem some FastPass+’s and go on a few rides. After eating dinner at Be Our Guest, we’ll watch Holiday Wishes at 8pm from behind the castle, then the parade later at night. We’ll find a spot on Main Street right around 11pm. There’s a DJ playing popular music, and guests and cast members dancing in the street. It  really takes your mind off the wait and crowds. The show starts up around 11:50pm, with the big celebration at midnight.

For guests brave enough to head to Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve, it’s imperative that you get there early – even if you’re staying on property. The park will fill up shortly after rope drop and will only get more crowded as the day goes on. I predict that the park will reach a Phase 2 or 3 closure by 9:30 or 10am. I believe it will be lifted by 5pm, allowing more guests to enter the park; but if there was ever a day for it not to re-open, it’s New Year’s Eve.

Plan to stand often and walk around a lot. You’ll need to keep yourself busy. Unless you have a FP+, don’t expect to go on many rides. Rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will see wait times of 3 hours or more; Space Mountain will be around 90 minutes to 2 hours, and less-popular, cult-favorite rides like Haunted Mansion and Small World will see waits of at least an hour or longer. There will even be lines for the bathrooms and quick service restaurants.

Main Street will be difficult to navigate. Disney will actually open the backstage area of Main Street on December 30th and New Year’s Eve. You may enter this backstage area from Town Square and it will bring you to the Castle Hub, right in front of The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. This helps to alleviate the pedestrian traffic a bit.

I’d recommend avoiding Main Street most of the day. If you wish to view the fireworks from Main Street, head there around 6pm, find a spot and stay there. Designate a “runner” to grab food and drinks, and someone to save your spot while others use the bathroom. If you don’t feel like finding a spot this early, scout out an area behind the castle. You’ll have a different view of the fireworks and won’t view them head-on, but Disney sets off fireworks all over the park at midnight, even behind the train station. You should have a view of fireworks no matter where you stand.

Another area to avoid is New Fantasyland. Because of its newness and the novelty of the area, it’s sure to draw a ton of crowds.

To escape the crowds, one place you can head to is Tom Sawyer Island. You can also get off your feet and get out of the sun by heading to The Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, The People Mover, or riding the Magic Kingdom Rail Road. Do know that there will be a higher wait time for these attractions, but it’s better than standing in the sun all day!

A few final tips:

– Invest in a park hopper. If you get to Magic Kingdom and it’s far too crowded, you may want to change parks. If you only have a ticket to Magic Kingdom, you’re pretty much stuck there. You’re already spending money to ring in the New Year, why not give yourself some “insurance”?

– Stay hydrated. It’s been hot – very hot. It felt like it was in the 90s on Christmas Day and it’s been very humid. You’re gonna be outside all day and with the crowds, you may feel overheated. Keep hydrated. Bring water to the park with you if you’re looking to save a few bucks.

– Tailor your expectations. People got a little loopy on Christmas Day – I witnessed quite the altercation on Main Street. People are going to bump into you. You’re gonna be sweaty, frustrated and at times, feel claustrophobic. Keep your composure and remember to breathe!

– Pack light: the less bags, the better. Between the increase in crowds and the new security policy, the bag-check lines are sure to take a while. The best best would be to not bring a bag at all, but sometimes life calls for one. Some guests may need to bring a baby bag or snacks. If you don’t need it, don’t pack it. It’ll really expedite your admittance into the park.

Editor’s Note: the current metal detector security checks are completely random. My mom and sister have both been selected, while my dad and I are yet to be picked. They may beef up security on New Year’s Eve, but for the time being, it’s a random selection that not all guests have to go through. 

– Don’t to do. Look – it’s a memorable experience and I’d never discourage anyone from going to Disney. It’s the reason why I started this blog – to encourage people to visit during Christmas week. My point is, if you’re here right now (not a one-day guest wishing to visit on NYE or arriving on 12/31,) take advantage of the reduced crowds on December 30th and go elsewhere on New Year’s Eve. EPCOT may be just as crowded as Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve (it may be even more crowded) but it’s far more spacious and absorbs the crowds much better.

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