New Year’s Eve Celebration at Walt Disney WorldKim Inman
Written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist
My first New Year’s Eve celebration experience at Walt Disney World
My husband and I, along with family and friends, visit the Walt Disney World Resort often and there is always something new and magical to experience with each visit. We kicked off 2016 with our very first New Year’s Eve celebration experience and it was a Disney experience to remember!
The first and most important planning tip I would offer is to definitely stay on property during this time of celebration and to choose a resort that is closest to your New Year’s Eve Disney park of choice. For example, we wanted to experience the New Year’s Eve celebration at Epcot so we chose to stay at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas. New Year’s Eve is a very busy time at Walt Disney World. Parking venues fill up early and getting in and out with your own vehicle can be a challenge, but even if you let Disney do the driving the wait can still be long. Staying close to the park we wanted to experience on that very busy night allowed us the ability to walk to and from Epcot.
The second planning tip I would offer is to book your dining and FastPass+ reservations as soon as your booking window opens. As I mentioned, this is a very busy time at the Walt Disney World Resort and wait times are long for everything, including the restrooms! If you want to experience the rides, FastPass+ is a MUST. For dining, we chose to experience quick service options rather than reserved dining experiences.
We started our New Year celebration on December 30th with a full day at Magic Kingdom Park. We are typically park hoppers but during this busy holiday, you want to plan to arrive early and stay in one park for the day. The New Year holiday is one of the most crowded times at Walt Disney World and it’s not uncommon for some of the parks to reach capacity early in the day.
On December 29thMagic Kingdom Park closed late morning as it was at capacity so we arrived early on the 30th! Our first stop was to put our name in at the new Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, located in Adventureland. Reservations were not yet being accepted for this table service experience so it was walk-up only. When it was time for our dining experience, a Cast Member greeted us and gave us a tour of the restaurant before seating us at our table. The theming of the restaurant was unique and it was larger than we expected. The service was quick and the menu offered a variety of distinctive selections. We ordered an appetizer, entrees and dessert; everything was delicious and priced well for the portions. Following our early lunch we headed off to our first FastPass+ experierience.
Pirates of the Caribbean where the stand-by line was wrapped around several times but the FastPass+ line, even though it looked longer, was a relatively short wait. After Pirates of the Caribbean we caught the stage show of Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial where the little ones can learn to be a pirate like Captain Jack himself! Then it was off to our next FastPass+ experience – Jungle Cruise (also known as the Jingle Cruise this time of year.) The skippers are always a lot of fun and the holiday decorations made for a festive adventure! Our 3rd FastPass+ for the day was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland. This was our first experience at night and it was magical! And, of course, you can’t experience a New Year’s Eve celebration without fireworks or as I like to call them “pixie dust in the sky”! Magic Kingdom presented both Holiday Wishes New Year’s Celebration at 6:30 pm and Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks at 11:50 pm. Both were spectacular fireworks presentations that could be seen from all around Magic Kingdom Park.
As I mentioned above, we chose Epcot as our New Year’s Eve celebration park. With just a short walk from Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas we were headed for a magical day celebrating the New Year! Again, we arrived early and planned to stay all day in the event the park reached capacity. As the largest park, Epcot rarely fills to capacity but, since this was our first New Year’s Eve celebration at Walt Disney World, we weren’t taking any chances! Even though by the time we arrived at Epcot and World Showcase was already open, that area of the park was fairly empty and we started our day with a leisurely walk around the World Showcase and seeing all of the special kiosks set up for that evening’s celebration. After enjoying what seemed like quiet time in World Showcase we headed over to The Land for an early lunch at Sunshine Seasons where there is plenty of seating and a wide variety of menu selections for everyone. By this time, Epcot was much busier, especially on this side of the park. After lunch we headed to our first FastPass+ experience of the day – Soarin’. We wanted to be sure to experience it once more before it closed January 4th for refurbishment and expansion (it’s due to reopen Summer 2016). When we arrived, they were rerouting FastPass+ entry outside The Land and through a back entrance. Again, even though the line seemed longer, it wasn’t long before we were seated for our flight! Our second FastPass+ experience was for Spaceship Earth where the stand-by line had a wait time of more than 100 minutes – I have never seen this long of a wait time for Spaceship Earth! FastPass+ saved the day!! Our 3rdFastPass+ experience was Mission: SPACE – well, I should say my husband’s 3rdFastPass+ experience… I try every new ride once and this one was just too intense for me. Although, I should give it another try since there are now 2 levels of intensity to choose from… maybe next time! IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth with the special holiday finale at 6 pm and starting at 7 pm DJ’s were set up around World Showcase and at the Future World Fountain stage. Our year ended with a spectacular New Year’s Countdown fireworks presentation starting at 11:40 pm and the DJ parties continued until 1 am. It was a magical start to our 2016!!
We stayed at Walt Disney World Resort a couple more days after the New Year and the parks were a bit less crowded. We were able to experience Disney’s Hollywood Studios where we had scheduled FastPass+ for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania! and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, which included updated sequences from the new movie. We also experienced a special Star Wars Imperial Meet ‘N’ Greet for Chase Disney Visa cardmembers and The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights for the final season and ended our day with, you guessed it, FIREWORKS – Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular.
And, of course, we can’t forget Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park where we had FastPass+ experiences for Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and Festival of the Lion King and then went over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to see ‘It All Started With a Mouse’. We also checked out the new Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks and stopped for lunch at Harambe Market.
We enjoyed our Walt Disney World New Year’s Eve celebration and it’s an experience to definitely add to your bucket list. Just plan to set realistic expectations, approach each day with patience and take pleasure in the fact that you are celebrating at the most magical place on earth! Happy New Year!