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Ringing in New Year’s Eve at Disney World With Kids

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Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Have you ever brought in the New Year in a famous place?  My husband, Chris, has talked for years about what it would be like to ring in a new year at the New York City ball drop or on the streets of the Champs-Élysées in Paris.  However, we’ve always just watched these events on TV instead.  

This year, we decided to surprise our Disney-loving kids with a post-Christmas trip to Orlando and Disney World.  They didn’t even know we were going until three days before we left.  I belatedly realized, after booking the trip, that we would be there for New Year’s Eve.  Panic set in.. what is New Year’s Eve really like in Disney World?

The Disney World agent who helped me book our package told me to be sure to be in Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve and to have a park reservation because it would fill up, and people would be turned away. Turn people away from Magic Kingdom? When I looked up the capacity of Magic Kingdom in Orlando, it touts a capacity of over 100,000 people. Woah. It looked like we were finally going to bring in a new year in a famous place amidst a massive crowd.

What was it like?  Was it worth being there on such a big night?  

Magical memories were made as we rang in the New Year with Mickey and friends at Disney World 

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Overview of New Year’s Eve in Disney World

For the transition of 2023 to 2024, Magic Kingdom and Epcot both offered celebrations for Disney guests.  Checking the park hours for the day is crucial and best done with the app.  For our visit, the hours were:

  • Magic Kingdom Park: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • EPCOT: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Disney Springs: 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

You can park hop on this day, but it’s critical to have your park reservation for the park where you want to ring in your celebrations (be it at midnight or not).  We opted for Magic Kingdom, which had a fireworks show at 7 pm and midnight.

If we were to do it again, I’d opt to try Epcot.  It’s better suited for massive crowds, as the fireworks are over the main lake in the center of the park.  The food also tends to be the best in Epcot, with plenty of holiday offerings and food festivals happening there all the time.

We welcomed the New Year with wonder, Disney fireworks and giggles

Reasons To Go to Disney World for New Year’s Eve

I have to admit, the overall experience was cool. We had no idea what to expect, except that we knew it would be crowded—and it was crowded to a whole new level!  I knew that the fireworks shows would be at 7 pm and midnight.  I figured we had to stay until midnight because I would want to be up that late anyway!  Being in a Disney park would be way better than a hotel room, right?

Knowing what we do now, I wish we had prepped and attended the 7 pm showing instead.  We could have enjoyed the fireworks and hit some rides later in the night while everyone else was crowded like sardines into Main Street for hours.  This is my biggest piece of advice!

Overall, however, the fireworks show was incredible.  I’m not sure the kids would agree that it was worth the multi-hour wait at such a late hour, but the show was all around the park and completely massive.  The energy was amazing, and it was really cool to end 2023 right there in front of the Cinderella Castle.   They even had countdown fireworks: fireworks in the shape of the numbers from 10 to 0!

I was also stunned by the efficiency of getting those 100,000+ people out of the park right after the fireworks show ended.  The park was open until 1 am, but the majority of people left immediately after the show, and all those exiting made it out in a matter of minutes.  We waited only a few minutes for our bus to Pop Century, our Disney hotel, for this stay, and we were back in our room by about 12:40 pm.  Incredible!

Additionally, the dance parties and festivities around the park, starting after the first 7 pm showing, were super fun.  I’ve never been clubbing in my life, but it felt like going clubbing with my family at Disney.  Each part of Magic Kingdom had its own DJ and massive dance area.  We danced hard in Frontierland near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and then headed over to do the Buzz Lightyear ride.  When we reached Tomorrowland, we again danced to another amazing DJ.  She had a fog gun, lights, bubbles, and more.  

Getting ready for the New Year’s Eve Party at Disney World. Each part of the park hosts a DJ party.

Reasons You Should Avoid New Year’s Eve at Disney World

As you can imagine, the night was not all fun.  Many rides shut down for the 7 pm fireworks about 40 minutes in advance of the show, including the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride we were on at that time.  Anything around the perimeter of the park has to be shut down for safety.  

The wait times for rides are horrible during the day on New Year’s Eve, as it is perhaps the busiest day of the year.  We decided to take a mid-day break and head over to Disney Springs.  It was insane!  The main Disney store had a wait time and line like an attraction, with the line snaking around the building.  Every store had a wait time, and everything was so crowded.  We should have skipped this and gone back to our room for a nap instead.

If you do go to Disney World for NYE, you’ll need to secure your spot for the fireworks up to 3 hours in advance of the show.  We were planning to get some food around 9:30 pm but very quickly realized we had to get a spot instead!  We left our oldest with all the other kids (there are five in total) while we adults went to grab a mobile order. The food was slow, and when we returned at 10:15, we could barely reach the kids.  Eating was now wildly inappropriate, and we got lots of glares as we tried to feed the kids the burgers and fries we had just gotten.

