The Walt Disney World New Year’s Eve celebrations are some of the biggest parties around. With all four theme parks staying open until midnight, live entertainment, dance parties, party hats galore, and special celebrations at midnight, it’s an awesome way to ring in the new year. This NYE guide has all the tips and info you need to plan your perfect Disney New Year’s Eve – whether you’re partying in the parks or having a quiet celebration at your hotel.
PS. That picture above might be the most “us” picture of me and my siblings ever taken.
- 1 Real talk about Disney World New Year’s Eve
- 2 Disney New Year’s Eve survival tips
- 3 Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve festivities
- 4 Epcot New Year’s Eve festivities
- 5 Hollywood Studios New Year’s Eve festivities
- 6 Animal Kingdom New Year’s Eve festivities
- 7 New Year’s Eve at Disney Springs
- 8 New Year’s Eve at Disney Hotels
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Real talk about Disney World New Year’s Eve
Before we get into the fun part about all the dance parties and special fireworks, there’s something very important that you need to know when planning a Disney World New Year’s Eve trip: It will be crowded. So very crowded. You can expect the Magic Kingdom to hit capacity before lunch time and Epcot frequently does too. This means a long day in the parks – no afternoon breaks at the hotel because if you leave you might not get back in. Expect long lines for everything and bring as much patience as you can muster.
That being said, I’ve spent New Year’s Eve at Disney World 5 times and absolutely enjoyed every one of them. If you plan ahead and understand what you’re getting into you can absolutely have a blast – I’ve got some tips for that below – but I’ve found that a lot of it comes down to your attitude and expectations for the day. Bring the right set of those and you’ll be just fine.
Disney New Year’s Eve survival tips
As a veteran of several New Year’s Eves at Disney World, here are my best tips for handling the crowds and still having a good time at the parks:
- For Magic Kingdom, plan on arriving no later than 10am. Epcot frequently hits capacity on New Year’s Eve too, though a little bit later. Still, plan on getting there well before noon. No sleeping in if you want to celebrate at the two most popular New Year’s Eve celebrations.
- Disney does phased shut downs, first barring off-site guests from entering, so you can increase your chances of getting in by staying on site at a Disney hotel.
- Particularly for the Magic Kingdom, factor in the amount of time needed to get from the parking lot to the TTC to the actual park gates. Everything will take longer on New Year’s Eve, from parking to the bag check to getting through the gates, so don’t cut it too close to your dining reservations or FastPass times.
- Book yourself a table service meal (or two). I don’t always like to spend a big chunk of my day eating at the parks, but super crowded days like New Year’s Eve are the exception. It is soooooo nice to sit down and have a break in the day when the park is packed body-to-body and with wait times for rides super long everywhere, I always feel less like I’m missing out on other things.
- Book your FastPasses as early as possible – that’s 60 days from check in for people staying on site and 30 days ahead of time for everyone else. Your FastPass attractions may be the only ones you get to ride with a wait time under an hour on a crowded day like New Year’s Eve, so be sure to take what you can.
- On normal days, I like to make my FastPass reservations earlier in the day so we can book additional ones once we’ve used the first three. However, on New Year’s Eve, your day-of selections are going to be pretty limited, so it would make a bit more sense to stagger them throughout the day so you don’t pack in all the rides early in the morning and then find yourself choosing between super long lines and wandering around killing time later.
- Shows are your friend on super crowded days. It’s often easier to snag a spot at something like the Hall of Presidents or one of the theaters in Epcot’s World Showcase than it is to wait in a long line, and they tend to eat up more of your time. I view the day of New Year’s Eve as more of a lead up to the parties that kick off in the evening, so it’s not about hitting all the rides – if you try to do that, you’ll be disappointed.
- Even though it’s Florida, it can get chilly at night in the winter. Be sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt with you to stay warm. It’s a long night to be shivering if you don’t plan ahead and Disney sweatshirts aren’t cheap.
- Check the times guide and get to the party hat/noisemaker distribution areas early. They do seem to run out and if you want a hat – obviously you want a ridiculous plastic hat – you might find yourself disappointed if you wait too long.
- Guests will start lining up for prime viewing spots for the midnight shows hours before they begin. If you plan to do that, bring a blanket and a deck of cards or something else to do during that time.
- It’s honestly not a bad idea to bring cards or other activities even if you don’t plan on camping out for the fireworks for a long time.
- It’s a long day and your phone will almost certainly die, so bring a portable battery pack that can give you at least one full charge.
- If you’re heading to the parks, you can purchase discounted tickets through Undercover Tourist. Until I bought my annual pass directly from Disney, all of my tickets came from Undercover Tourist.
Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve festivities
The Magic Kingdom is perhaps the most famous place to spend New Year’s Eve at Disney World and is a dream come true for many families. The most famous event is the midnight fireworks. This show is broadcast live, so you might even have seen clips of the fireworks above Cinderella Castle on tv in the past. If you can’t make it til midnight, you can catch the earlier showing too, though it’ll be a little less special. The best part is that the Fantasy in the Sky show includes fireworks launched from all around the park and from a barge in the Seven Seas Lagoon. It really is magical to have a 360 degree view of fireworks from the center of the park. There are also special DJ dance parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland in the evening. Because the Magic Kingdom only serves alcohol at table service restaurants, this also tends to be the most family-friendly New Year’s celebration on property. It does, however, mean that if you want to ring in the new year with a champagne toast, you’ll want to head elsewhere.
Pro tip: The Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show is traditionally performed on December 30th as well, so if you’re planning to hit another park on New Year’s Eve or just don’t want to deal with the crowds on the big day, you can still watch it. Doing the Magic Kingdom on 12/30 and Epcot on 12/31 is my favorite way to go – you get the best of both worlds.
Epcot New Year’s Eve festivities
By far my favorite place to spend New Years at Disney, Epcot has the best parties, but manages to be great for families and adults. In the evening, World Showcase turns into an international party with DJ dance parties and themed events taking place at several of the country pavilions and live music in the America Gardens theater. You’ll also find plenty of kiosks selling special drinks for the night. As midnight approaches, everyone gathers around the World Showcase Lagoon for the countdown. It’s particularly cool here because in the final minutes of December 31st, each country’s pavilion lights up and rings in the new year in the order that the actual country experiences it followed by a special fireworks celebration.
Epcot’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are my favorite out of the parks, and not just for the party in the evening – although that is tons of fun. Though it doesn’t have as many rides as the Magic Kingdom, the World Showcase pavilions and other spots like The Seas, offer lots of things to do that you can just explore without waiting in long lines. They’ll still be crowded, of course, but it feels like you can do a lot more there when it’s super crowded like it is on New Year’s Eve.
Special Meals at Epcot for New Year’s Eve
There is a special buffet dinner offered at the World Showplace pavilion, but keep in mind that it’s dinner only and doesn’t run until midnight. You can use the dining plan for it, though it costs two table service credits. At a regular price of $84/adult, it’s one of the better values as far as two-credit meals goes. World Showplace will be featuring Disney tunes and have photo ops (with backdrops, not characters) throughout.
Monsieur Paul in the France pavilion also offers special dining on New Year’s Eve. From noon-11:30pm, a three-course prix fixe menu is served just for the holiday. Keep in mind that the dress code for this restaurant is slightly fancier than theme park casual so check that out and be sure to bring or wear something suitable.
If one of these doesn’t interest you, Epcot has by far the best selection of table service restaurants, so getting a dining reservation should be doable. The World Showcase pavilions have some really good options to choose from, so if you plan ahead or persistently search the app for cancellations, you should be able to snag something.
Hollywood Studios New Year’s Eve festivities
New Year’s Eve at Disney’s Hollywood Studios features several night time shows and a midnight countdown. Like the other parks, you’ll typically find DJ dance parties and special live entertainment at various locations. Plus, now that Star Wars is open, you can spend New Year’s Eve on the planet of Batuu. Fantasmic! has a regular performance, and the nightly Christmas-themed shows are typically performed as well – with the added treat of a midnight fireworks spectacular. There will be plenty of special cocktails available as well as party hats for all.
Animal Kingdom New Year’s Eve festivities
Until recently, Animal Kingdom was left out of the New Year’s Eve celebrations because of its earlier closing times. Not so anymore, thanks largely to the popularity of the Avatar area and its nighttime décor. You can celebrate the night with special themed food and drinks and DJ dance parties in DinoLand, Asia, and Discovery Island. The midnight celebration will be a special projection show onto the Tree of Life(fireworks and animals aren’t a great combo). This will likely be the least crowded, lowest key of the New Year’s events at the parks so if you’re looking for a later start and less body-to-body crowding, this might be the best bet for you.
New Year’s Eve at Disney Springs
If you want a Disney New Year’s Eve celebration without having to spend all day at the parks, check out Disney Springs. There are tons of bars and restaurants you can book reservations at and there will be live entertainment and plenty of fun. Downside: you won’t get the fireworks you will at the parks. However, it’s a more affordable alternative to spending money on a park ticket.
The Edison, a steampunk-ish bar and restaurant located at Disney Springs holds a New Year’s Eve party that requires tickets in advance. The party includes live music, aerialist performers, dancers, snacks, drinks, and a champagne toast at midnight. Find out more about the party here.
New Year’s Eve at Disney Hotels
If you want to skip the crowds entirely, some of the Disney resort hotels host their own small celebrations in the lobby. In the past, Animal Kingdom Lodge has had a party in the lobby and the Grand Floridian has done a balloon drop at midnight, but these events are not guaranteed. Check with your resort ahead of time to see what they have planned.
A few of the Disney resort hotels host their own ticketed New Year’s Eve celebrations if you’ve got the budget for it and want a chance to party without spending all day waiting in line. These ticketed events typically involve food and dancing for a pretty hefty price. Several of the hotel restaurants also have special New Year’s menus at some of their signature restaurants.
