By Angie Roberts Harris
Do you know any of those people who slip out before the last beautiful song is sung, or leave ten minutes before the big game is over and miss the winning home run that everyone talks about for years because they want to beat the crowd and avoid traffic?
Each night at Disney World after the Main Street Electrical Parade mesmerizes the guests and Tinker Bell spreads her magical fireworks over Cinderella’s castle, the mass exodus begins and everyone has to exit through the same two openings at the front gate. The magical kingdom is reported to hold over 100,000 people (in contrast, the largest Super Bowl attendance was 103,000) and as a grandparent, I understand the temptation to beat the crowd and leave before the end. However, didn’t we spend big bucks to experience all the magic?
The first grandchild we ever took to Disney World was Admiral, who was five years old at the time. One evening, we entered the park as the shimmering lights of the parade began to light up the street and the prime spots were already taken. We settled in behind several rows of people and watched as Admiral wriggled his way to the front, scooched in between what looked like two grandparents, propped his elbows on their knees, and proceeded to watch the parade! His adopted grandparents looked at us and gave a thumbs up so we relaxed. It seemed that the feisty Tinker Bell singled Admiral out from the sea of people to point and wave at him and he was totally enamored!
On the last night of our trip, we stayed until the park closed. The evening hosted two identical parades and our plan was to watch the first one and then race to the buses to beat the crowd. Admiral, who had been an angel for the entire seven day trip, pulled away from me in the crowd. Stunned, I turned around and saw his face covered in big ole’ crocodile tears as he cried, “Nana, you are ruining Disney World!” Then he pointed and cried "The Parade”. Like a good Nana, I sat down on the curb, snuggled Admiral, and watched all 20 minutes of the next Main Street Electrical Parade for the eighth time that week. He was entranced once again as the lights, music, and characters of Walt Disney’s Magical Kingdom danced down Main Street, USA!
Magic Kingdom, Wishes Fireworks, and Main Street Electrical Parade
1. Prime Seating:
The ‘hub’ of these events is in front of the castle. In order to get good seating at this location, you will need to go early and camp out. Take plenty of games and snacks to entertain bored children and be prepared to sit on the ground as chairs, wagons, etc. are not allowed. Papa Bear downloaded the Heads Up! Disney deck on his mobile phone which entertained our crew for over an hour! The app is free when you check in at the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, or Aulani.
2. Marching Parade:
Prior to the parade at the ‘hub’ (in front of the castle), a cast member plays with the
children and organizes a marching parade. Way cute! This interactive Disney experience is perfect for the little ones.
3. Dessert Party:
The character themed desserts are yummy-licious at the dessert party held on the
Tomorrowland Terrace! Reservations are required and it is wise to book far in advance. The location is great for the fireworks and mediocre for the parade. The party begins one hour before the fireworks and includes assigned seating. During the fireworks, however, most people stand at the front wall to get a better view and take awesome pictures. The cost is $49.00 per adult and $29.00 per child, including tax, and it was a fun, once in a lifetime experience for our crew. A big plus for this option is the enclosed space; the kids can safely run around without the fear of getting lost in the crowd and the parents get a ‘breather’. Warning: you will crave “sipping chocolate” for weeks!
4. The Ticket and Transportation Center:
If you are driving and despise the idea of getting stuck in traffic, then watching the fireworks from the ticket and transportation center is a good option. Although you cannot hear the music or see the parade, you will still get a broad and beautiful view of the magical castle and fireworks and be ahead of the crowd as you pull out of the Texas sized parking lot.
5. Fast Passes:
There are areas in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center that are specifically reserved for guests with fast passes to watch the parade and fireworks. You can choose to use your daily allotted fast passes for these events rather than the rides if you wish.
6. Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage:
This pirate themed cruise begins with pick up at Disney’ Contemporary Resort. Snacks are served at the dock before the boat embarks with a large group of guests
for a voyage through the Seven Seas Lagoon to watch the fireworks. The price tag for this adventure is $69.00 per adult and $41.00 per child.
Disney Hollywood Studios - Fantasmic
Fantasmic Dining Package:
A magical part of this musical/fireworks spectacular is the amazing amphitheater seating curved around a lagoon. Wow, what a difference it makes to watch Mickey battle good and evil in his dream with pyrotechnics, laser lights, and one million gallons of dancing water while sitting in a comfortable seat! Oh, and it really gets exciting when a forty foot tall dragon appears! Several restaurant options are included in the package deal with the benefit of enjoying dinner at the most convenient time for your group and receiving tickets for special, designated seating for the show and
fireworks. This package was a Fantasmic experience for our crew! Fast Passes may also be used at the amphitheater location.
Epcot - Illuminations Reflections of Earth
Imagine no lines, no camping out for a spot, and the best view of the entire nighttime
event! The Illuminations Cruise adventure consists of a private pontoon boat filled with snacks for up to ten guests and lasts about an hour and a half. The crew meets you and your guests at the Yacht and Beach Club Marina where you are treated to a pre-tour of the Disney water ways before sailing to a location to view the fireworks. After a long day of walking, it felt wonderful to simply relax, laugh, and be pampered. Our boat stopped just pass the bridge leading to France to watch the fireworks and when the large flames of fire shot out of the water like a volcano, we could feel the heat blast on our faces! Although the boat was only thirty feet closer to the fireworks than the crowd standing on the pavement, being on the water was an incredible experience. Ear protector head phones are provided for small children and those who cannot handle loud explosions. The price is approximately $350.00 per boat for a private cruise and if you are celebrating a special occasion, they will decorate for an extra $25.00. My Disney family crew voted this adventure the best overall WOW factor of our entire trip!
In true Disney fashion, merchandise has been created to help your little ones become part of the magic. You can purchase special Mickey Ear hats, Minnie Mouse headbands, Mickey Mouse gloves, or Sorcerers Mickey wands that have been programmed to light up in matching colors at specific moments during the evening shows. The merchandise is coordinated with Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, Celebrate the Magic at the Magic Kingdom, the World Showcase at Epcot, and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios.
Parades and fireworks are a huge part of the Disney experience. We, as adults, enjoy those things but to our children, they are truly magical. It is tempting, at times, to ‘ruin’ Disney World by being in a hurry to ‘beat’ the traffic until we experience the magic through the eyes of a child, as we did with five year old Admiral as he fell in love with the adorable Tinker Bell over and over again!
“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun,” Mary Poppins.
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Angie Roberts Harris has been Going Out The Door to Disney since 1974 when she was 11 years old. Today she travels to the ‘happiest place on earth’ with her husband and their crew of 5 children and their families.