Spending New Year’s Eve in Disney World can be chaotic and crowded, but the celebration is like nothing else. The most popular parks for New Year’s Eve have always been Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but Hollywood Studios is drawing large crowds as well since they’ve added new New Year’s activities! My family (my parents and my 18 year old sister) and I spent 2 days at Disney for New Year’s and stayed at the Dolphin, which is located right by Epcot! The Disney crowds during New Year’s are WILD, so it’s important to prepare yourself before going so you know what to expect!
On the 30th, my family and I got to Animal Kingdom at the 7:30 for the 8:00 AM opening and found the park already open, so we immediately got in line for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, which was so worth the 2 hour wait! (That’s right- even if you get there first thing, you have to wait 2 hours for the newest rides at peak times!) we then rode the other rides we had Fast Passes for – the Navi River Journey, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safari before heading to Magic Kingdom for the evening. It was PACKED! The Magic Kingdom does their NYE countdown show on the 30th as well as the 31st, so we got to see Magic Kingdom’s New Year’s Eve show, which was awesome. We then mistakenly assumed the parks would clear out after closing for extra magic hours – they did not. Almost every ride closed to new riders after 1 AM because the lines were already so long and the park was closing in two hours. We headed home to rest up before spending New Year’s Eve in Epcot.
Disney on New Year’s Eve
No matter which park you are visiting on New Year’s Eve, you need to get there early, or you may not be able to get in. Disney parks sometimes close from overcapacity on holiday dates. This year, Magic Kingdom closed due to overcapacity early in the day on New Year’s Eve and Epcot followed soon after. There are various stages of Disney park closings, and you can often still get in if you’re staying on the property, but you should really get to the park early to make sure you can spend the evening there.
New Year’s Eve at Epcot
I highly recommend staying at the Dolphin, Swan, Beach/Yacht Club, or Boardwalk resorts if you want to spend New Year’s Eve at Epcot or Disney Hollywood Studios. They’re very convenient, with transport between the parks, and staying at one of these resorts will save you the headache of leaving the park with the masses when it closes!
Now to the fun stuff- the celebrations in the park! Remember to get Fast Passes for three rides or character meet-and-greets so you can make sure you get some ride time! Personally, I won’t wait more than an hour or so for a ride (except Avatar), and with most rides reaching 2+ hour waits in Epcot by midday, my family and I opted to spend more time enjoying the NYE activities in Epcot instead of wasting the day in line.
Spending New Year’s Eve in Epcot is SO FUN! I have always loved Epcot because the World Showcase is so cool, and it gets even cooler during the Epcot New Year’s Eve dance parties! Every “country” has different food and drink offerings, including NYE special drinks served in plastic spheres with light up ice cubes! If you can, I highly, HIGHLY recommend getting reservations in the park for dinner, but try to do it months in advance! By the time we looked a month ahead of time, there were absolutely no reservations left. We opted to eat dinner at the counter serve cafeteria in the Land pavilion because the it was a little quieter and had some healthier options!
After dinner, we spent the night wandering around the World Showcase, trying the festive drinks and foods! There are various activities around the park on NYE, and my family and I loved the Epcot dance parties! At the front of the park behind the big ball, there was a silent disco which was our favorite! There was a short line, but after waiting about 20 minutes, we were dancing with our headphones to two battling DJs. If you don’t know what a silent disco is, there are channels that broadcast to all the attendees’ headphones, so it looks like everyone is silently dancing to the same music. This was super fun, especially because the DJs played a great mix of classic dance music and Disney songs! Even though my feet were tired from walking around the park all day, I had an amazing time dancing! There are also dance parties in Italy and China! In Italy, there was a electronic DJ with lasers and smoke, which was super cool, and in China, there was a paper dragon that breathed fire! The dance parties were so, SO much fun! I also want to note that there were not a ton of younger children at these dance parties- it was mostly teenagers and adults (including a solid few drunk adults)!
For the Epcot New Year’s Eve fireworks, I recommend finding a good viewing spot somewhere around the world showcase by 11! People are lined up far before then, but we wanted to enjoy the celebration before waiting for a while. They do this firework show twice during the night, but the countdown at midnight is really fun, and the fireworks are crazy! If you’re staying at one of the resorts I mentioned, I would try to get a spot near the World Showcase exit so you’re not trapped in the exiting crowds!
Epcot New Year’s Eve Tips Recap
Long story short, if you’re going to Epcot for New Year’s Eve, try to stay at one of the adjoining resorts if you can for the easiest time getting in and out of the park! If you can’t stay on site, get there EARLY, because Epcot is often closed due to capacity early in the day on New Year’s Eve. Make your reservations months ahead of time, and book your Fast Passes as soon as you can! Finally, take advantage of the parties located throughout the park and enjoy the atmosphere. Going to Disney during one of the busiest times can be frustrating if you don’t mentally prepare yourself for what to expect. You might not get to ride all the rides, but you will have an awesome time if you just enjoy the experience, crowds and all!
Have you ever experienced Disney at the holidays? What did you think?