The Contemporary Hotel hosts a few different events. The Countdown to Midnight is the most elegant and is limited to adults only. It has quite a hefty price tag, but it does include dinner and drinks in addition to dancing and a chance to view the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks at midnight from the hotel.
A more kid friendly option is offered at the Pixar Party. This New Year’s event also takes place in one of the Contemporary’s ballrooms and definitely seems geared a bit more toward kids. It also includes a buffet dinner, dancing, and fireworks viewing, but with an extra treat of visits from some of your favorite Pixar characters. And yes, most of the buffet items are named after them.
Way up at the top of the Contemporary, the Elegant Evening Under the Stars at the California Grill was the hotel party option that got me really excited – until I saw the price per person, of course. At $675/person, I’ll have to live vicariously through whoever is crazy rich enough to be able to afford a night out like that. For your money, you get to enjoy dinner at one of the most sought-after evening dining locations, visits from Disney characters, a portrait artist, entertainment, and a special champagne toast at midnight. Oh, to be rich.
Over at Coronado Springs, you can party at the New Year’s Eve at Toledo party. This fiesta with Spanish flair is located atop the brand new Grand Destino Tower and includes food and drinks, flamenco guitar, a DJ, and visits from Disney characters. At midnight, you’ll get a toast of cava. As it’s located on the rooftop, you’ll likely be able to see fireworks displays from nearby parks, but you won’t have the same proximity as you will at the Contemporary’s California Grill or the next party on this list.
Brand new for 2019 is the Mezzanotte at Topolino’s Italian Masquerade at the Riviera resort. This rooftop party (already extra cool) will feature tapas, European inspired food, drinks, dancing, and live entertainment. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a masquerade? So dress your best and don a mask for this party at Disney’s newest resort. Thanks to its location, you’ll be able to view the midnight fireworks at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, so – pardon the pun – you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck here. (Not that it’s anywhere close to cheap though.)
This is easily the most affordable of the special parties, and is actually cheaper than a one-day park ticket would be. Located at the BoardWalk’s Atlantic Dance Hall, the Countdown party hosts music and dancing throughout the year, but really turns it up for the New Year’s Eve party. At midnight, you’ll get a complimentary champagne toast during the confetti drop and a chance to view Epcot’s fireworks from one of the balconies.
Special New Year’s Eve meals at Disney hotels
There are dozens of restaurants at the various Disney World resorts that can be booked for New Year’s Eve. Most of these offer their typical menus, but not all of them will be open late. The regular dinner shows like my beloved Hoop Dee Doo and the Luau at the Polynesian are other great options – and both locations will enable you to catch a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom fireworks at midnight if you hang around afterward.
Special New Year’s Eve menus at Disney World hotels
The following restaurants at some of Disney World’s top resorts offer special (and typically a little more expensive) New Year’s Eve meals. Note that not all of these run until midnight.
- Victoria & Albert’s is the Grand Floridian’s super fancy (ie. Fancy dress mandatory) 5-star restaurant. On New Year’s Eve, it offers a special selection with a champagne reception and artistically created small plates.
- Narcoosee’s at the Grand Floridian offers two seatings with prix fixe menus on both 12/30 and 12/31. The later seatings are more expensive, but run right up to midnight. The New Year’s menu focuses on seafood and regular menu items aren’t offered.
- The Flying Fish at the Boardwalk Resort offers a prix fixe menu with two different seatings. The second seating ends at 10 pm, so this is one party that won’t run until midnight.
- Disney’s website lists Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary (one of my favorite character meals) as having a special New Year’s Eve menu, but there is no other information provided. I called the dining line and chatted with a Disney rep and no one there seems to know what the deal is with Chef Mickey’s either. At the very least, you should get a buffet dinner with character appearances, but what else there may be remains a mystery.
Special New Year’s Eve menus at the Swan and Dolphin hotels
Though they’re on Disney property, the Swan and Dolphin hotels aren’t Disney operated. Some of their restaurants do offer special New Year’s dining, but don’t necessarily accept Magic Bands or Dining Plan credits so check them out individually ahead of time when planning. You can find menus and booking information here.
- Todd English’s bluezoo offers a special surf and turf dinner on New Year’s Eve.
- Garden Grove offers a character buffet with a special (and pricier than normal) New Year’s Eve menu.Shula’s Steak House offers two New Year’s Eve seatings. The earlier one has normal a la carte dining. The second one features a four course prix fixe menu.
- Il Mulino also offers two seatings with the first being a la carte dining. The second seating is a prix fixe menu and reservations after 9pm include party favors and a champagne toast at midnight as an extra touch.
Wherever you choose to celebrate, enjoy the party and have a very Disney New Year!
Check out these other Disney World posts:
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World for Adults
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to the Magic Kingdom for Adults
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Epcot for Adults
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Adults
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for Adults
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