Parades at the Magic Kingdom are full-fledged spectaculars with dozens of Disney characters and amazing special effects. We rate the afternoon parade as outstanding and the evening parade as not to be missed. In addition to providing great entertainment, parades lure guests away from the attractions. If getting on rides appeals to you more than watching a parade, you’ll find substantially shorter lines just before and during parades. Because the parade route doesn’t pass through Adventureland, Tomorrowland, or Fantasyland, attractions in these lands are particularly good bets.
Be forewarned: The parade path disrupts pedestrian traffic throughout most of the Magic Kingdom. If you’re on the left side of Main Street (facing the castle), anywhere in Adventureland, or anywhere from Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland through the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square (that is, the side opposite the Rivers of America), you’re cut off from the rest of the park. If you’re on the right hand side of Main Street, however, you can walk counterclockwise around the Magic Kingdom from the Main Street train station, through all of Tomorrowland, all of Fantasyland, and the parts of Liberty Square and Frontierland that border the Rivers of America, ending at Splash Mountain in Frontierland.
If you plan to skip the parade in favor of attractions, plan on being on the “correct” side of the parade route 15 minutes before the parade starts. If you absolutely must cross the parade route, look for special crosswalks, typically near Casey’s Corner on Main Street, U.S.A., and near the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square. But before you decide to skip the Festival of Fantasy parade, let us take you on a photo tour of this daily extravaganza.
Usually staged once a day at 3 p.m., the afternoon parade features bands, floats, and marching Disney characters. A new production, Festival of Fantasy, debuted in 2014, with an original score and new floats paying tribute to The Little Mermaid, Brave, and Frozen, among other Disney films. Many of the floats’ pieces spin and swing to extremes not normally found in Disney parades: The Tangled platform has characters riding while swinging wood hammers from one side of the street to the other.
The most talked-about float is Maleficent (the villain from Sleeping Beauty, and the star of her own feature film) in dragon form—she spits actual fire at a couple of points along the route. The parade starts at Frontierland and follows the waterfront. Crossing the bridge from Liberty Square, the parade moves left to go around the main hub and heads down Main Street. Again keeping left, the parade goes around Central Plaza before leaving the park next to the Fire Station. Sometimes the parade runs the route in the opposite direction.
Most guests watch from the Central Plaza or from Main Street. One of the best and most popular vantage points is the upper platform of the Walt Disney World Railroad station at the Town Square end of Main Street. This is also a good place for watching the Wishes fireworks show, as well as for ducking out of the park ahead of the crowd when the fireworks end. The problem is, you have to stake out your position 30–60 minutes before the events begin. Because most spectators pack Main Street and the Central Plaza, we recommend watching the parade from Liberty Square or Frontierland.
Great vantage points frequently overlooked are as follows:
- The covered walkway between Liberty Tree Tavern and The Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. This elevated vantage point is perfect (particularly on rainy days) and usually goes unnoticed until just before the parade starts.
- Elevated platforms in front of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, Frontier Trading Post, and the building with the sign reading Frontier Mercantile. These spots usually get picked off 10–12 minutes before parade time.
- Benches on the perimeter of the Central Plaza, between the entrances to Liberty Square and Adventureland. Usually unoccupied until after the parade begins, they offer a comfortable resting place and an unobstructed (though somewhat distant) view of the parade as it crosses Liberty Square Bridge.
- Liberty Square and Frontierland dockside areas. Spots here usually go early.
- Sleepy Hollow snack-and-beverage shop, immediately to your right as you cross the bridge into Liberty Square. If you arrive early, buy refreshments and claim a table closest to the rail. You’ll have a perfect view of the parade as it crosses Liberty Square Bridge, but only when the parade begins on Main Street.
- The pathway on the Liberty Square side of the moat from Sleepy Hollow snack-and-beverage shop to Cinderella Castle. Any point along this path offers an unobstructed view as the parade crosses Liberty Square Bridge. Once again, this spot works only for parades coming from Main Street.
Liliane Opsomer is the coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our newsletter here.