After an absence of over two years, Disneyland’s fan-favorite nighttime spectacular Fantasmic! returned on May 28, just in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary. With the show’s long-awaited return have come large crowds of guests eager to see it, so today we’re bringing you our top tips for experiencing Fantasmic!, direct from the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2023.
Fantasmic! is a mixed-media show presented one or more times each evening on nights when the park is open until 10 p.m. or later. Currently, the show is performed nightly at 9 p.m. and 10:30 pm. Staged at the end of Tom Sawyer Island opposite the Frontierland and New Orleans Square waterfronts, Fantasmic! stars Mickey Mouse in his role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia. The production uses lasers, images projected on a shroud of mist, fireworks, lighting effects, and music in combinations so stunning that you can scarcely believe what you have seen.
The plot is simple: good versus evil. The story gets lost in all the special effects at times, but no matter—it is the spectacle, not the story line, that is so overpowering. While beautiful, stunning, and powerful are words that immediately come to mind, they fail to convey the uniqueness of this presentation, which includes a 45-foot-tall, full-bodied, fire-breathing dragon (nicknamed Murphy) for the finale. It could be argued, with some validity, that Fantasmic! alone is worth the price of Disneyland Park admission.
Needless to say, we rate Fantasmic! as not to be missed. However, you’ll want to heed these touring tips if you want to enjoy the spectacle.
Fantasmic! Standby Viewing
After years of using a free viewing-area reservation system (similar to the Virtual Queue used by DCA’s World of Color), Disneyland reopened Fantasmic! in 2022 with old-fashioned standby or a paid dining package as your only viewing options.
The standby viewing areas are located along the far-left waterfront, near the Harbour Galley restaurant; along the far-right waterfront, in front of the River Belle Terrace restaurant up to the riverboat dock; in front of the French Market Restaurant and Cafe Orleans; and on the bridge over Pirates of the Caribbean’s entrance. A section near the Haunted Mansion is reserved for guests with wheelchairs, but it doesn’t provide a great view. Depending on your spot, you may be looking at the side of the show rather than the front of it; make sure you can at least see the center stage on Tom Sawyer Island without obstructions. Terraced steps and other obstacles have been removed from New Orleans Square to better accommodate audiences, and planters that were added (which are often used for stroller parking) make handy barriers for preventing others from standing directly in front of you.
Standby viewing areas begin opening 2 hours prior to the first show and can fill up within half an hour. Entry can be chaotic, and some guests get aggressively territorial over their spots, so pay careful attention to your kids, and follow the flashlight-wielding cast members’ directions. To keep traffic flowing, you will be aggressively shooed away from every available vantage point outside the designated viewing sections.
Fantasmic! Dining Packages
Fantasmic! dining packages are available at Blue Bayou ($89 adults, $35 kids) and River Belle Terrace ($50 adults, $30 kids), both plus tax and tip. Dining packages include a three-course meal and a pass for a special preferred viewing area. Most free viewing areas are standing-room only, but guests in the table-service dining package sections must sit on the ground (unless disabled). River Belle Terrace diners can pay an extra $25 per adult ($15 per child) for upgraded entrée options and premium patio seating prior to the first performance, allowing them to stay and watch the show from their seats. Lunch service starts at 11:30 a.m., and the dinner packages begin at 4 p.m.
While the meals are certainly overpriced, especially in comparison to similar World of Color packages next door, the ease of entry and expansive elbow room afforded by preferred viewing passes are almost worth the expense.
For a little less money, there is also the Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package ($35 adults, $25 kids) at Hungry Bear Restaurant. This package includes an entrée (salmon, barbecued chicken, pork ribs, or vegan sloppy joe), a dessert and fountain drink, and a reserved pass for the standing-room viewing section to the left of Blue Bayou’s center area. We found the food quality considerably better than Hungry Bear’s regular fare (though you can substitute any standard entrée for the same price), making this the best value of the resort’s viewing upgrades.
On-the-Go Dining Packages can be reserved in advance through the app or website and may be picked up 3–8:30 p.m. (varies with show schedule). On nights when there are two performances scheduled, package reservations up to 6:45 p.m. include entry to the first showing of Fantasmic!, while reservations for 7 p.m. or later grant access to the later performance. Reservations for all Fantasmic! dining packages can be made online at disneyland .disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/fantasmic-dinner-packages or by calling 714-781-3463.
Fantasmic! Viewing Tips
Fantasmic! viewing spots are first come, first served for all guests, including those in the reserved dining-experience viewing section, which is located along the waterfront from center stage to the raft landing for Tom Sawyer Island. Blue Bayou diners get the prime positions, with standard River Belle and Hungry Bear package-holders farther to the left along the shoreline. You can enter the dining section near the Harbour Galley restaurant beginning 90 minutes before each showtime, and the earlier you get in, the better spot you will obtain. If you need to sit right at the railing in the heart of the splash zone, you’ll want to be the first inside the viewing pen when it opens; just be aware that you’ll be watching the show through bars. You’re far better off watching from farther back, taking advantage of the sloping ground’s elevation to see above the crowd. You may find your reserved section filled to capacity if you arrive less than 30 minutes prior to the first show; if so, you should be allowed to use your ticket for the second show.
Rain and wind conditions sometimes cause Fantasmic! to be canceled. Unfortunately, Disney officials usually do not make a final decision about whether to proceed or cancel until just before showtime. Note that if you purchased a Fantasmic! dining package earlier in the day, you will not be refunded if a show is canceled.
If you see the first Fantasmic! showing, stay in place afterward for the nightly fireworks (if scheduled), which should start a few minutes later; following the fireworks, you will be forced to exit Frontierland into Adventureland to make room for the next audience.
To see the second showing from a standby section—which is always easier than seeing the first—watch the fireworks from Frontierland near the Golden Horseshoe, and then find a spot for Fantasmic! as soon as the first performance’s audience has exited the viewing area. Passing through New Orleans Square during and immediately after Fantasmic! can be an exercise in frustration, so if you are trying to reach the Haunted Mansion or Critter Country, either cut through Galaxy’s Edge or try the train.
Finally, make sure to hang on to your children during Fantasmic! and give them explicit instructions for regrouping in the event that you become separated. Be especially vigilant when the crowd disperses after the show.
For all there is to see and do at Disneyland, check out The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr. All Disneyland fans should also check out The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey.