New Year’s Eve is a special time no matter where you are. I have spent New Year’s Eve at the Walt Disney World Resort 3 times and it is probably my favorite place to be for ringing in a new year. That being said, it is VERY crowded. Some people think I am crazy for going during that time on purpose. It’s true that the crowds are the highest of the year and that Magic Kingdom and sometimes other parks are filled to capacity where you can’t get in, even with a ticket. However, I have found some strategies to make a stay during New Year’s very enjoyable and still a very fun way to ring in the New Year. Follow these 3 tips for navigating a visit to Walt Disney World during NYE.
SKIP THE PARKS ON NYE (but go to the parks on January 1st): My #1 tip is to skip the parks on New Year’s Eve. This is usually THE most crowded day. Magic Kingdom almost always reaches capacity at some point in the day which means they won’t let more people in. If it’s that hard to get in, imagine the chaos past the front gate, the lines are long even for the bathroom! Since SO many people are in the parks on NYE all day and very late into the night, it’s a great day to skip the parks and instead enjoy the morning of January 1st when it is much less crowded. Plus, you can rest up on NYE and be ready to hit the parks the next morning! So, here are some things you can do instead of getting lost in the crowd inside the parks.
· Resort Day/ Resort Hopping.
Enjoy your Disney Resort! If you are like me, you are usually running around the parks each day and not spending a ton of time at the resort. I nearly always find myself wanting to take advantage of the pools, amenities, and activities at the resort we choose, but rarely make the time to do so. All levels (Value, Moderate, and Deluxe) have a lot to offer and this is a great day to do so. A day like this is also a nice day to hop around to other resorts and check out the Holiday décor, eat a nice meal, and window shop. In addition, many of the resorts have their own NYE celebrations complete with a DJ, dancing, pool parties, and more. So, even if you aren’t inside the park, you can still enjoy a NYE party and ring in the New Year in a fun and unique way. One year we swam at 10pm and were the only ones in the pool. We enjoyed the water slide all to ourselves while we watched our fellow resort guests dancing the night away (and we enjoyed the party music as a soundtrack to our own private pool party!)
· Mini Golf
Walt Disney World has 2 mini golf courses to choose from. We went during a NYE trip recently and it was not crowded at all. Plus, since we had a Magic Your Way Package we had a free round of mini golf included in the package (look at your check-in documents when you get them in the mail to see what goodies and discounts are included in your package). It wasn’t the greatest mini golf course I have ever done, but it was a fun way to spend an hour or so in between eating and shopping and relaxing. And the weather is usually mild this time of year compared to the hot season when I would NOT want to spend any time doing mini golf. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a good way to spend some time doing something different and still spending time together.
· Eat and Shop
Downtown Disney/Disney Springs is pretty crowded on NYE but there are some great places to eat and of course the shopping is good. So, head on down and spend some time eating, shopping, or just people watching. If you must get away from your resort or resort hopping, this is a good place to run around…great for teens who may want to spend some independent time running around on their own for a few hours.
(if you MUST go to the parks…)
Magic Kingdom is the most iconic and is on many guests bucket lists for ringing in the New Year. EPCOT puts on a great show and has DJ’s all over World Showcase – it’s an awesome dance party!
So, if you really want to go…then do it! It’s YOUR vacation. Here are a few tips if you do brave the parks on NYE:
· Choose the park you want to be in and stay all day
· Take it easy, don’t wear yourself out. It’s going to be a long day!
· Do rides earlier in the morning when you have energy and the lines are shorter. Watch some shows, linger over your meal, and find a place to rest in the afternoon.
· Claim your fireworks viewing spot early…and be ready to wait it out for a LONG time. I met some folks who did this last year and they found their spots in the afternoon and took turns waiting it out until midnight. They said it was worth it but very tiring.
SEE THE FIREWORKS! No matter if you are in the parks, or choose to follow tip #1 and avoid the parks, you MUST see the fireworks!! They are BREATHTAKING and what keeps me coming back to brave the crowds.
· Celebrate a day early! Magic Kingdom’s Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks Show also takes place on December 30th. This is a GREAT way to see the fireworks and beat the crowds. It’s still crowded on December 30th but a lot of guests don’t know they are doing the NYE fireworks that night, so, after the Holiday Wishes fireworks a lot of people leave and your chances of getting a prime viewing spot are much better. By watching the fireworks on December 30th, you can rest up on December 31st so you can spend a great day in the parks on January 1st. So many people are sleeping in after a late night on NYE, if you get up and get going the morning of January 1st, you can do A LOT with very little crowds. Just to give you an idea of the crowd levels on the mornings of January 1, two years ago our bus was totally empty mid-morning going to Animal Kingdom on January 1st! The crowd levels do pick up later in the day once others sleep in and make their way back to the parks, but a low crowd morning on January 1 is worth getting up earlier! What a fun way to start a new year!
· Experience the fireworks from outside the parks! This can be planned for Dec. 30th or 31st…but plan you MUST. Get your advanced dining reservations for one of the monorail resort table service restaurants 180 days out on the first day you can do so. They book up fast. Book a late dinner at one of the monorail resort restaurants for 8 or 9pm and hang around for the fireworks. You will only be able to park your car at one of these locations if you have a dining reservation or are a guest of the resort; so, plan ahead or take Disney’s complimentary transportation from your resort or park. California Grill at the Contemporary Resort is a good option since you have a Birdseye view of Magic Kingdom and still listen to the music that is piped in. Our favorite thing for NYE or December 30th is dinner at O’hana followed by the fireworks from the Polynesian Beach. They have boats on Bay Lake that pipe in the music so it’s plenty loud. The fireworks are HUGE and spectacular over the water. For the NYE fireworks, they even shoot off fireworks from the water…so they are everywhere! These fireworks are much closer than a regular viewing of Wishes from the Polynesian Beach. The resort even put out extra towels last year when it was sprinkling…it was great to be able to wipe off the beach chairs and curl up in a dry towel while we waited for the show to start.
NYE is really one of my favorite times at Walt Disney World, despite the CRAZY crowd levels. If this is a time you want to go, or just the best time for you to be able to go, let me help you make an itinerary. I have gone 3 times during NYE and have played around with different itineraries each time. There are a lot of ways to make the above tips work for you whether you are staying into the first week of January, ending your trip with a bang and celebrating NYE before you leave, or you just want to take a quick trip to ring in the New Year. I’d love to help you plan it out to make the most of your time. When you book with me, my planning services are free!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Agent affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line.