Do you hate lines? Do crowds give you nightmares? Does the idea of sitting in traffic for hours make you wake up in a cold sweat? Then New Years Eve at at Walt Disney World is probably not for you. There’s a lot of things that people in the Disney community exaggerate about (for example, I didn’t see anyone ACTUALLY chain themselves to Maelstrom to keep it from becoming Frozen Ever After), but crowds on New Years Eve isn’t one of them. Yes, it is the most crowded day of the year. Yes, lines for the bathroom will make you want to cry. Yes, if you want to eat anything, you will stand in line for almost an hour. I can’t deny any of it. HOWEVER – New Years Eve, is one of the most fun nights to be at Walt Disney World, and we strongly recommend it. There’s a reason that so many people flock to the parks on this night.
Epcot is our favorite park to be at on New Years Eve. For starters, it’s not as busy as The Magic Kingdom. They have DJs set up at many of the World Showcase countries, including a smoke breathing dragon in China, flame effects, laser effects in Italy, and a silent DJ (everyone’s wearing headphones!) in Japan. The overall effect is still relatively family friendly, but a ton of fun, and a great way to ring in the New Year. There’s two showings of Illuminations – the first is at 6pm, which is normal Illuminations, with the Holiday tag, and the second is at 11:40, which is Illuminations with the NYE tag, which is breathtaking. The NYE tag includes individual fireworks over all the showcase countries, then a huge finale.
The Magic Kingdom:
If we could give any advice for The Magic Kingdom on NYE, it’s DON’T GO. We were driving that morning to breakfast, and saw traffic backed up for MILES trying to get into the park at 9 am. We heard horror stories of people telling us that it took them almost three hours to get from the Transportation and Ticket Center to their car. A much better idea, in our opinion, is to get to The Magic Kingdom, the night of the 30th, when they do the SAME firework show that they do on the 31st. We did this, and the park was essentially empty. If you have kids, and are looking to end your night early (and avoid the crowds rushing out of the parks, trampling people like that scene with Mufasa in The Lion King), they do early fireworks too.
Animal Kingdom does nothing but close early (because they’re Animal Kingdom, and Rivers of Light isn’t open). Hollywood Studios has a DJ, and fireworks, but we don’t recommend spending your time in either of these parks on NYE.
We can’t pretend that it’s not crowded. It’s ridiculously crowded. If you hate crowds, go to a different park, or a resort, besides The Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom will FOR SURE, be the most crowded place on property. We don’t recommend going to the parks for a first time trip to Disney during New Years, as you aren’t going to be able to ride a ton of rides – but if you regularly attend the parks, it’s fun for all the added entertainment and shows.
All in all, we loved our time at Disney during New Years Eve, and are already planning a return trip for next year at the same time. It was one of the most fun nights we’ve ever had in the parks, and we recommend it as a great time for experienced Disney travelers to visit.