Note that a little over an hour before the fireworks begin, everyone is forced to stand up.  This is due to the massive crowd and the danger of being trampled.  Sadly, some of our littles had fallen asleep on the ground, and it was really hard for us to get them up at this point.  We almost gave up!  Instead, we took turns holding our little one while waiting on aching feet.

As usual, people are grumpy and territorial about their spot.  You have to be assertive in keeping your little space, or it will quickly be taken by someone else.

A few minutes before midnight, we’re waiting for the fireworks show

Other Ways To Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Disney World

If massive, record-setting crowds are not your thing, Disney still has lots to offer. Disney Springs has smaller crowds and some specific dining options. It is still decorated for Christmas and feels very festive. Be sure to get your dining reservations well in advance.

Disney hotels also offer lots to do!  Many offer their own DJ party around the pool and sometimes even have character visits.

Some good dining options to consider for New Year’s Eve at Disney World include:

  • Toledo at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Mezzanotte at Topolino’s: An Italian Masquerade at Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk
  • New Year’s Eve Dinner at the World Showplace Pavilion
  • California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Flying Fish at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  • Garden Grove at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • II Mulino at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • Monsieur Paul within France Pavilion at Epcot
  • Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Shula’s Steak House at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Todd English’s Bluezoo Lounge at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Our not-so-little Grace, a certified Disney devotee

My Tips for New Year’s Eve at Disney World

  • Consider watching the fireworks at the earlier showing and either heading out of the park to somewhere else or riding rides from 11pm-midnight.  Our oldest decided to take our 8-year-old to ride some rides during this hour, and the wait times were super low!  They got to do two rides back to back with only 15-minute wait times.  This was amazing, considering that during the day many rides were 180 minutes or more.
  • If you are staying for midnight fireworks, plan to get your viewing spot around 9-9:30 pm at the latest.  Bring a blanket (or two) as it gets a bit cold, and you’ll be there a long time.  Plan for the long wait.  In fact, it’s best to rent a locker early in the day to store all the gear you’ll need that night.  It gets chilly.
  • If you have younger kids, have a stroller for the wait.  We don’t use strollers anymore, as our youngest is six and does great walking all day.  However, she fell asleep around 10 pm while waiting for the fireworks, and I yearned for a stroller!  She could have rested in a stroller for those two hours instead of us passing her around.  Note that you can rent a stroller at the theme park.
  • Take a nap during the day. We opened the park and closed it at 12:15 am. This was too long of a day. I’m a big fan of staying all day at theme parks, but this is very physically demanding, even for adults. For kids, it really was asking too much of them. I wish we had gone to the hotel room and napped for 2-3 hours. It would have made the night much more enjoyable overall.
  • Note cancellation policies on any dining reservations.  While the normal window is two hours, it may be longer on this and other major holidays.  We couldn’t get anything booked for New Year’s Eve, even 45 days out.
  • Consider headphones for those sensitive to noise or for the littles.  The show (and the DJ dance party before) is very loud and intense. 
  • Allow plenty of time for transportation.  We went to Disney Springs during the day on NYE, and it took an extra long time. Wait times for buses and other transportation are extra long today.
  • Plan months ahead. It’s essential to plan your day in advance. Make dining reservations 60 days in advance, hop onto the app right at 7 am to start Lightning Lane selections, get Genie Plus (well worth it on this day), and know which attractions and shows you want to prioritize.
  • Be flexible and festive.  This day at Disney World requires plenty of patience.  The lines will be long, the crowds will be heavy, and your family may run out of steam at some point.  However, the atmosphere is electric and fun.  Keep everyone hydrated and well-fed, as this always helps.  Get some good sleep the night before, and try to rest mid-day if you are staying up late.
Harrison trolling through Disney World with his Loungfly backpack

Where To Stay Near Disney World With Kids 

If you’re looking for non-Disney family-friendly hotels near Disney World to book for New Year’s Eve, here are some excellent options:

  • The Grove Resort & Water Park Orlando: This resort offers spacious suites with full kitchens, a large water park with slides and a lazy river, a kids’ club, and various dining options. It’s located near Disney World and provides shuttle services.
  • Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center: Located in Kissimmee, this resort boasts lush tropical gardens, a water park, various dining options, and a variety of entertainment activities for families. It’s a short drive from Disney World and offers shuttle services.
  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek: Adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort, this hotel features comfortable rooms, a lazy river, multiple dining options, and easy access to Disney parks via shuttle.

After all these tips and tricks, how do you feel about spending New Year’s Eve with kids at Disney World? I’d love to hear your comments!



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Additional Reading

The Stark Reality of Disney: Is It Worth It?

19 Essential Tips for Your First Disney Trip: Everything You Need To Know As A Beginner!

What We Love (And Don’t Love) About Disneyland Paris

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